Officials respond to Plunkett’s proposal to change city governance model

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Michael Plunkett

The current mayor of Edmonds said he is non-committal about Councilmember Michael Plunkett’s intention to bring before the City Council — and ultimately, Edmonds voters — a measure to change the city’s governance structure from a mayor-council to city manager-council form of government.

“The concept has its merits,” said Mayor Gary Haakenson, who has already said that he won’t run for re-election after his third term expires in 2011. However, Haakenson said he wouldn’t comment on whether he would support the idea until he saw the proposal.

Even if the Plunkett gains the council’s support, Haakenson said he isn’t sure that voters would approve the switch. “Edmonds is an interesting town because they (the citizens) like to say who their city leader will be.”

Plunkett said he decided to introduce the measure now because the timing is right.  If approved by the council, the proposal could appear on this November’s general election ballot. State law says that if such a governance switch is made, the current mayor would finish out his term as a temporary additional member of the council.

D.J. Wilson

City Councilmember D.J. Wilson had no qualms, however, about dismissing the concept. “The idea of the council-manager form of government has some attraction but it’s sort of like fiddling while Rome burns,” said Wilson, who has been pressing councilmembers to address the city’s looming budget deficit and take a more aggressive approach to economic development. “Our issue is not now whether we want to change the charter of our government, the issue is how we pay for the government we have.”

“We’ve got to get more bones in the bank; we have to get more money,” Wilson said. “This idea of changing our charter when there’s no real need and nobody’s identified a systemic problem just strikes me as totally off point.”

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