The Bothell-Kenmore Chamber of Commerce hosted a public forum for Bothell City Council candidates on Oct. 7 at the Northshore Senior Center.
The purpose of the event was to give candidates a chance to introduce themselves, speak on key city subjects and respond to questions posed by the community.
“This is not a debate,” moderator and Cascadia College president Eric Murray clarified toward the beginning of the event.
Included on the panel were candidates Mason Thompson and Leigh Henderson (Pos. 2), James McNeal and Matt Seymour (Pos. 4), and Davina Duerr and Sean Palermo (Pos. 6). Duerr and McNeal are incumbents. The remaining candidates have not previously run for a council position.
The candidates were given an opportunity to share their thoughts on — and potential resolutions for — a range of issues, from the permitting process in Bothell to hypothetical property use ideas, from the city’s use of consultants to the persistent popularity of potentially constructing a Trader Joe’s in town. Some questions were aimed at a select set of candidates; some were asked of everyone on the panel. Among the big topics of the night were housing, transportation and sustainability in Bothell.
Candidates spoke on how they would support affordable housing in the city and what they would like to see come to fruition if elected.
Thompson, who spoke first on the issue, said he would like to see more variance on what housing is provided, with an emphasis on more “missing middle” housing. He also noted later on that if the city were to provide more kinds of housing, inclusivity and diversity support would also be tended to: with more housing options, a wider variety of people would be able to live in Bothell.
Henderson, who noted that she hadn’t known too much about the topic early in her campaign, said she’s been doing a lot of research on affordable housing. The issue is a personal one for Henderson. She said that, in her 20s, she’d experienced moving somewhere not because she wanted to but because it was the only place she could feasibly afford to live at the time. Like Thompson, Henderson said she wanted to expand housing options, with less grouping and some potential upzoning to generate more deviation.
“I’m educating myself all the time about this,” she said.
Candidates also discussed whether alternative means of transportation, such as electric bikes and scooters, should be allowed for use within city limits.
McNeal — who says he’s used these transportation options elsewhere himself — noted that auxiliary modes of transportation are always a positive but that it’s also key to be conscientious of regulations and necessary accommodations.
Seymour, who agreed for the most part with McNeal, also brought up the importance of supporting transportation means for those who aren’t able-bodied in the city.
With transportation progress in Bothell and the greater Seattle area often being partially reliant on Sound Transit, Pos. 6 candidates were asked how they would buttress a functional collaboration with the city, Sound Transit and the community.
Duerr immediately used her work with the Yakima Fruit Market, a long-running Bothell business, as an example. Due to voter-approved Sound Transit 3 renovations, the market is en route to having a large portion of its property undercut by the transportation agency’s construction needs. Duerr said that as deputy mayor and as someone who has worked closely with Sound Transit, she knows the importance of having conversations with affected community members and businesses early on so Bothell officials and Sound Transit can better meet residents’ needs.
“Sitting down and having conversations is always key,” she said.
Palermo said that he’d like to see council work with Sound Transit to add transportation options that work in conjunction with others — such as bikes that can be used if someone needs to move from a bus stop to a different location, for instance — to create more variance. He also wants there to be more of a focus on how the city braces long-distance transportation.
Candidates were asked how Bothell could become a leader in climate change innovation, and what they would do to increase sustainability locally.
Palermo said Bothell should further look into how they can be involved with climate change easement on a state level; Seymour spoke highly of what Washington is already doing to promote sustainability but said that he wants there to be more education for community members around important measures like recycling, for example.
Duerr invoked the steps council has recently taken to address climate change and sustainability. Last year, council made sustainability one of its main priorities, and has discussed preventative, accessible measures like single-use plastic bins. If Duerr’s tenure were to continue, she said she would also work to foster local forest preservation and look into how to best maintain habitats on the old Wayne Golf Course property.
McNeal wants to more closely look at what other cities nationally are doing to nurture sustainability, such as enacting plastic bans. He wants Bothell officials to start thinking holistically about how they can expedite progress on the measures taken to decrease the effects of climate change and back up sustainability.
Thompson brought up that he has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, an environmental organization that seeks to maximize environmental preservation through myriad projects. Thompson noted that sustainability, transportation and construction are interconnected, due to the emissions produced by locals and commuters alike on the roads and by the construction projects meant to benefit them. This was in line with his recurring invocations of improving city walkability.
“I’m excited to do some good in the world,” Thompson said.
Henderson, in addition to supporting rebuilding when greenery is thwarted, open spaces and more usage of alternative means of transportation, like scooters, wants the council to come out and say that climate change is a problem. This is something, she said, that she hasn’t seen happen as a community member.
In their closing statements, the candidates discussed their qualifications, clarified earlier points and unanimously talked about their dedication to helping the community.
“We are going to grow, but we can choose how we grow,” Palermo said.