Commercial flights, chip seal top Mukilteo forum
Japanese Gulch acquisition, commercial expansion at Paine Field and issues with chip seal rose to the top last week when six City Council candidates faced off in a forum at Rosehill Community Center.
About 100 voters attended the forum on Oct. 9 sponsored by the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce and The Beacon.
Voters will choose among two incumbents and four challengers for three seats on the seven-seat council in the November election.
Position 1 is the only open seat, with the retirement of Kevin Stoltz. Vying to replace him are Ted Wheeler and Terry Preshaw.
Incumbent Richard Emery is challenged by Bob Champion for Position 2.
Fred Taylor seeks to unseat incumbent Randy Lord in Position 3.
Terry Preshaw is a U.S./Canadian immigration and nationality lawyer who has been involved in Mukilteo since she co-founded the Mukilteo Community Orchestra in 1997. She ran for council in 2011, but lost that race by a margin of just one third of 1 percent.
Preshaw said it wasn’t smart for the city to openly share that the last 97 acres of undeveloped land in Japanese Gulch was estimated to be worth $6.3 million.
If staff had done their “due diligence,” they could have avoided revealing their intensions before a true assessment was made, she said.
“We didn’t serve ourselves well when we go to the folks who are offering to sell this property and say, ‘Gee, we think it’s going to be worth around $6.25 million, and that’s how much we’re going to try to raise,’” Preshaw said.
Preshaw is against issuing councilmanic bonds to pay for the gulch. The city already has $4.3 million in state and county grants to go toward the purchase.
“We went down that path with Rosehill,” she said. “We ended up with over $18 million worth of debt at the height of the worst recession ever. I don’t think we want to go there again.”
She supports allocating city funds that haven’t been spent or could be cut from the budget, applying for more grants and seeking private donations to make up the difference.
“I love the gulch,” Preshaw said. “I’ve spent a lot of time there, and I desperately want to save it, but I’m not willing to put our city’s economic health on the line to do so.”
Ted Wheeler, who also ran for council in 2011, serves on the city’s Long Range Financial Planning Committee, Parks and Arts Commission and is a member of the Japanese Gulch Group. He is a 12-year Mukilteo resident.
He said that Japanese Gulch would become one of the most important parts of land in Mukilteo, once the city purchases it as parkland.
Wheeler agrees that the city goofed by not waiting until it had an appraisal done before it set the goal of raising more than $6 million to pay for the gulch.
He said the appraisal is still in the works and that it is expected to be finished in the next month or so.
“Once we get the appraisal back, then we can make an appropriate decision as to what we can offer, or if there is a balance, to be paid for the Japanese Gulch,” Wheeler said.
He said he wouldn’t ever make a funding decision without having all of the needed information first.
“If the appraisal comes back and it is higher, I think the funds will be there,” Wheeler said. “I can’t say why or how they will be there, because I don’t think it will be when I’m on council, but let’s get our facts together.”
“Once we get our facts together, then we can make an offer.”
Richard Emery was appointed to the council in 2008 to serve the remainder of an unexpired term. He was elected to serve a full four-year term in 2009. He is an 11-year Mukilteo resident.
Emery said commercial flights would increase noise, traffic and air pollution – but add little economic benefit, if any.
“I can’t think of anything that would be worse for Mukilteo than passenger air service at Paine Field,” he said.
Mukilteo has been fighting passenger air service for years, including setting aside a legal fund of more than $150,000 to fight Paine Field expansion and by filing an appeal of the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision of “no significant impact.”
Emery said he expects the city to continue to fight. However, the overriding issue, he said, is that the FAA is required to work with the Snohomish County Airport and allow airlines to add flights there if they are ready to pay for it.
Even so, he said there are three ways Mukilteo can fight this:
• Keep working with the airport and regional leaders to create more business opportunities for aerospace manufacturers – “The more space used up for aerospace business, the less there is for commercial air traffic.”
• Pursue the city’s lawsuit to require the FAA to hold airlines to the highest possible environmental standards – “If it’s too expensive for an airline to come in due to mitigation requirements, they won’t do it.”
• Continue lobbying at the state and national level to get Paine Field designated as an airport of national significance – “Paine Field and the businesses associated with it are a major economic engine: $20 billion a year.”
Bob Champion has worked in aerospace for 33 years. His experience includes manufacturing, engineering, operations and aircraft certifications. Champion also ran last year for the old 1st Congressional District seat, which was a one-month term.
With his background, Champion said, “I fully understand the FAA’s next-generation air traffic system and the requirements for Paine Field.”
He agrees with Emery that Mukilteo needs to be a voice of change that says to the governor and to state and federal legislators that commercial service at Paine Field is a risk to Boeing manufacturing plans for the 787 and the 777X.
“I say this because major corporations, one of their key elements of how they look to do business is risk mitigation,” Champion said.
“If you noticed, Boeing has been very silent on this issue. Boeing has also said that they’re weighing all of their options.”
He said the city needs to step up its efforts – and do it now.
“We cannot overstate the importance of Boeing and the aerospace industry to Washington state’s economy,” he said.
“I think if we get the support of the governor, and of Sens. (Maria) Cantwell and (Patty) Murray, we can drive a world of change that would allow Paine Field to be designated as an airport of significance, and thus stopping commercial service.”
Fred Taylor has worked more than 40 years in a number of fields: He has been a laborer, traveling and studio musician and producer, manager, software developer, consultant, wholesaler, retailer and lobbyist. He is a 19-year Mukilteo resident.
Taylor said that chip seal works on some roads and not on others. He said in some areas it’s “inefficient to the point of dangerous.”
“I don’t like the chip seal, and I’m obviously not alone in the city,” Taylor said. “I’ve heard lots of complaints.”
Taylor lives on the intersection of 8th Street and Campbell Avenue. He said that road is an example of where it’s not working.
He said gravel from the chip seal spins off every time a vehicle goes down the hill, so that there is now loose gravel all over the hill.
“I have to try to back my camper, and it slips so bad because of the gravel that I’m dangerously close to losing control of my vehicle, because it’s skidding down hill when I apply the brakes.”
Taylor said a better solution applied less frequently is better than a poorer solution applied more frequently. The city of Kirkland, he said, applies a different mix onto its roads that doesn’t include gravel.
“I would like to see a different approach to this, and much better road services,” he said. “I think we deserve them.”
Randy Lord has been a councilmember since 2006, and has been selected to serve as council president for 2013. He has lived in Mukilteo for 26 years.
Lord said the residents of Mukilteo have three choices regarding chip seal:
• The city can do no maintenance on its roads – “What you’ll find is your roads eventually rot away to the point that they are no longer usable.”
• The opposite of “do nothing” is “do everything,” which is laying asphalt on all 60 miles of road in Mukilteo – “The reason we don’t do that is because it’s 5-10 times more expensive to do than we’re doing right now.”
• Or it can keep to its Pavement Preservation program, and maintain its roads with chip seal.
Adopted by City Council in 2007, the program calls for the chip sealing of several miles of road each year. The streets are repaved on a rotating schedule.
“We’re trying to do what we can to manage our critical needs and at the same time provide critical services,” he said. “What we find is the chip seal allows us to do that.”
He said Mukilteo can chip seal the same road five times before it ever needs to replace it – and that residents will still get 20-30 years out of it.
“Until we get the political will to raise our taxes to do that,” Lord said, “right now, we’ll do with what we have, and I think it’s working for us.”