Candidates face off in city, county council races

ARLINGTON — Ballots have already been mailed out, and voters in Arlington have their primary candidates to choose from in the races for Arlington City Council Position 3 and Snohomish County Council District 1.

Arlington City Council

In Arlington, incumbent City Council member Scott Solla is being challenged by Brock Hecla and Kari Ilonummi for the next four-year term.

Solla seeks to balance a short-term focus on reversing the economic downturn with an eye toward maintaining and expanding upon quality of life in the long term. He acknowledged the impacts of lost sales tax revenues, budget cuts and even recent weather warnings, as they pose threats of fire and risks to health. He likewise admitted that the 2010 fiscal budget would present the city with tough decisions, but he asserted that public safety should be Arlington’s number-one priority in a tight budget.

“We have to keep our citizens safe,” Solla said. “At the same time, we need to look for opportunities to grow in visionary ways. The demands on our schools, roads, utilities and other infrastructure will continue to increase, and we’ll need strategic planning to progress wisely. I’m passionate about preserving our heritage, but I also embrace economic development.”

Solla characterized himself as very concerned with looking after parks and recreation for families, and is likewise emphatic about the need to nurture the local business environment, especially in the wake of Meridian Yachts’ closure.

“It’s paramount that we be business-friendly, because that will play a key role in our recovery,” Solla said. “I also support the Transfer of Development Rights program because it’s about conserving where we play and live for generations to come. We need diverse housing options, affordable to everyone, so that we don’t just turn into an urban sprawl.”

Solla praised his fellow City Council members, as well as city of Arlington department directors and staff members, for their qualifications and their commitment to the community, the latter of which he cited as present in the city employees’ furloughs to help prevent job losses. He likewise touted the volunteer spirit of Arlington, as shown in the projects of its numerous community service groups, which he believes can do what government sometimes can’t.

“We’re folks working together toward common goals,” Solla said. “We’ve got great leadership and we may not always see eye-to-eye on all things, but that gives us balance.”

Hecla is a man of relatively few words, who expressed his beliefs in self-improvement and community service. He started his own Arlington-based IT consulting business in the wake of the economic downturn, “maintaining tight connections to the town and its residents,” and is working toward finishing his degree, but before that he’d worked for firms that had dealt with the city, giving him a glimpse into how the city’s processes work.

“Through my work with these architectural, engineering and other professional services firms, I’ve had some unique exposure to how ideas translate to action and tangible results,” Hecla said. “I’ve seen bad ideas work and great ideas fail. I’ve seen the power of combining great vision with solid execution.”

Hecla noted that his family has resided in Arlington “for generations, and I was lucky enough to have spent my formative years here.” He does not consider himself a partisan, and instead deemed the city’s future to be his primary concern.

“This is where I live,” Hecla said. “I don’t have any issues with the current Council, and I don’t have any qualms with the city. I just want to make sure that we don’t go down the wrong path and the only way I know how to get involved is to get involved. I want Arlington to continue to be a place that people love to live in and feel welcome to visit.”

Ilonummi was contacted repeatedly by phone and e-mail by The Arlington Times, but did not respond to interview requests as of press time.

Snohomish County Council

In the County Council primary race, prospective Democratic candidate Krista Larsen dropped out, leaving only Democratic challenger Ellen Hiatt Watson and Republican incumbent John Koster.

If Koster wins, term limits mean that this next four-year term will be his last. While he would like to make progress toward his long-term goals, such as working on the TDR program and adding more parks and ball fields to the county, his recent door-belling of an estimated 8,000 homes helped cement his conviction that the economy must be his main focus in his final term, since he sees economic health as the wellspring from which all else flows.

“I was a small business owner for 25 years, and giving someone the ability to live out their dreams of prosperity is exciting to me,” Koster said. “Government’s role should be to facilitate that, where it should, and to stay out of the way, where it should. We need a healthy economy to keep businesses here, and we also need to diversify our economy.”

Koster appreciates the business of Boeing and other aerospace industries, but he would also welcome a greater number of manufacturing jobs and bio-tech industries. At the same time, he reiterated his support for commercial air service at Paine Field, which he sees as a potential economic driver for the region, as well as for a four-year college in Snohomish County.

“I have no illusions that I’ll get all these things done by the end of my next term, but at the very least I want to keep the momentum going,” Koster said.

In looking ahead to the county’s budget balancing challenge, Koster listed a number of crucial aspects of government, from transportation and health care to the environment and law enforcement, and then noted how interconnected they all are, since “I dare you to name one thing that you can touch without affecting any number of others. If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that these tough choices force us to look inward, and figure out the differences between what we must do and what we want to do. We’ll need someone who already has an understanding of how it all fits together, because we won’t have time for someone to learn it on the job.”

Although she majored in political science, Watson had no desire to enter politics herself until about two years ago, when she spearheaded an effort to push back against developers in the Seven Lakes area, who were asking for changes in the rules regarding development in the area. Watson and hundreds of others spoke out against “the incredible scale of development” that was being proposed in the 2,000-acre rural area, especially in light of how it would impact traffic.

“When we won the appeal, it showed that citizens who get involved have a voice,” said Watson, who supports the Growth Management Act. “We need to keep our rural areas rural. Land use impacts our quality of life and I couldn’t wait another four years for John Koster to reach his term limit with the damage that could be done in the meantime.”

Watson pointed to the Smokey Point area as an example of “ill-planned growth that puts our watershed at risk,” and emphasized the importance of offering low-to-middle income housing, so that “the middle class doesn’t get squeezed out.” As with the issue that started her down the road of politics, she believes that “we shouldn’t encourage urban sprawl,” and that code laws should be made clearer, and followed without exceptions that might favor some parties over others.

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