The Edmonds City Council made decisions on several key issue during its Monday night meeting but in the end, the evening really went to the dogs.
Among the items approved during the meeting — held on Monday this week to avoid conflicting with General Election night — were two laws related to sheltering the homeless. The first was a permanent ordinance that allows area churches to temporarily house the homeless during cold weather, replacing a temporary ordinance passed in December 2009 and renewed in June 2010. The second was a measure establishing rules governing the establishment of a temporary (90 days or less) homeless encampment such as a Tent City, if one were to be located in Edmonds.
The meeting got heated after the council approved an ordinance that opens up four Edmonds parks — Hickman, Haines Wharf, Hutt and the west side of Sunset Park — to dogs on leashes. Following the council action, Councilmember D.J. Wilson slammed Council President Steve Bernheim for his decision last Saturday morning to physically remove — according to Wilson, prematurely — the “No Dogs Allowed” signs along Sunset Avenue’s west side, which resulted in at least one citizen complaint and a five-hour police investigation.
At the time of the “sign removal ceremony,” which Bernheim invited fellow councilmembers and the media to attend through a press release emailed out early Saturday, Bernheim told My Edmonds News that he was taking matters into his own hands because the council had voted April 20 to allow dogs into the park yet the signs remained, confusing the public.
Wilson, however, said that the council’s approval did not occur in April as Bernheim said, but Monday night. The Council minutes from April 20 stated that the council agreed unanimously “to adopt the recommended amendments to Edmonds City Council Code .05.060 allowing dogs on-leash and on the designated paths at Hickman Park and Haines Wharf Park as well as the path and grassy strip along the west side of Sunset Avenue known as the Sunset overlook.” (Hutt Park was added to the list later.) The April 20 minutes also noted that City Attorney Scott Snyder agreed to place an ordinance adopting the amendments on a future council consent agenda.
Wilson said that Bernheim’s sign removal was “a violation of the law as it existed,” since it occurred before the council officially approved the ordinance allowing dogs on the park pathway. In addition, because police were called to the scene, the situation could place the Edmonds police chief in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether to refer a case involving the Edmonds City Council President to the Snohomish County Prosecutor. “At a minimum you should apologize to staff as well as the community,” Wilson told Bernheim.
Bernheim made his own statement to the council and those remaining in the audience, insisting that the council actually approved the action to legalize leashed dogs on the west side of Sunset in April. He described the minutes as “the biggest bunch of baloney I’ve ever read coming out of this town. I think it’s legally false. We voted to open this up in April.”
“I’ve simply removed the signs,” Bernheim said. “I’ve done nothing wrong and I’m proud of everything I’ve done here.”
Following the council meeting, My Edmonds News asked Bernheim about his comments and how the April council action was represented in the minutes, and he reiterated his belief that the council in April “adopted the ordinance to open the park to dogs on leashes.” He also expressed frustration with the amount of time it took the City Attorney to bring the ordinance before the council, and with the delays by city staff in removing signs from the park.
In other action, the council:
– Approved an update to the city’s Street Tree Plan, which details the care, removal and replacement of city trees, particularly those on downtown Edmonds streets.
– Decided to postpone until its Nov. 16 meeting action on an ordinance that would have authorized a 1 percent increase in the 2011 levy for regular property tax, authorize the 20 emergency medical services levy at the prior year’s level and continue the debt service levy.