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Arlington City Council candidates talk issues, qualifications
ARLINGTON — As the Nov. 5 deadline to turn in general election ballots approaches, the Arlington City Council candidates continue to try to get their messages out to the public.
Position 1 incumbent: Steve Baker
Baker listed his top three goals as continuing to streamline the city’s customer service, protecting the city’s businesses against overregulation and making sure the city’s citizens retain the safe hometown that they’ve grown to love. He also touted his 12 years of experience in multiple aspects of how the city is run.
“Being in the building trades for more than 40 years, as well as owning my own contracting business for 34 years, gives me great experience in understanding the projects that the city enters into,” Baker said. “I understand plans, codes and the processes of the building projects.”
Baker has served on the City Council for 12 years, and was chosen by the Council to serve as Mayor Pro Tem for two years. He’s additionally served on the city’s safety, parks, planning, airport, utility, sign code and West Arlington committees.
“If re-elected, I would like to see our roads protected as well as fixed, the Graafstra farm turned into a park with grant money and volunteer help, and the river development planning continued,” Baker said.
Position 1 challenger: Jesica Stickles
“Most residents are comfortable with the current level of service the city provides, and they understand that a lack of revenues can change the ability to provide all these services,” Stickles said. “I believe that involving voters in decisions to raise taxes is a must. Our residents want to have a voice, and many feel uncomfortable with the past Council decision to raise utility taxes.”
For Stickles, getting elected to the City Council would be a continuation of the ways in which she’s already sought to serve her local community for years.
“My family and I are heavily involved in city and community events,” Stickles said. “It’s important to be involved with your community if you want to represent them.”
Stickles cited the current economic climate as ample reason for the city to find ways of living within its means.
“My business and leadership experience, along with my energy, will help me serve all of Arlington,” Stickles said. “The Council needs to be a wide variety of ages and diverse backgrounds to fully represent the whole city.”
Position 2 incumbent: Chris Raezer
“The people of Arlington are really passionate about our sense of community,” Raezer said. “Those who have lived here a long time are proud of the strong community spirit that makes Arlington the town it is, and newcomers were drawn to Arlington because of that spirit, and are equally passionate ensuring it lives on.”
Raezer first became involved with the city as a volunteer for its skate park project in 2001, and later served on the city’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission.
“Serving on PARC helped me learn how municipal government works,” Raezer said. “The more important lesson came from my experience with the skate park project. I learned that getting involved really does make a difference.”
The recession saw the city’s general fund revenues drop more than 20 percent since 2010, forcing the city to cut expenses every year since.
“To show citizens we were serious about cost-cutting and to show good faith to city employees, I advocated eliminating city paid health insurance for the Council,” Raezer said. “We cut this from the 2012 budget, and continue to do so, saving taxpayers around $90,000 per year. We have made these cuts while striving to maintain a high level of service.”
Position 2 challenger: Shery Christianson
“I’m grateful that people feel comfortable enough to tell me how they feel about what’s happening in their community, and want to know what we can do to help,” Christianson said.
Christianson believes that civic participation is an excellent means of allowing society to reconnect with itself.
“I went to my first community watch group this summer,” Christianson said. “I would love to see more people get involved in watch groups, in order to help reduce crime and drug trafficking. The police and fire departments take up more than half of the city’s budget, and are short handed and in need of new equipment. I’m looking for simple but effective ways to help support these two organizations.”
Regardless of the outcome of this campaign, Christianson believes that both she and Raezer want what’s best for Arlington and the surrounding community.
“While politics is about winning elections, it should be about the fate of Arlington and its citizens,” Christianson said. “As citizens, we need to take an active role in our democracy.”
Position 7 candidate: Mike Hopson
In the midst of his myriad other accomplishments, Hopson looks back with fondness on his four years as a night radio dispatcher for the Kenmore Fire Department.
“I came to know and became close friends with many of the firemen, local sheriffs and highway patrolmen,” Hopson said. “So when I say there should be no special treatment given to the Arlington Fire Department’s needs over other city department’s needs — like police, utilities or maintenance — it’s not because I don’t have a deep respect for firefighters and other first responders. But as a Councilman, I could not, in good conscience, favor one department over another.”
Hopson reiterated his fiscal conservatism as a trait that sets him apart in this race.
“I’m less likely to resort to tax increases before exploring other means to address budget shortages,” Hopson said. “I intend to bring my own ideas to the Council. Through discussion and friendly debate, I’ll seek to influence the City Council’s vision.”
Position 7 candidate: Jan Schuette
“It’s really hard to keep the citizens informed about serious issues facing the city,” Schuette said. “They’re surprised that the city has already cut 19 positions, and even with the cuts, the Arlington Fire Department responded to 3,800 calls in 2012 — a number that will hit 4,000 in 2013 — and the Police Department responded to 25,127 calls in 2012.”
Schuette sees the city’s safety as being at risk with the numbers of police and fire personnel that have already been cut, which is why she expressed no reservations about increasing the property tax if it will alleviate this problem.
“Out of 19 cities in Snohomish County, Arlington has the 18th lowest property tax rate,” Schuette said. “Even with an increase of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, we would only be 12th. The city is running on fumes, and any further cuts would have a devastating impact on our quality of life.”
Schuette pointed to her extensive budget experience, in managing budgets in excess of $3 million, in addition to having written, received and administered more than $1 million in grants.