With the General Election just around the corner, The Woodinville Weekly posed one question to candidates: What is the single most important issue Woodinville is facing in the next two to three years? The following are their responses.
City of Woodinville Council Position 4
Mayor Elaine Cook
One of the more important issues I know Woodinville will face in the next few years is obtaining a balance.
How do we balance our love for the small-town feel of Woodinville, with its large city designation and the growth requirements that accompany that designation?
How do we balance the desire of some to have Woodinville remain as it is and continue to thrive?
How do we balance the deep concerns about the large impacts on the environment that development can bring, with the responsibility we have to support businesses and job growth for the people who live and work here?
How do we accommodate growth and at the same time ensure that our quality of life we all appreciate here in Woodinville remains intact?
To ensure a sense of balance citizens, businesses, commercial landowners, and anyone else who has a stake in the future of this great city must all come together.
We must compromise, treat one another with fairness and look for ways to achieve our common goals and consider all the possibilities.
As your mayor, I am committed to approaching each issue with a willingness to give something up, in order to achieve balance.
City of Woodinville Council Position 2
Surely, the number one issue Woodinville is facing is growth. When I started on the Planning Commission in 2004 our population was just over 10,000. Now it is 12,500. That is a 25 percent growth in 15 years.
The Civic Campus project will add 250 new units, Woodin Creek Village could add almost a thousand more, the Wine Village is proposing over 300, I believe. Add to that a couple of other big projects downtown that are brewing and we could easily exceed 15,000 in another five years.
Woodinville cannot grow into Snohomish County, and we cannot grow into the Valley (a very good thing). Therefore, all of our growth has to be in increased density.
While we want to protect our single-family neighborhoods, we should promote residents adding accessory dwelling units where possible. We also should revisit the uses that are allowed in the South Industrial area. I think apartments and condos along the river, with views of the Valley, is the highest and best use of that land.
So, Woodinville is doing its share of taking statewide growth, but how do we accept it all without degrading our unique quality of life? We have to maintain an adequate size of our police force in relation to the growing population. We have to improve existing parks and add to their number, and we need to make sure that our large housing developments bring with them open space and commercial space.
The more needs that can be satisfied within a development, the less travel those residents will have to make. We had a chance to bring another grocery store into Woodin Creek Village, but Council turned it down because it feared it would attract too much business. That was the craziest twisted logic in my eight years on Council.
The one thing that people complain to us most about is traffic. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that is something we are unable to promise to fix. With a dense, walkable downtown, car traffic is destined to get worse.
Once we get to downtown, walking will be the best mode of getting around.
Woodinville Fire & Rescue Commissioner Position 2
The trend in the fire service, regionally, is to consolidate small departments. I believe this is and will continue to be an important issue facing Woodinville Fire & Rescue now and in the future.
Consolidation was discussed in length as recently as four years ago. An attempt to merge our department with the City of Bothell, Snohomish District 10, and the Northshore department was proposed. It was in committee for the better part of two years and no agreement was reached. We are presently in discussion with the Northshore and Shoreline departments.
There are various ways departments can merge. The three most common are; the creation of a Regional Fire Authority, merging fire districts or contracting with another department. Each has its pros and cons.
Simply stated, the key stakeholders are; the department’s firefighters, the department’s administrative personnel, and, most importantly, the citizens we serve. Not all three benefit from a merger. Firefighters (labor groups) do, however, generally support and benefit from the merger. The Administrative members do not, as consolidation of administrations means the elimination of positions.
As a Fire Commissioner, the benefits of a merger for the firefighters must be considered. The concern for administrative personal is also very important. For the citizens, who have elected me and other Fire Commissioners to represent them, we must consider the impacts on the service they receive and the cost of that service.
The primary incentive to consolidate is in “operational efficiencies”…. Simply stated, everyone on the same page. In theory, consolidation should reduce the cost of service, lower taxes, but in evaluating the costs of recently proposed mergers, that has not been the case.
Added to that, local jurisdictions may realize the loss of their identity, depending on the direction of the merger or contract, hence the reluctance of the Board of Commissioners to bring consolidation to the voters without thoroughly vetting the impacts.
As a Board member, I generally support consolidation. However, the impacts of consolidating must be considered before presenting a recommendation to the citizens and placing a proposed merger on a ballot.
This is the challenge.
In the next few years, the number one priority and largest challenge Woodinville Fire and Rescue will face are to support the mental health of our firefighters and administrators.
In the past five years, this has come to the forefront hundreds of times in our nation and several times in Washington State. Sadly this is often realized after it is too late.
If someone has been out of the Fire Service for even five years they would not have been part of this narrative.
For the first 25 years of my career, it was encouraged to talk about the traumatic things we saw then move on. We ignored the fact that every time you see and are part of severe traumatic situations it leaves a scar. Those scars add up. They do not go away.
This is no longer acceptable.
The narrative is changing. There cannot be a stigma attached to talking about your stress and difficulty processing what you have seen and how it sticks with you. Supporting each other knowing that everyone is affected at some level and pain is not a weakness.
This year I spoke to a psychiatrist that specializes in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She told me that in the past five years she has seen more firefighters and police officers than in her first 20 years of practice combined.
When elected I will insist that our preventative mental health network and crisis network is in place for all members of Woodinville Fire and Rescue. Doing everything we can to keep our community safe means doing everything we can to support the health of our firefighters.
I will make sure PTSD becomes a recognized issue within the culture of the Woodinville stations and support for the firefighters and their families.
Woodinville Water District Commissioner Position 2
After six years as a Board member, that's an easy question for me to answer. Keeping long term, experienced, dedicated people on board at the District is our most pressing issue. That's the best way to deal with the variety of issues that come our way.
Keeping great employees is a balancing act of providing a friendly work environment, adequate pay, and benefits, room for personal growth, a management team with up to date training, all coupled with maintaining reasonable rates.
The District has 34 employees and five elected Board members. We have a large number of long term people, and their combined experience makes dealing with issues much easier.
Our Staff and Board members have previously dealt with King County, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), fire services, and local construction contractors. We understand the game, keeping us in a much better negotiating position.
Providing safe water, keeping up with growth, planning for the future, having emergency procedures in place, maintaining infrastructure and responding to changing employment trends is no easy task.
Negotiating sewer and water contracts with King County and Seattle Public Utilities requires a working knowledge of legal issues and how new contracts and franchise agreements need to be formulated to best serve ratepayers.
Experience plays a vital role in those negotiations. Keeping experienced people on board is the most pressing issue for us as a water district.
The Woodinville Water District is effectively a monopoly. If you want water or sewer service, it comes from the Woodinville Water District.
The ratepayers own it, however, and by your vote, you decide how it is run.
The most important issues facing the Woodinville Water District board over the next six years will be the renegotiation of the water supply contract with Seattle Public Utilities and the sewage contract with King County Metro.
Fees paid to SPU represent approximately 25 percent of the Water Districts' total water supply expenses. As such, any material change in this contract will impact the water rates in Woodinville for decades to come.
While no activity has been started on the sewer contract, discussions are likely to be initiated during the tenure of the position.
As a career CEO/CFO/COO working in companies large and small around the world, it will be my intent to bring my experience to the table in driving for a beneficial new SPU contract and if opened a new sewer contact.
Having negotiated private sector contracts as small as ten thousand dollars up to a billion dollars, I hope my corporate finance skill set will help fill an experience gap currently existing on the board.
My ultimate objective will be to keep rates stable, optimize water district operations and continue the provision of quality service.
Northshore School District 417, Director District 2
There are so many important issues that need our attention in the district. However, I feel that the single most important issue that we constantly face is the need to more rapidly close equity and achievement gaps for each of our students.
We are called to provide quality and purposeful instruction regardless of a student’s needs, challenges, or abilities. We are charged to help them all become healthy, caring, educated, and capable people that they desire to be.
Each month that a student experiences some sort of disadvantage or barrier to healthy and ideal educational progress, the harder it is for them to succeed in the long-term.
Time is of the essence to make policy and curriculum changes that impact more students as quickly as possible.
The good news is that we have been making very focused and impactful changes in the district powered by the inspiration and leadership Dr. Michelle Reid, teachers and staff at all levels, and very passionate and talented citizen advocates.
Driven by adopting one of the most focused K-12 equity and diversity policies in the country, we have instituted impactful policy and program changes just in the last two years.
Testing all K-8 student for high-cap capability and advancement; waiving fees for elementary band and providing more affordable access to instruments; formation of a dyslexia committee to formulate badly needed screening, professional development, and literacy curriculum; ending all classroom fees; hiring mental health counselors for secondary and elementary schools; adding a 7th period to the high school class schedule to give students more access to electives and to give more space in their schedules to meet graduation requirements within four years; and, creating programs and practices to help meet student’s social-emotional needs, to just name a few.
We have a long way to go, but we are all working very hard to meet the many challenges students face in today’s world.
It is the District’s goal to ensure that we can meet every student where they are and to give them what they need to be the best and most capable version of themselves.