By Harry Gatjens
The first “Coffee with Harry” was held this morning at Chanterelle Restaurant in downtown Edmonds. First things first: Thanks to proprietor Brooke Baker and her staff for hosting the meeting. The coffee and service were outstanding.
A small group of people showed up to talk and most stayed for at least an hour. The overriding concern was that of transparency and accountability of government — local, state and federal. Citizens are feeling increasingly mislead and becoming distrustful of their elected official. Long term, this can only lead to further erosion of public confidence and ultimately political disaster. Our government needs to be open with us about what they are doing and not try and hide behind committees and commissions to deflect attention away from the politicians themselves.
There was a feeling that the Levy Committee, the Transportation Benefit District and other groups were just designed as a way for the local politicians to cover themselves and not take responsibility for the need for additional taxes. Concern that things are sculpted by wordsmiths to try and hide the true story.
Why is the proposed license tab increase referred to as a “contribution” by the citizens rather than as a fee or a tax? Why can’t we just lay out the City’s budget and say we can do “X” amount with taxes as they are now and we can do X plus Y more if the voters approve a property tax levy? The citizens are smart and rational. Give them the facts and they can make solid choices. Muddy the presentation and they can’t make an informed decision and they lose faith in your integrity.
The one main task I was asked to accomplish was to make it clear that if the Council wants to propose a levy to the citizens, they should first demonstrate that the City has looked for every efficiency it can find and then second, lay out precisely what will be accomplished with the increased tax revenue. Don’t use emotional rhetoric but lay out actual decision choices.
My goal after hearing from this group will be to continue to try to give fact-based reports on committee and issues as I see them. I will give an opinion from time to time. but my goal is to provide the factual basis so people can make Informed choices.
While the turnout was small, I was pleased that citizens had an interest in what is going on. I think there will be another opportunity to meet and have coffee.