From Monday night’s ACE forum: What the City Council candidates asked each other

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As promised, here’s a follow-up story to Monday night’s forum featuring candidates for Edmonds City Council and Mayor. We are publishing the question that each candidate asked the other, and the candidates’ responses, but you can also view nearly all of the forum on video here. (We had to delete one section because the sound didn’t work, but were able to capture those questions and answers on audio tape and transcribed them so they could be included.)

City Council Position 7

Darlene Stern’s question to Lora Petso: Given your voting record against creating business development in Edmonds, how would you intend to create revenue to maintain the infrastructure and public safety and parks?

Petso’s response: I can’t recall that I have a voting record against businesses. I worked extensively during my the first term on council to improve a sign ordinance that was pretty much crafted with the Bowl in mind and would have made just about every other sign in the city completely illegal, including the sign we then had at Albertson’s. I’ve opposed the business square footage tax, I opposed some of the other taxes on businesses that we had in mind and I have consistently supported business growth in Edmonds. What I have not perhaps consistently supported is the construction of residential units. If that’s your definition of business growth, then that needs to be subjected to higher scrutiny. For example, the proposal presently at Westgate is targeted to bring enough people into that area to support a corner grocery store. That’s in the marketing analysis.

Petso’s question to Stern: Do you support our building height limits?

Stern’s response: Let me state clearly that I am not, never have been and never will be in favor of or support tall buildings. I come from Chicago, and I like it here. I like the small town atmosphere. I am not connected with, nor have I received campaign contributions from any person, company or group that has taken a position on this issue. If elected to serve on the Edmonds City Council, and the issue of codes or changes in building heights comes up during my tenure I would insist on a rigorous examination of any and all proposals and ensure full public knowledge of the proposals and full public input. Any changes would have to be changes that are acceptable to all, and not those driven by a small group.

Council Position 6

Al Rutledge’s question to Frank Yamamoto: There’ve been several proposals to raise the building heights. They’re talking 65 feet at Westgate, 60 feet in other areas. I’d like to know what his opinion is on raising building heights.

Yamamoto’s response: Obviously I’m in favor of building heights to the code, whatever that may be in the particular area. The Bowl obviously should have different heights than the Westgate area, depending on where you are. So if the code calls for a certain height limit, I am in favor of buildings at that height limit.

Yamamoto’s question to Rutledge: Since we are in the middle of the strategic plan, how do you think that will affect how the city might be run?

Rutledge’s response: I’ve been going (to Council meetings) since 1988, there’ve been six of these. The revenue still comes into the city. What they are doing is fine. The national trend is, the economy is slow but the city keeps bringing in revenue. And so by starting up a new plan to generate more funds, bring in more businesses is great because we are going to be hit here before too long of a down trend in revenue. I’ve been saying this for several years and I’ve been wrong all the time, but eventually it’s going to hit the city. And so by bringing in more people to bring more work, that’s what we’ve got to do – I’m 100 percent for it.

Council Position 4

Bob Wilcox question to Diane Buckshnis: In March of this year, you sent an email to Stephen Clifton, the City’s Economic Development Director, asking him to focus on a developmental agreement with Doug Spee so his post office/hotel project could move forward. What has changed to cause you to pull your support?

Buckshnis response: Actually, I don’t think I have pulled my support and Stephen Clifton and the rest of the Economic Development Commission are still looking at this thing. What happened is, we had a planner create it, and we sent it over to our attorney, and our attorney has some issues with this. So there’s been no pull of anything. All we’re basically doing is moving forward in a more diplomatic, slower process using attorneys because obviously it does affect all of the areas in the downtown BD zones. So I find that to be an incorrect assumption.

Buckshnis question to Wilcox: Prior to running for council, in addition to my community involvement, I was actively involved in our governmental process. I took public positions by giving testimony before council, I wrote letters to the editor, I was very vocal. As a councilmember, the positions I took and the actions I advocated are by far reflected in my record. Can you provide examples of public positions you’ve taken as an involved citizen prior to your campaigning that would substantiate your perspectives.

Wilcox’s response: No. What I’ve done over the last 35 years is volunteered in the community. I have not been involved in government. What I’ve done is coached Little League, my wife and I…were youth ministers, we’ve done where we thought we could do the most good at the time. I was involved very deeply in Ducks Unlimited, which is one of the largest conservation, wetlands preservation organizations in the world, 90 cents of very dollar goes back to work in the field. So no I haven’t been involved in government, this is my first run — other than ninth grade. I was going to run for vice president of the class…but I wasn’t allowed to run because I was flunking French.

Council Position 5

DJ Wilson question to Joan Bloom: What would you have done differently had you been on council in place of me in the last four years?

Bloom’s response: First of all, the issue related to the levies, you and I both oppose the levies but for very, very different reasons. I’m in opposition to it because I feel we need to look at expenses, you’ve consistently said that our expenses are as lean as they can get. So that’s probably the main reason that I ran against you, is because I disagreed with you strongly on how you were approaching the levy issue. I feel in these economic times, we shouldn’t be asking people for more money, we should be looking at how we can get the expenses down. It was a real struggle working with you around the City Attorney issue and I didn’t agree that there were as many reasons to keep him as to let him go.

Bloom’s question to Wilson: I’ve been endorsed by three seated councilmembers and you have been endorsed by no seated councilmembers. I wonder if you have an opinion as to why that is.

Wilson’s response: I didn’t ask them for their endorsement. Mike Cooper, I asked. Mike Cooper said yes. Washington Conservation Voters, Edmonds Police Officers, SEIU, Washington Realtors, Affordable Housing Council, Jay Inslee, Mike Hope, people I’ve asked have said yes. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of my endorsement list.

 

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. Answers that jump out at oneself:

    1. Yamamoto’s and Stern’s nebulous, evasive answer on raising building heights–very wishy washy! A sure sign they will be voting for those small incremental 3, 5, or 10 foot increases planned by Earling, who admires the Kirkland waterfront heights.

    2. Wilcox flatly admits no involvement, past or preent, in current local goverment issues, but then asked a sophisticated govermental issue question about a current post office/hotel project. Hmmmm. Who prepared his question for him, Earling again maybe?

    3. Wilson explains weakly that not a single Council member supports him by saying he didn’t ask them.

    Could telling the other members publicly that they are all “untrustworthy” one occasion publicly and on another occasion publcly defining them all as “jerks” have anything to do with their refusal to endorse him. In all fairness to David Earling I doubt he supports Wilson and his pathetic record.

    4. Clear, direct, and informed questions and answers from Petso, Buckshnis, and Bloom.

  2. Thanks for your opinions and speculation on how the candidates may vote in the future. Your views are always clearly stated. I would have expected you to have something here about DJ “stealing” property?

  3. Darrol,

    Yes, there is some “speculation” and “opinions” in my statement. Yet, you seem to have omitted the imbeded facts which are more than equally present.

    Sorry I didn’t meet your other expectations.

  4. Voters need to realize that votes for Bloom, Buckshnis, and Petso are votes for higher taxes.

    Bloom and Petso stated clearly that they opposed any height increase anywhere in our city. Buckshnis said that she hasn’t decided yet about what to do about development agreements, but at last week’s forum she said: “I am against taller buildings in the downtown and in the waterfront area.”

    I don’t believe there is any candidate who supports any height increase in the core downtown area. There are no 3 story buildings in that area, and that’s the way it should remain. I am not speaking for any candidate, but small increases should be allowed outside of that area in order to facilitate redevelopment. For example, studies have shown that Harbor Square will not be redeveloped without some height increase. It is simply not economically feasible to do it.

    Petso says that Edmonds has enough “view condos”. She thought that way back in 2002 when she voted against the Point Edwards development. Those 261 condos are paying $280,000 in property taxes to Edmonds, and total property taxes of $1.3 million that helps reduce the total property taxes paid by other property owners. Petso remains against the construction of condos as a form of economic development. And, by the way, the condo owners in our downtown area are paying total property taxes of $3.3 million in 2011. We need condo development at Harbor Square.

    Joan Bloom stated that her reason for challenging Wilson is because she wants to reduce the city’s expenses. Well that’s a worthy objective, but it has been shown that any reductions that could be achieved, without reducing city services, would be minimal. The 60-member Citizens’ Levy Committee of a couple of years ago (created by Council member Wilson) thoroughly examined all departmental expenses and determine that there were no measurable savings to be made; lack of revenue is the city’s problem. Last year’s levy committee headed by Council member Buckshnis came to the same conclusion.

    Additionally, Wilcox and Stern have a broad background of experiences as a result of having managed businesses. Their experience dealing with personnel issues would be an immense benefit to our city council today as it struggles thru the recent happenings at City Hall and the resulting numerous executive sessions.

    If citizens want a progressive well-managed city they should vote for Stern, Wilcox, and Wilson. If citizens want to pay higher taxes to retain current service levels, then they should vote for Bloom, Buckshnis, and Petso.

  5. MEN is doing a great job to keep people fully informed. It is difficult to make the best video and audio when covering a live event when the source sound systems are marginal at best. Attending in person was the best way to gain the most from the forum. With less than the best audio MEN is making the information available with articles like this one to provide the most information possible.

    ACE worked hard to have questions and a format that would add to the public discussion of the election and not just have the candidates trot out their campaign dialog. The questions and the answers generated some good thoughts and some more in-depth discussion of what the candidates would do if elected.

    To date 3 candidates have written to ACE with their comments about the session. The “John” and Mr. Reed openings are referring to John Reed the president of ACE who has works tirelessly to make this forum a success.

    A note from Diane Buckshis:

    Hi John,
    Great job last night! Sorry I had to leave early – personal dog emergency. He is okay today. But you had yummy looking donuts, a great crowd, and it was just fun.

    Have a great day,
    Diane

    A Note from Darlene Stern:

    Good evening Mr. Reed,

    It was a pleasure to meet you last night.

    The ACE/Edmonds Senior Center organizations presided over a great home style “meet the candidate opportunity” last evening. Holding it again at the Senior Center venue with a view of the ferry on the water certainly adds the charm that Edmonds is so well known for.

    The opportunity to speak right to the citizens and look them in the eye is one of the bedrock functions of our political process. It is wonderful that your organization takes the time to prepare and plan for the continuance of a tradition that I deeply appreciate. Last year at this time I was in Boston touring once again the history of our country and the development of the political process through its historic buildings and tours that are offered. Standing in Faneuil Hall where many an orator espoused his political views really defines the popular adjective “awesome”. Last year I can honestly say it never occurred to me that I’d be participating in an event on the other side of the United States that was modeled after the same ideals. I thank you and your organization for continuing the practice of sharing ideas and principles that can help people form sound political decisions.

    I also appreciated the thoughtful presentation in the room and the attention to details that made sitting on the platform more comfortable (skirting) and providing snacks and liquids for those that attended. The format you planned worked out so well for everyone. Audience and candidates all got to stretch a bit and I’m sure all appreciated that window to clear their heads between speakers.

    Please share my appreciation with those involved in the preparation,
    Darlene Stern
    Candidate for Edmond’s City Council
    http://www.DarleneStern.com

    A note from DJ Wilson:

    John—

    I thought I’d offer you some feedback about last night. I know you put a lot of time into it.

    – Having Cliff moderate was not something I would have been comfortable with. He’s actively been supporting Joan’s campaign. I think he tried with very good intentions, but…
    – When Joan was allowed to interrupt my answer to her question, which led to jeers from the audience, I would have expected any impartial moderator to control things. Instead, I believe he asked me also to answer the question, and then when I wanted to address the remainder of my time with a response about endorsers, he tried to cut me off. He didn’t try to control any other candidate’s response to any question. Just me.
    – When I allowed Joan to re-state her question, a job the moderator should have done, that apparently ate into my response time. I think that is ridiculous. The notion that, by my being polite, I am somehow penalized, really should have been the role of the moderator to handle.

    I know moderating is a tough job, and I believe Cliff endeavored to be as impartial as possible. That experience, however, of allowing my opponent to interrupt me, to allow jeers from the audience to go unaddressed, of interrupting and trying to limit my response, and then now allowing me the time I offered Joan to restate her question, all left a very sour taste in my mouth about the objectivity of your event last night.

    I just wanted to offer that feedback to you for your consideration ahead of next year. I know these are tough events to put together.

    Best,

    DJ

  6. Citizen Harry held a coffee earlier this week with Wilson and Bloom. In that setting there was frank and open discussion about the issues facing Edmonds. Both candidates shared in a good discussion with the people who attended. Hopefully, Harry will write a summary of the session. I found the discussion to be very helpful in gathering more information about the candidates to better make a decision when our ballots finally arrive.

    I do want to add a couple of comments to Ron W the bold named guy above. Some of the ideas floated by the Port for Harbor Square have been to have living units smaller size and costs that will attract younger, first time owners and RENTERS who can walk to the train and go to work. As the Port continues the public process already stated new and creative ideas can be considered for the HS development.

    Also to Ron W, I want to add that the current levy committee DID have concerns about the expense side of the budget. Those concerns were outlined in the report to council in Feb. Chief among the concerns were labor costs and benefits. With the economy limping along the levy committee expressed added concerns about the labor cost increases in the budget and forecast.

    As we look at how we can get more bang for the buck in providing basic city services we need to do a little out of the box thinking on how we do things today and what we might think about in the future. For example, we use consultants and other Professional services people to do work when we do not have that same skill on staff.

    In the 2011 budget we have 6 custodians budgeted with 1 position currently unfilled. The 2012 budget appears to reduce the custodians to 5. The savings of 1 custodian is estimated to be $60,000 including benefits. That would make the job about $45k plus $15k for benefits.Goggling to find salary surveys for custodians produced pay scales averaging $30,000. With a 30% benefit lift that would take the position to about $40k total, not the $60k as budgeted in Edmonds.

    At the coffee with DJ and Joan I discussed some of the data and then suggested that we may want to look into subcontracting custodial services rather than have them on staff. I did not take notes in sufficient detail to fairly report on what the candidates said but maybe Harry will comment in his position of moderator. Or maybe the candidates would care to state their thinking on the subcontracting idea.

  7. Regarding Ron Wambolt’s comment #5

    Another twist on the old height limits bogeyman. All of the candidates have made statements that lead us to believe that they do not support any changes to height limits. Either some of them are trying to deceive us, or the choice of candidates has no bearing on height limits. Which is it? If any candidate is willing to consider raising height limits when a developer requests it, they owe it us to be clear about that.

    You brought up Harbor Square. To the best of my knowledge, no developer has shown any interest whatsoever in developing this site. Like every candidate, I’m all for economic development, but this is just a dream with no indication of interest or funding.

    You claim that a vote for DJ is a vote for lower taxes. Really? DJ has said that the reason he doesn’t support the levies is that they are not big enough and not permanent enough. He has a long list of things he wants to see funded. There are legitimate reasons for liking DJ, but a desire for lower taxes is not one of them.

    Wasn’t it just a few months ago that you said we need to consider lowering expenses such as compensation before we consider raising taxes. Your position then was virtually identical to Ms. Bloom’s position now. But now you say there are no measurable savings to be had. Other than your endorsement of Mr. Wilson, what changed?

    The levy committee most certainly did say there were no measurable savings to be had. Yet the Mayor continues to find ways to save money. Inexplicably, Mr. Earling used his opportunity to question the Mayor by criticizing him for that. Did you help Mr. Earling come up with that strange question?

  8. Darrol:

    As you know, I attended virtually all of the recent levy committees meetings. My recollection was that the committee had concerns about compensation, but concluded that they had insufficient information to make any specific recommendations.

    I spoke at a committee meeting, and at several city council meetings, urging that benchmarking to other cities be made to determine if city employees should be required to take furloughs. Nobody picked up on that idea.

  9. Yet Ron W attended almost all of the levy committee meetings and made good comments for us to consider as we did our work. There were concerns not only with the level of compensation but also the labor contract additions to the budget in a time when others are without jobs or forgoing increases.

    I am not a pay expert but it seems to me that benchmarking pay to other cities may have a build in bias making the result either to low or too high. I worked for a very large company that did the benchmarking against the skills necessary to do the job not what others in the same industry were being paid. That way you were paying for a set of skills not just paying what other cities may be paying for the same job.

    For example I would guess that the custodian pay we use for Edmonds is in line with many other cities our size but are they in line with what the skills are being paid on the open market. Edmonds budget has a custodian at $65k with benefits or about $45k pay and $15k of benefits. The research I did for custodian pay is closer to $30k and with a 30% benefit lift it would be $40k total not the $60k we currently use.

    The information the city uses today places Edmonds about in the middle of the pack when compared to other cities but what if we did a Skills evaluation comparision with employers other than cities. It could will go up or down but I would think that comparison would be a better way to peg salaries to the market value.

  10. Darrol:

    Sorry if my comment was ambiguous. I was proposing benchmarking only the magnitude of furloughs that other government entities were required to take. I agree with your concerns about making compensation comparisons only with other cities. Hopefully the compensation consultant being retained by the city will help develop a more rational compensation policy.

  11. A comment was made above that a vote for Joan Bloom is a vote for higher taxes.

    Joan Bloom has consistently represented that 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.

    I strongly encourage voters to do their own in depth research related to all the candidates. Please don’t rely on others to tell you what a vote for certain candidates will result in. We have many excellent candidiates running who deserve our individual analysis.

    Voters have had fantastic opportunities to attend great forums and My Edmonds News has video’s, interviews and columns discussing the candidates. Most candidates have great websites and/or literature available.

    I salute all of our candidates for having the courage to run for elected office. One thing they all have exhibited is that they care deeply for this City. Please get to know them all so you can make a solid, educated vote, a vote based on your own research!

  12. Ken:

    You are absolutely right, voters need to make their own independent assessments. And yes, Joan has been consistent about opposing the 3 levies that would increase property taxes. My statement is driven by the fact that Bloom, Buckshnis, and Petso all oppose any level of increase in building heights. If there were 4 city council votes for that position, then there will be less economic development and ultimately higher property taxes than there would be had there been more economic development.

  13. Hi Ron,

    I understand your statement a little better now. With respect, I think it is too narrowly focused to represent that there will be less economic development and ultimately higher property taxes if our elected officials do not support an increase in building heights. I think economic development and the related tax revenue increases can be obtained in a wide variety of fashions. One I strongly support is sports tourism.

    The economic impact of the Port Angeles winter basketball tournament series is dramatic. Last year during Yakima’s Best of the West basketball tournament, I had to stay in Ellensburgh because I could not find one hotel room in Yakima . . . and Yakima has lots of hotels. Yakima was buzzing with energy that weekend . . . the money spent by out of towners had to be very significant, a huge win/win for private and public entities. These are annual events….held year after year, creating a steady revenue source.

    Another idea I like is “marrying” events. Edmonds does a great job of getting people from out of town to visit our City for an event, such as a concert at ECA. One way of getting those visitors to spend more money in town would be to have a coordinated event that appeals to the same group of visitors 4 hours or so apart. Provide these visitors a second activity that motivates them to stay in Edmonds and shop and eat between events.

    Sports tourism planners understand this concept well,especially those in larger metropolitan areas where most tourists are headed home for the evening. They know if they schedule your childs games back to back, there is a good chance the family will head home after the second game and not spend any additional money in the city hosting the tournament. So . . . to the best of their ability, they schedule your child’s two games 3-5 hours apart, so you shop and eat in town between the games.

    My opinion is that now is the time for the city to increase public support of a wider variety of business concepts and opportunities.

    Think of all the time and energy spent debating the Building Heights issue. Worse, look at how it divides our citizens, leading to negative energy and distrust.

    Sometimes I wish we could simply agree to table the Building Height conflict for a period of time and agree to work together to grow our City’s revenue base under our current laws and building regulations. Imagine the positive energy that could result. Hopefully, trust between citizens would grow and we might find we can actually accomplish great things without this one huge dispute pitting one group of citizens against another group. Again, idealistic . . .but a citizen can dream . . .

    So how about it Ron….you want to join me in supporting a Resolution establishing a 5 year Moratorium on changes in the building code related to building heights? I say this with a smile on my face…but in some ways it would be nice!

  14. Ken:

    I have supported maintaining the height limit in the core downtown area since I first got involved with this issue almost 10 years ago, and I still do – see #5 above.

    There is no single thing that is going to get the city the increase in revenue that’s needed.But I know this, there are certain redevelopment projects that will not get done in certain areas without a small height increase. And for that reason the city’s revenue will not be what it could be. Sports Tourism is certainly a worthy pursuit; that’s why the Economic Development Committee is actively working on it. I suggest you attend the next meeting of that group to learn what they’re doing.

  15. Ron W. (regarding #5 … #17):

    Thanks so much for clarifying the positions of Mr. Wilcox, Ms. Stern, and Mr. Wilson regarding their positions on height limits in downtown Edmonds and along the waterfront. As you are well aware, the downtown retail core (per the comprehensive plan) includes only the street front along Main & 5th, extending a couple blocks from the fountain. Voters that feel strongly about this issue should recognize this, as well as the semantic language candidates use to address their position on downtown building heights. And you’re helping to make clear that the candidates you support also distinguish the downtown retail core from other areas of downtown Edmonds and the waterfront, regarding height limits.

  16. Rich:

    I did not say exactly what you’re claiming that I said. You must have missed the following: “I am not speaking for any candidate, but small increases should be allowed outside of that area in order to facilitate redevelopment.”This last sentence is my position.

    The core downtown is the BD1 zone that encompasses 5th avenue from Bell St. to Maple St., and Main St. from 3rd to 6th.

  17. Ron W:

    I have no interest in dissecting the implications of your message that were clear per my description.

    With regards to Mr. Wilcox in particular, he specifically states “downtown retail core” in every statement he makes regarding heights. This is entirely consistent with your position. And I presume as such an outspoken supporter of the others that you are very much in tune to their positions despite their “campaign speak”. Unfortunately, Mr. Wilcox or Ms. Stern have no public record (council testimony, etc.) regarding issues involving building heights or preserving neighborhood character outside of their campaigns. As such, voters may choose to place more weight on the views and interests of their supporters than they might have otherwise.

    I wonder if the candidates that you support would have also agreed with your position against Mr. Underhill’s proposal to protect his single-family neighborhood from mixed-use commercial development a couple of years ago?

  18. Rich:

    I posted a response to your #20, but it disappeared.What I said is that I am not the spokesperson or the campaign mgr for anyone. You need to email or telephone them to determine what their position is on anything of interest to you.

  19. I see the big bad wolf is coming to edmonds ” Developers” . All this talk of increasing building heights is just political hot buttons. Saying no and never is just short sighted. There are areas that thru developmental agreements that a reasonable increase in heights could be very benefical to the city. Even appointed council person Buckshnis at CEDC meeting showed strong support for developmental agreements.I think all council canidates have expressed there opinions that there be no heights increases in the BD1 zone. The port has not proposed anything to the city so lets not use that as a scare tactic. The city should be looking at all areas as to whether or not it is willing to allow changes in zoning.If we are not prepared to make changes when developers are ready to move they will just go else where and we will be left out. The council should be working on approving development agreements as they are allowed by the state. Hopefully the strategic plan will resolve alot of these issues

  20. Buckshnis question to Wilcox: Prior to running for council, in addition to my community involvement, I was actively involved in our governmental process. I took public positions by giving testimony before council, I wrote letters to the editor, I was very vocal. As a councilmember, the positions I took and the actions I advocated are by far reflected in my record. Can you provide examples of public positions you’ve taken as an involved citizen prior to your campaigning that would substantiate your perspectives.

    Wilcox’s response: No. What I’ve done over the last 35 years is volunteered in the community. I have not been involved in government. What I’ve done is coached Little League, my wife and I…were youth ministers, we’ve done where we thought we could do the most good at the time. I was involved very deeply in Ducks Unlimited, which is one of the largest conservation, wetlands preservation organizations in the world, 90 cents of very dollar goes back to work in the field. So no I haven’t been involved in government, this is my first run — other than ninth grade. I was going to run for vice president of the class…but I wasn’t allowed to run because I was flunking French.

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