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Arlington mayor's race candidates answer questions
ARLINGTON — With the deadline to mail in primary ballots on Aug. 16, The Arlington Times asked the six candidates for the Arlington mayor's race a set of four questions. The following are their answers.
The only local races to appear on the primary ballot are those with three or more candidates. Local races with only one or two candidates will appear on the general election ballot in November.
1. Which of your professional and personal experiences and skills do you believe make you most qualified to serve as mayor?
Steve Baker: I feel that the experiences and skills that make me most qualified to be Mayor is the almost 10 years as a Council member and Mayor Pro-Tem. I have an excellent general knowledge of the operation of every city department. In this time of economic downturn it will take a strong person that is not afraid to make the important decisions as well as any future cuts, that may be necessary without raising taxes and fees.
I am serving, or served, on numerous committees such as Public Safety, Parks, Public Utility, Community Development, Airport, Environment, SCT, etc. Also I have sat on many interviews for staff searches for Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, City Administrator, Community Development Directors, Chief Inspector, Finance Director, Utility Director, etc. This has given me valuable experience in hiring good employees. All these have been a great benefit providing the knowledge of the operations of the city.
Craig Christianson: I feel everything I've done or been through has prepared me for this opportunity to serve as Mayor. From my 20 plus years as a business owner to my 22-year career as a firefighter, as well as my 54 years as an Arlington resident. Through both professions I've learned to deal with a great many people. From employees to customers and co-workers and at Seattle Fire I see people having their worst day. Both careers have been very rewarding and have prepared me for most any challenge.
Kari Ilonummi: The forecast, in which I have presented ever since 2007, regarding the inevitable breakdown of our economy, if we were to pass any form of bailout legislation, has been proven beyond a doubt to be entirely correct and accurate. None of my opponents in this race have the understanding of this financial crisis which is affecting the citizens of Arlington today to the degree in which I do.
I have a deep understanding of the two dominating and yet opposing economic political forums upon the planet today, regarding Alexander Hamilton's "American System of Political Economy" vs. the British Imperialist system of Free Trade.
Carsten Mullin: I am employed in the Information Services Department for Snohomish County, also currently sitting on the city of Arlington Parks and Recreation Commission and I volunteer in the community as a coach of youth sports. As an employee of Snohomish County we experience similar budget issues as the city of Arlington, I plan to use the lessons we have learned in the past to move forward and make the best decisions possible. Through my experience professionally and personally, I truly empathize with those hard working individuals who have been harshly affected by the down turn in the economy and will truly make an honest effort to support and guide our community to more prosperous times in the near future.
Debora Nelson: I built strong business/management/communication skills while assisting a physician to found a new medical clinic. I then served as office administrator for seven years.
This experience equipped me to later establish my own small business as a professional photographer/studio owner.
I believe in excellence. I strive to create an excellent piece of art and to provide excellent service to my photography clients.
I enjoy practicing my people skills while networking with various professionals to connect resources and further a project.
I am a visionary person; I monitor the economic state and identify trends. This helps me to stay current with the needs and best interests of my clients so that I can better serve them. I know how to present myself professionally and with integrity.
Barb Tolbert: As a successful Arlington businesswoman and community member for 18 years, I have been honored to serve in many capacities.
In 1994 I became director of the Arlington Fly-In, with 60 staff/volunteers and an operations budget of $60,000. The Fly-In is now the third largest in the U.S., with 519 staff/volunteers with an operations budget of $500,000 providing an economic impact of over $10 million annually. I am experienced in growing business, and managing people and budgets.
I am involved with the city and community organizations including Economic Development, Airport Commission, Chamber of Commerce, Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation and Chair for the recent EMS levy for emergency medical services.
My combined work and volunteer experience provide the knowledge, skill and energy required to continue the professional administration of Arlington with the vision and commitment to lead us forward in both good and lean times
2. What issues facing the city of Arlington do you believe are most important right now, and how would you propose dealing with them?
Baker: Issues that I feel are the most important at the present are the budget shortfall, keeping city services in operation and minimizing crime to our citizens. As much as I would like to believe, I don't think that the economy is going to improve overnight or in the next few years. I feel that we will have to analyze every department and position to determine what can be done to balance the budget without raising taxes. I believe it will take some very tough measures and a strong leader to get through these times. I would like to see more neighborhood watch programs and more citizen police patrols. I propose to cut unnecessary spending and maintain fiscal responsibility, evaluate the need for consultants, encourage volunteerism, and pursue grant opportunities. I am not opposed to delaying projects, as long as their outcome does not compromise or interfere with state mandates.
Christianson: I think we all agree that the budget is the most pressing issue. All other issues are in some form tied to the financial issue. We need to attract new or expanded business. The issue of expanding our boundaries needs to be looked at along with what role the airport properties and actuaries play into the success of our city. Services to our community need to be considered such as emergency response, street repairs. Sharing services with our neighboring communities needs consideration. Allowing citizen and city government committees to give practical solutions should be highly encouraged.
Ilonummi: The Economy. I want to bring prosperity to my city and constituents abroad. The most important thing to the Ilonummi Administration is that we always continue to meet the expectations and demands of our citizens, as defined by the General Welfare Clause found within the Preamble of our federal Constitution, regarding the middle and lower class. The people deserve more from government, not less, and under my administration, they're going to receive much more representation.
Mullin: A major issue in Arlington right now is public safety; we need to make sure we have the most effective amount of law enforcement policing our city. Our firefighters and EMS teams are saving lives every day, it is important that they receive all the support our city can offer in case of an emergency, so we can depend on them. I graduated from the Arlington Public School District. I understand the importance of how our schooling affects and shapes our lives. The schools and teachers need all the support we can offer to ensure our children have the opportunities to grow up and also have successful lives. A charming Arlington attraction is the beautiful parks and wonderful recreational opportunities. I plan to keep our streets clean, our parks maintained and keep Arlington one of the most beautiful cites in America.
Nelson: One critical issue facing Arlington is the economy. Arlington needs a balanced mix of businesses and industry. This mix is necessary to provide a solid tax revenue base in order to meet the essential needs of our citizens. Such needs include public safety, infrastructure maintenance and vital fire and police services.
As mayor my role would be to teamwork with the city staff and keep us motivated to be searching for the new businesses to come into our city to stimulate/stabilize our economy.
Crime is costly. Stabilizing our economy and reducing crime go hand in hand. We are a more attractive business community with less crime, and Arlington citizens deserve a sure sense of security. We must provide enough resources to have the police in our neighborhoods partnering with citizens to promote a culture where crime is not welcome and our children are safe.
Tolbert: Economic issues are a top priority, for both the city and residents. With projected revenue shortfalls next year we must work together to define priorities for service levels. Tax increases on residents will not resolve this issue. Many families have been devastated by dropping home values and lack of adequate living-wage employment.
We need balance between the economy and the natural environment; I will focus on increasing the involvement of citizens, expanding current partnerships, creating new partners, and aggressively increasing Arlington's economic competitiveness while remaining fiscally responsible.
Attracting new industry to Arlington is a top priority, by ensuring our city permitting process shows that we are open for business and insisting that we focus on solutions to improve traffic flow, especially on 172nd.
3. What would be your priorities for funding with a limited city budget? Which programs and/or positions would always be funded, and which ones would you be willing to trim partially or cut entirely?
Baker: With a limited city budget and possible cutbacks to city services, my first priority for funding would be Public Safety, to ensure that the citizens feel protected and safe. Not to say that there still may be ways to fine-tune these departments for further savings. We also need to maintain the roads and other city infrastructure. If roads are not maintained they will deteriorate creating a greater replacement expense later. The replacement of city equipment and vehicles may have to be extended to accommodate the budget shortfall. Future planning on projects that are not urgent may need to be re-evaluated by priority to determine necessity.
As the economy allows, we will eventually be able to afford the amenities that Arlington is known for, but unable to provide at this time, due to budgetary restraints.
Christianson: For the past few years the impending funding crisis has been looming. I'm sure the current administration has been preparing for this. Essential services, such as emergency services will remain a priority, along with other basis services such as water and sewer. Everything else needs to be on the table. Prioritizing programs and positions will necessarily happen.
Until the entire budget is laid out, and all aspects of city expenditures are made known, it is difficult to specifically state which areas will be affected.
Ilonummi: With an Ilonummi Administration, our citizens can be rest assured, that the top priorities of the city of Arlington will be met, regarding supplying the needed funds to our police and fire department. I will not let go of one member of our police or fire department, you mark my word. We cannot afford to lose any of them. I feel that it's time for government to be more responsible with our citizens' money, by cutting wasteful and frivolous spending, along with doing the job right, the first time around, will allow our city to save millions of dollars over the next four years, and thus allowing City Hall to put out the help wanted sign once again.
Mullin: My biggest priority is public safety. We need to support our local law enforcement and EMS programs so we can feel safe going to sleep at night. My goal is to have the departments budgeted so no programs or currently filled positions need to be cut. The current mayor has done an incredible job working within the budget and I plan to move forward with her vision and continue to make improvements to the city of Arlington. I will make sure that every department is held accountable for all spending and make sure that Arlington is run efficiently and effectively.
Nelson: A limited budget is the reality of today's economy. I know this as a small-business owner.
We always need to fund the priorities, which are public safety and emergency services. The maintenance of our infrastructure is essential. We would need to evaluate as a staff and city council what programs are necessary to keep funded.
We can continue to solidify the partnership and volunteerism with our churches and civic groups to coordinate with city workers to keep up our natural resources and parks and to cut costs.
I have had to cut back in my own business; I choose not to buy new equipment, no advertising and no extras. We must evaluate our spending choices continually to protect the taxpayers' money and to protect the integrity of Arlington.
Tolbert: I would prioritize city spending to the essential functions of government: Police, Fire and Emergency services for our public safety; basic services for public health including safe drinking water and sanitary sewer; and transportation to keep our roads in good repair ensuring access to our businesses, services, medical facilities, schools and neighborhoods.
Economic development is a critical priority so that we attract manufacturing and other industries to our city to improve the job base.
I understand the city is facing a budget shortfall; my commitment is to listen and further understand the costs and benefits of current and proposed programs. I will work with the City Council, city managers and city residents to make the best decisions.
4. Taking a longer-term view than question 2, what are the most important goals for the city of Arlington to keep in mind further into the future?
Baker: We will need to keep all future development and projects and all the work that has been done for these projects on hold as an investment for the future. There has been a lot of expense and labor that we don't want to waste, but we want to be ready when the economy finally does turn around. We also need to entice developers to provide "out of the box" ideas and have a plan "shovel ready" to build when the economy turns around. This will provide needed revenues to the city and would not impact citizens with an added tax burden. With the reduced revenues coming into the city coffers we still need to maintain the infrastructure and also the good looks of Arlington. It is of the utmost importance to preserve what makes Arlington a great place to live. I have faith that the prosperous times will return again.
Christianson: The city has done a great job in preparing for the increase in population. Water and sewer are huge issues that have or are being taken care of. An important goal for me is to hire local people and contractors whenever possible. It appears we hire out of area or even out of state people quite often. We also need to get construction moving again. There isn't a whole lot being built here lately. Part of this is the economy, but are there other obstacles keeping builders and investors away? Arlington is a great place to live and we should all strive to keep it that way.
Ilonummi: In order for Arlington to achieve the degree of prosperity in which our citizens downright deserve, we must support our state and federal legislature in immediately re-enacting FDR's Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, in which ended the depression, and will do the same for us now. Also the bailouts do not meet a Glass-Steagall banking standard and therefore the $17 trillion, in which we were swindled, immediately comes back to our nation, and can be utilized in emergency aid, for job creation to the states, it's that simple.
Mullin: The city of Arlington needs to bring in new jobs; this city is an amazing place to live with wonderful recreational opportunities and is very attractive to companies looking for a new location for establishment. Arlington has some innovative recreational activities being developed right now, such as the Country Charm property and the new wetland area near Haller Park. It is great opportunities and ideas like these that will keep Arlington growing in the right direction and ensures that our city is a great place to live.
Nelson: Long-term goals must be focused on economics, attracting well paying jobs and businesses that will endure economic ups and downs best. I would like to extend the green technology business corridor in Arlington and continue the teamwork with Marysville and Arlington in order to bring Boeing into town.
Increasing the numbers and stability of jobs will stabilize the strength of our infrastructure, emergency and safety services. As a team we would continue to seek grant funding for city projects.
I would like to see us develop our riverfront to protect it and to make it more useable to the public. Let us work with our farms to further their business and increase their productivity.
We will increase our closed loop community to care for our families and our natural resources here in Arlington. We are a "Gateway to Adventure," let us embrace that and bring stability to Arlington's future.
Tolbert: The decisions we make over the next four years will produce the type of city we have in the future. My vision of Arlington is a low crime city with a booming tourist industry and vibrant business areas where visitors and residents alike are able to move about with smooth traffic while taking in the natural beauty of the area. We are able to live and work in our community and have maintained a variety of open space, historical areas and recreation areas to enjoy with our families.
My goals that focus on economic development that supports business and stimulates job growth, ensuring the safety of our communities, preserving the aspects that make Arlington so livable and delivering responsive government with sound fiscal management which will let us realize this future vision of Arlington.
For more information about the candidates, check out the Snohomish County Local Voters’ Pamphlet.