Notes from LFP City Council candidate forum

Friday, October 18, 2019

Candidates on the stage, from left Lorri Bodi (standing), Catherine Stanford,
Phillippa Kassover, Tom French, Tracy Furutani. At the podium is LWV
moderator Amanda Clark
Photo by Mike Remarcke

On Tuesday, October 15, 2019 Third Place Commons held a forum with candidates for Mayor and City Council. Around 110 people came to hear what they had to say. The moderator, Amanda Clark, and timekeeper were from the Mercer Island League of Women Voters.

City of Lake Forest Park, Mayor
Jeff Johnson - incumbent, unopposed
City of Lake Forest Park, Council Position 2
Catherine Stanford - incumbent
Lorri Bodi - challenger
City of Lake Forest Park, Council Position 4
Phillippa Kassover - incumbent
Brett Newsham - no show
City of Lake Forest Park, Council Position 6
Tom French - incumbent
Tracy Furutani - challenger

Mayor Johnson is running unopposed, so he gave a report and left the stage to the council candidates. Brett Newsham, who filed against Phillippa Kassover, was a no-show.

Mayor Johnson said that when he won a tough election for Mayor eight years ago, he thought he knew everything. The reality is very different and he appreciates the opportunity to spend four more years in the office. The city is doing well. This is an important election. This council will be dealing with big issues, including decisions for mall and parking garage.

Attendees browsed the tables of information before the forum.
Photo by Mike Remarcke

Position #2

Catherine Stanford appreciates that LFP is different. She said that we have the challenge of being a small city in the middle of the fastest growing area in the county and we need to accept the challenge. Her strengths are her experience with council and community and relationships outside of the city.

Lorri Bodi said it's time for a change. We need a new voice on the council. She was an environmental attorney for NOAA. She has worked with the PTA, and in her job negotiated with state and local agencies and tribes on water and stormwater issues. She can manage budgets and negotiate. She said that the city process has been complicated and hard to follow.

Position #4

Phillippa Kassover talked about finding LFP over 12 years ago and how happy she is with a community full of smart, engaged people. As a councilmember she reads, researches and asks the tough questions. She said that council needs to do better to help people learn what we do.

Position #6

Tom French has lived in LFP for 50 years. He went to Brookside, Kellogg, and Shorecrest. He said that growth needs to be in line with our values. He would accept 150-200 apartments at Town Center. He strongly supported the September moratorium. His priority is public safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and he advocated for the first new sidewalk in LFP. He is a champion for the environment and the values of LFP.

Tracy Furutani filed in part because feels that races should be opposed. He is most concerned about the climate crisis and thinks solutions should start at the municipal level, that they will percolate up to state and federal levels. How can we preserve what we have for our kids in the future?

Question: In the redevelopment of Town Center how would you protect Third Place Commons (TPC)?

Tom: we need to talk to Merlone Geier Partners (MGP). If that doesn't work, the community needs to step up.

Tracy: we don't want to alienate MGP - they could just walk away. The city buying the land is the only way to have what we want. Otherwise we have to negotiate carefully.

Phillippa: we have a partnership with MGP and need to work together to preserve TPC.

Catherine: I will fight to keep The Commons and the farmers market in LFP. She was instrumental in getting the market started.

Lorri: The Commons keeps our community unique. MGP should be our first effort. The agreement says that MGP has to provide 10,000 ft of indoor and 10,000 ft of outdoor space.

From left: Lorri Bodi, Phillippa Kassover, Tom French,
Tracy Furutani. Out of frame, Catherine Stanford.
Photo by Mike Remarcke

Question: PSRC recently reclassified LFP as a Small to High Capacity Transit City. Do you support this reclassification?

Lorri: We are doing a good job of meeting the GMA (Growth Management Act) objectives for 2035. There are opportunities to do more over time so we can grow in balance and in scale with our values.

Catherine: She doesn't support LFP being a high capacity city. LFP was put in that category because of the Bus Rapid Transit. She's on the PSRC Executive Board and will tell them what we will tolerate.

Phillippa: We are the culmination of two watersheds and sitting on an aquifer. We are the last remaining urban forest in the area. These sensitive areas can't tolerate much more growth.

Tracy: No. He said he's horrified that we were put in that category.

Tom: He agrees with all of Vision 2050 from PSRC. Bothell Way has capacity for growth.

Question: What are your plans for keeping small businesses in the area, particularly Town Center?

Phillippa: MGP is the landlord. We don't control what goes on here. We need to build a good relationship and partner with MGP to encourage them to bring in the businesses we want.

Catherine: We need to keep the small businesses and encourage more. Council discusses it a lot. Small businesses have challenges and struggle.

Lorri: Town Center is the community hub and so much more. The City needs to make its expectations very clear and not be a pushover when it comes to our values.

Tom: We need to work with MGP and as a community to incentivize the small businesses. We created zoning to allow specific businesses in a special area, which creates walkability.

Tracy: Businesses need to pay for licensing and B/O taxes. We need to look into the city regulations and make them less onerous.

Question: The environmental impact statement was flawed and driven by development interest. Comment.

Tom: the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) needs to be reflective of our values. It's critical to adhere to the vision statement. We need more conversations with the public.

Tracy: The council needs to communicate what's going on with the process.

Phillippa: For the DEIS the developer asked the consultant for studies of 1500, 1000, and 700 new apartments. There was no other input so that's what they studied.

Catherine: The DEIS was a shock to everyone. We don't have to listen to the consultant. The Planning Commission makes recommendations and the council decides.

Lorri: The DEIS process was seriously flawed. There should have been some direction from mayor and council and a wider range of options studied. The "no change" option was for 700 units.

110 people attended the forum
Photo by Mike Remarcke

Question: Would you support a parks bond to improve parks and acquire more land?

Catherine: I would support one if other groups would partner, as was done with 5 Acre Woods.

Lorri: We are Lake Forest Park with no access to the lake and few parks. She wants to expand and improve parks but would explore other options before going to a bond issue.

Phillippa: We are underserved for families and it's a tragedy that we have no lake access. A bond is premature. We need to study and seek outside funding.

Tom: we opened a fund for open space and trails. A bond issue is on the table but we don't want to shortchange public safety and other priorities.

Tracy: Bonds are expensive and have to be paid back. More parks would require staff to maintain them. Can't rely on volunteers only. We have to make sure we can maintain what we acquire.

Question: You want a walkable city but our streets are unwalkable and very dangerous. Would you put in sidewalks?

Tracy: Sidewalks are needed but we have to prioritize. Need to find outside money. And would we take people's property?

Tom: Need to separate traffic from where people walk. As the region grows there will be more traffic and people need to be safe.

Phillippa: the Safe Streets study was very revealing. Safe routes to school need to be the highest priority. We need to set our priorities and work on a long term funding plan.

Lorri: When the transit stations open we will have people driving through LFP to get there. We need to find funding sources and do what we can, like lower the speed limits.

Catherine: The council included Safe Streets as one of the Big 5 projects. There's a list of priorities but these are expensive issues. Safe routes to school is the first priority.

Question: What would you do to improve communication with citizens?

Incumbent councilmembers pointed out that they cannot speak for the council until a vote is taken, only for themselves. The City Administration is different and council doesn't control it. The city has no communication department - they were let go in the downturn and have not been replaced. They need to have a communications strategy and staff it. Perhaps hold quarterly town meetings.

Challengers mentioned Seattle's Office of Neighborhoods, office hours for councilmembers, meetings with neighbors and community.

Question: What does our city do to meet the climate challenge?

Phillippa: The city joined the C4C - Caring for Climate organization which helps municipal leaders take steps on climate action. We need to look at the city's carbon footprint, take steps to reduce it, then reach out to everyone to do the same.

Tracy: The C4C has assessable, measurable goals. We can create ordinances about zoning, better building practices, and reducing our carbon footprint.

Tom: Our tree canopy has actually increased a bit in in the last few years. We need to work as a community to reduce our footprint.

Lorri: We can use examples from other cities - change building codes, use alternate energy like solar cells.

Catherine: We have tree ordinances that protect our canopy. Trees pull carbon out of the air. Automobiles create the most carbon and Sound Transit and public transit will get people out of their cars. We have set backs from our streams.

Ballots have been mailed out and are due back by November 5. There is a drop box for ballots by City Hall and no postage is required to mail in ballots.


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