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November 05, 2005

Interview with Dave Somers – Snohomish County Council Candidate

The District 5 race for the Snohomish County Council, the only competitive race of the three for the Council this year, is proving to be a classic pro-development vs. managed growth race.  Dave Somers, the Democrat, is running to regain the seat he lost four years ago to Jeff Sax, an erratic Republican.   

The Seattle Times, in an endorsement of Somers, pretty much sums it up:

District 5 runs from Snohomish beyond Index, along Highway 2, and is sizzling with development. Development interests have helped push Republican incumbent Jeff Sax past $210,000 in contributions.

Democrat Somers, a fisheries scientist and land-use analyst, can return rationality and gravitas to district representation. Sax only lurches from one political pratfall to another; he is unfocused and unpredictable. His deliberate leak of legal details from a recent executive session was the last straw. Somers is the qualified, mature choice in this race.

The Everett Herald, a close follower of the Snohomish County Council, says that the Council, “led by Gary Nelson, John Koster and Jeff Sax, has undertaken an outrageous and irresponsible agenda of handing over county land to sprawl developers in clear violation of state laws designed to protect existing communities and taxpayers from the high costs of sprawl.” 

The race is pretty cut and dry and terribly important.  When Sax defeated Somers four years ago, the Council swung to a 3-2 Republican majority.  If Somers can pull off this rematch win, the Democrats will again have a 3-2 edge and the issues about how to grow without wholesale damage to the quality of life of the existing residents can resume. From another Seattle Times article, this quote about Sax and the need to defeat him:

"He's primarily backed by developers who feel they largely have a de facto vote on the council by Jeff [Sax]," said Zach Silk, field director for the Washington Conservation Voters, which endorses Somers. "[Sax] plays a rubber-stamp role for what they're looking for."

Washington Conservation Voters has even taken the unusual move of co-sponsored an interesting site that clarifies just how bad Somers’ opponent is.
 
The interview with Dave Somers is after the fold.

Interview with Dave Somers, Candidate for 5th District, Snohomish County Council

Q: This must be interesting for you, having this do-over.  You lost this seat to Jeff Sax four years ago and are trying to take it back.  I would guess it was difficult to watch someone who is so different from you take your place on the Council.

DS:  It has been difficult watching Jeff.  I think he fundamentally doesn’t believe in government.  On land use he seems to do whatever the developers want.  When I was on the council I had a sense of really wanting to protect the land, manage growth, and keep the natural environment in good shape.  I really wanted us to avoid becoming like the Los Angeles area with its uncontrolled growth.

When Jeff came on the Council it tipped the balance and they undid so many things.  It was difficult.  My background is in natural resources.  I’m a fisheries biologist.  When I was on the Council I enjoyed broadening my understanding of other issues and getting into transportation, criminal justice, parks, and other issues.  It was a rewarding experience.  There are so many aspects of county government.  I’m a problem solver; I like to jump in and see if I can help resolve issues.

Now there is not a strong voice to argue the other way on unrestrained growth.  I was successful in steering things in a positive direction.  I thought about challenging Jeff for 4 years.  I’m glad I did it.

Q: If you are elected again, that is likely to change the Council back to a 3-2 Democratic majority.  What do you foresee happening?

DS:  It will tip it back Democratic on the growth issues. There are still a couple of pro-developer people on the Council but it certainly will be better.  But at least with me there, the issues will get raised again.  I don’t think that critical development-related issues are getting a fair hearing now. 

Q: When you get out and talk to the voters, as I hear you do a lot, what do you hear?

DS:  For the public, the single biggest issue is traffic and growth and the taxes that go with it.  This wasn’t the case four years ago.  The traffic is so bad out here.  The council seems so bent on expanding out into the rural areas.  For example, the Monroe School district needs 3 more elementary schools and they just finished building a high school.  That’s fine but it works better if the growth is more measured.  People want more reasoned growth.  This was not such a big issue four years ago.  It has become one.

Q: How is the Council addressing those issues now?

DS: The Council is looking at lowering the road standards so there can be more growth.

Q: How would you characterize Jeff Sax, your opponent in this race?

DS: Jeff is trying to make himself look like the planned, reasonable growth guy.  He’s changed his positions on several issues in the last six months to make it look like he is reasonable on these issues because he knows that is what the voters want.  He had been for the planning community development at Lake Roesinger but is against it now.  He has proposed inflation escalation as part of the mitigation fees for developers.  When he took office he was dead set against all mitigation fees, against the Growth Management Act, against protecting endangered species.  He’s trying to look like he’s for those things now.

He’s a property rights type guy.  He want to get government out of the picture altogether.  It doesn’t fit with this area.

Jeff also has a track record of missteps.  He had a reputation going into the last campaign as someone who shoots first and asks questions later.  He’s lived up to it.  He didn’t have much experience and he didn’t feel as if he had to play by the same rules others do.  The recent leaking of documents is a good example. 

Q: How would you characterize the campaign so far?

The issues that have been raised in media about growth and development have been the issues I’ve been hearing about.  There is going to be a lot of growth.  I have a vision that we can work with that growth, develop urban pockets while preserving farm land and forests. 

Mostly I feel like the campaign has been positive, been good.  The public has been receptive to my candidacy. 

Unfortunately, there have been no big public events, like forums or debates.  It’s also difficult to get voters out when there are no big national or state races.  The Farm Bureau had a meeting and there were maybe 50 people.  The Everett Herald had a coffee and, again, there were perhaps 50 people there.  That means that the campaign mostly involves direct mail and media and as much doorbelling as I can do. 

Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 5, 2005 at 03:43 PM in Interviews | Permalink

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