Population and development growth, government transparency, greater communication with the community, and of course, Wayne Golf Course, dominated the discussions during the Bothell City Council candidate forum at Bothell City Hall on Sept. 17.
Sponsored by the Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Cascadia Community College President Eric Murray, the candidates fielded questions ranging from creating new parks to completing the redevelopment of downtown. The races pit incumbent Andy Rheaume against challenger Roz Gorc for Position No. 2., James G. McNeal against Tim Ottersburg for Position No. 4 and Davina Duerr and John Lee for Position No. 6. Current councilmembers Bill Evans and Mark Lamb decided not to run for reelection.
Many of the candidates are either Bothell natives, like Rheaume and Lee, or have lived there since childhood, such as Gorc. Others like McNeal grew up in the surrounding area and have strong ties to the community. Ottersburg is the only candidate who lives in Snomhomish County, an area of the city he said has suffered from underfunded services.
Yet, the candidates universally said they were committed to preserving aspects of Bothell they appreciate, as the city experiences a rising population and new development. Along with other cities on the Eastside, Bothell is expected to receive growth as part of the Urban Growth Management Act and has annexed several surrounding unincorporated communities.
During her initial remarks, Gorc said that Bothell has ceased to be a suburb of Seattle or a pass-through town, but a destination.
“There are great things coming to Bothell,” she said. “I want to see us continuing on that path.”
The sentiments were echoed by Ottersburg and McNeal, who is the head of onebothell.org, a group dedicated to have the Wayne Golf Course purchased for public use and preservation.
“I’m trying to preserve our way of life for all of Bothell,” McNeal said. “We want to grow properly.”
“We love the feel,” Ottersburg said of the city. “I don’t want to see us lose that.”
At the same time, the candidates discussed ways to improve city services, such as police, fire and transportation.
Some, like Ottersburg, said they were willing to consider a Regional Fire Authority (RFA) to adequately fund the fire services. An RFA would combine Bothell Fire Department with Northshore Fire District, Snohomish District No. 10 and EMS and Woodinville Fire and Rescue. Rheaume said that he has made it a priority to get full funding for fire services by the end of the year, while looking to install smart signals along State Route 522 to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.
Many in the city have blamed the tolling of the 520 bridge for the increased traffic on the state route.
McNeal said if elected he would focus on public safety issues, such as creating safe routes to school, as well as meeting with state legislators representing Bothell to ensure they receive state funds.
Candidates like Lee also emphasized their desire to improve the city’s image and relationship with residents by having more forums and meetings.
“Communication is proactive,” he said. “People are basically tired of government as usual. We say we’re a republic of the people by the people for the people but it’s starting to act like we’re not… it’s not didactic, it’s not one way, but it is both two-ways.”
Duerr said, “I think transparency is the root of democracy. If you don’t believe that your government is being transparent with you, then you don’t have a relationship, and if you don’t have a relationship then there’s no point to communication.”
Duerr and Lee were both asked how they would support the completion of the Park at Bothell Landing. Duerr said other than state grants, a park bond would be the best option. Lee stated that the failure of Prop. 1, which would have authorize up to $42 million for city and parks amenities, showed that they would need alternative solutions. He recommended the sale of a city-owned lot, once its been cleared for contamination from a dry cleaning facility that once stood on the lot, and use it to pay the cost. Or, he said, a user fee might foot bill.
“I’m tired of taxes,” he said. “And I don’t want to add more to what’s already there.”
As for the Wayne Golf Course, if the city were to be able to purchase it, Gorc said, “there is nothing else like it” and would like to see the land preserved as is, but expressed concerns about how the city would come up with the money to maintain it.
“How do we take care of it for the next 50, 100 years?” she asked.
Rheaume said a public process should be initiated to discuss its future and how they could pay for it, but he’d like to see the land become a recreational area connected to Black Park. He also sees it as a chance to improve the local salmon habitats.
“The opportunities there to improve the Sammamish River are basically staggering,” he said. “But that’s my opinion, though, and I think it’s most important we talk to the public about what they would like to see there and get the right mix of funding to make sure we can accommodate what the public’s vision is.”
City budget constraints were brought up on several topics, such as increasing walkability through the city. Gorc and Ottersburg said revitalizing downtown would help bring in new businesses and therefore more tax revenue to pay for the additional public services.