Anacortes voters will decide on four City Council races on their November general election ballot.
In the Ward 1 race, incumbent Ryan Walters, who was first elected in 2011, is defending his seat against John Schryvers.
Walters said addressing new development and housing affordability is a priority. He said the City Council is exploring retaining a portion of the state sales tax, and instituting a qualifying local sales tax, for affordable housing.
Walters, who is the director of planning and community development for the Samish Indian Nation, said he is most proud of the city’s rewrite of its development regulations.
“We need to make sure the projects that come out of those new regulations are compatible with our character and maintain our high quality of life in Anacortes,” he wrote in a questionnaire submitted by the Skagit Valley Herald.
Walters said he is seeking re-election to ensure the city’s long-term financial footing.
“We have an issue with the water utility, sewer utility and all the infrastructure the city provides,” he said. “We have to make sure we are keeping up with the maintenance and appropriate ways to finance it.”
Schryvers, a chef, ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2017.
He said he is running for the Ward 1 seat to bring a working-class, small-business perspective to the City Council.
He agreed that housing costs are too high for working people. He said he supports loosening regulations to allow property owners to add additional units to their properties, and allow for the construction of larger, multifamily buildings.
“I would let the builders build and let the developers develop, in the city limits and in the downtown area,” he said in his questionnaire.
Schryvers said as Anacortes’ population grows, regulations should allow taller buildings downtown for apartments and condominiums.
“I want to reduce the size of government, thereby its cost to the people,” he said.
Christine Cleland-McGrath and Dom Tor Fleming, both first-time candidates, are competing for the Ward 2 seat. Longtime City Councilman Brad Adams is not seeking re-election.
Cleland-McGrath, a Realtor and Anacortes planning commissioner since 2015, grew up in Ward 2 and said the high cost of living is displacing many longtime residents and burdening families.
Cleland-McGrath said the city should do more to encourage industries such as marine and aerospace on underutilized properties zoned for light manufacturing.
The shortage and high cost of child care and early learning programs is also a problem, she said.
“It is my priority to work with a variety of stakeholders to tackle this challenge,” she said in her questionnaire. “Whether it is regulations or underutilized city space, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation is prepared to learn.”
As for housing, Cleland-McGrath said the city’s development code update goes a long way toward clarifying regulations about building workforce housing, and there are options to increase density on properties operated by the Anacortes Housing Authority.
“I was lucky enough to grow up in Anacortes and I really want to pay it forward,” she said.
Fleming, a chief financial officer and chief operations officer, said homelessness and the lack of affordable housing is a crisis.
“I know (City Council members) are trying hard and care a great deal, but when they passed the recent development plan, it made almost no provision for affordable housing,” he said. “There were two incentives offered, but they are extremely weak.”
Fleming said he would like to see the city pursue an inclusionary zoning program, which would require a portion of units in new buildings to be affordable, he said. He added that his experience in finance, economics and business development would help the city plan effectively and manage growth.
“My biggest concern is that we have done a less-than-adequate job of planning all the capacity of our growth — jobs and housing for current residents, and transportation corridors on and off (Fidalgo Island),” he said.
Carolyn Moulton, incumbent in the at-large Position 6 seat, is being challenged by John Espinoza. Moulton, co-owner of a bicycle repair shop, was appointed to the position when Liz Lovelett resigned after accepting appointment to the state Senate.
Moulton said her top issue is housing. She said options to increase affordable options include regulation of short-term rentals and a housing trust fund to provide low-interest loans for working people.
She agreed with Fleming that the city should explore an inclusionary zoning program for households making 80% or less of area median income, who would spend 30% or less of their income on housing.
“We have great community support for the Anacortes Family Center and Housing Authority, but we need more,” she said. “We don’t have housing.”
Moulton said she would also would like to see better trail connections in Anacortes to make it safer to commute by bike and foot.
“I’m learning a ton and embracing every opportunity I have to learn and to listen to people and make good decisions, to represent constituents and to hear their voices,” she said.
First-time candidate Espinoza, a welder at Dakota Creek Industries, said he is running for the seat because there is a disconnect between the City Council and the public.
“These City Council members spend more time on their phones in meetings and not paying attention,” he said. “I’m trying to be out there as a real human being and talk to you face to face and listen.”
He said his top priority is finding ways to help the homeless population in Anacortes.
“You can do it with your own community,” he said. “The only action we need is our own talent.”
He said an example of that is the community’s effort 20 years ago to raise donations for Ben Root Skate Park.
If elected, Espinoza said we would donate his City Council stipend back to the community.
Jeremy Carter is one of two candidates on the ballot in the Ward 3 race, though he is essentially running unopposed. James Finley has withdrawn from the race, though his name will appear on ballot.
The Ward 3 seat is being vacated by Eric Johnson.
Carter is a recruiter for the Washington Army National Guard and an Anacortes business owner.
“(I want to) help the community out any way I can and to help bridge the gap between generations in Anacortes,” he said in his questionnaire. “To assist Anacortes in reducing its carbon footprint and to make sure we are mindful of sustainable living.”