SEDRO-WOOLLEY CITY COUNCIL [Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash.]
(Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, WA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 08--SEDRO-WOOLLEY -- A common theme has emerged among the eight candidates running for four positions on t h e S e d r o -- Woolley City Council.
They say the town needs to encourage business for a strong local economy and reduce crime for a safe community. Each candidate, however, cites a slightly different focus.
Incumbent Brett Sandstrom, 37, is finishing his first term in the at-large seat on the council and hopes to continue the work he has started. He faces challenger Charles "Chuck" Owen, who has lived in the city for more than 55 years.
Owen has no previous experience in office, but said as a long-term resident, he is familiar with both the town's struggles and strengths.
He said the council's focus should be boosting the economy to provide jobs and discourage crime.
"People need to be able to live here, work here and shop here... If we had more jobs for residents it would help alleviate a lot of the issues such as drugs and theft by giving people purpose and a way to support themselves," Owen said.
S a n d s t r o m a l s o said the answer to the town's challenges is a successful local economy, which he is proud to have worked toward during his first council term. Earlier this year, he helped establish the Business Development Committee, which reduced some city fees that affect business and created the Sedro-Woolley Means Business marketing campaign to attract new business, he said.
G e r m a i n e Kornegay, 44, and D o r o t h y " E l i z a -- beth" Fernando, 61, are vying for only open seat on the council, representing the north-central area of Ward 2 west of Highway 9. Their race guarantees the now all-male council will have at least one councilwoman serving the next term.
Kornegay said the town faces an "identity crisis," caught between the desire to grow the local economy and maintain the historic, small-town feel from its logging heritage. She recommends renovating the downtown area to reflect both the "rich history" of the city and the vacancies available to new businesses, which will bring living-wage jobs, and in turn help fund city services such as law enforcement, she said.
Fernando is also taking a "proactive" business approach, with the overall goal "to promote Sedro-Woolley as a great place to work, play and live," she said.
She would work closely with the new Business Development Committee if elected and suggests encouraging a mix of manufacturing jobs and tourism, including building a resort at the Northern State Hospital complex on the east edge of the city.
B r e n d a K i n z e r stepped up to challenge Ward 3 incumbent Thomas Storrs, who has served on the council since 2000.
Kinzer, 49, said she would bring a fresh perspective to the council, and will emphasize the importance of community involvement in local government processes.
"I'd like to see c o u n c i l m e m b e r s g o i n g o u t i n t h e neighborhoods and inviting residents to the council meetings so the public is aware of what's going on (at the council meetings)," she said. "What we're hired to do is represent residents in our wards, so let's go out and invite them to come and voice their opinions."
For her, the biggest issue the city faces is an increase in property crimes. She suggests collaboration between the council, law enforcement and the community to organize neighborhood watch groups.
"We have to demonstrate that crime will not be tolerated in our town," she said.
For Storrs, 71, the biggest issue the town faces is maintaining and improving its physical infrastructure and emergency services such as police and fire. As a longtime council member, he said he is very familiar with the ongoing process.
"As a city, that's what we do," Storrs said.
In turn, if the city does its job and infrastructure is well maintained, businesses are more likely to open shop and provide the jobs and revenue the town needs, he said.
Two Sedro-Woolley business owners are competing for Ward 6, representing the southeastern section of town, south of Wicker Road and east of Township Street.
Fo u r t e e n -- y e a r incumbent Rick Lemley, co-owner and funeral director of the Lemley Chapel, faces challenger Thomas Swett, owner of A1 heated storage.
S w e t t h a s b e e n involved in two lawsuits against the city over the council's denial of a 2011 permit application to allow customers to grow medical marijuana in their storage units. Following the first suit, a judge determined the council broke city law and denied Swett due process, sending the application back to the council for reconsideration.
The council again denied the permit and Swett filed a second lawsuit, asking for reimbursement of application and legal fees, which was dismissed in Skagit County Superior Court on Sept. 30.
In a phone interview, Swett said the City Council was "found guilty of being willing to violate citizens' rights to impose their own will" during the first suit.
He is vying for a spot on the council so he can stand up for citizens' rights and tackle what he sees as the city's biggest challenge: enticing businesses to open shop and put an end to climbing taxes.
Sedro-Woolley is a "bedroom community," he said, where taxes are continually raised in the absence other revenue.
Lemley also said bringing in business is key to attract people to the town and create a tax base, but he sees high impact fees as the biggest challenge. Impact fees are necessary to support town infrastructure, such as roads, but should not be so expensive that they discourage businesses from opening, he said.
He proposes the council work to make it more affordable to open and run businesses in town.
Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, facebook. com/bykimberlycauvel
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