Edmonds City Council approves three levies for November election ballot
Updated with details
The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night approved three separate levy propositions for the Nov. 8 general election ballot: $1 million for city services, $1 million for street pavement overlays and $500,000 to fund building maintenance and park improvements.
All three levies would cover the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 and would expire after three years, although there was an effort to amend the city services levy to make it permanent. That amendment failed 3-4 after a lengthy debate, including impassioned remarks by Councilmember DJ Wilson warning that a temporary levy would do nothing to alleviate the city’s dire financial circumstances. In fact, Wilson said, under the current three-year city services proposal “we will have to lay off 8 percent of staff and cut 8 percent of city services.”
The amendment, which was introduced by Council President Strom Peterson, was also supported by Councilmember Lora Petso, who said she did not want to put staff positions at risk with the short-term levy measure. Peterson also said he worried about the likelihood of getting another levy passed in three years if the economy has not yet recovered. “I think that’s a big gamble that’s tough to swallow,” he said.
Of the councilmembers voting against the amendment, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Steve Bernheim said they did not believe in asking taxpayers for a long-term commitment during tough economic times. Addressing Peterson’s point, Fraley-Monillas countered, “I believe it’s a bigger gamble to ask for a permanent increase in our taxes when people are losing their home and losing their jobs and unable to afford their medical insurance.”
After the amendment failed, the council approved the original city services levy proposal by a vote of 4-3, with Wilson, Petso and Councilmember Michael Plunkett voting no. (Plunkett stayed true to his stance of not supporting any increase in the city’s general fund, opposing both the amendment and the levy proposition itself. )
On the other two levy votes — for street overlays and buildings/parks maintenance — Wilson was the sole “no” vote. His argument: Without permanent funding for the city services levy, resulting staff cuts will make it difficult to adequately implement the projects covered in the street pavement and building and parks maintenance measures.
The next step for the council is to form committees of citizens and councilmembers to write “pro” and “con” statements for each levy proposal that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. Anyone interested in serving on one of these committees should email Council President Peterson at email@example.com.
In other business, the council heard an update from Sound Transit officials regarding the North Corridor transit project planned for Northgate to Lynnwood. Light rail construction is already occurring from Capitol Hill to the University of Washington (opening in 2016) and the next project will be from UW to Northgate (opening in 2021). Sound Transit last October began a public involvement process, including public meetings, to receive public input on both bus and light rail options for the Northgate-to-Lynnwood route, and two light rail alternatives rose to the top, said Sound Transit’s Matt Sheldon. One option runs entirely along I-5 from Northgate to Lynnwood, while the other follows Aurora Avenue/Highway 99 from 11oth Street in North Seattle to the King/Snohomish County line, at which point it heads east to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center and runs along I-5 to Lynnwood.
The I-5 corridor option is cheaper, faster and likely to carry more riders than the Highway 99 option, which edged I-5 in only one category: its potential positive impact on economic development for businesses along the rail line. However, Wilson noted that the Highway 99 route is likely to be preferred by Edmonds residents as it is more convenient for local commuters.
The next step is to share the results with the community in September, then decide by November which option or options to move forward to the Environmental Impact Statement phase.
You can see the Sound Transit report that was presented at the Council meeting here.
During the question-and-answer session with councilmembers following the presentation, the question was raised about complaints from citizens about the shortage of parking at Sound Transit’s newly opened Edmonds Sounder commuter rail station. Sound Transit’s Patrice Harding said that the agency is doing what it can to open up more parking spaces at the station and is also pursuing the possibility of securing additional parking off site.
In addition, the council listened to a presentation by Edmonds residents Carol Schillios and Stacy Gardea about an idea to create two new city commissions, one addressing diversity issues and one addressing youth.
Schillios, who runs the Fabric of Life store that supports the work of craftspeople in developing nations, talked about the 2010 Census figures, which indicate that Edmonds is becoming more racially diverse. Forming a diversity commission would encourage “a conversation about diversity,” she said.
Gardea added that as a Hispanic woman, she would like to “open the doors for you as the council…to explore what is out there” both in terms of diversity and youth involvement in city government and activities. In addition, Gardea’s daughter Rey, who will be a junior at Edmonds-Woodway High School this fall, spoke to the council about the value of a youth commission. Standing at the podium with Rey was her friend and classmate Taylor Miner.
“We see Edmonds as a diverse community emcompassing multiple age groups, races and lifestyles,” Rey Gardea said. “We see huge poential in the city, both economically and socially, and as the future citizens of Edmonds, we do not want the youth to be feared in Edmonds. We are your future, and we have a huge economic presence in the city that we feel often goes unrecognized.
“We are hoping that this commission opens the doors between the seniors and the youth,” she added. “We envision events that will unite us socially. Beyond that, political education would e a major goal, as we will be voting in less than three year and more educated youth will make for a more successful future.”
Councilmember Wilson, who had introduced the presentation, proposed a resolution offering council support for the concept of exploring creation of the two commissions. The idea was referred to the community services committee for discussion.