Q&A: Snoqualmie City Council Candidates talk City Challenges, Proposition 1 and Affordable Housing

The two candidates running for Snoqualmie City Council Position 5 – Matt Laase & Tanya Lavoy submitted answers to some questions we asked.

The answers below start in candidate alphabetical order for the first question and then rotate. They were asked to keep answers under 300 words. After the Q&A, you will find a short bio for each candidate and a link to their websites.

Ballots for the general election will be mailed out on October 13th. Election Day is November 2nd.

Question 1: What do you feel are the city’s biggest challenges and how do you plan to address them?

Matt: Snoqualmie is facing a number of challenges: maintaining financial stability, addressing our infrastructure needs and housing affordability being the most critical. 

We need to be aware of the situation we’re in, now is an uncertain time and the city needs to take care of its needs before it moves on to its wants — balancing the budget, which we did for the first time two years ago prior to COVID is critical. I believe this is vital to a stable government, and in working collaboratively with the other councilmembers, we must continue to balance the budget.  This will include hard choices.

Our infrastructure is also a big concern. Everyone is aware of the crack sealing that has been done on the Parkway to stem the tide of the deterioration of that road. I believe very strongly that repairs need to be paid for by those that use the road the most, namely the State and King County. Plus all of the other independent parties that travel along that road, just passing through, whether it’s trucking companies, shipping companies or others, the damage from larger trucks that it was never designed to carry. But it’s more than the Parkway, it’s our utilities, our sidewalks, our parks, all the areas that need to be maintained, all that supports making Snoqualmie special.

Right now, it is almost impossible for anyone that works a service position to afford to live here. Service positions would be your grocery or food/beverage type workers, but it also includes teachers, firefighters, police officers, postal workers and others. They are not able to afford living in the city they work in, which pushes them to outlying areas, increasing traffic, increasing transit time, reducing job availability. We have had numerous opportunities to partner with outside providers, but past leaders have shown resistance. It’s critical that if you are in the community from a work standpoint, you should be able to afford to be in the community from a living standpoint.

Incumbent Matt Laase

Tanya: Our local businesses are still recovering from the economic challenges of COVID-19. In conjunction with business owners and the local Chamber of Commerce, we should work on strategies to better attract both residents and visitors to patronize Snoqualmie restaurants and retailers. This could be through events, temporary street closures, and/or the use of technology to build interest and increase accessibility.

 A broader issue is ensuring public trust in our city institutions by making sure that we maintain transparency in decision making. One avenue of building that trust is providing ample opportunity for public engagement on hot topics via townhalls and workshops. This has been done for proposals such as expanding our community center and building a pool. I would also be open to the return of “coffee with a councilmember” type activities where I hold office hours for conversations with residents on the topic of their choice.

That’s something that some of our state legislators do, and we should do more of that as city councilmembers. These interactions can spark policy ideas and help to frame an issue before options are narrowed down. My background is in community organizing so these types of direct conversations are not new to me. I also interact daily with constituents regarding their comments and questions on a variety of policy topics.

Candidate Tanya Lavoy

Question 2: The Parkway is deteriorating quickly because of damage caused by regional truck traffic unrelated to Snoqualmie. What are your thoughts on relying on residents to foot the bill through Proposition 1 instead of asking the state to foot the bill?

Tanya: The two aren’t mutually exclusive. The city can still advocate to our state legislators to provide state funding to help replace the parkway (or reclassify it entirely) while shifting our local transportation funding mechanism to a more equitable structure. I have unique experience with the state’s transportation budget and legislative process, having worked for the state legislature, so I understand the challenges and timeline involved with state action. That said, the city will continue to have several ongoing road and sidewalk repair and maintenance needs beyond the parkway that require local funding.

The status quo places these funding requirements entirely on residents. Prop 1 shifts the tax burden to a split between residents and non-residents. The average family will pay less per year under this new model, especially if they have more than one vehicle. That cost will also be spread out over the course of a year rather than a lump sum payment under the current vehicle car tabs model. Snoqualmie would still have one of the lowest sales tax rates on the Eastside. Furthermore, this sales and use tax would need to be renewed in the future, so voters would continue to have a voice in where their money goes.

Matt: Proposition 1 is not about just repairing the Parkway, it will be able to be used on all transportation-based projects, projects in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) or in the Snoqualmie Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) and any number of additional projects that may come in the future. 

I believe the Parkway should be repaired by those that have caused the damage, the State and King County as they are the agencies that have allowed and sometimes encouraged the use of the road for the heavy traffic.  That is a separate issue and if it cannot be resolved through dialog with those agencies, then other solutions for the Parkway should be pursued including implementing a user fee for those companies that use the road or are traveling with vehicles that are greater than the prescribed gross vehicle weight. 

The Proposition 1 tax is replacing two separate resident focused car tab fee with a sales tax that will be paid by all, where the cost has also been shown to be lower than what was being changed in car tabs.  This is then taking the burden of the cost off the shoulders of the citizens of Snoqualmie and applying it to all who benefit from our transportation improvements, helping fund sidewalk replacement projects, accessibility projects, bridge repair projects and any number of transportation improvement projects in future years.  Proposition 1 is an important measure and I support its approval.

Question 3: Rarely can workers in service positions afford to live and work in the area. How do you plan on addressing affordable housing in Snoqualmie if elected?

Matt: For many years, Snoqualmie turned its head from the housing problem.  While we expanded into Snoqualmie Ridge 1 & 2, our government didn’t look at the growing problem, where our key workers couldn’t afford to live in the city, they worked in.  And while our government attempted to add affordable housing late in the process, in one large area, it was wholly inadequate and wasn’t cohesive to the fabric of our community.  What we have now is a housing affordability crisis.  Owners of business can’t find workers.  Schools can’t find teachers.  The city can’t find staff.  Our public safety is at risk.  This is not just because there is a lack of workers, it’s because workers can’t afford to live here, and business can’t afford to pay the wages so they can live here. 

It is a crisis.

Right now, there is very little available property for development. Most of the property that is available for development is in our urban growth area and not easily developed or accessed.  So, we need to find solutions to our housing internally.  To solve this problem, it will take new thinking, and will not be easy.  Like other cities have done, Snoqualmie should offer tax incentives to developers who will bring housing that is offered at a price our service works can afford.  We should partner with outside providers (DASH, ARCH, HDC, Habitat, etc.) to bring housing options and programs to our community, programs that do not label and do not discriminate.  We should look at our zoning regulations and open up more parts of Snoqualmie to accessory dwelling units, duplex, triplex and even small housing solutions.  Every opportunity matters and I will continue to make housing a priority if re-elected.

Tanya: While we are feeling it even more acutely in the Puget Sound region, this is a statewide crisis. We need to work with regional partners to address housing affordability, especially our neighboring cities in the Snoqualmie Valley. This could include entering into a new interlocal agreement to collaborate on housing, as some other Eastside cities have done. In addition to expanding workforce housing, we also need to ensure that we are preserving existing naturally affordable housing stock in the city.

Snoqualmie could take advantage of a grant program through the Washington State Department of Commerce for cities to receive planning funds to aid in updating their regulations and/or develop a housing action plan. For example, such funds could be used to update our codes regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). ADUs can provide an opportunity for both multigenerational living and for seniors to better age in place. Similarly, shared housing programs can connect those with extra rooms in their homes, such as seniors, with those looking for housing, like young adults, in a mutually beneficial arrangement. For future development, we can continue to embrace Smart Growth principles in our planning and help to ensure that there are a variety of housing types to allow for entry points at different price levels.

Candidate Bios with websites (if available) linked

Matt Bio:  As a native of Washington and a 21-year resident of Snoqualmie, my wife and I chose this community to raise our two children and make Snoqualmie our life-long home. I am a strong believer in our community values and in our potential. I look forward to sharing my perspective of what Snoqualmie can become. My priorities are to strengthen our city with a strong vision supported by sound social and financial decisions, in partnership with active community engagement and in support of our local businesses.

Being an architect has helped me develop into a consensus builder. My 24-year career has given me a unique perspective and every day I work to study issues and develop solutions in collaboration with everyone involved – much like what a council member must do. 

Prior to being elected your council member, I served for three years on the Planning Commission. This role brings an understanding and appreciation of the challenging decisions our local government faces every day. Being cognizant of the day-to-day impacts as well as what the future may bring is not a luxury but a duty our elected officials must consider. I believe an open and transparent process is the only way we as citizens can understand where our money and energies are best used. As your City Council Member, I will advocate on our community’s behalf to ensure every decision is transparent and in our best interest.

It is my belief that as citizens we should play a role in our community. We should celebrate our differences and encourage everyone to join together to make our city better. I believe in providing opportunities for local workers to find affordable housing, in ensuring the safety of our neighborhoods, and in protecting the unique character of Historic Snoqualmie. My vision for Snoqualmie is one that creates balanced revenue, stability for our businesses, and reduces taxes and fees but does not sacrifice services that are essential for our community.

Snoqualmie is my home and is your home. I am very proud and honored to represent you on City Council.

Tanya Bio: I have lived in Snoqualmie since early 2015 with my husband, Thomas, along with our dog and two cats. Like many others, we chose Snoqualmie as the place to plant our future because of its natural beauty, open spaces, and welcoming neighborhoods. I love that on any given day our parks are full of children playing and the sidewalks are lined with families walking dogs.

​My career has been focused on serving others and bringing people together. I was raised in a multigenerational household by my single mother and grandmother. With such strong female role models, I was taught how to multi-task, the importance of education, and the power of stretching a dollar.

[The candidate for council position #3, Bryan Holloway, could not be reached to participate in this article, and candidate Anna Sotelo has decided not to run an active campaign and declined to submit answers for this article.]

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