Reality set in for the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night when two councilmembers who missed last week’s meeting returned and formed a four-member majority to reject a levy proposal that was passed 3-2 last week. Granted, the May 10 levy vote was taken under unusual circumstances — basically starting out as a forgotten motion for $700,000 in street overlays that had been tabled from a previous meeting, with $800,000 tacked on by Councilmembers Strom Peterson for general maintenance and $1 million added by DJ Wilson to cover the city’s budget deficit. (Councilmembers Peterson, Wilson and Steve Bernheim voted for the measure, while Diane Buckshnis and Lora Petso opposed it.)
Problem was, Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Michael Plunkett were absent at last week’s meeting, and neither one of them thought too kindly of the vote taken last week without having a chance to provide their input. So this time, after some discussion, the vote for the ordinance that had been drawn up based on last week’s vote was 4-2 against, with Wilson and Peterson on the losing end. (Bernheim did not attend the meeting.)
Peterson made one more attempt to get a levy on the ballot, this time proposing that the council approve for the August ballot a levy for $2.2 million to cover the district’s annual payment to Fire District 1 for the fire service. If approved, such a measure would free up the city’s general fund money to be used for other purposes, Peterson said, such as offsetting debt. That measure, however, also went nowhere, also failing 4-2. Plunkett called the idea “a subsidy of the general fund tied to public safety to help it pass,” and reiterated his stance that he wouldn’t consider any levy tied to the general fund unless there were concessions made by labor unions.
Citizen activist Joan Bloom made a similiar point during the public testimony portion of the evening, stating that she wouldn’t vote for any levy “until (city) compensation and staffing levels are addressed.”
After the dust settled, Petso suggested that the councilmembers considering holding a workshop to develop a levy proposal, noting the current council meeting format was too structured to foster constructive given-and-take dialogue. A frustrated Wilson shot back that he really wasn’t interested in attending a workshop with a group of people he couldn’t trust. “I think some people are taking a position in opposition out of principal and I respect that and I think that some of my colleagues are telling me one thing and voting differently,” he said.
Also on Tuesday night, the council heard a report from Joe McIlawaine, executive director of the Edmonds Center for the Arts, who had good news and bad news for the council. The good news is, the ECA’s operating revenue has increased significantly in the past year. For comparison purposes, during the first four months in 2010, ECA revenue was $4,805 while during those same months in 2011, the amount was $151,797. Unfortunately, the capital side is another story, and the facility is still unable to make its bond payments due to lower-than-expected sales tax revenue, he said.
Because the ECA is operated through an inter-jurisdictional agreement between the Edmonds Public Facilities District and the City of Edmonds, the City is required to cover the bond obligations through a loan or similar means. McIlawaine noted that the ECA will need $83,185 from the city to meet its June 1 bond payment, and is likely to need additional funding at the end of 2011 for the December bond payment.