Here’s our highlight of the Edmonds City Council portion of Monday night’s candidates’ forum. We encourage you to visit the My Edmonds News video archive of the forum for all the questions and answers here.
Candidates for Edmonds City Council were divided Monday night on whether they would support the Proposition 1 property tax levy (supporting the general fund) that will appear along with two others on the Nov. 8 election ballot, but for different reasons.
Joan Bloom, running against incumbent DJ Wilson for Position 5, said she opposes all three levies that will be before voters, adding that the city “needs to prove to the citizens that it is as lean as it can be” before asking them for money.
“When the City Council was discussing levies I came forward and said that I felt that we have both a revenue and expenses problem,” Bloom said. I strongly encouraged City Council to address the expenses problem – look carefully at the expenses for all departments – before putting a levy to the voters. Because of that, I feel very strongly, I’m not supporting any of the levies. I don’t think it’s a good time for a levy, I think we’re hurting in our economy and we can’t afford it.”
Wilson said he has been “the most consistent member of our city council saying we need a public levy, we need to make a case to the voters.” But he is opposing the three current levy proposals, because he feels that none of them solves either the city’s short-term or long-term problems, and “it prioritizes building maintenance and street repair over public safety.”
“We ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said. “We ought to be able to make a case to voters that we are keeping expenses down, with the example of the Fire District 1 contract that saved us about a million bucks a year, at the same time arguing that we need more money to fund our basic services.
“If all three of those levies pass, we don’t buy back the two cops that we cut, we don’t re-fund community crime prevention, we don’t re-fund the DARE program, we don’t re-fund school resource officers – none of those come back. So I’m not supporting them. I’m actively opposing all three.”
Position 6 candidate Al Rutledge said he is supporting all three levies because “we have not really hit the bottom yet here on decreased revenue. I would think that…residents will probably pass it (the levies),” Rutledge said. “You have to make sure you have money to keep the city going.”
Rutledge’s opponent, Frank Yamamoto, said that “at this point in time I would have to support the general fund levy. I support idea of having the ability to sustain ourselves and to sustain the city and maintain our city services.”
Position 7 incumbent Lora Petso noted that she did not support putting the general fund levy on ballot because it was a temporary three-year levy. “I may have been able to support it if it had been permanent, Petso noted. “But the money from the general fund levy is intended as wages and benefits for our employees, and I was not comfortable with putting staff salaries on a temporary levy,” given the possibility those employees could be laid off if the levy wasn’t renewed in three years, she said.
Stern said she supports the general fund levy. Since coming to Edmonds with her late husband, Police Chief David Stern, “I’ve watched the finances be fine-tuned – I guess the popular word is scrubbed – down to the point where we are about at the bottom of our resources when it comes to the general fund,” she said. “And I’m concerned because over the next two and half, three years, we are going to be in a serious deficit. As far as I’m concerned we need a bridge to overcome the hard economic times.”
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, running for Position 4, said that given the cost overruns during the recently completed Haines Wharf project, it’s important to provide citizens a road map about where their money is going, “because we can’t just say, ‘trust me, we need a levy,’” she said.
“I have been in support of multiple levies since I chaired the 2010 levy committee,” Buckshnis added. “I believe citizens should be part of the budgetary process, they should let us know if in fact they want a levy, and if they don’t want a levy we will deal with the ramifications.”
Bob Wilcox, who is challenging Buckshnis for Position 4, said he opposes all three levies “because I don’t think it’s been proven to us where the money is being spent, where we need to cut. What are the services we are going to lose if we don’t pass the levy?”
“Are the revenues down to a point where we have to go for a levy? It’s a temporary fix and as far as I’m concerned the problems are much deeper than passing a levy.”