By Polly Keary, Editor
Running to represent District 5, within which sits the Sky Valley, on the Snohomish County Council are a Democrat incumbent running for his fourth term in office, and a Republican real estate broker who is new to county politics.
Chris Vallo, (R-Lake Stevens), is a broker at Century 21, attended Everett Community College and the University of Washington, and holds an associate’s degree and a data communications certification. He bought property in Snohomish County in 1977, worked for many years in telecommunication, has three children, and has been a coach and a leader in the Boy Scouts of America, as well as volunteer with Volunteers of America and the United Way.
Dave Somers (D-Monroe) has served 12 years on the council, eight of those consecutively. He is a fisheries biologist and serves as the chair of the council’s planning and community development committee.
Both candidates responded to a questionnaire from the Monroe Monitor on several key issues pertinent to the Sky Valley.
- 1. What is the Snohomish County Council doing well? What could improve?
Chris Vallo: I like the idea of promoting the concept to build parks and utilizing the fairgrounds to create revenue through usage of the facilities for regional events. This helps offset the operating expense and save taxpayers money.
Transparency is required when informing the public of serious issues like what is happening with the jail. As with any business the government should also review departmental procedures for effectiveness and make necessary corrections that will save taxpayer money and resources. The county can better help citizens through the bureaucratic maze. More focus is needed to resolve the transportation issues, grow the economy and keeping our communities safe.
Dave Somers: The County Council has worked well as a team during the past five years of economic recession. We held the line on property taxes and trimmed county government. We now must assure that we take a slow and steady approach as the economy slowly improves.
- 1. What are some top priorities for you, key things you hope to address in the next four years?
Chris Vallo: Focus on building a viable economy and creating jobs, help resolve transportation gridlock and keep our communities safe for our citizens, seniors and most vulnerable. I want to limit government, hold government accountable for their actions and control spending while balancing the budget. Keeping property rights intact for the people and listening to their concerns. No new taxes.
-Work to improve transportation systems in Snohomish County.
-Work to assure Boeing and the aerospace industry continues to grow and prosper in Snohomish County.
-Make county government more open and accessible to our citizens.
- 1. Many people who live in the east county commute into the urban centers to work each day. What can be done to create more living-wage jobs in the east county, closer to home?
Chris Vallo: The key point is resolving the transportation issues. It takes strong leadership working with the community and businesses to develop ways to market opportunities, listing area strengths and vision that will support new businesses and jobs. Companies want to locate in areas where there is a high quality of life and a clean environment for their employees to live. These are some of the biggest assets the Sky Valley, Sultan and Monroe area has to offer besides its great people. Access is a major concern for business and citizens who drive to and from work. Partnering with groups like the Economic Development Council of Snohomish County and the Innovative Partnership (IPZ) also leads to success in growing the local economy.
Dave Somers: During our comprehensive plan update in 2015, we must assure there are adequate lands to support commercial and industrial jobs. These lands are primarily in our towns and cities so we need to work with them to assure adequate provisions are made for future job growth. We must also work with the chambers and the Economic Alliance to make sure we are attracting new business. I also support commercial air service at Paine Field to make Snohomish County a more attractive place for new businesses.
As SR 522 nears completion of the most recent phase, Sky Valley growth is expected to follow. That will likely bring about additional congestion on area county roads and the advent of additional oil and coal trains are also likely to contribute to congestion. How can the county work to address issues of congestion and road safety?
Chris Vallo: Review and prioritize projects that will create the biggest impact on improving traffic flow and safety and then appropriate the funding. In order to be successful we need to continue building relationships with business owners, municipalities and people who are working on strategies to improve traffic issues. We also must work and continue to drive our legislators in Olympia for additional funding and partner with the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, Snohomish County Committee for improved Transportation and the local transportation coalitions. We must plan for the future. The objective is to move people and commerce across the county and improve the quality of life.
Dave Somers: We have developed a strategy with all our cities to improve transportation in Snohomish County. We must aggressively pursue implementation of this strategy and work to get the state legislature to address key state highways in east county.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department covers a lot of ground in the east county, and provides contract police service to several small towns. How can the county support and enhance public safety in the areas served by the sheriff’s office?
Chris Vallo: The resources for staffing must be adequate relating to crime statistics. Officers need continued training to fight crime and keep our communities safe. A key factor in safety is officer retention. Retention starts with competitive pay among their peers and surrounding communities. We cannot spend the time and money to train officers to have them leave because other municipalities pay more. This action creates vacancies and jeopardizes the ability to keep us safe. I will work with the prosecutor’s office in the same capacity and help write stronger laws and ordinances that fight crime. Law enforcement and safety are basic key elements government provides for its people and it should not be compromised. We need to look for ways to accomplish this without raising taxes.
Dave Somers: I think the contract services are an excellent example of how we can provide service in more rural areas of Snohomish County. I have supported equipment and training upgrades for our officers so they may do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. I also have supported increases in staffing over the years for the Sheriff’s office. I will work with the Sheriff to assure east county is well-served.
During the recession, many cutbacks were made at the county level. Now that things are beginning to improve, where should renewed revenue streams be directed first?
Chris Vallo: There are many basic elements government provides for the people. Building a strong and viable economy and creating jobs is critical. Resolving transportation issues and providing cost effective community transit will create a better economy and more jobs. A critical key element is to provide a safe environment for the people including our seniors and most vulnerable. It takes balance and these are some of the important building blocks for prosperity in creating a better quality of life for the people in our community.
Dave Somers: Although sales tax revenues are improving slowly, we are focused on preserving existing services, not expanding county government. All departments in the county have reduced their staff and no significant increases are on the horizon. The County Executive has proposed four new positions that I support – a county ombudsman to assist citizens with county government related issues, a volunteer coordinator, an efficiency staff person, and a public records specialist to handle the massive amounts of public records requests.
How can the county work with other governmental agencies to bring improvements to U.S. Highway 2? Do you see a bypass as a viable goal?
Chris Vallo: By showing up to the meetings and representing district 5 and Snohomish County how important it is to resolve the transportation issues and what it means to our community. It means safety, jobs, prosperity and a better quality of life. Working together with the transportation coalitions, state and local government and the people in the communities as a united front carries a powerful message. We must be prepared with a prioritized list of projects, urgency and request for funding.
I am in favor of building the Highway 2 bypass. It will save lives and help build a strong economy.
Dave Somers: Snohomish County has joined with our cities to develop a coordinated transportation funding priority list. This list includes improvements to Highway 2, Highway 522, Highway 9, and other choke points. For the first time, we are united with our cities when we go to Olympia to ask for improvements to the state highway system. I will make sure additional improvements to Highway 522 and 2 remain on the top of our priority list. These are state highways and the legislature is ultimately responsible.
What would you like east county voters to know about you?
Chris Vallo: I have lived in Snohomish County since I was in the third grade and currently live in Lake Stevens where I raised my children. I have been in involved in my community with Scouts as a Scoutmaster, Vice President of operations, council board member and camping chair. I coached football and was on the board for the LSJAA. Working 35 years in the telecommunications industry as Network Engineering Manager Operations has given me the experience and skills working with employees and helping customers meet their expectations. My passion is working and helping people.
Dave Somers: I just want to thank the voters for the honor and privilege of serving as their representative on the Snohomish County Council. I try always to keep an open mind, listen to all sides, gather facts, and make the best decision I can, regardless of politics. I thank the voters for their support.