Lots of side discussions about the Citizens Levy Committee have been circulating lately, so what is going on with it?
Mainly, the committee has been doing preliminary work to determine the real need for a levy. An extensive amount of time has been spent auditing the City of Edmonds’ financial performance and looking for areas of waste. For the most part, little waste has been found so it appears there are few ways to reduce expenditures without impacting services.
One of the members, Darroll Haug, has been devising a model so we can determine the impact of levies of various amounts on individual home owners. This will prove very valuable when we get down to the final nuts and bolts of dollars needed.
We have spent time listening to other agencies that have had levies both pass and fail to determine why they got the results they did. This has been extremely helpful as there is an overriding theme: The message needs to be clear and compelling when asking citizens to tax themselves. There also needs to be a real consensus of the council and the mayor that the levy is needed, and they need to speak out about supporting it. This may be hard to accomplish in an election year, but failure to do so will certainly result in the levy failing.
We still haven’t given up hope to avoid the need for a levy, but with the mayor’s latest budget and future projections, it is hard to imagine an alternative at this point.
So, we have done much of the research and now is the time for real number-crunching, arguing over whether to include capital projects with operating needs in a single package or to split them out. Some have suggested a new form of government known as version 2.0. That will be the subject of more intense debate in the near future. The committee also intends to do some scientific polling of the citizenry to determine what priorities exist and what they are willing to pay for. That seemed to help other cities target their message as to how those priorities would be served.
I think the citizens of Edmonds understand that it costs money to run a city. If you show that you are being good stewards of their money and are open and clear about the needs and what you will do with new money, they will support a levy. Try to confuse them or make any misstatements about a proposal, and you will not only get soundly defeated, but you will deserve it.
Being open and honest are the ingredients to getting a levy to pass. Whether or not our council and mayor can come to a consensus about the issue is a question that time will answer.
The next levy committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in the Brackett meeting room on the third floor of City Hall. It has been suggested that ideas coming from the committee are just those of the seven people on the committee without the input of others. All meetings are open to the public and public comment time is made available at the end of each meeting.
Edmonds resident “Citizen Harry” Gatjens provides regular reports to My Edmonds News on the workings of the Edmonds city government, including the 2010 Citizens Levy Committee and the Citizens Technology Advisory Committee. Gatjens, an accountant, also offers insight into the workings of the city budget.