By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
Sultan City Council has four seats up for election this year, three of which are contested races.
Running for Position 3 are incumbent Kay George, who won the seat in 2011 when she ran against Marianne Naslund, and Rocky Walker. Walker, who has not sought public office previously, is actively involved in community outreach efforts as a volunteer.
Kay George has lived in Sultan for over 15 years and has been a Sultan business owner during that time, operating a real estate brokerage. She also has a 12-year background as a legal assistant. George is a Washington State University Extension Master Gardener, and this year received an honor for her own garden which will place Sultan on the map for next year’s Master Gardener’s Tour of Snohomish County. George attributed her success to the surrounding beauty of the community.
“My garden itself does not have anything that unusual,” said George at a recent city council meeting. “But it was the natural beauty in the background that pulled off the scene.”
George has been involved with both the Sky Valley Historical Society and the Sultan Sportsman’s Club.
Walker, who graduated from Sultan High School in 1976, has lived in Sultan for much of his life. His background is in manufacturing and he also has 10 years of experience running a design and marketing business. He has served as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Sultan Fire Department and is currently involved in several volunteer efforts for the city. Walker is captain of the Sultan Block Watch, is an emergency flood response coordinator, is team leader of the graffiti removal squad, and is a co-founder and manager of the annual safety fair. He also assists with the annual school evacuation drill.
Walker assisted up in Gold Bar recently, helping clean up extensive graffiti at city hall and other areas.
Both candidates were recently given the opportunity to answer some questions on an assortment of different topics. Along with current issues Sultan is facing, they also addressed positive things that are happening within the community.
Editor’s Note: Some answers have been edited in an attempt to achieve consistency in the length of the candidates’ response.
Currently, there is a lawsuit being brought against the city by a number of citizens who believe that utility funds have been mishandled. What are your thoughts on the lawsuit and the fact that some citizens are alleging that the city has misappropriated funds?
George: I too believe these enterprise funds have been mishandled. My colleagues have been trained to say the word “utility” and charge it to the ratepayers. An ongoing example of charging a disproportionate share to the ratepayers is personnel. Figures have just been generated by City Hall that says the City Administrator, who we pay over $130,000 per year in salary and benefits, packs so much of his time into the four utilities that he only has 1.75 days per week left to actually run the city. I like our city administrator and feel he is not overpaid. However, I know for a fact it takes more than 1.75 days per week to run non-utility funds of city government such as parks, streets, cemetery, building maintenance, finance, grants, council, executive, legal, law, code, planning, building and supervise personnel for all these departments.
Walker: I don’t know all of the specifics involved in this lawsuit but I do know that the city is audited on a regular basis and there have been no issues raised in any of these audits. It is also public knowledge that this suit has been rejected by the courts twice and has so far cost the taxpayers of Sultan upwards of $20,000.
The citizens behind the lawsuit make up a group called the Sultan Utility Stakeholders group. They have stated that they will withdraw their lawsuit if council approves to privatize the city’s garbage service. What are your thoughts on the privatization of Sultan’s garbage service?
George: This is only another example of misappropriation of utility monies. When the city can get the same service for half the price with a private carrier, I feel councilmembers have an obligation to provide the citizens they represent with this obvious better value. The only reason government should run a utility is if it can do it for less, or if it is not otherwise available. I believe the reason my colleagues are unwilling to do so is because they know without charging the citizens double for garbage service, payroll at city hall would have to be cut. With five of the seven current councilmembers relying on government for their livelihoods, their loyalties seem to be with the people at city hall instead of the people they were elected to represent. In order to change this culture, citizens will have to vote for new council members who have the public’s interest at heart.
Walker: I would like to make a couple of comments in answer to this question. First of all I always thought that if you were going to blackmail someone you needed to have something to hold over them. I don’t think it is very effective for the Sultan Utilities Stakeholders Group to say ‘Hey, the court just dismissed our lawsuit but we will drop it if you meet our demands.’ It may be more effective for them to say ‘Hey, we will quit filing frivolous lawsuits if you do what we want.’ As to privatizing our garbage service I don’t believe it makes sense at this time. We currently have much of the money set aside to purchase a new truck and new totes that will streamline the process and when all things are considered I am not sold on the notion that outsourcing this service will cut our rates in half.
The city has been working on establishing an IPZ known as Port-to-Pass. Do you feel Sultan can benefit economically from that, as well as the Boomtown USA concept? Should Sultan be working towards growth?
George: I think these are great ideas. I sincerely love the blanket of beauty Mother Nature has laid upon our community and I think we should capitalize on, and promote it. With that said, I truly believe the role of government should, for the most part be, getting out of the way of private enterprise, then growth will naturally occur.
Walker: I think it is a no-brainer that anytime you can effectively promote your area as an end destination for recreation and tourism it is going to improve your economic status. I believe Sultan should absolutely be working toward growth but it needs to be done in a way that is well-measured so that you can invest in local infrastructure ahead of the growth and not behind it.
What can the city do to best support the youth in the community?
George: Giving the insurance money to the Boys and Girls Club to build a superior facility is certainly a step in the right direction. I believe recruiting youth into after-school activities offered by band, sports and churches is a great idea. The best way to support the youth in our community is to hold their parents responsible for raising them.
Walker: As far as supporting the youth in our area I think that Safe Stop is a good start and the new Boys and Girls Club will be a really good step in the right direction, but I would like to see more of an ongoing effort to come up with ideas for kids to get involved in other than just hanging out.
How can the city best handle the issues surrounding the homeless population in Sultan?
George: Give them a hand up, not a hand out.
Walker: The homeless issue is deep and complex. For the short term I think the council has dealt well with the loitering and panhandling issues but this is going to be an ongoing issue and ongoing process to find solutions for quite some time.
What do you feel that Sultan is currently doing right?
George: There is a sincere effort in play to make the cemetery more attractive. The parks are being kept very well. Sultan has the most awesome volunteers in the world and the city is very good at recruitment. The approach that was taken to have the County handle our law enforcement is truly a winner. It seems most are on board with the city’s theme being recreation, which is definitely a plus.
Walker: Currently I think that the city is doing a good job on public safety service to our people. We have many projects on the table to improve our infrastructure and council and staff have been working hard to secure funding for those that are not yet covered. I think it is also important to note that over the past six years the mayor and council have done an excellent job of paying down and paying off debt and I believe that we currently have the best credit rating that can be held by a city of our size.
What is the biggest problem you feel Sultan is facing currently?
George: High utilities, and treating investors and business owners as adversaries, rather than fostering an attitude that they are welcome and appreciated.
Walker: I think the biggest problems facing the city right now are to find funding for the projects that are not yet covered and fighting frivolous lawsuits that take money away from public safety funds.
What would you like to say to the citizens of Sultan?
George: If you want lower utility bills; a higher degree of integrity at City Hall; a council who is looking out for you, the citizen; attraction of worthy business and jobs for Sultan’s future, write in Bart Dalmasso and vote for Kay George and Bob McCarty.
Walker: I would like to say to the citizens that this may be the most critical election you will see in a long time for the future of our great city. You have my opponent Kay George, running for Position 3. You have Bob McCarty running for Position 1 and you have Bart running as a write in for Position 6. When you ask them why they tried to dissolve the city they will tell you that they were only taking a survey, but if you want the real facts I would encourage you to Google Bart Dalmasso and watch his interview with Brian Johnson from KOMO 4 news. While I doubt that Kay is named as a member of the group that is suing the city, Bob and Bart are actually bragging about their affiliation and claiming that they are doing it to save the people money. I must be missing something…Please consider Sultan’s future very carefully when you fill out your ballot.