(Left to Right) Bothell City Council candidates Aaron Moreau-Cook, Thomas Agnew, Vicki Somppi, Rosemary McAuliffe, Liam Olsen and Jeanne Zornes answer community questions in the nearly full council chambers. Kailan Manandic, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter

Bothell council candidates discuss affordable housing, parking improvements and safe injection sites

The Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidates forum on Monday with six of the seven Bothell City Council candidates.

During the forum, the candidates touched on community concerns such as affordable housing, parking and safe injection sites.

The event was recorded and will be available online at the chamber’s website, www.bothellchamber.com.

A nearly full room of community members attended the forum, moderated by Cascadia College president Eric Murray. The panel included Jeanne Zornes, who is running for Pos. 1, Liam Olsen for Pos. 5, Rosemary McAuliffe and Vicki Somppi for Pos. 3 and Thomas Agnew and Aaron Moreau-Cook for Pos. 7. Jeremy Michel, who is running for Pos. 5, was unable to attend.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

The forum was broken up into several rounds of questions, so not every candidate spoke about each issue.

Early on, Murray asked Moreau-Cook and Agnew how they think Bothell should proactively encourage the development of affordable housing.

Moreau-Cook said he thinks the city should pass an ordinance to prevent income discrimination. He went on to say he thinks Bothell should also incentivize builders to create lower-cost units and continue to protect mobile home parks.

Agnew agreed with Moreau-Cook’s point on incentives.

“I think we need to do everything we can,” Agnew said, adding that Bothell should establish penalties for builders who don’t create affordable housing.

He also suggested cluster and cottage housing as a potential solution.

PARKING AND TRANSIT

Candidates later had the chance to address the issue of parking in Bothell.

Somppi began the discussion saying she would first look at implementing an inter-city shuttle service and work with transit authorities, who are looking at another parking garage.

McAuliffe then said the city should place downtown parking signs to limit parking times. Additionally, she wants to create a regional plan for parking instead of handling it project-by-project.

Agnew wants to encourage Sound Transit and King County Metro Transit to improve the park and rides around Bothell. However, the problem is partially cultural because bikes and other transportation methods are becoming bigger with millennials, while “most of us old folks, who like to get into their cars and drive to wherever they want to go,” are going to slightly phase out, he said.

Olsen brought up the local transit service lost during the recession and said he would want to renew that, as well as partner with locations that have underutilized parking lots, such as certain banks and churches.

Moreau-Cook agreed with the other candidates, saying he thinks Bothell should have a community bus and create a parking structure downtown.

“Bothell is a suburban city, not an urban city,” he said. “So we need to ensure that there’s enough parking to support a suburban lifestyle.”

Zornes closed the topic, saying she wants to continue working with Sound Transit, while advocating for better park and rides, more parking and better transit in Bothell and work with local areas to better utilized underused lots.

SAFE INJECTION SITES

Each candidate also had the chance to address the idea of a safe injection site in Bothell.

“King County has proposed the creation of safe injection sites for intravenous drug users,” said Murray, reading a community question. “Do you support safe injection sites and should the city of Bothell consider allowing them in our community?”

Zornes opened the discussion by saying that the issue comes loaded with baggage.

“I think part of the reason why Bothell is being asked to consider this is that Seattle has a huge problem,” she said. “My major objective is get the life jacket on Bothell and find solutions, not bandages. Once you convince me that it’s a solution and not a bandage, then I’m on board.”

Olsen followed up, saying there is scientific evidence to prove safe injection sites are effective in treating addiction.

“But I don’t believe its proper for Bothell l to have one at this point. I don’t think our opioid problem is as great as other areas,” he said. “I think there are other cities and regions within the county that would be better locations to try and start this program…and really learn how to be effective with it.”

McAuliffe then gave her opinion as a nurse. She said opioid addiction is a public health crises and that the city should implement safe injection sites at hospitals.

Somppi agreed with some of the previous candidates points, saying that, as a former health care professional, she believes opioid addiction is a serious public health epidemic that needs to be treated and the best place for people to get help is at hospitals.

“(But) we do not happen to have a hospital in our community,” she said. “We also straddle two counties and it is really difficult to even consider trying to provide services on one side of our city for our residents without providing those services for the other side of our city. Public Health and other social services pros have already said this is not an appropriate thing for Bothell and I defer to them.”

Agnew also deferred to medical professionals, saying that politicians shouldn’t make these decisions. He added that Bothell was never considered for safe injection and the city doesn’t have the facilities to help.

“I think what we’re dealing with is an epidemic and I think usually with epidemics, we have doctors who usually come up with the treatments,” he said.

Moreau-Cook closed the discussion and said he personally doesn’t support a safe injection site in Bothell, but doesn’t support a ban on one either.

“I believe this is a public health decision, not a political decision, as Tom said,” Moreau-Cook said. “We need to heal these people and not push them into the shadows.”

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