Arlington mayor's race candidates answer questions at public forum

  - Courtesy Photos
— image credit: Courtesy Photos

ARLINGTON — All six candidates for the Arlington mayor's race answered questions about their qualifications and plans for the office they sought, during a public forum that had begun as a function for a more specific audience.

The Arlington Firefighters IAFF Local 3728 and Arlington Police Officer's Association conducted the forum at Olympic Place Retirement and Assisted Living on Aug. 4, asking the candidates questions not only from the members of their own groups, but also from those who attended that evening's event.

On a number of issues, all six candidates were in almost total agreement. They all opposed the suggestion of consolidating Arlington's police or fire services with those of Snohomish County, citing the advantages of maintaining those services closer to home. All the candidates likewise agreed to go along with a suggestion from the audience that the mayor's salary and health benefits should be cut.

"If you're doing this for the money, you're doing it for the wrong reasons," candidate Craig Christianson said.

When asked to prioritize a tight city budget, all six candidates agreed again, when they deemed public safety their top funding priority, but beyond that, their opinions diverged. Candidates Steve Baker, Carsten Mullin and Barb Tolbert also named road maintenance among their top priorities, to which Tolbert and fellow candidate Debora Nelson added economic development.

"Crime is expensive, so investing in public safety is actually a form of cutting costs," Nelson said.

While Mullin also prioritized the city's parks, Baker suggested that much of the parks' maintenance is already being addressed adequately by volunteers. Christianson argued that, public safety and utilities aside, "everything else should be on the table."

Candidate Kari Ilonummi tied most of his answers to various questions back into his studies of global economic theories, as well as his repeated pledge to hold state and federal government officials' "feet to the flame" for more municipal funding.

"I'm willing to go against the grain and tell people what they might not want to hear," Ilonummi said. "I'll say what's true even if it costs me the election."

When other candidates were asked what they saw as the duties of the mayor, working well with the City Council, city staff and community leaders was cited by Baker, Christianson, Mullin and Nelson, with Christianson and Nelson also agreeing that the mayor must represent the city well to the rest of the state.

"The Council had a good relationship with Mayor Margaret [Larson] and the city did well under her," Baker said. "I'd like to see that continue."

"The RCW dictates that the mayor has to pass a balanced budget and oversee the city's management, but there's a wide latitude within that," Tolbert said.

When asked how to cement Arlington as a sustainable city, Baker and Tolbert touted the need to entice businesses to settle in the area, with Baker pointing to the opening of the Walmart on 172nd Street and the return of Dwayne Lane's auto dealership as recent successes. Nelson took this a step further by advocating investments in "green technology," noting the work that's been done on solar energy in the area and suggesting the installations of electric car plug-in stations to attract more tourist traffic from I-5. In addition to calling for new and expanded businesses, Christianson echoed Nelson's focus on buying local by urging businesses to hire locally as well.

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