Letter to the editor: We still don’t know which streets will be repaired via Prop 2

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To the editor:

Two weeks ago, on Oct. 17, I attended the forum on the streets overlay levy. We were told that night by Mr. Haug, committee chair, that the list of  projects generated by the Public Works Department would be posted online by the City in response to the discussion that evening and published declarations that such a plan is available to the public. To date, this list remains unavailable to the public, it is not on the City website, and it has been seen by few outside of government.

In that same forum, despite the “Pro” literature that promises, “You Will Know What You Are Paying For,” it was revealed that there is, in fact, no list of prioritized projects, nor was any study done to determine if any potential project involved costly substructure repair or mere “overlay.” The so-called “list” was characterized by officials present as simply “examples,” with no role in determing which streets will — or will not — be addressed by the ordinance. Though Councilpersons Buckshnis and Peterson continued to refer to “the prioritized list,” as if they could spin this ruse into substance, they were repeatedly contradicted and corrected by Mr. Haug. There is no specific prioritized list of projects. The statements to the contrary can only be deliberate falsehoods, at this point.

The City is asking for a $1.5 million blank check for road work. There is no specific plan for these funds, and the continued false assertion that there is such a plan represents intentional misrepresentation by the Council and the City. So much for trustworthiness. Given the history of neglect of neighborhoods outside of The Bowl and Downtown by the Council, given the false promise that there is a prioritized, public plan, and given the effort to suppress the reality that Prop 2 is a blank check request, why should the citizenry trust the Council with such funding?

We in the “colonies,” those neighborhoods outside of central Edmonds that are taxed but receive proportionately less service and support, are fools to vote “Yes,” given this calculated ruse. More dollars to maintain neighborhoods not our own. Shame on the Council for perpetrating this fraud and denying access to public documents (those projected at the forum).

With so an egregious violation of trust, I have shifted from a “Yes” vote on Proposition 1 and 3 and a “No” vote on Proposition 2, to “No” on all three. This City Council, demonstrably lying to us about Proposition 2, cannot be trusted to govern or spend in an equitable and honest manner. Shame on the Edmonds City Council for continuing to lie to the voters.

Peter Hodges, Ed.D.
Edmonds

9 COMMENTS

  1. I hope this explanation helps… The levy expects to raise $1 million according to the voter information guide and the funds are to provide street overlays. This expenditure would be considered street maintenance NOT transportation improvements like sidewalks and improved intersections. When I worked on the Edmonds Transportation Committee we studied every intersection and walked many of the streets that need improved walkways, but this levy does not anticipate working on those projects. The focus on street overlays is not sexy or particularly gratifying to invest in. However, it must be done OR we pay more later. I agree we want to hold the city accountable for where funds are spent for projects. The Citizens Advisory Committee and the TBD board serve those functions. If anyone is interested in serving or contributing their feedback, it is always welcome in those places. I will be supporting this levy because I know how important regular maintenance is for my own stuff. I hope the City will eventually have funds for improvements.

  2. I had sent a similar info request to Mayor Cooper when this levy notion first appeared. I shared then, and do now, the same concern of Mr. Hodges and others…’where will these dollars be spent?” If this levy is a one-time effort and we’re told it is limited in scope, than some get overlayed, others will wait perhaps decades. I too believe there is a plan that could be as simple as starting from the worst streets and moving up the list. But I’ve not seen it and feel constrained to not approve a project with no direction a/o shared benefit around the entire City.

  3. @Jim
    My understanding is, there is a list of streets. I have seen one but not sureif it is up to date. I think that Mr. Williams would be the one to talk to.

    Also this will only shorten the cycle of when streets will be overlayed. Right now we are on a cycle of over 50 years. The important thing is to start fixing those streets that are breaking up. The longer we wait the more work will have to be done to the base under the asphalt and that will cost more and get us less done.

  4. The purpose of the targeted levies such as street repair is to ensure that the amount or whole amount of that tax will go to its intended purpose and not politically diverted to another purpose in a manner that occured on several occasions in the past ten years. Its purpose is NOT to micromanage street repair and have another political tug of war over every overlay project, between the loudest talking neighborhood representatives or committees.

    The well paid employess of Edmonds have a well established rotation of priorities developed over many years which I have never noticed any serious criticism of in over 40 years. So, for heaven’s sake, let’s let Mr. Williams and staff do their job, without undue interfering “advisory” committee announcements and other assorted control freak stuff.

    Our efforts should be limited to encouraging folks to vote for this needed levy!

  5. I think Mr. Hodges has a legitimate complaint. It is obvious if you drive around Edmonds that there is a dramatic difference between the quality of streets in the bowl and the quality of streets elsewhere in the City. In a letter published elsewhere, Mr. Hodges says:

    When I expressed this point of view to ex-Mayor Haakenson about 18 months ago, his reply was that we in the north get what our taxes pay for.

    The higher property values in the bowl result in much higher taxation there. Some people would therefore say that the discrepancy is fair. Others like Mr. Hodges believe the maintenance money should be distributed by fixing the worst streets first. Clearly that has not been the policy in the past.

    Mr. Hodges is advocating a change in policy. That’s a legitimate reason to say no to a new tax.

  6. I believe that if you email the directors, Public works Phil Williams and Parks & Rec. Director Carrie Hite you will get a response. I have found both of them very responsive. the addresses: phil.williams@ci.edmonds.wa.us
    carrie.hite@ci.edmonds.wa.us
    Regarding the north projects: half of the cost of the Haines Wharf project went into sidewalks, a needed and appreciated improvement to the area. I notice Meadowdale Playfields is on the to do list. I suppose nothing is quite fair enough for some, but the streets need overlays no matter where you live.

  7. Wow, Lots of stuff here to comment upon. My remarks will be to correct some factual errors and detail the process of how levies get to the ballot. I will number points to make it easier for others to comment about specific items.

    1. I first met Dr. Hodges at the Oct 17 Levy Forum sponsored and paid for by My Edmonds News as a public service. Dr. Hodges letter was published on Oct 23, 6 days after the Forum not the stated 2 weeks. You can see Dr. Hodges first letter to MEN at the bottom of the page marked “a letter from a citizen” at the link below. Other items that will be referred to will also be at that link.

    http://myedmondsnews.com/2011/10/oct-17-levy-forum-now-available-for-viewing/
    While Dr. Hodges credits me as being chairman that is not the case. For levy issues I served on the 2010 Citizens Levy committee. I was just one of several members. I also was asked by Council President Strom Peterson to serve on the “Pro Committee” for Prop 2. I was one of 3 members and not the chair. The chair of that team asked me to be the presenter at the MEN forum because he was out of town.

    Reference was made to $1.5m for Streets in the letter and a clarification is needed. $1.5m per year is the estimate of money needed to keep Edmonds roads on the ideal maintenance cycle of 15-18 years for Arterials and 32-35 years for Local streets. The original presentation given to Council on Feb 22 recommended a $1.5m levy for roads. Between Feb 22 and August 2, the Mayor proposed a 4 year Catch all levy starting at $2.25m in 2012 and growing to $2.431m in 2015. In that levy it was noted that a “spending plan” for streets would be $704,000, less than half of the required amount to just stay even. You can see a full discussion in the council minutes for April 5. Council discussed several alternatives until it passed the 3 props August 2. Prop 2 “Roads” was slated as a 3 year $1m each year to do only road repaving. You can see on the link above the presentation that shows some estimates of how many miles of overlay work we may be able to do with the $1m per year. The $1m IF split between Arterials and Local streets would do 1.26 miles and 2.37 miles respectively. That would put our 145 miles of roads on a 21 year cycle for Arterials and 50 year cycle for local streets. Other details can be found at the link above.

    2. How does the levy process work? In a nutshell here is what happened in Edmonds. Aug 4, Council voted 6 to 1, DJ Wilson opposed, for Prop 2. Council President Peterson put out a call that night for anyone interested to service on the Pro and Con teams for each levy. Strom asked me and two others to serve on the Pro Roads team and we met on Aug 22. Our dead line was to have a Pro statement to the County Elections office by August 30. Not a lot of time gather the facts, craft some words and get it off to the County. On Aug 30 we were given the Con Teams statement and had to craft a rebuttal by September 2. We did not have access to all the final levy wording and financial analysis that finally was published in the voters’ pamphlet. City staff was available to answer our questions and it was at one of the meetings with staff that we asked for what is now called the “top 10 list” You can see that the MEN link above and you clearly see that the list says: “The roads listed should not be construed as a potential paving list nor should it be consider as all inclusive. The intent of this list is to document the city’s road conditions and to demonstrate the need for paving dollars to maintain our street infrastructure.”

    In my presentation a week ago, I tried to make that point very clear and as council members used different words to describe the same list it seems to create confusion. I tried to clarify the list and made the point above several times. You can also find at the link above the city map showing all the streets in Edmonds that are rated as poor to severe. This map is updated every two years and with no work on streets since 2008, the number of streets rated poor to severe keeps growing.

    3. It is hoped that later today or tomorrow at the latest the city web site will contain a number of links to factual data that will help the citizens understand the prop 2 levy. You should see links to the roads map discussed above. You should see a Q and A doc that outlines the proposed process to select the street that will actually be paved. You will see how staff proposes to balance the “bowl vs the colonies” issues. And you will see examples of streets that are in need of work. Remember that if the levy is approved, council will be approving the actual process and they will also have to approve the individual contracts that will be let to a contractor to do the work. So there is a very public process that will take place before any paving occurs.

    4. You can see some detailed information posted on MEN by the Public works director, Phil Williams at the link below:

    http://myedmondsnews.com/2011/10/city-of-edmonds-public-works-director-responds-to-letter-on-street-overlay-levy/#comments

    I will have some other comments about the comments above in later posts but suggest we move the discussion on roads to the link immediately above.

  8. Some comments on the comments above:

    1.Ron B. Your street is not on the poor to severe map. The dollars go to blacktop only. See Phil Williams comments else where on MEN.

    2.Neil: You are very correct. It will cost more later if we wait. In the Seattle Times today the Seattle wish list cost is $1m-3m per mile. The Edmonds cost by doing the repairs now is $400,000 for arterials and $212,000 per mile at the current rate of $15/sq yard. Yes I would hope more people volunteer to help just as you have done.

    3. Jim: see Phil Williams comments on MEN for more information. Did the mayor ever respond?

    4. Paul: One correction, because we have not spend any money on roads since 2008 the current cycle is infinity. The proposed cycle is in my comments 8 above.

    5. Ray Good points as usual. Your long term prospective is helpful.

    6. Joe: Thanks for your views. Phil Williams will be proposing to council a balanced approach to the bowl vs the colonies. If council approves we should correct any issues that may have occurred in the past.

    7. Barbara: Thanks for your comments about Phil and Carrie. They both are always helpful and responsive.

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