Downtown fire leaves 1 dead
EVERETT - A three-alarm fire broke out at an apartment building downtown that left one person dead last week.
Multiple fire departments responded to the fire around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at the 118-year-old McCrossen Building on the southwest corner of Hewitt and Oakes avenues.
More than a dozen people lived in the 13-unit building. Residents told firefighters that one man was unaccounted for and that the man lived in the apartment where the fire appears to have started, Everett Fire Marshal Rick Robinson said. Firefighters were unable to search the building in the early stages due to the fire’s rapid growth.
Everett Police Department spokesman Aaron Snell could not confirm as of last week if the body was the unaccounted resident.
Residents in nearby apartments were evacuated to escape the smoke. The American Red Cross of Snohomish County assisted most of those people.
Bernice Ras, who lives in the Commerce Building at Hewitt and Rockefeller avenues, saw power lines “sparking and popping” from the fire.
“It was something to see those flames,” Ras said.
Donna, a Commerce Building resident who declined to give her last name, said the fire was intense as people exited the 48-unit building.
The building that caught fire was built in the 1890s and was once the home of Jack’s Men’s Shop. It was heavily renovated around 2000, said David, a former tenant who worked on the renovations but declined to give his last name.
He knew a resident living there who got out “with just the clothes he was wearing,” David said.
Power was cut off for about five nearby city blocks to prevent energized power lines from possibly falling around the fire scene.
The fire was knocked down at about 3:30 a.m.
The building housed antique shop The Spare Room and Hat Trick Pizza at street level.
Cudaback apologizes for what exactly?
MONROE - City Councilwoman Patsy Cudaback spoke to ethics charges brought against her by two fellow councilmen last week.
In a statement read at last week’s council meeting, Cudaback apologized to her colleagues for “coming up to or crossing the line.” A motion was made to accept her statement of apology in order for the council to move on from the distraction. The motion passed 5-0; Cudaback abstained from voting and Councilman Tom Williams was absent.
Councilmen Kurt Goering and Kevin Hanford accused Cudaback at the Oct. 16 meeting of disclosing what they believe was confidential information in a Facebook message they said was not meant to leave the closed doors of a previous meeting’s executive session.
The Facebook message in question didn’t reveal what was discussed in the executive session. It revealed the topic of the discussion, which isn’t illegal.
“I have a really hard time believing a judge or jury would find (Cudaback) guilty of violating (the law). It’s a stretch,” said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.
The primary purpose of the law, Nixon said, is to make it illegal for government officials to act upon confidential information for the purpose of personal gain, such as taking advantage of confidential knowledge of the price of real estate for personal profit.
“She didn’t gain anything from it, no one was hurt, it simply stated” the topic of an executive session, Nixon said.
Tim Ford is the open government ombudsman for the Attorney General Office and informally advises cities on the state’s Open Public Meetings Act. In a 2009 letter to a Puyallup City Council member, he says not all information shared in executive session may be confidential.
“The mere fact that records and information are shared in executive session is not sufficient to create confidentiality,” Ford wrote.
The city isn’t even clear about what it discloses to the public in regards to executive session topics, as pointed out by Cudaback last week.
She said sometimes the city just publishes the RCW (the state law) on its agenda, which a resident then would have to look up to find out the topic to be discussed. Other times, the city publishes the topic matter, such as “potential litigation.”
“I can see where it might be confusing,” Cudaback said, speaking to the city’s inconsistency in disclosing executive session topics.
“In the future, I believe we should keep a list of executive sessions, the topics, exactly what we discussed, or simply state the (state code) and continue to clarify with the city attorney if we have any questions,” Cudaback said.
Ford said the law requires cities to disclose the purpose of an executive session and it should be detailed enough so the public is clear about the topic.
“It must be in plain English,” he said last week.
Merely citing the particular section of state law doesn’t communicate to the lay person what the purpose is since most people haven’t memorized the Revised Code of Washington.
For example, a city going into executive session to discuss actual litigation could disclose the name of the case since lawsuits are public records, Ford said.
Goering and Hanford have their view of the law — and apparently confident in their legal interpretation.
At the Oct. 16 meeting, Goering was ready to find Cudaback guilty and wanted to censure her and impose a $500 fine after reading into the record the ethics complaint that sounded more like a lecture.
“It should be noted that the subject matter disclosed in Councilmember Cudaback’s unauthorized action is irrelevant to tonight’s complaint, as is the level of detail that was inappropriately disclosed,” the complaint says. It goes on to say, “The rules apply to everyone regardless of how long they have served or their gender.”
The rest of the council, including second accuser Hanford, didn’t support Goering’s motion that night to accuse, judge and convict Cudaback.
Tony Balk, a former council member, was in the audience that night and said: “It sounded like a southern lynching to have the accusation and the sentence all in one motion.”
The council pushed back the discussion on the ethics complaint to Nov. 6 because Cudaback hadn’t even received a written copy of the complaint. After a brief executive session last week to discuss the alleged confidential material, Cudaback gave her statement.
“I sincerely apologize to council if they feel that I have come up to the line or crossed the line, that was certainly not my intent,” Cudaback said. “It has always been and will continue to be my duty to engage and communicate with the citizens of Monroe, but still protect the city’s interest.”
Following Cudaback’s statement, Hanford said he “respected Councilmember Cudaback,” and that he “understands that Councilmember Cudaback is appreciated by her community, however, that does not make her above the law.”
Hanford said that from the beginning of his time as a city official, he was under the impression that “everything that is discussed in executive session is always confidential.”
Cudaback has been praised by residents for maintaining an open forum on Facebook, which allowed residents to keep tabs on and comment on city issues.
Since the complaint, Cudaback has decided to stop using her Facebook page to communicate with residents. Instead, she will host community meetings on Friday mornings, 7 to 9, at the Starbucks at 18805 U.S 2. Friday, Nov. 2 was her first meeting.
Property tax hearing continues Tuesday, Nov. 20
SNOHOMISH - Last week’s public hearing on raising the city’s property tax by 1 percent has been extended to next week’s City Council meeting as Councilman Tom Hamilton was absent.
The public hearing will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20 in the George Gilbertson Boardroom at the Snohomish School District Resource Center, 1601 Ave. D.
City Manager Larry Bauman put forth his 2013 budget recommendations last month, which includes the 1 percent property tax increase. The increase will give the city an additional $10,000.
When the Great Recession hit, Snohomish opted to forgo imposing the 1 percent increase and lost about $60,000 in revenue.
Mayor Karen Guzak said she “feels pretty good” about the 2013 budget so far and that she is also “inclined to take the property tax increase.”
“It’s clear that the last three years we didn’t take that 1 percent helped us get in the hole a bit,” Guzak said, adding taking the increase is “the most responsible thing to do.”
Although the cost to the average homeowner for the increase is less than $3 per year, the cumulative result can be substantial to the city, Bauman said.
“If the City Council were to adopt a 0 percent increase again for 2013, the cumulative result for the years 2010-2017 of the city adopting another 0 percent increase in property tax would be a revenue loss of $274,250,” Bauman wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune.
The current city’s property tax rate of $1.13 per $1,000 assessed home value is the lowest of all cities in Snohomish County.
“We understand the total tax burden that many property owners currently experience” but “the proposed increased levy amount would not create a significant tax burden on the members of our community,” he said.
The projected 2013 operating budget is $8.8 million. Sales tax revenue, which is the city’s predominant funding source, is projected to increase by $207,982. Of that, $120,929 is projected to come from retail sales tax revenue. Retail sales tax revenue is showing modest gains, while construction-related sales revenue continues to be depressed from historical highs, according to the proposed budget.
Bauman also is asking the council to rehire a formerly eliminated City Hall receptionist as well as hire three temporary summer employees for next year. Two of the part-time positions will go to parks and one to streets. Those positions were eliminated in 2008.
This is the city’s first year to use the newly established Transportation Benefit District, which Bauman said helped the budget substantially.
“The TBD provides more than $600,000 in revenue each year that allows us to reinstate our street program for overlays and major street reconstruction,” Bauman said.
Guzak said she doesn’t expect the budget to be tweaked by the council, which ultimately has the last say in approving it.
“This is an easier budget year than the last three years. We have a little bit more leeway and breathing room,” Guzak said.
Previous budget cuts resulted in the elimination of the city’s police department.
Bader beats Robinson for seat on council
EVERETT - Scott Bader has defeated June Robinson for Everett City Council.
Bader led Robinson 15,375 votes to 13,625.
“I’m still trying to soak it all in,” Bader said last week.
“I’m honored by receiving the trust of the majority of Everett voters … Now I have responsibilities to live up to, I’m certainly feeling that,” Bader said.
Bader has a lot of catching up to do on city issues, he said, saying it’s like “cramming for a test or final.” He wants to meet with more city officials this week.
Bader ran on a platform of limiting spending to core basics such as emergency services. He is a fundraising director for the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle and a former attorney who lives in the north Riverside Neighborhood.
Robinson, who positioned herself as the successor of the late Councilman Drew Nielsen, ran on a platform of supporting neighborhoods, parks and arts.
“I won’t stop being involved in the community,” Robinson said. “I wanted to carry Drew’s legacy. There are certainly ways to do that.”
Bader secured endorsements from police and fire unions, business leaders and five council members. Robinson’s endorsements included the 38th Legislative Democrats and a large swath of neighborhood leaders and grassroots supporters. She also got support from Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher and Councilman Paul Roberts.
“For many of (my endorsers), they want a focus on the basics, making sure good infrastructure is key,” Bader said.
Bader is scheduled to be sworn in after the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office certifies the election Tuesday, Nov. 27.
The seat was Nielsen’s until he died in a May rafting accident. Councilwoman Gigi Burke is filling the seat in the interim. The term lasts through 2015.
Both Robinson and Bader work in King County. Bader said he plans to take vacation days to make Everett’s once-a-month day meetings. The council mostly meets at night.
Robinson and Bader both ran for election last year. Bader ran against Stonecipher and Robinson ran against Council President Ron Gipson.
City Council schedules vote on 2013 budget Nov. 21
EVERETT - The city will begin 2013 with a balanced budget and no layoffs.
The city was looking at a $10 million shortfall to begin 2013, which was fixed by holding off on making contributions to the police and fire pension funds, having departments cut $3 million this year to put toward 2013 and slowing down some infrastructure improvements.
The city also won’t be watering public lawns or building sidewalks as often as before cutbacks were implemented to balance the budget.
The pension delay saved $3.5 million. The city says it has enough to fund pensions through 2030.
The city is making its non-union management, appointed officers and elected officials contribute 10 percent toward their health insurance premiums to save $215,500.
The city also made a set of 2010 budget reductions permanent to manage future spending, and it is keeping a minimum of 25 positions vacant, up from 15 positions this year.
The city also will raise property taxes by 1 percent, as it normally does.
The city operates on a $112 million general fund to pay for day-to-day operations.
While the city is expecting a small revenue increase from 2012, the city is nearly $7.4 million off from 2008 revenues. Revenues have been mostly stagnant compared to pre-Recession expectations.
In last week’s annual budget message, Mayor Ray Stephanson emphasized the city has to remain fiscally sustainable.
“As the economy improves, we will refrain from expanding operations and use any upward trend in revenues to first build on contributions to capital funds and other reserves,” Stephanson said.
“While we do not anticipate a significant economic recovery in the near-term, I am confident that strong growth will eventually occur,” Stephanson said.
To recover, Stephanson said, city leaders must push for creating an educated workforce to ensure Boeing has engineers and skilled labor, he said. Stephanson worked to get Washington State University to open a four-year engineering degree program at Everett Community College.
The city intends to negotiate health insurance premiums into the contracts of union employees when each union is up for contract negotiations, Stephanson said previously.
“It changes the mindset of ‘Am I going to go to the doctor for every sniffle’,” Stephanson said at a neighborhood meeting in September.
As a ramification of the Great Recession, the city will face increasing deficits over the next few years. The city faces a $10.4 million shortfall for 2014, which grows to $14.6 million in 2016.
Councilman Paul Roberts said the city is being smart about its fiscal management. The city’s decision to pay capital projects with cash instead of bonds is keeping Everett’s AA-plus bond rating strong.
“Our bond rating is extremely strong because of it,” Roberts said.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for this week and next week’s council meetings.
This week, department heads will unveil their individual budget reports.
Next week, the council is scheduled to approve the budget after the final public hearing. The city must have a budget finalized by Dec. 31.
The City Council meets Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at Council Chambers, 3002 Wetmore Ave.
The public can send written comments on the budget through Wednesday, Nov. 21.
Mail comments to Everett City Hall, Attn: Deb Williams, 2930 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201.
People celebrate election returns at Everett bars
EVERETT - Rousing cheers marked much of the night at two bars as election results rolled in.
At the Anchor Pub, the party site for the 38th Legislative District Democrats, the crowd cheered with every state President Barack Obama won and groaned with every state former Gov. Mitt Romney won.
The loudest cheers came when Obama clinched the electoral votes needed for re-election. Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” played on the jukebox immediately after the election was called for Obama.
People there were hoping for the passages of Referendum 74, which upholds the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Initiative 502, which legalizes marijuana sales. Both were approved.
P.J. Parsons, an Everett disc jockey in the wedding business, wanted R-74 to pass and Obama to win.
“We need him to stick around for a while,” Parsons said.
Throughout the campaign, she raised money in support of R-74.
“I’m in a business where (numerous gay and lesbian) people see people get married and they can’t themselves,” Parsons said before the state’s results came in.
Christina French of Marysville is glad marijuana sales have been legalized because it won’t be as appealing to youth.
Initiative 502 legalizes the growth, sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana. It allows people 21 and older to buy an ounce of marijuana at state-regulated stores.
“I have young nieces and nephews and I know how easy it was for me to get it,” French said. “This will make it harder to get” by deflating the black market for drug dealers.
Ari Kohler of Everett supported the initiative because it will bring in revenue for the state, but he is concerned about people driving under the influence of marijuana.
“I know people whose lives were destroyed” by drunken driving charges, Kohler said.
At Bar Myx, Everett’s gay bar, the crowd was upbeat as the early numbers showed R-74 ahead in the polls. Opponents of gay marriage conceded on Nov. 8.
Jamie Campbell and his friend Nettie Dwor wore sandwich board signs around their necks for R-74.
“Tonight, it means the fight is won,” Campbell said. “Guess what, I have the opportunity to get married to the love of my life, at least I will have the ability to do it.”
“I feel like this is the final frontier,” Campbell said.
Dwor’s son Torin Handerson, 11, liked the result.
“Why don’t they just get married and be happy. Let them be happy,” Handerson said over his mom’s cell phone.
Washington wasn’t the only state to have gay marriage on the ballot. Maryland and Maine approved gay marriage while Minnesota did not ban gay marriage.
“It’s setting a trend,” Campbell said. “Us gays are known for setting a trend,” Campbell said.
Travis McAllister was nervous before results starting coming in, but with R-74 passing he pondered why marriage equality was even up for a vote.
“Why is it up for other people to decide — why is it up to a vote,” McAllister said.
Parsons at the Anchor Pub agreed. “We’re not redefining it, we’re saying it is two consenting adults,” she said.
Kohler was happy to see R-74 pass as well.
“I think it’s morally right that you should be allowed to marry,” he said.
He was happy Obama won.
Jason Cadwell of Bothell was brought to the Anchor Pub by friends. He doesn’t support Obama, R-74 or legalizing marijuana but supports charter schools.
“I think it’s hard for conservatives to compete when clearly you have the East Coast and West Coast locked for Obama,” Caldwell said. “There are ideological paradigms” in America that suppress Midwesterners.
“Washington state is clearly a liberal state, except Eastern Washington,” he said.
State Reps. John McCoy, D-Tulalip and Mike Sells, D-Everett, swept their races in the 38th Legislative District.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” McCoy said at the Anchor Pub. “I watched my opponent and clearly he didn’t work for it. You need to be out in the community.”
Laura Genin of Everett voted for Democrat Rick Larsen in the Second U.S. Congressional District under protest.
“I liked the other guy less,” Genin said.
Larsen supports the proposed Gateway Terminal coal export project that would send up to 18 coal trains a day through Snohomish County.
“He’s pro-jobs in Snohomish County,” Genin said with sarcasm. She was happier with the night’s other results.
Her friend John Blaine of Everett was happy Obama won another term.
“We’ve got to finish what we’ve started,” Blaine said. “It won’t be a quick fix.”
Ecology questions another Monroe environmental study
MONROE - The Department of Ecology has joined the list of groups that have taken notice of “significant oversights” in the city’s environmental review of the proposed wakeboard park on Lake Tye.
The city determined the project, which would take over 17 acres of the lake at the south end, will not significantly impact the environment and can go forward with permitting without conducting a more extensive environmental impact statement.
Ecology wetlands specialist Paul Anderson wrote in a letter to the city that there are “significant aspects of the project that have not been adequately addressed.”
The most critical areas lacking in discussion and analysis were increased wave energy from the wakeboard activity and the risk of water quality degradation, Anderson said.
Resident Diane Elliott appealed the city’s determination of non-significance, which says the project doesn’t need any further environmental review. The appeal is scheduled to go before city hearing examiner Bellevue attorney Carl Cox Friday, Nov. 16.
In the letter, Ecology notes that the city classifies Lake Tye’s primary function as storing and treating storm water runoff and raises the important but ignored issue of water quality degradation.
“Inadequately treated and detained storm water from the Fryelands area has been discharging to Lake Tye for a number of years. Urban storm water is known to carry a number of contaminants, such as hydrocarbons, herbicides and pesticides, and heavy metals, several of which are known to be a risk to human health,” Anderson wrote.
Anderson’s letter pointed out that the city has not done an analysis on sediment contaminants in the vicinity and how these contaminants could be mobilized by increased wave energy in the lake.
“Not assessing potential water quality impacts, including any potential risks to human health, would be a significant oversight. The project submittals to date do not address this potential impact, rendering the current application incomplete,” Anderson wrote.
This isn’t the first time Monroe has ignored recommendations from Ecology.
Anderson also wrote to the city in March about outdated and incomplete information about key environmental impacts in its draft phased environmental impact statement concerning Heritage Baptist Fellowship’s controversial rezone in the east part of town.
“Ecology believes that the wetlands and shorelines sections of the DPEIS need to be revised to more accurately reflect current site conditions and permitting requirements,” Anderson wrote in the letter to the city.
For that study, the city relied on a 1999 wetland delineation study and a 2005 wetland inventory report, which Anderson says were too old and didn’t meet state and federal standards for review that will be necessary for the rezone request.
The city’s response to that letter was basically to butt out.
In both instances, public works director Brad Feilberg was responsible for making these environmental determinations. Feilberg said at the time that the city didn’t need current data at that point in the review of the rezone project.
Environmentalists helping Elliott with the appeal also are concerned about the impacts the park will have on the biology of the lake, which is home to many species, including the bald eagle.
Elliot’s appeal argues city code forbids gas-powered and electric motors to operate on the lake.
The city’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) states that “new boating facilities may be constructed to provide improved access for non-motorized and small electric boats less than 1.5 horsepower.”
Elliot also cites municipal code which prohibits “motors in excess of one and three-quarters horsepower, including model boats, be allowed on Lake Tye, unless otherwise approved by special event permit.”
The wakeboard park won’t pull wakeboarders by boat but by a motorized cable tow system.
Elliot argues the park’s cable tow motors which control this “aggressive sport” violate the parts of code she cites, and that the city has “the prime responsibility for administering the regulatory requirements” of the shoreline plan.
A representative for wakeboard park developers H30 has asked the city to deny the appeal, saying the appeal does not establish a probable adverse impact.
The project would take up 17 acres of the 42-acre lake and would build a cable-tow wakeboard ride supported by six towers and a beginner cable line supported by two towers in the southern portion of the lake. The ride would include trick features, and a 2,500-square-foot pro shop would be built for ticket and retail sales, restrooms, lockers and office.
Holiday turkeys, hams needed at area food banks
EVERETT - The Everett Food Bank didn’t have any turkeys as of last week, but it has plans to get some by Thanksgiving.
A turkey drive next week is expected to bring in a small haul of turkeys.
“We will be able to provide all our clients with some form of meat for Thanksgiving but it goes from turkey roasts, to whole chickens, to chicken leg quarters,” Volunteers of America food bank director Leann Geiger said. “Not ideal for a Thanksgiving meal.”
The food bank buys those turkeys and chickens to bolster its cache of holiday meats. It has enough trimmings such as stuffing, Geiger said.
Geiger said the food bank bought 4,000 turkey roasts for Thanksgiving but needs about 1,100 more as of late last month.
The Salvation Army food bank at 2525 Rucker Ave., which is hurting for donations, will get some turkey roasts from the VOA. The VOA has a running supply of two weeks of food.
The VOA plans to serve 2,500 people in November and a similar amount in December. The figures are almost even with last year’s numbers.
The food bank served 2,616 people last November. The faces are changing, though.
“We are already seeing clients that have never been to the food bank before and need help for the holidays,” Geiger said.
Donations are going well. The overall stocks of food “all actually are looking pretty good,” Geiger said.
One thing the VOA can’t get support for from organizations such as Food Lifeline is baby items. The VOA is always in need of diapers, formula and similar items, Geiger said.
The food bank is looking for Christmas hams, as well. The food bank hasn’t received any yet.
Volunteers of America also is running a Holiday Basket program where people can sponsor meals and holiday gifts for a needy family.
The program pairs up families with people willing to buy them items. Similar to a giving tree in malls, people are given the names and contact information for a low-income family.
The food bank is located at 13th Street and Broadway. Its hours are Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The food bank serves families, seniors and the disabled. The Salvation Army food bank serves adult-only households.
The VOA accepts donations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To donate money to the VOA food bank, go online to www.voaww.org and click on “Donate Now.”
To participate in the Holiday Basket program, call Volunteers of America’s main line at 425-259-3191.
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