The Edmonds City Council on Tuesday night decided by a 4-3 vote to place a proposal on the November general election ballot that would fund 37 separate city traffic safety, congestion and pedestrian improvements — using a $40-per-vehicle increase in licensing fees assessed to Edmonds residents.
The proposal to place the measure on the ballot, which would increase the per-vehicle fee that the Edmonds Transportation Benefit District now collects from $20 to $60, was supported by Councilmembers Strom Peterson, Diane Buckshnis, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Steve Bernheim and opposed by D.J. Wilson, Lora Petso and Michael Plunkett.
A list of proposed transportation projects this fee increase would fund can be found here.
Wilson said he opposed the fee increase because it is a “regressive tax” that hits low-income people harder, and also because it demonstrates a lack of accountability on the part of elected officials since they failed prioritize any of the 37 projects on the list. “In these economic times, we need to be very focused in our pitch to citizens,” Wilson said. He also called it another example of the council “fiddling while Rome is burning,” by placing this measure on the ballot prior to making a decision on levy to address the looming deficit in the city’s general fund. “I will oppose it tonight and campaign vigorously against it in the fall,” Wilson said.
Bernheim disagreed with Wilson’s characterization of the fee as regressive. ” We’re only talking about $40 a year and we’re only talking about taxing people who can already afford taxes and insurance in the first place,” Bernheim said.
Buckshnis pointed out that many of the 37 projects would address pedestrian improvements, a key request she has heard from citizens during recent town hall meetings.
In other action, the council:
– Voted 6-1 (Petso opposed) to approve an Edmonds Economic Development Commission recommendation to partner with the University of Washington Green Futures Lab to create green development projects in the Westgate and Five Corners neighborhoods. The $40,000 project cost will be funded through savings in the city’s professional development budget. The hope is to create a template for sustainable development projects that can be replicated in other neighborhoods.
– Approved the 2010 Water System Comprehensive Plan Update by a vote of 6-1 (Plunkett opposed).
– Voted unanimously to approve the Edmonds Planning Board’s recommendation to increase the number of permitted permanent signs in business and commercial zones.
– Heard a presentation by officials from Stevens Hospital and Swedish Medical Center about the pending affiliation between the two entities, and passed a resolution supporting the new organization, which will be known as Swedish Edmonds.