As Richard Marin made his rounds through South Snohomish County, explaining the idea to neighboring city councils, the reaction was so unanimous...

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As Richard Marin made his rounds through South Snohomish County, explaining the idea to neighboring city councils, the reaction was so unanimous and swift that it raised a new question:

Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and Woodway plan to explore the “strength in numbers” truism, creating a new political alliance to study issues of mutual interest and present a united front to regional, state and federal lawmakers and agencies.

“It sounds like a smart thing to do,” said Scott Baker, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, who represents all of South Snohomish County. “It’s always better to have a group rather than trying to do it individually. It would be an effective thing, especially if they are getting together to push some common goals.”

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All five cities have named council members to join the new group, which may be named the South County Alliance. Marin, an Edmonds councilman, said it will represent about 104,000 residents, and cities with combined annual taxable retail sales of about $2.6 billion. Its first meeting tentatively is scheduled for July 20 in the Edmonds City Council chambers.

“This is going to be a fabulous venue for the cities to pool their resources together,” said Doug Wittinger, who will represent the Mountlake Terrace City Council. “I think it’s going to be an excellent tool for us — for the Sound Transit long-range plan, Paine Field, legislative issues such as gas taxes.

“With one city, just like with one voter, you don’t have much voice. Having all the city voices come out as one is kind of a no-brainer.”

Other alliance board members will include Peggy Pritchard Olson of Edmonds, Loren Simmonds of Lynnwood, Gary Morgan of Brier and Robert Schillberg of Woodinville.

Marin began pitching the concept at meetings of other city councils about a month ago. That perplexes Mauri Moore, who also sits on the Edmonds council. She says it was her idea originally, with one key difference.

She’d planned to also include Mill Creek and Mukilteo.

That notion appeals to other member cities as well, so the alliance could be expanded after the first meeting.

“The more the merrier — the [louder] the voice,” said Carlton “Skip” Gipson, a Brier city councilman. “If we come as a bloc of cities, it might give us more clout.”

Mukilteo City Councilwoman Cathy Reese heard about the new group from friends on the Lynnwood council.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “We all share the same concerns, we all face the same problems,” she said. “The airport is a perfect example of that.”

Ah, the airport.

Marin insisted that his proposal was not inspired by any particular issue, and he declined to speculate about what specifically an alliance might take up in the future. But virtually everyone else involved mentioned two current matters: the possibility of commercial jetliners serving Everett’s Paine Field, and Everett’s interest in winning future Sound Transit funds to build an early, stand-alone stretch of light rail.

Mukilteo, which shares about half of its lengthy eastern border with the general-aviation airport, has always been prickly on the subject of commercial air traffic.

Other cities recently joined the fight, alarmed by Snohomish County’s apparent interest in adding passenger air services at the county-owned field. Neither the County Council nor County Executive Aaron Reardon has taken a formal position, but airport director Dave Waggoner has been speaking about the proposal at local city-council meetings.

The Everett Area Chamber of Commerce has formally endorsed the concept, and the Economic Development Council of Snohomish County is interested, too.

City councils have responded in a scattershot fashion. Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway and Mukilteo already have adopted resolutions of opposition; the Lynnwood City Council is expected to follow suit at its July 11 meeting.

“Everyone pretty much did it on their own,” said Lisa Utter, a Lynnwood councilwoman. “If you have a joint resolution, it might streamline the process and more quickly get [approval from] everyone.”

Mill Creek Mayor Terry Ryan said he’d like to join the alliance, too, to give his city more sway in its dealings with Snohomish County. Mill Creek is struggling with the county right now over an annexation issue, he said, and he’s heard similar complaints from other cities.

“Sometimes they just look at you as a single entity and they just don’t really hear what you’re saying,” Ryan said. “If a group of cities went to the county, they’d realize they have to work with you. Right now, the county can strong-arm you if they choose to.”

A number of South County leaders mentioned a perception that Everett often has a political advantage — regionally, as well as at the state and national levels — based on both its population size and its close relationship with the county. The county seat is based in Everett, Reardon worked for the city before his election, and his wife, Kate Reardon, is the city’s spokeswoman.

Everett often gets its own seat on state and regional boards while other cities in the county share representatives. The city also employs lobbyists in Olympia and Washington, D.C., and has in-house public-affairs specialist.

“Right now, Everett is the powerhouse of Snohomish County,” Moore said. “Because Everett is one unit and tends to speak with one voice, they are more effective in getting their needs met sometimes. They are able to speak with a louder voice than the people of South County, and I think we deserve to speak with the same sort of loud voice they can use.”

State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Edmonds, just learned about the new cities group last week. As soon as she wrapped her mind around the concept, she, too, mentioned Paine Field.

But the group could be especially effective on the state level, she said.

Roberts, a House freshman, said she quickly learned that time is precious in Olympia. If five — or seven — cities could communicate their needs through a single representative, that could be a win-win for all concerned.

“Everybody is thinking about being efficient and effective,” she said.

Olympia lobbyist Mike Doubleday, who represents Edmonds, Bellevue and Burien, likes the idea, too.

“If they could come up with two or three issues that they had common agreement on, that were high priorities for them — either state funding issues or change-the-law issues — that just gives them more clout,” he said. “A little more oomph for what they want.”

Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or

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