State of City Address: Mayor says he will push for levy to cover 2012 shortfall

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Mike Cooper gives his first State of the City address as mayor. (Photo by Amber Salinas)

Edmonds citizens should have an opportunity to vote on a levy proposal that would both protect existing city services and restore programs that have been deferred or cut in recent years, Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper said in his State of the City address Friday. Cooper announced that in the next two weeks, he will deliver a recommendation to the City Council for a levy proposal that — if approved by the council — would appear on the August ballot.

Despite the city’s history of proactive spending cuts and responsible budget forecasting, Edmonds will be facing a budget shortfall “of hundreds of thousands of dollars” in 2012, Cooper said. “To protect the assets our community values, it is crucial that we give the voters an opportunity to consider new revenue this year,” he said.

The mayor, who was appointed by the council last July to fill the vacancy left when Mayor Gary Haakenson resigned, said his recommendation will include “the funds needed to restore our public safety crime prevention program; preserve Yost pool, ensure safe parks, trails and playgrounds, and… begin the process of restoring our street maintenance program.”

The mayor said he is in the process of building a levy proposal that includes input from staff, financial forecasts, information gathered from the 2009 Citizens Levy committee and forecasting models developed by Darrol Haug of the 2010 Citizen Levy Committee.

During a media question-and-answer session following the address, Cooper said he isn’t sure if any additional information or recommendations will come out of the 2010 Levy Committee appointed by the council last year, but “I’m not going to wait. The clock is ticking. I think we need to get something on the ballot in August rather than wait until November, and that means they (the council) need to make a decision some time in May.”

When asked if he believed citizens would support a levy, Cooper was cautiously optimistic. “I think if we’re reasonable, we’re honest and we show the public what our real needs are, they’ll support it,” he said. “And I think we have to show what we would lose if we didn’t.”

First, though, Cooper needs to gain the council’s support, and he said he has already begun talking with individual councilmembers about the idea, including how much money the city should ask for. It’s key that a strong council majority come out in favor of the idea, he said, noting that the Transportation Benefit District proposal placed on last November’s ballot failed in part because it was passed with only a 4-3 vote and had lukewarm council support.

The mayor said he believes that August would be a better time to run the levy than in November, when the state Legislature may place a measure on the ballot asking citizens to assist with the state’s multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.

Cooper also said in his address that he is committed to involving the community in future city budget decisions, and plans to appoint a working group of up to 30 citizens “representing a diverse cross section of our community ” to share priorities and provide feedback during development of the 2012 budget. Those interested in participating should watch for Cooper’s announcement in the next few weeks.

Citing the importance of continued economic development in the city, the mayor noted that Edmonds will be developing a citywide strategic plan aimed at fostering that effort. He also complimented the work of city staff and the Economic Development Commission in attracting several new businesses and an international film festival to town and even gave special mention to “Northwest icon” Dick’s Drive-In, which will be opening in Edmonds later this year. And he touted the Boeing Company’s news that it will be building a U.S. Air Force refueling tanker in Snohomish County, noting that “the 11,000 jobs created will be some of the highest paid jobs in the region and some of those workers will live and spend money here in Edmonds.”

In addition, Cooper announced two other initiatives during his address:

– He plans to continue exploring the possibility of partnering with neighboring municipalities to form a regional fire service.

– He is committed to meeting President Obama’s challenge for America to become 20 percent more energy efficient by the year 2020 through continued efforts to reduce the City of Edmonds’ energy use, and said the city will also be encouraging commercial building owners and residents to be more energy efficient. “Government is the highest energy user in Edmonds, followed by the six grocery stores, followed by the medical community around the hospital,” Cooper said. He said that he supports the community solar project proposed for the roof of the Frances Anderson Center, and added that the city is considering an additional solar project on top of its wastewater treatment plant.

More energy-efficiency ideas will be released on Earth Day as part of the New Energy Cities report being developed in conjunction with city staff and stakeholders, Cooper said.

You can read the entire Mayor’s State of the City address here.

 

 

 

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. I like what the Mayor said in Q&A: “I think if we’re reasonable, we’re honest and we show the public what our real needs are, they’ll support it. And I think we have to show what we would lose if we didn’t.”

    If the Mayor and Council can really live up to those words, they’ll probably get my vote. If they fail to live up to them, I guarantee they won’t get my vote.

    Putting this on the ballot in August would mean a special election, wouldn’t it? How much more does it cost to run a special election versus adding this to the scheduled November election?

  2. Hi Joe, good question. As part of the levy committee work we looked into how elections are funded. The county charges on the basis of the number of registered voters. I recall that if we run an election and we are the only ones on the ballot the cost is somewhere between $5-6 per registered voter. With about 21,000 voters I recall the cost to be around $130,000 if we are the only ones on the ballot. When we share an election with others the cost go down substantially. The November ballot for example would likely cost a great deal less.

    The timing of an election also depends on the Council passing an Levy resolution. To get on the August 16 ballot the Council must act by May 24. The November 8 ballot has a deadline of August 16. The legislature is considering moving the August election to an earlier date. That could impact the Council resolution deadline.

    Some would argue that putting on the Levy in August would have a better chance of success because of a lower voter turnout. The November election should have a much higher turnout with 4 council seats and a Mayor up for election.

    Some are of a view that if the facts are clearly articulated then the public will vote for more revenue. It would be better to have a majority in Nov than a majority in Aug.

    We are all in the together and the more people get involved the better we all will be.

  3. Thank you, Darrol & Ron for answering my question thoroughly. My Edmonds News is sure a great resource for staying informed!

  4. The 2010 Nov election had a 71% turnout while the Primary had about 39%. The Feb and Apr special elections had a smaller turnout. An Aug vs Nov election has a number of issues to manage.
    1. The Council decision timing. May 24 resolution for an Aug 16 election vs an Aug 16 resolution for a Nov 8 election. Can we do enough public discussion, polling and debate before the May decision point or will it serve the City better to take the extra time to do a more complete job?

    2. With 4 Council seats and a Mayor running in both the Primary and then the General how will the candidates talk about City finances? How can we get the candidates to talk seriously about out our expenses and revenues? What are basic services, what are nice to have services and how do we plan to pay for them. It would be nice to have candidates actually talk about these issues in detail.

    3. Edmonds last council races in 2009 had under 9,000 for the primary and close to 14,000 voters for the general. We have about 21,000 registered voters. More voters produce stronger community commitment to any item on the ballot.

    Mayor Cooper will announce his plan in a couple of weeks. Then we can get into the details of his plan and hopefully the Council can begin a complete, open and public discussion of the revenue and expense issues for our town.

    The more public dialog the better.

  5. Darrol is correct the more dialog the better.
    Great commentary, T, and now with the support of the Mayor and a new interim finance director, citizens may begin to see what the levy committee has been researching for months on how to PASS a levy.

    The August date might be a bit tough and it might be more beneficial in November as the candidates get out and door-bell.

    I am anxious to see the December “formated” FYE 2010 numbers and work through those as well as, getting some good presentations with supportive numbers from staff on areas that Darrol suggested in his presentation (Parks and Rec and Public Works). This very detailed analyses put together by Darrol can be found on the levy committees’ website.

    By the way, Pacific Northwest had a very interesting article regarding Seattle’s Parks mounting deficit. We do not want to be facing those issues.

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