Candidates face off at DABA meeting

ARLINGTON — Barb Tolbert was asked about her record with the Arlington Fly-In, while Steve Baker answered for how the city of Arlington has handled the fallout from events such as the annual Drag Strip Reunion, during the outset of the Downtown Arlington Business Association’s mayoral candidates forum on the morning of Oct. 19.

When asked by forum moderator Debora Nelson, herself a former candidate for mayor, why the Fly-In has occasionally contracted the services of businesses outside of Arlington, Tolbert explained that Fly-In organizers buy local when it’s possible.

“We’ve done business with Arlington Hardware and Lowe’s,” Tolbert said. “We’re a nonprofit, though, so we have to live within our budget.”

When asked about the skid marks that attendees of this year’s Drag Strip Reunion left on Olympic Avenue on Sept. 9, Baker acknowledged that he hadn’t expected it, because the event had been on a smaller scale last year. As for the damage that those cars have been accused of doing to the street’s crosswalks, he identified a different culprit.

“That’s more due to the sand during the wintertime grinding up those crosswalks,” Baker said. “We’ll probably never put in crosswalks using that process again.”

If elected as mayor, Tolbert stated that she had “no problem” with recusing herself of decisions involving the Fly-In, while Baker expressed an interest in seeing more of a police presence in downtown Arlington to help deter criminals. At the same time, Tolbert described the Fly-In as one of a number of vital tools for the economic development of Arlington, to help bring visitors into town, while Baker hesitated to open up too many parking spots in front of stores on Olympic Avenue.

“There’s not any one section that’s more important than the others,” said Tolbert, who pointed out that the Fly-In runs courtesy shuttles from the Arlington Airport to businesses downtown. “People should see all that Arlington has to offer.”

“If nobody’s parked on main street, visitors are going to think there are economic problems,” said Baker, who suggested that business employees park behind their stores. “When the streets are more full, cars tend to stop.”

Tolbert and Baker agreed that keeping downtown businesses open later in the day could create more retail traffic, with Tolbert adding that community members should do more to promote the appealing aspects of their hometown, especially its walkability and small-town charm.

“Island Crossing could be a gateway to our city,” Tolbert said.

“It’d be nice if the sidewalks didn’t roll up at 5 p.m.,” Baker said.

Baker touted his record of working with fellow Council members to ease regulations and fees, as well as to shorten the licensing process, in order to attract new businesses, while Tolbert cited her time on the Arlington Airport Commission and the consistent year-to-year growth of the Fly-In as evidence of her ability to market Arlington’s benefits to businesses.

While Tolbert and Baker also agreed on the importance of forging and maintaining partnerships outside of the city, Tolbert highlighted her connections to the Snohomish County Tourism Board, while Baker noted the number of Legislators with whom he’s familiar.

To help the city save money, Baker proposed an idea incentive program for city employees, while Tolbert put benefit cuts for elected officials on the table. When asked if outsourcing the city’s police or fire services was also on the table, Baker and Tolbert reluctantly agreed that all options needed to be considered, while at the same time touting the importance of maintaining those services locally.


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