Reardon chats up Mville seniors
August 28, 2008 · Updated 9:28 AM
MARYSVILLE Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon made a pitch for another four years during a visit to the Grandview Village retirement home here, where he recounted the accomplishments of his first 42 months in office.
The younger leader spent six years representing much of this area in the state legislature and stressed his achievement of eliminating a $13.5 million deficit he inherited while not increasing taxes for property owners. He spoke during a June 12 visit.
Snohomish County is the 15th fastest growing county in the nation and faced a $120 million backlog of transportation infrastructure projects when he took over.
With that comes tremendous pressure, Reardon told an audience of about two dozen retirees. Youre going to see a lot of road construction in Snohomish County.
With the County Councils approval, a $60 million capital improvement program was launched to cut that construction backlog by a third in only 18 months, without raising taxes. That has helped the countys bond rating with Wall Street investors, making it even easier to get a handle on the problem, Reardon said.
Were in good shape financially, he said, emphasizing how the county reduced the deficit without cutting services for senior citizens and veterans.
Reardon fielded several questions from the crowd, including one from Debra Loughrey-Johnson, executive director of Grandview Village, who noted her business pays thousands of dollars in taxes per year and wanted to know just where the money went. He responded by saying at the community level much of those funds are restricted for certain uses and leaders have their hands tied.
Several seniors asked him about his political future, just days before Reardon officially kicked off his re-election campaign against token Republican opposition.
Its all up to you, Reardon quipped, noting that as executive and a state representative he has visited every senior center in the county. Both Everett and Marysville have municipal senior centers that receive county dollars and when faced budget deficits his first year as county executive they were one of the first budget items county staffers put on the chopping block. He quickly arranged for those bean counters to take a tour of the senior centers so they could see their value, Reardon said.
They are basic but critical, he explained.
Other challenges elderly residents face is the disappearance of affordable housing as county land becomes more expensive. Many mobile home parks are being sold to developers, displacing seniors on fixed incomes. There are ways the government can fight that gentrification or reduce its effects.
Thats coming on us very quickly, faster than most people probably realize, Reardon said. Theres a lot we can do with zoning.
Thats complicated by an aging population that wants to stay active and to live independently as long as they can. Because seniors are dependent on emergency services their centers might need to be concentrated near urban areas where infrastructure is in place.
Thats also the plan for law enforcement in the county, according to Reardon. State law dictates that counties should dedicate their resources to rural areas, and as many more cities absorb citizens into their boundaries they will take the load off of sheriffs deputies who are stretched thin, despite the record level of deputies Reardon said the county has added. That is a quandary for a rapidly urbanizing rural county, he added.
To that end the sheriff, an independently elected office funded by Snohomish County through the council and executive, will alter tack. Community policing will be a priority, with deputies backing up other city jurisdictions as often as possible with SWAT and other special units. Mutual aid agreements between cities will be a challenge in the southern portion of the county, and could dry up at cities annex all the county land between them.
That will be gone, Reardon said.
What will help is increased enforcement of the laws already on the books. A decade ago the county had eight code enforcement officers: when he took over there were only three and in rural areas junkyards and meth labs were sprouting up, with prostitution following on their heels. That contingent is back up to full strength and problems are nipped in the bud. The county needs to continue and follow through with tough graffiti ordinances requiring victims to clean and cover tagging as soon as it appears. He will work to establish a hotline to for citizens to report vandalism, but urged victims to document the damage to help police investigators.
Law enforcement tends to be parochial but departments must work to communicate with each other, because 80 percent of trouble comes from the 20 percent of bad actors who need to be watched.
After the meeting Reardon said he supported sheriffs candidates Rob Beidler and John Lovick over Tom Greene, who has been endorsed by incumbent Rick Bart, a Republican.
He wouldnt comment on a proposed development near Lake Goodwin that could build as many as 1,200 homes on former timberland between Stanwood and Lakewood, saying it was too early to tell what was on the countys plate. But he did endorse the idea that most new, large developments should occur in city boundaries or their urban growth areas.
Thats where the infrastructure is, Reardon said.
He got a rave review from Mabel Heggwald, who said she was a long-time friend of Reardons.
Hes done more for this county than Scoop Jackson, Heggwald said.