Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. Sound Publishing file photo

State of Snohomish County: Must be proactive to keep cities robust

Snohomish County’s top elected official told a crowd of business and political leaders Tuesday that they live in one of the greatest places on earth.

However, there’s work to do if they want to keep it that way, County Executive Dave Somers cautioned. That’s especially true when it comes to maintaining the county’s business edge and its natural wonders, both of which could suffer from uncertainty in the nation’s capital. Other challenges come from population growth, worsening traffic and lagging government revenues.

“This needs to be the future we choose, not the future that happens to us,” Somers said.

The executive, a Democrat who was elected in 2015, spoke to a lunch audience of several hundred at Xfinity Arena’s Edward D. Hansen Conference Center. Workforce Snohomish hosted the address, billed this year as the Snohomish County Update.

For his speech, Somers drew from 40 years working in the region, mostly as a county councilman and fisheries biologist. He took over as chairman of Sound Transit’s Board of Directors this year and serves as the board vice president for the Puget Sound Regional Council, an intergovernmental planning organization.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who visited Mukilteo and Marysville the same day, gave the introduction.

Inslee said he’s taken cues for the state budget from Somers’ attempts to make county government more efficient. He heaped praise on county officials for trying to steer more mentally ill people away from jail, toward housing and treatment programs that work better and cost less.

Inslee reminisced about starting his career as a lawyer in Everett, as an intern in the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Somers highlighted the county’s low employment rate. At 3.7 percent in February, it trailed only King County’s rate of 3.3 percent.

He heralded the prospect of commercial passenger flights at Paine Field and the new business opportunities it could bring. A two-gate terminal is working its way through the county permitting process.

“I can’t make an announcement about the exact time, but it’s coming soon,” he said.

The executive said he’s urging the County Council to approve his office’s $63 million plan to renovate the county courthouse. The council could take up the proposal as soon as Wednesday morning, but might opt to take more time.

Somers said he was happy to have fought for a future Sound Transit light-rail route to Everett that would serve Paine Field, rather than going straight up I-5. He reminded the audience about the fight to speed up the projected completion date of that segment by five years, to 2036. Voters approved the ST3 package last fall.

When asked if the county should be worried about federal funding for light rail, he gave a short reply: “Yep.” The audience laughed.

A budget outline that President Donald Trump released earlier this month proposed eliminating key grant programs for transit projects. If Congress were to pass the budget as written, Sound Transit would lose more than $1.1 billion in federal grant dollars to build light rail to Lynnwood. The money had appeared all but assured.

“I think there’s a good likelihood that the budget we see out of Congress will be quite different,” Somers said.

Echoing Sheriff Ty Trenary, Somers stood firm behind the county’s immigration policies. He blasted last week’s federal report that called out the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office for its “non-cooperation” with Trump’s stepped-up efforts to round up and deport people in the country unlawfully. They say a 2014 federal district court ruling declared it illegal for a jail to hold a suspect for Immigration and Customs Enforcement without probable cause.

“It’s illegal, its unconstitutional, it’s inhumane and it’s wrong and we’re not going to do it,” Somers said.

Somers wasn’t as defiant when it came to Trump’s pledges to slash the Environmental Protection Agency, where the executive’s wife works: “I think this is an area where we’re going to see cuts.”

“Washington, D.C., has turned into an unrecognizable place,” he said. “We can’t predict what will happen next.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

More in News

King County Correctional Facility is located at 500 5th Ave., Seattle. File photo
King County jail’s leaky pipes have national implications

Lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court alleges Aquatherm has been selling faulty pipes.

Bothell High School is set to intake many more students with the new boundary adjustments. Madeline Coats/staff photo
Student growth projections will alter Northshore School District boundaries

Upcoming boundary adjustments for students in Northshore School District for the upcoming school year.

File photo
New measles case had possible public exposure in Kenmore

A Seattle Children’s Hospital nurse is the latest diagnosed bringing this year’s case count up to 11 residents and two non-resident in King County.

VoteWA is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. Courtesy image
WA’s new voting system concerns county elections officials

VoteWA has run into some problems in recent months as the Aug. 6 primary election draws closer.

Local business professionals attended the luncheon headed by six state legislators. Madeline Coats/staff photo
Legislators discuss session at Bothell Kenmore chamber luncheon

The six lawmakers encouraged constituents to reach out to them when they are not in session.

Getting to know Bothell City Council candidates for position 6

Three are in the running in upcoming primary election.

Bothell counselor was inappropriate with boys, charges say

He allegedly touched a 10-year-old underneath the shirt and often brought up sexual development.

An aerial photo shows the locations of two earthquakes and five aftershocks in and near Monroe, which rattled the Puget Sound region early Friday. The first was the magnitude 4.6 quake at upper right, 13 miles under the intersection of U.S. 2 and Fryelands Boulevard SE at 2:51 a.m. The second, magnitude 3.5, occurred 18 miles under the Old Snohomish-Monroe Road at 2:53 a.m. The aftershocks followed during the ensuing two hours. This image depicts an area about 3 miles wide. (Herald staff and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network)
Early wake-up call: Twin quakes under Monroe rattle region

Thousands of people felt them. They were magnitude 4.6 and 3.5 and hit minutes apart.

Most Read