Letter to the editor: Political games of ‘The Five Horsemen’

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Dear Editor:

I am writing to opine about the political games currently being played out by City Councilpersons Bernheim, Buckshnis, Fraley-Monillas, Plunkett and Orvis (“The Five Horsemen”) and the purchase of the Skipper’s property. I will talk about each one in turn below.

Secret Meeting. The Five Horsemen, led by Mr. Plunkett, have spent an inordinate amount of time attacking Mr. Wilson for a “secret meeting” that took place between three Council members (Mr. Berhnheim, Ms. Buckshnis, and Mr. Wilson), the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Port of Edmonds. Let’s get the facts straight here.

The “secret meeting” was not a secret at all. The Five Horsemen have lied. The Council appointed Mr. Bernheim, Ms. Buckshnis and Mr. Wilson to attend a planned meeting to gather information to present to the City Council. Not to make a decision, but to support further work by the Council on options for the waterfront.

Mr. Wilson prepared a presentation to give to the Council. In order to get on the Council’s agenda, the president of the Council, Mr. Bernheim, called a vote. The Council unanimously voted to put the presentation on the agenda. There was nothing done in secret. If the Council did not feel that the public was given appropriate notice about the presentation, they could have tabled it for another time. Ask yourselves why this did not happen.

Mr. Plunkett has indicated the Mr. Wilson is making a move to increase building heights on the waterfront. For those familiar with Edmonds politics, this is evidence that Mr. Plunkett has now started campaigning for Mayor.

Even if Mr. Wilson did want tall buildings, it could not happen under the current zoning laws. This would require public hearings, review, and a Council vote. So, what’s the hysteria about?

Skippers Property. The Skippers property has the potential to be a monumental location in our town. My father always told me that land is a good investment. However, I cannot support the purchase of that property today. Let’s take a minute to review the facts.

The City’s finances are in flux, to put it mildly. Last year, budget shortfalls were made up by City workers taking unpaid furlough days. The City is in the process of renegotiating Union contracts now, and Mr. Plunkett is arguing that City workers should take unpaid days again so the City will have extra money in its budget —  just like last year. Most of us are not independently wealthy. I know I could not afford to take an unpaid day off from work. Is it fair to ask our City Employees to do it again?

Edmonds has a self-funded health insurance policy for our firefighters from years ago. This insurance policy is about $8 million underfunded. And, we are still talking about a Levy to fund basic needs.

I would like to see the town own the Skippers property too. But, I just don’t understand where the money is coming from. Neither do the Five Horsemen.

Conclusion. I’m a lawyer. I deal in facts, not in emotion.

The facts tell me that there was no “secret meeting” to bring taller buildings to the waterfront. Focusing on this is distracting from the real money issues. The chair of the Finance Committee (Mr. Plunkett) benefits from this distraction.

The facts tell me that, at this time, we cannot afford the Skippers Property without going further into debt or risking bankruptcy.

Priya Cloutier
Edmonds

11 COMMENTS

  1. The city cannot afford to let a gateway site be developed in a manner that is inconsistent with our historic small town charm.

    It is better to acquire this land when the price is down, then wait and acquire it after the price has gone up.

    -Dave (One of the five horsemen)

    P.S “I’m a lawyer. I deal in facts, not in emotion.” Now that cracks me up.

  2. “It is better to acquire this land when the price is down, then wait and acquire it after the price has gone up.” – Shouldn’t we have found out what the property is worth before you guys offered $1.1 million dollars? Or are you an expert on commercial real estate appraisal.? Is the current owner going to continue demo or is the city now on the hook for that? I guess I missed all the answers to these questions and more at the public meeting held to discuss this.

    Oh.

    Never mind.

  3. Being one of the five horseman, I have provided you with what I consider a “citizen friendly” view of the fact that the financial condition of this City is unknown. Of course, you didn’t get it and only wanted to know why I voted that way. Some of your 32nd team-mates contacted me to ask me to further explain my factual position.

    By the way, I researched many cities and the 5.8% raise given to our unions and non-unions are highly questionable so rather than go with our emotion and give us names, maybe you should get your financial fact straight. In fact, the City of Vancouver’s police and fire just agreed to a two year price freeze on their contract. The City of Portland Budget guru smirked when we stated the raise we gave our unions.

    Most importanly, rather than complaining, why can’t we start being positive and realize that this purchase was a smart move to gain control of our gateway. Furthermore, it did not require any “behind-door” deals that your friend, DJ, was trying to get Mr. B and I to agree too…which is heights on the waterfront.

  4. @ Dave and Diane:

    I agree with both of you. I would love for the town to own this piece of land. Tell me how we can afford it?

    Neither one of you have addressed the approximately $8 million shortfall in the fire-fighter’s insurance budget. What is the City going to do when that comes due? Are we going to be like Enron?

    @Diane: Our goal for all employees should be a living wage. I know several people who work for the City. Do you? When was the last time you socialized with one? And, I don’t mean other members of the Council. I mean someone who maintains our buildings, for example.

    For many of our employees an unpaid sabbatical day creates an unlivable wage. I really don’t care what all other cities are doing on this matter. Our goal must be for a livable wage. By the way, a price freeze is far different than an unpaid day.

    Finally, the fact that you say the “financial condition of the City is unknown” only makes it less prudent to write a large check right now. If I don’t know how much is is my checking account, I don’t go out an buy a new car. You’re a banker; I would assume you would have the same money sense.

    Please explain to me exactly how this is going to work.

  5. Now Mr.Orvis is saying on his blog that the city should forget condos for economic development – that’s the Lora Petso line.
    So the $1.5 million in property taxes from Point Edwards each year, with $300,000 of it going to our city, is what, dirty money?? Not to mention that those despicable condos probably allowed us to meet the population target for our city.
    I know, it should have been one more park. And that would have been ok with me if the city’s dreamers would come up with an alternative source of revenue – not property owners.

  6. And to present a more complete picture of what the condos at Point Edwards have provided Edmonds in revenue, I need to include the $750,000 in real estate excise tax they generated as well as a comparable amount in sales tax. The State received $7 to $8 million in sales tax.

  7. Why does Dave Orvis keep pushing this “price is low” B.S.? (Answer: trying to cover his up-for-election-next behind, that’s why)

    Fact: the last time this property sold, at the height of the market, in 2006, it sold for $1million. So, what… we’re expected to believe that $1.1 million is a deal in today’s market? There were no negotiations on price. Don’t lie about it now. And doesn’t Plunkett call himself a realtor? Every realtor I’ve talked to laughed out loud about what an incredibly inflated offer this is. Do you have friends at the bank?

    So, no, the price isn’t low. And that’s a red herring anyhow. At issue is how we can afford to spend this money…. when we either don’t have it (which is what the City says), or we don’t know how much we have (which is what the Horsemen say). In either case, their puppetmaster Plunkett is at fault. Funny how he’s not saying much about his “hard work” on the Finance Committee these days.

    This is what happens when you hurry into a large financial deal with an undue sense of urgency. And here I thought that we’d learned our lesson with the FD1 sale.

  8. The property was once valued and used to secure debts as high as 1.9 million dollars.
    (at least that’s what I am seeing at the records division).

    Again, we have a good deal. It won’t be that way if we wait.

    -Dave

  9. It’s a good deal only if you’re not interested in paying fair market value. The real estate bubble ended in 2007. The property sold for $1M in 2006. If it gained in value by 20% between 2006 and 2007, then it peaked at $1.2. Next are declines in 2008 and 2009, so if its value declined by a total of only 20% you’re down below $1M.

    Once upon a time the debt that had been secured by the property would have been relevant. But now we all know just how screwed up many banks have been. Still are?

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