Opinion

Will we forfeit a college site to the city of Everett?

Tighter Focus
December 16, 1998

Amid a multitude of projects, no plan is devised.
PUBLILIUS SYRUS
Moral Sayings (1st C. B.C.E.)

A reminder: Higher education officials recently proposed the state needed more facilities to accommodate growing college enrollments. The part of the proposal that affected us locally was a plan to expand existing community colleges and build a new facility aimed at upper division classes, with electronic, remote teaching capabilities, and other cost-effective features.
It would be tied to a seven-school consortium consisting of the University of Washington, Washington State University, Central Washington University, Western Washington University and Everett, Edmonds and Skagit Valley community colleges. It would be designed to encourage commuting students who could draw from coursework at any of the seven schools to complete college degrees.
In initial studies, siting for the facility was suggested for north Everett or south Marysville. Subsequent public hearings held in Snohomish County displayed strong public sentiment that the facility would be better placed in north Marysville or Smokey Point. Such a siting would strongly benefit all the residents of north Snohomish, Island, and southern Skagit counties, who would make up those commuters most affected by a traffic-clogged Everett siting.
The City of Everett, serious about winning more dollars from education, and more stability to their local economy from an expanded college venue, have fired off another public relations volley aimed at capturing the school siting for itself.
Meanwhile North Snohomish County sleeps.
Doug Levy, Everetts government affairs director, waxed enthusiastic last Saturday in a newspaper article that said city officials hope the seven-school educational consortium will sign a letter of intent. The article was vague about the exact wording of such a document but the idea of continued commitment was expressed.
What specific continued commitment there might be between the City of Everett and the seven colleges and universities went unstated. The gist of the article, however, was that Everett will include 16,000 square feet of space in their proposed Everett Station complex for college instruction.
Everett Station is the regional transportation hub slated to be built south of Pacific between Smith and the Burlington Northern tracks. The idea of putting college classrooms on the same site as a major mass transit hub is admittedly very powerful.
Everett badly wants the new higher education facility. Permanent site decisions will be made, or at least approved, by the state legislature and higher education board. Everett has a plan in place to secure that permanent siting and is pursuing it with single-mindedness. They understand that the county to the north and east of their city boundary is fragmented into smaller municipalities that have no history of group action for the good of all.
Our communities need to prove Everett wrong.
In particular, the leadership of the three largest communities, Marysville, Arlington and Stanwood, together with the Tulalip Tribes, need to look up from their individual projects and move quickly toward combined effort and a plan of action.
Prospective northern sites need to be identified. Marysville Mayor David Weiser has checked with the Marysville School District to see if any district-owned land might serve as a site. While there are no obvious options in that direction, that start needs to be built upon.
Everett will certainly lobby the legislature and higher education. But the north county is not without resources. The mayor of Marysville was expected to lobby as a part of his becoming a fully paid, salaried elected official. A siting within its city boundaries would be an undeniable benefit to Marysville and surely worth the lobbying efforts of its salaried mayor.
Elected county officials representing the geographic areas affected by the siting may be the place to look for initial leadership. Island County, north Snohomish and southern Skagit County elected representatives would well-serve their constituents by sponsoring a volunteer site task force that could offer a viable alternative to the Everett siting proposal.
The benefits to prospective students of a more northerly siting for this school was strongly voiced by the majority of those testifying at the public hearings. Any community would reap long-term benefits from a university site within its boundaries.
Despite being cock-sure of themselves, Everett does not have a lock on the site for this school. But it does remain with us to step up to the plate and get in the game.

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Kris Passey or Scott Frank e-mail forum@premier1.net.

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