Entire citizen-based Transportation Committee resigns, says city council isn’t listening to them

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Citing an Edmonds City Council that doesn’t respect — or in many cases doesn’t listen to — their concerns about lack of funding for Edmonds street and sidewalk improvements, all five citizen members of the Edmonds Transportation Committee have resigned, leaving the committee’s existence in limbo, at least for now.

In a memo sent last Thursday night to the entire Edmonds City Council, Committee Chairman Don Fiene listed four issues that he says have been a source of frustration for the committee in recent months. They include the council’s failure to prioritize the use of local Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds for infrastructure improvements and a lack of support for the recently rejected Transportation Benefit District measure that appeared on last November’s ballot.

“Our Edmonds transportation system is the only thing funded by our general fund that is used nearly every day by every citizens,” Fiene wrote. “It is an infrastructure valued at over $30 million according to the City’s GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board) report. Our public safety services depend on it, but our politicians have neglected it.”

This map (click for PDF version) depicts those street segments in Edmonds (marked in orange) that are in the worst condition and therefore most in need of paving. (Source: City of Edmonds TBD web page)

The city’s inability to fund paving projects for city streets has been a topic of concern raised at City Council meetings in recent years. Edmonds is currently on an 80-year cycle for street overlays, meaning that each street is scheduled to be repaved once every 80 years. (Ideally, arterial streets should be repaved every 15-20 years and residential streets every 25-35 years.) The city says that one-third of its total street system is rated “poor” or “severe” (see map). In fact, the lack of funds for street repair has forced city staff to get creative about overlays, using water utility funds as mitigation for street damage caused by already-planned water main replacements.

One reason for reduced street repair funding is slow home sales, which have meant fewer real estate excise tax revenues for City of Edmonds coffers. The city currently prioritizes its REET funds to favor parks maintenance, with the first $750,000 going to parks infrastructure and anything after that earmarked for transportation capital improvements. The economic downturn has meant no leftover REET money for streets, said Fiene, adding that the council has the ability to shift the allocation to benefit transportation projects, but so far has not done so.

Fiene, a former City of Edmonds assistant engineer who now works for the City of Bothell, said that nearly all other municipalities use REET revenue to fund street repairs. The city’s transportation infrastructure “is used daily by all our citizens, while parks is generally not,” Fiene wrote in his memo to the council. “Despite these facts, no one on the council supported this change in policy.”

According to Fiene, the council’s lack of action on REET funding left the committee with no choice but to recommend last November’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD) ballot measure, which voters defeated by a 70 percent margin.

In the email to council, Fiene said that the transportation committee had met with councilmembers “on several occasions in the year prior to the TBD vote, to discuss the city’s policy on transportation capital funding. We had recommended a reprioritization in regards to the distribution of REET funds. However, not a single member on the council was willing to change the current policy which places a higher priority on parks infrastructure than transportation infrastructure. We were finally given only one option, the ballot measure to address the transportation capital budget problem.”

Transportation Benefit Districts were created by the Washington State Legislature as an option for local governments to fund transportation improvements. The City of Edmonds formed its own district in 2008, with the Edmonds City Council acting as the district’s independent governing board. In 2009, the Edmonds TBD board authorized an annual $20 fee on vehicle license renewals within the City of Edmonds. On July 20, 2010, the board recommended asking voters in November whether to increase the TBD license fee by an additional $40, which would have raised $1 million annually for 37 street and sidewalk projects identified for possible funding. Then the TBD board, wearing its Edmonds City Council hat, voted 4-3 at the Aug. 3 council meeting to put the proposal — known as Proposition 1 — on the general election ballot.

While Proposition 1 would have addressed the backlog in street maintenance, critics expressed concern about having such a long list of projects in tough economic times, ranging from “traffic calming” to walkways. The No on Proposition 1 committee, led by Councilmember DJ Wilson, argued that supporters had not prioritized the list and also noted that because the fee was applied to everyone equally, it was a regressive tax for those on lower incomes.

The fact that one councilmember actively campaigned against the TBD proposal and that only one other Councilmember — Diane Buckshnis — showed strong support for it was another source of discouragement for the transportation committee, Fiene said. “We felt that we were left high and dry. There was no financial or political support to speak of (from councilmembers).”

Fiene’s email drew a sharply-worded response from Wilson, who told Fiene that the transportation committee “made absolutely no effort to work with council… you essentially told us what you wanted and appeared to believe that any deviation from that would be considered an offense. The manner with which the committee engaged the council regarding the TBD was not constructive. In fact, I would call it a text book case for how not to engage a legislative body,” Wilson said.

In a follow-up phone call with My Edmonds News Friday, Wilson said it was untrue that the council didn’t listen to the transportation committee: “At the end of the day we listened to the committee and we put a TBD funding proposal on the ballot and it failed miserably.” Wilson said he has in the past advocated that more money be allocated from REET funds to roads, and he also noted that Mayor Mike Cooper included $704,000 annually for street repairs as part of the levy proposal he sent to the council March 30. (Cooper did acknowledge, however, that that his proposed allocation is “less than half the annual need of $1.5 million/year” for streets.)

Buckshnis told My Edmonds News that she is “very disappointed and saddened” by the committee members’ resignation. “I personally attempted to do all I could to help the committee’s voice be heard,” Buckshnis said, adding that she will recommend that the council look at “a specialized levy that will address overlays.”

Council President Strom Peterson, who was one of four councilmembers voting to place Proposition 1 on the ballot, told Fiene he was “saddened but not shocked by the committee’s decision. I share in your frustration and also accept responsibility for not pushing harder on transportation issues.” According to Peterson, councilmembers are scheduled to meet as a Transportation Benefit District board on April 26, followed by a council meeting, and he intends at that time to introduce the idea of allocating more REET money to transportation capital improvements.

What’s next for the transportation committee itself, which is an advisory committee to the Mayor? Bertrand Haus, the City of Edmonds Transportation Engineer who provides the group with staff support, said that the eight-member committee has been operating with five members in recent months and was ready to advertise for additional members when the resignations occurred. While Fiene’s resignation memo on the committee’s behalf was addressed to  “Councilmembers, Mayor,” Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper’s email wasn’t included in the original message, so Cooper hadn’t seen it until My Edmonds News inquired Friday about his plans to respond. As a result, Cooper said he wanted to research the issue before discussing the committee’s future.

 

 

32 COMMENTS

  1. DJ states that we “made absolutely no effort to work with council”. Obviously this is untrue. We are volunteers and we worked hard to explain the situation and attended several meetings on our own time regarding a variety of transportation issues. We collected information, we presented facts and figures and statistics. However, DJ prefers political jargon and rhetoric. He has offered no practical solutions to the problem. This is unfortunate for the City. Future generations will be stuck with the bill to pay for fixes to failing transportation systems.

  2. I am pleased to read that Council President Peterson will Iintroduce the idea to allocate more of the REET funds to transportation capital improvements. Parks really are important, but roads and sidewalks are an even higher priority at this time.

  3. Don, I would like to thank you and the committee for the work you all did. I’ve heard these same comments from other committees. If we ask citizens to take their time to work on these committees and comissions the council should look at their recommendations.

  4. Thanks Paul. If you run for Position 5, you have got my vote. Strom mentioned that to me too Ron. Hope he follows through.

  5. Don,
    As you know, I had served on the transportation committee for 2 years prior to serving on council. We worked very hard with the City of Edmonds on transportation issues and planning.
    Some of council caring about the future, did support the TBD and took a lot of heat from the citizens for this. We knew it was the right thing to do and openly supported it. I know at every community meeting I attended I spoke on behalf of the TBD. Not sure what else we could have done? Its not fair to blame almost every member of the council for its failing.
    One of your own members of the Edmonds transportation committee openly objected to the TBD. Disagreement occured in every arena.

    I agree with you and Strom. We need to do something for the future of our cities sidewalks, roads and streaming transportation.
    I look forward to working with Strom to supporting this as we can in these difficult economic times.

    Adrienne
    PS Mr. Anderson has endorsed the person in position #5, might be hard to run against him now.

  6. Adrienne;

    That one member that you speak of onthat committee was chosen by our last Mayor. He was rejected from the Planning board and placed on the committee. Without ever expressing any interest in the Transportation committee. That is not how committe members should be chosen. He worked for DJ! I am not making this up. I felt like we had a spy for DJ on our committee. The only passion he had was his opposition to so called progressive taxes. I stand by everything I said. The support was minimal. I still want to see more emphasis on Transportation funding. I’ll continue to press for it, in my own way.

    DJ’s comments in the article seem to express a feeling that a Citizen’s committee must be extremely respectful of the “royal Council”. His ethics are extremely questionable as well. When he was on the Transportation Committee several years ago he wasn’t attending many meetings, saying he didn’t have the time. Then he quit to run your Council campaign. Then he quit your campaign and ran against you. Even though he rarely attended Committee meetings , he mentioned the Committee in his background. All he did at the few meetings he attended is talk about all of his political connections. I hope Mr. Anderson learns more about DJ’s background. It would be justice if he did turn around and run against him.

    Don
    Don

  7. Good conversation going here. Glad to see some of my colleagues have had a 180 degree change of heart, and now agree with me.

    Specifically, just in the last few months, on two occasions I have argued for changing the REET allocation to better fund streets and sidewalks. Minutes do not reflect the entirety of my comments, but on Jan 25th, 2011, the minutes say:

    “Councilmember Wilson… was also prepared to vote on changing the existing $750,000 threshold for the use of REET Fund 125. He encouraged the Council to move forward with a decision tonight.”

    Not a single one of my colleagues supported changing the REET allocation.

    At the Feb 4-5th retreat, I spoke again about my interest in changing the allocation. I made the specific proposal that the first $350,000 in the door go to roads, which given the low funding in REET meant more than have our funding would go there.

    Again, not a single Council member agreed with me.

    So, I’m happy that this policy idea is gaining traction. I’m surprised at how quickly some have forgotten recent Council history. But, I’m hopeful we have new momentum for change.

    DJ

  8. Excuse the typo above: “half,” obviously, not “have”.

    Moreover, just to clarify, this committee is a “Mayoral Advisory Committee.” The purpose of this committee is to advise the mayor, not bring ideas to Council. Though, clearly it brought the idea of a $40 increase in car tabs, and clearly the Council took that advice.

  9. The Trans. committee brought up the REET situation nearly 2 years ago to Council and no one on Council (including DJ) were willing to do anything different. I hope the Council does now follow through and make a change to the policy.

  10. The mayor’s levy proposal fails to completely fund street maintenance, yet adds a crime prevention officer.

    Do we really need a crime prevention officer? Take a look at what a crime prevention officer does:
    http://www.ci.mukilteo.wa.us/page.asp?navid=74
    While it might be nice to have one, this just doesn’t sound like an essential service.

    By failing to completely fund the street overlay program, we will spend much more money in the future to repair the results of inadequate maintenance. Street overlays should be completely funded before we fund non-essential services.

    Unfunded street overlays are equivalent to a leaking roof. Pay now, or pay a lot more later. It’s a sneaky way for a city to borrow money and we shouldn’t allow Edmonds to do it.

  11. Mr. Fiene,

    The list of factual inaccuracies is amazing. Being the “one member that you speak of on that committee” – let me speak to your lies about me:

    “He was rejected from the Planning board and placed on the committee. Without ever expressing any interest in the Transportation committee.”

    Not true. I never applied to be on the planning board, nor do I ever intend to — you are confusing me with another committee member, or else intentionally lying. Additionally, I was interviewed for the committee by Neil Tibbott and the city’s transportation engineer, and I made very clear in the interview that transportation was my biggest concern when it came to city issues.

    “He worked for DJ! I am not making this up. I felt like we had a spy for DJ on our committee. The only passion he had was his opposition to so called progressive taxes.”

    Yes, it’s true that I have and do work for the company owned by DJ Wilson. So what? He didn’t even know that I applied to be on the committee. Why would he need a spy on that committee, when he actually votes on these issues? That attack is uncalled for.

    Once, again, my only passion is not only taxes — maybe if you actually listened to anything I said, you would know that.

    I’m very disappointed that someone who claims to care so much about the citizens of Edmonds would make outright lies in a public forum. I understand that you are frustrated by the way things turned out, but your lies about me in a public forum also affect my family and co-workers, and that is something I can not allow to go unchecked.

  12. I have met Mr. Feine and I liked him and found him to be a hard-working thoughtful advocate for transportation infrastructure in Edmonds. He eloquently states the urgency of funding street maintenance.

    But I think he is completely wrong about why Proposition 1 failed. I voted against it because it disproportionately burdens the poor. I will vote for the upcoming levy if it can be fixed to focus on the infrastructure problem. It will cost me more than Prop 1 would have, but I’m OK with that because it is more fair.

    Whoever or whatever limited the committee to only one option for funding doomed them to failure.

  13. With all due respect DJ, I also discussed the REET money allocation and I think I first brought it up in Finance when Phil Williams bought it to my attention.

    You all realize that the money collected at this juncture is solely paying on the bonds.

    Also, in 2009, our former finance director dropped the projections down to 400K and “slid” it through council at a late hour. Thus in 2009 all amount over 400K went into the General Fund. This was brought up in the CAFR as the bond payment had to come out of REET saving. So we can go ahead and change the amount but I think passing a specialized levy might be more effective.

  14. Stohn;

    As you said I may be mistaken on the issue of the Planning Board rejection and I have you mixed up. I apologize. And if I offended you elsewhere I apologize for that. Nothing else I said could be construed as a lie however.

    We listened to you and I know you felt that you were in favor of redistribution of REET funding. The committee has taken this issue to the Council many times over the last several years. I took up this issue originally as a staff member about 6 years ago, prior to formation of the Transportation committee. More recently the committee had approached the Council again regarding redistribution of REET funding and they basically said no. The majority of the Committee decided to support the Council’s TBD measure, and the group simply was not given any other options other than the TBD for funding. There were no options offered by anyone on the Council including DJ. Up until that time you did attend meetings regularly (unlike DJ when he was on the committee) and you should be complemented for your volunteer efforts. However after that (TBD) decision you spent all your effort criticizing the TBD fee as a “regressive tax’. I think it is safe to say you spent far more time on that than helping us deal with the Transportation funding problem.

    DJ stated that we put forth “absolutely no effort” and that we were a good example of how not to work with “a legislative body”. In reality, the committee worked hard with the Council not only on the TBD issue, but on the Transportation Plan and other issues as well. To say otherwise as DJ stated is a real outright lie. DJ’s attacks on me and the committee members who are volunteers is totally unprofessional and it did get me very upset. I probably should have not let it get to me. In the heat of my argument with him I believe I got carried away and offended you and once again I do apologize for that.

    Joe;

    I appreciate your comments. I still believe the TBD in concept was not a bad solution. Like a gas tax is a user tax. It provides the accountability in that the money must be dedicated to transportation. Also if you don’t own a car and use mass transportation, you are not subject to the cost. In contrast, a property tax levy taxes a homeowner, instead of a car owner. However, the timing of the vote was awful.

    We are in the middle of a bad recession and voters locally, statewide and nationwide rejected new taxes of every shape and form (including “progressive” income taxes in Washington). I believe a property tax levy will most likely meet the same fate. I also have concerns on whether there will be adequate accountability in the levy measure. In any event before trying to pass another new tax, Council should demonstrate that they are spending the current tax money wisely and efficiently. In my view that would mean prioritizing Transportation above Parks as all other Cities do. In that regard, I am encouraged that the REET redistribution measure is gathering steam through this lively and sometimes heated exchange.

    Diane;

    There are 2 REET distributions. One I believe goes to Parks and is only used towards land acquisition and bond payouts. The other distribution has to go to infrastructure and that is the one we are discussing.

    Don

  15. Don–

    Not sure where I’ve attacked you – that’s not my intent. My concern is with the approach of the committee members. I’m happy to get together with you offline to clear the air so that we can both be working in a direction that is more constructive than what this has become.

    Let me know.

    DJ

  16. DJ;

    Be more specific. How was our approach bad? We came to the Council and the TBD. The Council told us no regarding REET. Then we went to the TBD. The majority said lets go with a TBD measure. So we supported that. What was wrong in our approach? You haven’t said anything specific at all regarding our approach.

    Don

  17. Don (re: message 14)

    I was saying that the car tab tax was unfair because it is not proportional to a citizen’s ability to pay. It is a fact that the car tab tax is not proportional to ability to pay. Whether that is an appropriate measure of fairness is philosophical. We can respectfully agree to disagree there.

    Let’s look at two other measures of fairness that you allude to: (1) Proportionality to benefit, and (2) Proportionality to destruction.

    The car tab tax is not proportional to benefit. As a bicyclist, I benefit from well-maintained roads. As a bus rider, I benefit. As a homeowner (or renter) I benefit from the use of roads for mail & package delivery and garbage collection. As a pedestrian I benefit. Yet none of these uses pay a car tab tax. If I keep an SUV parked in my garage and use it only for out of town trips, I’m going to pay extra tax on that even though it is not significantly increasing my use of Edmonds roads.

    The car tab tax is not proportional to destruction. Road life is disproportionately shortened by heavy trucks. Yet virtually all these trucks are licensed outside city limits. Studded tires shorten road life, yet there’s no surtax on those. If I buy a lightweight second car for trips around town, I’m going to pay double the tax even though having that second vehicle will decrease wear and tear on the roads.

    I think a property tax is more fair because everybody who lives in Edmonds pays it (directly or indirectly through rent), everybody who lives in Edmonds benefits from roads, and everybody in Edmonds contributes (directly or indirectly) to their ongoing destruction.

    Property taxes are not perfectly fair either. But I think they’re the most fair of all the options I can see.

    I don’t know why 70% of the other voters said NO – but fairness was my reason.

  18. Joe:

    A very good explanation. What it comes down to, as was debated here at the time of the vote and what you have explained above, is that the car tab tax is a regressive tax and property tax is a progressive tax. That is also why DJ Wilson spoke against it.

    I voted NO because it was an unfair tax, and also with all of the road work we need I have no interest in spending $2+ million on a traffic circle at 5 corners.

  19. Joe;

    You make some very good points. Certainly there is no perfect solution or tax here. But one problem I have with the property tax levy is I think everything is getting lumped together. I think you expressed this earlier as well when you spoke of the Crime Prevention services. It is sort of like the so called pork barrel politics with Federal Bills. Many different things/services are put together to satisfy various interests.

    Your argument regarding destruction of the roads seems very logical on the surface, but how does a Property tax address heavy trucks any better? Really no solution is more fair than imposing additional gas taxes, but politically no one seems to want to go there. Once again there is no perfect solution.

    Regarding the message the voters conveyed in the fall election; I believe it didn’t matter if it was a property tax, vehicle tax or income tax. It didn’t matter if it was progressive or regressive. They said no to new taxes, locally, statewide (“Progressive” income tax for high incomes) and nationally. Passing on new taxes during a recession is extremely difficult. I believe the property tax levy will most likely meet the same fate.

    Another concern I have is that we have previously had General Fund/Property Tax funds going into Transportation that have recently (within the past 4 years) been stripped away and used for other services. I would want to make sure that the new funding is actually dedicated to Transportation and that it can’t be taken away. However I am not confident that we will have that kind of control with the levy. If the Council addresses the REET prioritization (Transportation first) I might be more convinced.

    Don

  20. You’re right, a levy doesn’t do a particularly good job of addressing the heavy truck problem either. I only brought it up to demonstrate that the car tab tax is unfair pretty much any way you look at it.

    An Edmonds-only gas tax is obviously infeasible because its so easy to escape it by buying gas elsewhere. A statewide gas tax hike is problematic in communities like Vancouver where cheap gas is right across the river. But I agree that it is probably the most fair way of paying for roads when it is applied to a broad enough geographic area. I wish it were feasible to go that way.

    No mater where the money comes from, we’re going to have to elect a city government that will spend it wisely. Not easy to do.

  21. I know Don Fiene to be a conscientious hard working guy who obviuosly now has become disillusioned with his committee’s relationship with the Council. I have also noted a strong performance by our City Council, especially in the past year. So what’s happenning? I’m not sure, yet I believe I have a strong clue.

    One thing Don and I seem to agree on (and probably including most everyone on the Council) is simply that DJ is a devisive jerk. He is a lead anchor slowing down progress of the current Council. He works for DJ only, and often takes credit for others work.

    Perhaps the Mayor and/or a Councill person or two (excluding DJ) could sit down with Don Fiene and his Committee with the purpose of finding a mutually acceptable way around the current impasse. The city needs good citizens who are willing and able to participate in the govermental prosess. Lets not lose them over silly stuff.

  22. I’m beginning to think Ray doesn’t care for DJ..(:
    @Don and Joe…great conversation guys..very good arguements both sides..but I agree with Ron, the car tab tax did not pass because folks like myself are not interested in paying for stuff we don’t need, including round-abouts, additional lights because a driver or 2 complain they have to sit an extra 10 seconds at a stop sign,etc…if the city had come to us and said “hey our streets are falling apart we need your help in overlays…every dime you give us will go towards that until it is completed..” I think it could have and would have been supported by the voters..voters said no to any new taxes last election statewide not because we are in a recession but because voters are sick and tired of their governments overspending and spending on programs we do not need, especially during a recession..

  23. Michael:

    With almost 70% of voters rejecting Proposition 1, there’s plenty of room for both of us to be right about why they said no. And when we consider what will matter in getting a levy passed, the fairness issue I was talking about is irrelevant, and unnecessary spending (if there is any) will probably kill it.

  24. I’m not interested in getting into a discussion of Councilmember Wilson in general, but I think it’s worth noting that he and Mr Nishino were the lone voices representing the view that the car tab tax was inherently unfair. I don’t know whether a majority of voters hold that view, but a lot of us do. And if you combine those votes with the people who will vote no on any tax increase (no matter how worthwhile) there’s no way a car tab tax increase will ever pass, even if it covers only the essential projects.

    Perhaps if Councilmember Wilson and Mr Nishino had been listened to by those who disagree with them on the fairness issue, we could have avoided wasting time and money on Proposition 1. It’s dangerous to ignore a minority view when different minority views combine to oppose what you’re trying to do.

  25. The decision to go forward with the TBD ballot measure was made by the City Council acting as the Transportation Benefit District. Because that was the only solution offered to us and it was the will of the Elected officials, the Transportation committee then voted to support it. Well as you said the vote is over and the “so called regressive tax” Car tab failed. But so did the “so called progressive” state income tax (only 35% support). The simple fact is we are in a recession and new taxes failed everywhere across the country. Hindsight is 20-20 and no one had a crystal ball. But what should be learned from the last election is that new taxes of any kind aren’t likely to fly, so if you are going to go that route you had better understand that you are faced with an uphill battle.

    But I feel the need to clear up some items that were discussed here. Street Overlays were actually number 1 on the Priority list for Projects for the TBD vote to the tune of over $5,000,000. Here is the link; http://www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/TBD/TBDOrdinanceNo-2_ProjectList-Exhibit%20A.pdf Priorities 2 through 4 are not big bucks and not controversial. Priority 6 is to address a serious safety problem and provide a safe walkway system to schools. Items 7 through 13 are low cost pedestrian improvements. Item 14 is to address the fairly obvious problem (very noticeable during rush hour) at 76th and 212th. I could keep going down the list and find few faults with these priorities that have been heavily scrutinized.

    The one priority however that seems to be a stickler seems to be Priority 5 which is the 5 Corners project Ron Wambolt mentioned. I agree that this Priority (at least as far as how high it ranks) is debatable as well. From my staff days I seem to remember that despite the oddity of the situation at 5 corners, there wasn’t a significant history with accidents. So I could support taking a closer look at that priority.

    But the simple fact is these projects and their priorities were brought before Council many times. I wish that everything else at the City went through half as much scrutiny. It didn’t come out of the blue as DJ and others might lead us to believe. The priorities involved detailed level of service analysis and were discussed numerous times during the process of reviewing the Transportation Comp. Plan (Public Open Houses, Council Committee and Council Public Hearings), during the Capital Improvement Plan discussion (Council Committee, Council Public Hearings) and at the Transportation Benefit District meetings. I believe there was much more scrutiny and detailed discussion of these issues/priorities, etc than for any of the other things that are being lumped into the Property Tax Levy.

    Finally, I am glad that this article brought out a good discussion on the topic. I hope we can all agree that we need to take care of our roads and build safe walkways to schools for our children. Lets continue to press that the Council members to prioritize the REET money for this and to come to up with an overall dedicated financing plan for transportation.

  26. The last paragraph should read;

    Finally, I am glad that this article brought out a good discussion on the topic. I hope we can all agree that we need to take care of our roads and build safe walkways to schools for our children. Lets continue to press the Council members to prioritize the REET money for this and to come up with an overall dedicated financing plan for transportation.

  27. Don: I completely agree with your last paragraph. Very well said.

    In general I like your prioritization of transportation projects with one big exception I’ll talk about in a moment. I can only imagine how hard you guys had to work to please all the different opinions being shouted at you. You deserve all of our thanks (and you have mine) for being willing to put up with the process.

    The exception: The annual need for overlays is 1.5 million per year. The TBD did not fully fund it so I don’t think you can say it was the number one priority. Only a third of it was a number one priority. Most of the need was unfunded.

    It seems to me that maintenance should be fully funded before improvements get funded. What the TBD did looks equivalent to making fixing a leaking roof a number one priority, yet only allocating enough out of the budget to fix a third of it. All while spending the other half of the budget to build a new deck. A new deck sounds nicer than a new roof unless I’m the one with water dripping onto my bed, or unless I’m the taxpayer who has to pay for all the damage that happens while waiting for money to do the job right.

    Maybe this is a little harsh, and I’m sorry if it sounds like it’s being directed at you personally – it’s not. Maybe I’m overlooking something. If I have, I’d love to be educated.

  28. Good point Joe on the need for $1.5m for street overlays. $1.5m allows for a 18-20 year overlay cycle for arterials and about 30 year cycle for residental streets. TBD would have created an unacceptable cycle for overlays.

    The Mayors current levy proposal allocating $704,000 to overlays funds less than half the need. As a member of the Levy committee I made the suggestion to Council that we fully fund overlays at the $1.5m per year level for 3 years and then show the public what they can get done for about $90/year for a home valued at $400,000. When the economy recovers and more REET revenues develop we can then make an informed judgement on how to fund overlays. It may be better to have the voters lock up revenues for a basic service like overlays to insure that the work gets done and the revenues will not be use for other purposes.

    Before we put a targeted tax on the ballot for overlays or any other basic service we have time to do some polling to see how people feel about a dedicated tax for a basic service.

    The TBD tax would only have allocated 1/3 of what has needed for overlays and the rest of the TBD tax would not have been enough to fund the $61m it would have cost for the other 30+ projects.

    It may well be time to allow the people to vote on fully funded projects. If they see the need and the money can only be used as specified then they have a choice vote yes or no. This is how school funding works and the voters of Edmonds have supported schools even in these tough economic times.

  29. Amen, to that Joe! Darrol and I have the same ideas and concepts about moving things forward and seeing what the public is willing to pay for NOW.

    Since we have had no overlays for years now, it is time to move this forward and fully fund it so that there might be grant possibilities.

  30. Count me in with Joe, Darrol, and Diane. The TBD measure failed, in large part, because the mixed message sent to the voters regarding maintenance and other projects.

    We cannot tell the voters that critical upkeep must be done to avoid costly repairs later, and then allocate a large portion of the funding to improvements instead of upkeep.

    Maintenance may not be as interesting or visually stunning as a new roundabout in my neighborhood, but the financial benefits of focusing on maintenance first certainly interest me.

  31. Todd you are right. While protecting our infrastructure is not sexy it is cost effective and necessary. In Feb when the Levy committee gave a report to Council I showed 3 levies in support of mataining our infrastructure.

    1. Street overlays for $1.5m/yr for 3 years to show the public progress in protecting our streets. This would get us started at the correct level and allow the public to assess the progress before committing more dollars.
    2. Public works has a list of deferred maintenance projects that could be completed in 3 years for $500,000/year. Putting this off will likely cost us more later.
    3. Yost pool? Build a new one at $15-20m? Or do some work on the current pool to keep it in good shape for the next 10 years while we figure out what the public wants and is willing to pay for? A $1m for 1 year would make the necessary repairs to keep the pool in good order for the next 10 years and provide some support for yearly operations as well. This would give us the time to figure out what we want to do in the future.

    These proposals would make be the most cost effective way to deal with roads, deferred maintance and Yost Pool. In the case of roads, the public can assess the progress during the 3 years that the levy would run and then decide to continue the support of roads going forward.

    All 3 of these needs were traditionally funded with support of the General Fund but they were the easy ones to cancel or defer when the budgets got tight. Dedicated taxes may be the only way for the public to be certain the these issues will be taken care of as budgeted.

    I am confident that we can bring a good plan for these and any number of issues forward for the voters to decide. These 3 items would be about the same as what we current pay for the Library ($3m) for the first year and then the tax would go down to $2m for years 2 and 3.

    On second thought it is pretty exciting. Make a plan, tell the people, let them decide, and then do the things they vote for.

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