Council candidates weigh in on ‘welcoming city’ issue

5-week Q/A series showcases candidate views on Mukilteo’s top issues
By Nicholas Johnson | Jul 12, 2017
Courtesy of: candidates Eight of 10 Mukilteo City Council candidates responded to a set of five questions from the Mukilteo Beacon. Candidates pictured above include (from top left) incumbent City Council President Bob Champion, Peter Zieve, Tina Over, Anna Rohrbough, Tony Markey, Sarah Kneller, James Yoo and Riaz Khan. Position 3 candidates Troy Gray and Maxwell Chen did not respond to the Beacon's questions.

Ahead of the Aug. 1 primary election, the Mukilteo Beacon has been publishing a 5-week Q/A series with candidates for City Council.

The series, which is now its third week, began June 28 with a question on commercial air service coming to Paine Field airport. Last week’s question focused on a proposed sales tax measure headed to the November general election ballot that would help pay for transportation infrastructure improvements and maintenance.

If you missed either of those, visit mukilteobeacon.com to find the candidate’s answers.

All 10 candidates were given a week to consider five questions and submit answers of no more than 200 words for each. Eight provided responses.

This week’s question focuses on the issue of declaring Mukilteo a welcoming city for all, regardless of immigration status.

That issue arose after President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016. Many cities and counties in Washington – even the state itself – made such declarations after Trump signed an executive order banning people from several mostly Muslim nations from entering the country.

As the City Council wrestled with the issue, several candidates for City Council weighed in during public hearings, with some in support, some opposed, and others questioning whether such a declaration was worth dividing the community.

This week’s question: In June, the City Council voted 4-2 in approval of a “welcoming city” resolution affirming the city’s shared vision of Mukilteo as “a diverse and inclusive community where residents are safe in our homes and neighborhoods.” The resolution also affirmed a longstanding police department policy of not inquiring into any person’s immigration status. How would you have voted, and why?

 

Pos. 1

 

Anna Rohrbough

During a work session in February, the council decided not to address the national policy. In June, during the public forum, a resolution was brought by the council to reaffirm the vision of Mukilteo. During that session, I witnessed how it brought out the fears on both sides of a national political policy – even though the council’s purpose is to focus on local, non-partisan issues – creating further division within our community, rather than the intent of building trust and generating a feeling of safety in line with the shared vision statement.

While I feel there may have been other ways to reaffirm our vision that would have been far less divisive, I also know it is important as leaders to bring our existing policy to the forefront.

After meeting with the police chief, it was clear to me that while this resolution didn’t change anything, and may have been volatile, the police department appreciated the awareness that was brought to their current policy of not inquiring into any person’s immigration status, to honor the law, and to build public trust.

 

Riaz Khan

I feel right now the Mukilteo City Hall is like broken pieces regarding the council’s debate over whether to declare the city a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants or reaffirm its vision of inclusiveness and diversity.

Mukilteo is a caring community, where neighbors help each other in all times as needed. We all know that Snohomish County itself is a statutory county and all cities fall under one umbrella. Discussing national immigration issues over and over is unnecessary.

Law enforcement officers already know who is legal and illegal in this county. If the judicial system authorizes law enforcement officers to validate the status of the people, I am sure officers will do their jobs.

I strongly voted yes to welcome any and all human beings, regardless race, color, gender and ethnicity, as long as everyone abides by the laws where they live and follow the law of the land.

 

James Yoo

As a first-generation immigrant to the United States, I value the commitment it takes to be successful in this country. I have had to work hard in the face of many obstacles to get to where I am today.

I am of the belief that Mukilteo is place for everyone to enjoy. Regardless of a council resolution, I think we need to do everything we can to make all our citizens and visitors feel welcome. We also need to make sure that our seniors and special needs residents feel welcome.

Rather than debate the merits of a resolution to hold the title of a “welcoming city,” we must prove that we can service the populations so that all citizens and visitors feel welcome.

 

Pos. 2

 

Bob Champion

I voted in favor of the “welcoming city” resolution because it reiterates the vision and core values of the city we call home. The resolution reaffirms that our city complies with federal and state law, supports the city’s public safety policies and promotes a high quality of life through open communication and mutual trust. I would ask that each and every resident read the resolution.

 

Peter Zieve

I was at the meeting and spoke out against the “welcoming city” resolution along with nine other Mukilteo residents. I don’t see the value or purpose of this resolution when even the proponents of the resolution acknowledge that it changes nothing.

 

Tina Over

I would have voted in favor of a “welcoming city,” and I am proud to say that Mukilteo is diverse and inclusive. Diversity gives us the ability to have different ideas and expressions, and that is needed in any community to be united and to prosper.

I believe we should let the federal government handle a person's immigration status and not take on that challenge at a city level. Our resources can be better put to use instead on staying focused on reducing crime and drug use in our city, which is becoming more prevalent.

 

Pos. 3

 

Tony Markey

Mukilteo is a welcoming city. It always has been. Our police officers cannot operate as ICE agents by law. This isn’t a policy issue; it’s a legal one.

The only reason to vote yes is that crimes might be underreported by the community. That’s valid, but no evidence was presented to support this argument.

With the passing of this measure, nothing changes. Nothing changes, that is, except the perception that our City Council serves one political party. Unfortunately, this has become a partisan issue. The city is divided. Even Democrats at that council meeting suggested a “no” vote on the proposal, but the council voted for the resolution anyway.

City council candidates run as “non-partisan.” Council members should be non-partisan. Period. We represent residents, not parties.

My opponent, Sarah Kneller, has taken party money for her campaign. I have not and will not. We need fair and unbiased voices, not people who owe allegiance to “the party.”

It’s not the council’s purview to adjudicate partisan issues. Mukilteo is – and should remain – a welcoming city. I would have voted ‘no’ for this reason.

I am committed to serving all residents of Mukilteo as the non-partisan choice for Position 3.

 

Sarah Kneller

It is important to note that the “welcoming city” resolution doesn’t change our policy.

The resolution was requested by our law enforcement officers as a way to assure citizens that if they see crime, they can safely report it without having their own status questioned. I support the sentiment behind the welcoming city policy, but I would not have presented such a resolution.

It doesn’t change daily operations of our city or its officials. This change will have to come from within our community. The community divide has been taxing on us all and I think that it’s more an issue of heart than an issue of policy. Hearts take much longer to change than the passing of a resolution.

The sentiment of the resolution is one of compassion, but it doesn’t actually address the root of the issue, which is much deeper. I believe that we are always better when we listen to, learn from and engage with each other. Our uniqueness, individuality and life experiences mold us into fascinating individuals.

I hope we can all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance and compassion.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Matthew FitzGerald | Jul 18, 2017 20:00

I read the Resolution, and the rationale behind the request for it to exist.

I agree that this was a necessary Resolution by the City Council to help reduce the mass confusion of the times and to reiterate extant policy.

Very importantly, as mentioned several times by candidates, it did not actually change any existing policy, which was echoed in the debate.

Thank you for the vibrant discussion, and eventual passage, of the Resolution.



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