By Harry Gatjens
Chanterelle Restaurant hosted the last of the “Coffee with Harry, candidates edition,” last Friday at 10 a.m. and we once again had a standing-room-only crowd.
As with the last session, the first question asked was if the candidates would support using money from the Proposition 1 levy to pay for funding long-term obligations that have been neglected by previous councils in efforts to balance the budget. Rather than make dramatic cuts in day-to-day services, for the past several years the council has reduced funding for replenishment of long term projects, essentially leaving the balancing issues to future councils. Jim Tarte, Interim Finance Director, explained at the recent council meeting that the unfunded long term needs in the current levy total $788,000. So the candidates were asked that should the $1 million general fund pass, would they commit to funding these items before any new projects or expenditures.
Diane Buckshnis spent some time explaining all that had been going on efforts to get more accurate financial statements and then said that she would use the money for streets, as she agreed that is the long-term issue before spending money on new projects or government expansion. Bob Wilcox said that he would absolutely dedicate the money to funding these long-term projects before any new parks, services or personnel were undertaken.
A question came up as to whether it made sense to sell naming rights for city assets. This was prompted by the recent news that the Hazel Miller Foundation was willing to give $80,000 for the Old Milltown Park on condition that Hazel Miller’s name somehow be incorporated into the name of the park. Buckshnis said that public-private partnerships is one way to help the city move forward when funds are tight. She could see corporate sponsorship on development of new facilities but felt that for parks and the like, restrictions should be in place to restrict naming to residents who support the park as opposed to just use as a corporate advertising tool. Wilcox felt the same way. He saw naming more as a way to help preserve history of the community rather than being used as a way to generate funds.
Asked how his experience in the construction industry would benefit the city if he was elected, Wilcox pointed out that working as a manager of the firm gave him skills in analyzing financial results, managing personnel and making presentations. His construction experience would also help him in analyzing construction projects the city undertakes. Not that he would be involved in day-to-day operations but rather he would be available as a resource if problems came up.
Another question was their position on micromanaging of city staff. Buckshnis said that in the past, the council was stonewalled by the previous mayor and they had no choice but to micromanage because the trust level was so low.
The candidates were both asked what they could do to improve the relationship between the council and the mayor and within the council itself. Wilcox started by comparing the relationship to that of the President and Congress. He said that council needed to work with the mayor before council meetings so that the meetings don’t become grandstanding opportunities. Buckshnis stated that she felt that her relationship has improved with the mayor and his staff. She said she was embarrassed that much of the recent issues have been a matter of ethics and she wants to push forward an ethics committee to remove that stigma. The drama going on has overshadowed the fact that a number of projects have been accomplished, she said, specifically mentioning the Frances Anderson rooftop solar project and the Edmonds Marsh.
Buckshnis was asked about the contrast between the concept of transparency and the censure of Councilmember DJ Wilson, which was done in council executive session rather than in view of the public. Buckshnis said that this was another of these ethics issues. She said she was bound by the restrictions of executive session, which limited her ability to talk much about it. She implied that there was more than what was disclosed during the meeting. While the discussion got quite heated, perhaps beyond Coffee with Harry protocol rules, it did bring up the issue of the merits of executive session. The general feeling is that not the details, but the issues discussed at executive session should be revealed to the pubic.
We changed subjects and moved on to a question of what can each of the two candidates do to spur development in the downtown and Waterfront Antique Mall areas. Buckshnis pointed out that the development of Old Milltown Park will spur development in that area. The more development you get, the more it grows upon itself. She stated that she was not in favor of taller buildings down by the waterfront. She said she would like to see the waterfront developed like the San Francisco waterfront.
Wilcox said there may need to be slight exceptions for certain developments. Not to the point of blocking views but perhaps a few feet to spur development on an exception basis. He did point out that one of the problems is that individuals own the property and if they don’t want to develop the property you can’t really force them to do so. He did say he wasn’t in favor of taller buildings, and he felt he was being incorrectly portrayed as being a proponent of them.
The candidates were asked why they wanted to be on the council. Wilcox went first and said that he was disappointed in how the city government has been running lately. He thought things were dysfunctional and he felt his experience could help solve those issues. He said he has been having a lot of fun running an has learned a lot about what is important to the community through his campaigning.
Buckshnis said she felt that she has been doing a good job in cleaning up the City’s accounting issues, she has worked on developing the Edmonds marsh, she has worked with the Economic Development Commission and has pushed hard for transparency in all issues. She said she is working on behalf of the citizens of Edmonds and trying to make things go better for them.
Once again we need to thank Brooke Baker and her crew for providing coffee and a location for these coffees. Diana was again our server and took great care of us. Thanks also to the citizens who came to Coffee and especially to the candidates who took the time to meet up with normal citizens.
Edmonds resident “Citizen Harry” Gatjens provides regular reports to My Edmonds News on the workings of the Edmonds city government.