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Edmonds mayoral candidates answer questions

Political party, Harbor Square, mayoral role, emergency preparedness, affordable housing


Last updated 10/24/2019 at 9:43pm

Edmonds mayoral candidates Mike Nelson, left, and Neil Tibbbott

In advance of the Nov. 5 general election that will give Edmonds a new mayor, the Beacon asked candidates Mike Nelson and Neil Tibbott for their thoughts on five specific questions that haven't been asked in numerous forums and interviews.

Although the mayor is a nonpartisan position, there's no doubt that political leanings are part of a person's DNA. Do you more closely identify with Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or other?

Neil Tibbott: I am an Independent. I haven't found a home in either camp, and I've managed to make both parties mad at one time or another. My political philosophy can be summarized in a few simple statements:

1. We're better together.

2. Best idea wins, regardless of source.

3. I want to do the most good for the most people for the lowest cost.

4. Teamwork begins by building trust.

5. Measure twice, cut once.

My campaign team and supporters are truly bipartisan. One morning, I brought together a Trump supporter with a Hillary supporter specifically to identify common ground locally. We started by talking about national politics and areas of disagreement.

However, we quickly identified many values, passions, and desires that were common to both of them. One example was their desire to have individuals participate through their vote.

We left with a plan to open a voter registration table at the Saturday markets. It proved to be a great way for us to meet hundreds of new people in Edmonds, talk about issues, and find common ground. They walked into the room strangers and opponents. They left, working shoulder to shoulder advancing a common vision. One small example of better together.

Mike Nelson: I approach governing, which is sadly missing in today's political climate, with empathy. I try to stand in the shoes of someone else. To care about one another and to take actions that meaningfully benefit our community.

The legislation I have passed and supported, including increasing our public's safety, protecting children from gun violence, improving accessibility for our disabled, easing the financial burdens of our seniors and working families, assisting our small businesses, or improving our environment for the health of our current and future citizens, stems from this basic ideal that we thrive as a community when we care about each other and take action.

We must decide if we are all in this together or are we all on our own.

Most people I know want to live in a welcoming and inclusive community. I think we are strongest when we look out for each other, so if that makes me a Democrat, I am proud to be one.

I am proud to have the opportunity to represent all of Edmonds.

A few years ago, there was a failed attempt at major changes to Harbor Square, including mixed-use, with up to 358 residential units. What is your position on redeveloping Harbor Square, and would you attempt to bring it back to the table?

Neil Tibbott: No. The redevelopment issue has been fully explored, and the Port is no longer interested in making a change.

Mike Nelson: My priority is redeveloping Highway 99 to provide for more housing choices. I am not interested in developing Harbor Square. In fact, the Port commissioners and former elected officials who were involved in pushing the development of Harbor Square are not supporting my campaign.

However, another project we should be prioritizing in Harbor Square is the restoration of the Edmonds Marsh.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone could slip at any time. What are your plans for mitigating any damage from an earthquake or tsunami? Edmonds has many older buildings susceptible to damage, including some that the City owns.

Neil Tibbott: Emergency preparedness is one of my strongest interests, along with public safety. In addition to earthquakes, we are threatened by tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides, to name just a few. We need to be eyes-wide-open about each.

There are actions required by individuals at home and at work, as a city, and as a region. During a major catastrophe transportation, communications, medical support, water, shelter, fuel, and food will all be impacted. We need to actively participate in regional planning, increase our early warning systems, retrofit our aging buildings and infrastructure, and ensure any new construction meets the highest possible standards.

We must also help individuals be prepared regardless of if they are a home, at work, at school or on the road. The larger the earthquake, the greater the impact and the longer it will take for emergency help to arrive. Roads, rails, airports, and waterways will likely be damaged.

As mayor, I will advocate with state and federal agencies for better plans, training, and support. I will work with staff to evaluate risks in our city and develop plans to mitigate those risks. I will also ensure that residents are trained on how best to be prepared and work with each other.

Mike Nelson: As someone who experienced the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake in California, I have seen firsthand the devastation earthquakes can cause communities. My plans for mitigating damage from an earthquake and tsunami are five-fold.

1. Create a public awareness program to increase the preparedness of households to ensure they're prepared to be on their own for up to two weeks. This includes emergency preparedness kits with food and water, medicine, and an emergency radio; and knowing how to shut off gas/water and basic first aid. In 2016, 23,000 people participated in a disaster drill for a Cascadia megaquake and tsunami. It was determined that the quake and tsunami would destroy transportation systems and infrastructure and isolate many communities for several weeks before assistance could arrive.

2. Work with the state Legislature on a capital program that provides financial and technical assistance and incentives for seismic retrofitting of vulnerable buildings for businesses and homeowners. This year, the Washington Department of Commerce identified buildings that are vulnerable to significant earthquake damage, including the Edmonds Historical Museum, the Edmonds Theater and the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

3. Obtain tsunami modeling data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to approximate maximum wave heights along our coastline and map the results to better understand our tsunami risk. This data exists for major cities like Seattle, but not smaller cities like Edmonds.

4. Improve the resilience of buildings along the waterfront. For example, the first tsunami resistant building in the country was built at a school in Westport in 2016. The school has four staircases for people to reach the roof of the new gymnasium in an emergency. It is built both tall and strong enough to withstand the destructive waves of a tsunami.

5. Strengthen business continuity planning by providing tools and training to help businesses reduce their vulnerabilities. In the aftermath of an earthquake, reviving our local economy will be essential for our recovery.

What roles does a mayor play in a community?

Neil Tibbott: First and foremost, our mayor is the CEO of the City and accountable for the safety of its people, environment, and infrastructure. The mayor, through the staff and the work of each department, coordinates with all other departments. Our mayor guides the budget process and must clearly communicate citywide objectives to ensure that our actions consistently align with our intended outcomes and the needs of our residents.

As mayor, I will work with residents, City staff, and our council to improve communication, collaboration, efficiency, and effectiveness. I always seek to lead by example with the kind of courtesy, respect, and excellence that I expect from others.

Our mayor must also be a networker. Edmonds works regionally as a partner with neighboring cities and with the state in matters that support long-term sustainability including safety, homelessness, and transportation.

I have enjoyed a great working relationship with nearby cities, and look forward to representing Edmonds honorably in other settings.

Finally, our mayor is a community builder and must show up, whether it is at citywide events like the July 4th parade, special events, public meetings or protests. I enjoy meeting people and hearing their expectations for the city and would be proud to serve as your mayor.

Mike Nelson: The primary role of the mayor in our community is to listen, learn, and take action. As a public servant, it is vital that a mayor listens to the community they represent. I plan on holding monthly neighborhood meetings to hear from our residents, learn what is impacting their communities, and share what the city is working on.

We have seen what happens in Edmonds when elected officials move forward without listening to our citizens first.

While listening and learning are important, actions speak louder than words. To be an effective leader, the mayor must also act on what they hear and learn from our citizens. For example, when I asked our citizens what changes they wanted in our parks, I listened and learned that our playgrounds were not accessible enough for children in wheelchairs and walkers.

When I learned there were new materials available to make playgrounds more accessible, I introduced legislation to fund and prioritize making our next playground accessible to children with disabilities.

Within 10 months, Seaview Park became our first truly accessible playground. This is one example of many where I have listened, learned, and taken action to help people in our community.

Edmonds is a desirable town, enhanced by its waterfront location, arts scene and abundance of top-quality restaurants. In short, it's trendy. Home prices are out of reach for many, including millennials and the middle-class, and rental prices are unaffordable for many. Rent control is not an option in Washington, but is it a City's job to provide affordable housing for all, or should the free market make that determination?

Neil Tibbott: In my experience, there is no consensus on what "affordable" means. I believe there is consensus that the city is responsible for providing a mix of housing to allow those who live alone, or starting a family, or wanting to age in place, so they can thrive here.

It is also our job to use our land wisely for future generations. Choices we make today will have impacts for many decades in the form of new construction and redeveloped properties. As a city, we control what kinds of development we allow and whether it residential, commercial, or mixed use, and where we allow it.

Some exciting opportunities for housing options are in what I call Transition Zones. These are the parts of the city that are becoming more dense through the natural course of development, such as on the Highway 99 corridor. Economic principles such as supply and demand will always impact prices. Seattle's growth of 1,000 people a month drive prices up throughout the region as people move to find accessible housing.

I think it's worth mentioning that open space is also a priority. Occasionally, we're able to acquire land that is suitable for public enjoyment or for habitat, and we need to be prepared to do that.

Mike Nelson: Under the Growth Management Act, cities in urban growth areas are required to plan for growth. Edmonds is located in an urban growth area. The state law provides that cities must produce comprehensive plans with a series of goals, policies, and actions to guide day-to-day decisions by elected officials and City staff.

Housing is one of those mandatory elements. The Act requires not just any housing, but housing that meets the "projected needs of all economic segments of the community." As a result, by state law, Edmonds is required to help plan for housing for all income levels.

The governor can impose sanctions on cities that fail to comply with the Act, including withholding revenue from motor vehicle fuel tax, sales and use tax, liquor excise tax, and real estate excise taxes.

The law does, however, give cities the flexibility in where and how to plan for growth. This is why I have a significant interest in the recommendations from our housing commission, because the commission is comprised of citizens from our community who have been specifically tasked to provide input on the issue of affordable housing.

As mayor, I intend to prioritize the development of Highway 99 because it has the growth potential to meet our diverse housing needs.


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