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County Council candidates answer public's questions
MARYSVILLE — Arlington's Bill Blake and Ken Klein joined Marysville's Sean Olson and Gary Wright in answering questions solicited from the public at the July 31 Snohomish County Council Candidates' Forum that was coordinated by the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce, sponsored by the Angel of the Winds Casino and hosted by Leifer Manor.
Just as Blake looked back on the three generations that his family has lived in the area, as well as his 13 years with the city of Arlington, so too did Wright tout his four decades of small business experience. Olson likewise noted that he's lived his whole life in Marysville, in addition to working in the city's government on financial issues, while Klein pointed out that he's the only candidate who's been elected to office before. Fellow County Council District 1 candidate Carsten Mullin was unable to attend due to a previous commitment.
All four candidates agreed that fostering more job growth is one of the biggest problems facing Snohomish County, with Blake and Klein both citing the importance of attracting manufacturing and light industrial businesses to the local area. Klein, Olson and Wright reiterated the line that less government regulation is required to help grow the economy, with Klein advocating more transparency in government, Olson warning against excessive government spending and Wright suggesting that regulatory processes that serve the public should be made more accessible. While Blake agreed there's not enough money for government to do everything, he suggested more public/private partnerships to help protect the environment.
General Policy Plan 11 became a bone of contention between Klein and Wright, with Klein reversing his earlier support for the ordinance, to which Wright responded by chiding Klein for not considering the issue sufficiently to begin with.
"I believed at the time that it increased property rights, but it's hurt them in the long run," Klein said. "It's forced farmers to accept increased regulation, and taken away good farming land that we'll never get back."
"You should have researched it more thoroughly beforehand, rather than making a different decision after it passed," Wright said. "I'd rather defer such a decision, or vote against something that seems harmless."
When the question of county regulations came up, Olson echoed Wright's call for a streamlining of the business permitting process. Klein and Wright both criticized the Growth Management Act, Klein because he holds it accountable for turning Marysville and Arlington into "bedroom communities" that suffer increased traffic due to extended commutes, and Wright because he fears that property owners lose value on their lands when government overreaches with "onerous" regulations. As for Blake, he acknowledged that the current environmental regulations are unworkable, but still cited the need for certain standards to protect the ecosystem.
"It doesn't make any sense the way they're enforced now, when you're required to get a flood study to put up one pole in the flood plain," Blake said. "But we have to have some rules, so that the system isn't abused."
When asked about decisions they've come to regret, Klein described his vote for GPP11 as the only one he's disagreed with later, but he deemed it a strength that he can reconsider his earlier decisions. Wright recalled a restructuring of a realtors' committee that he'd disagreed with, but went along with anyway to appease the group, and cited the consequences of that move as proof that he shouldn't have acquiesced. Although Olson declined to answer the question since "I don't have the political experience to draw from," Blake lamented not following through with his plans to serve in the Coast Guard when he was younger.
All four candidates agreed that the County Council District 1 seat will be a full-time job for which they would be fully available, and to which they would be fully committed.