Candidates forum

Candidates for Sedro-Woolley City Council take part in a forum Wednesday at Sedro-Woolley City Hall.

SEDRO-WOOLLEY — At a Wednesday forum, Sedro-Woolley City Council candidates for Wards 1 and 5 had different ideas over planning for growth, a tax increase to pay for more police officers, and whether council members should be paid more for their work.

The candidates for Ward 1 are incumbent Judith Dunn Lee and challengers Dave Bates, Kevin Loy and Brendan McGoffin. Ward 5 candidates are incumbent Chuck Owen and challengers Justin Crossman and Corrin Hamburg.

Ward 1 covers the westernmost part of the city, and Ward 5 covers the eastern side.

The primary election is Aug. 6.

City Council Ward 1

McGoffin said his top priority is public safety and that he supports a property tax increase to pay for more officers.

“I think (more police) can change our department from reactive to proactive,” he said.

Former Councilman Loy said the city should first try to find the money in the budget, but noted that he had previously supported a tax increase for police. He said his top priorities are police, fire and sanitation services.

Dunn Lee said she would support a property tax increase for police and noted there is an exemption for elderly and low-income residents.

“Our priority is to keep people secure and keep our excellent rating in wastewater (treatment),” she said.

Bates said a tax increase is needed so the city can hire more police officers.

“I think the (current) numbers are very low for Sedro-Woolley,” he said.

A question submitted by an audience member brought up the issue of expansion in Sedro-Woolley and how the City Council should plan for such growth.

Dunn Lee said it’s up to the city Planning Commission to bring plans to the City Council. Loy disagreed, saying plans need to be put in place now.

“The City Council is supposed to be the leaders,” he said.

Bates said he encourages residents to attend meetings to make their voices heard as the community continues to grow.

McGoffin said the city has recently tackled this issue with its six-year transportation plan. If elected, he said he would look for grants to pay for infrastructure improvements.

On the issue of a pay raise passed by the City Council in April then vetoed by Mayor Julia Johnson, Dunn Lee said council members’ stipends have not kept pace with inflation and should be increased.

Loy said he agreed because council members have not received a raise in 10 years, and Bates said he would support a small bump in pay, but not the 80% increase approved by council members.

McGoffin said he supports the mayor’s recommendation of a small increase, and that he was concerned that council members approved the raise despite opposition from community members.

“I feel that we should be more open to what the city wants,” he said.

City Council Ward 5

If elected to a second term, Owen said his top objective would be more family parks, industry and a balanced budget.

Hamburg said her goals would be to listen to constituents and maintain the “tight-knit” feel of Sedro-Woolley.

Crossman said he decided to run following the pay raise vote. He opposes such a pay raise.

“I let my emotions guide the decision,” he said.

Crossman said he has little to no political experience, but noted that could be a strength.

Hamburg said she also does not support raising council members’ pay.

“It’s about what you’re willing to do to serve the community,” she said.

Owen said he believed a small increase in pay would attract better candidates, and that council members should be fairly compensated.

“We put in a lot of time,” he said.

On the subject of growth, Owen agreed with Dunn Lee and said he “has a lot of confidence in the Planning Commission.”

Hamburg said the City Council should study the comprehensive plan to understand future needs, and that growth brings the need for environmental conservation.

Owen differed with his challengers over the new Central Skagit Sedro-Woolley Library that under construction. He said building a new library is too expensive and that he prefers the location of the current library.

Crossman said relocating the library will help beautify the area, and Hamburg said she supports a new library as a place for families and children.

One question asked was “What is Sedro-Woolley’s niche?”

Owen said he believes the city is “on the right track,” and Hamburg said she would like to keep a “local focus” in a naturally beautiful and historic area.

Crossman said there are opportunities for real estate development off Highway 20 to entice more passersby to stay in Sedro-Woolley.

On the need for more police officers, Hamburg said the city needs to find a backup plan if voters reject a tax increase.

Owen and Crossman said they would not support a tax increase because many don’t have money to spare.

Candidates were asked if they believed Sedro-Woolley voters should be able to vote for candidates outside their wards as City Council decisions affect the entire city.

All seven stated they prefer the current system in which candidates are elected by voters within their wards.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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