Letter to the editor: A commitment to transparency — period

437
12

Editor:

On October 18, 2011, the Edmonds City Council decided to take no action to move forward with an investigation of the Haines Wharf cost overruns. On November 1, 2011, the Edmonds City Council declined to grant DJ Wilson’s request for a public hearing to air the circumstances that led to his censuring minutes later.

I believe that the citizens of Edmonds were shortchanged in both decisions. Whether or not an investigation of the Haines Wharf cost overruns would lead to ultimate legal action against former officials, and whether or not Council Member Wilson’s actions regarding the subsequently withdrawn settlement with a City employee would be deemed profoundly inappropriate, Edmonds citizens have a right to know the thinking that went into these Council decisions. Once again, I believe that responsible governing starts with TRANSPARENCY and, within legal limits, our City government should be moving toward an Open Government process.

In the interest of transparency, I would have supported an investigation into the Haines Wharf cost overruns, and I would have supported a public hearing as requested by DJ Wilson prior to a decision on censuring. I am for transparency in government — period.

Joan Bloom
Edmonds

12 COMMENTS

  1. Ms. Bloom,

    You are correct on both counts. Everyone has a right to be heard and the citizens have a right to know the details of the Haines Wharf project. One can only try to sweep so much under the carpet before it all comes out and the mess is that much harder to clean up.

    We hear some on Council always talk about building “transparency” in city government. It appears we have selective transparency happening.

  2. Joan,
    Did I miss something while watching the DJ debacle? Was he not given several times the opportunity to refute the itemized items? What I heard is that he did not want to do “the council homework” (?) what ever that meant. he could have settled everything if the charges were erroneous by just explaining his side… he chose not to and my belief is he chose not to because the charges were correct.
    You are a great lady to be so focused and poised and fair which is why I voted for you and encourage everyone to vote for you as well. I think these “executive sessions” should be abolished. It should all be out for everyone to hear the facts. DJ for whatever reasons and I believe driven by his ego was about to give tax payers money to one of his friends to settle an employment dispute. In any business if this would occur he would be fired so fast i’d make everyone ‘s head spin. Even RW could not dispute this fact. This kind of behavior is just and should not be tolerated.

  3. A city council member is not able to spend any of the city’s money. In the Kimberly Cole issue, any expenditure would have had to be authorized by the mayor – and it turned out that he also didn’t have the required authority. There never is any danger of any of the city’s money going to anyone on the say so of Mr. Wilson.

  4. I just found an earlier version of the Capital Improvement Project Description related to Haines Wharf Park. The estimated Project Cost for the entire park was $140,000.

    Yes – $140,000.

    We all know that the City would eventually have individual change orders exceeding $140,000 related to this park project.

    PROJECT BENEFIT/ RATIONALE: Provides need for a north Edmonds neighborhood park in the Meadowdale area. Connects with the existing public owned tidelands west of the site adjacent to Haines Wharf and along the BSNF Railroad tracks

    Even after spending many multiples of $140,000 on this park, and with another $951,000 plus claim pending, this project does not connect with existing public owned tidelands west of the site adjacent to Haines Wharf and along the BSNF Railroad tracks.

    Per my research, most of the tidelands near Haines Wharf are privately owned.

    The Council may have originally supported this park under the impression that the park would connect with the existing PUBLIC owned tidelands west of the site adjacent to Haines Wharf and along the BNSF railroad tracks. I see no evidence of public owned tidelands….other than the skinny piece that Snohomish County’s Property Tax records indicate changed hands on February 22, 2006….the City’s .44 acres Tideland’s Parcel 00513900101200. This piece of tidelands is not directly west of the park….it is south of the large, newer boat storage building.

    Furthermore, its been represented that a fence was put in place just prior to the time they broke ground and began developing the park. That fence is still there to this day, so the public has never been allowed access to even the skinny piece of public tideland property since the day they started constructing the park.

    Much more information is attached to the June 20, 2006 City Council Agenda.

  5. You are very welcome Mr. Murdock. I have much more information I have compiled and am working on. As I grew up near Haines Wharf and attended school with a member of the Haines family, I have been very interested in the situation since Public Works Director Phil Williams presented it to the Council on August 23, 2011. I’d be happy to discuss my research with anyone that is interested.

    I’ve noticed former City Councilmember Dave Orvis has posted on My Edmonds News recently so hopefully he will see this post.

    Mr. Orvis, I ask the following in a respectful tone – As the Councilmember who apparently recommended this project and urged the Council to put the 75/76th Parkway project into fund 125 of the capital improvement plan, making it eligible for REET 2 funds, can you please provide the citizens of Edmonds with more details related to the genesis of this park/walkway project? Does a petition exist signed by citizens in support of spending significant taxpayer resources to construct this walkway and park? If not, how did this project become such a high priority?

    I know that a petition signed by 55 citizens, including Senator Paul Shinn, was presented the evening of June 6, 2006 in support of a different walkway project in the same vicinity – 164th. Did the 75/76th Pathway project enjoy similar citizen support?

    One of the reasons I ask about citizen support is also found in the June 6, 2006 City Council Meeting minutes. A citizen made comments that included the following that evening:

    In regard to references about access via 75th Street (to Meadowdale COUNTY Park), he displayed a photograph taken at the north end of 75th Street illustrating signs stating no public access and access for disabled only. He displayed a photograph of the intersection of North Meadowdale Beach Road and 75th (at the south end) and the no park access signs and lack of on-street parking. He pointed out if a sidewalk were constructed and Snohomish County agreed to allow access, it would only be for adjacent residents due to the lack of parking. He questioned the reference to safety hazards, pointing out 1/3 of the proposed project was a dead-end street accessed only by residents.

    Mr. Orvis, was park access even allowed off of 75th at that time unless you were disabled?

    As this project has turned into such a controversial expensive story, can you provide citizens with more information that will help us to understand why the City decided to prioritize spending taxpayer money to build a park and walkway on land that was known to be located in an earth subsidence landslide hazard area?

    These questions are relevant and timely as the REET memorandum attached to the June 6, 2006 City Council Agenda debates using the REET money for sidewalks/pathways versus using them for street overlays. For example, the REET memorandum discusses an option of dedicating $500,000 per year to street overlays, which would allow Edmonds to reduce the current 75 year +/- cycle to about a 30 year cycle.

    I naturally wonder what our street overlay situation would be now if we had prioritized street overlays over Haines Wharf park and the related walkway.

    With a street overlay levy on the ballot, I’d like to understand all of this better before I vote.

    Thanks for any insight you can offer Mr. Orvis. I acknowledge you have no responsibility to respond in any fashion to this post as you are no longer an elected official. I truly am just trying to understand this whole issue better.

  6. Ken, the quickest way to learn about the overlay project is to look up two things. 1. The City web site on the front page has a link to information about Prop 2. 2. Go to the MEN link for the Levy Forum held on Oct 17 and you will find a number of things including the video. On the MEN article for the levy forum you will find a presentation that I put together to outline some of the facts surrounding the street overlay levy. An of course if you have specific questions you can email them to me and I will try to answer them the best I can. The bottom line to me is that street overlays are one of those things that fall in to the “woulda, coulda, shouda” bucket. Street overlays was not priortized by council to do and funds were spent elsewhere and we have been left without overlay money since 2008. Given that Prop 2 gives the voters a chance to restore 2/3rds of the needed funding for the next 3 years and will go along way to make sure we do the most critical streets early so further damage does not occur. Please consider voting yes to get this going.

  7. Thanks Darrol – I have reviewed the excellent information you refer to and will review it further. I am not questioning at all that we need to reprioritize street overlays. At this moment, I fully understand the need for Prop 2 and am strongly considering voting for it.

    However, I also feel a responsibility to research how we got to this point and factor that into my considerations. I like to learn from the past and take steps to prevent situations like Haines Wharf Park/walkway from happening again.

    I think most citizens were under the impression that the purpose of October 18th’s Haines Wharf City Council Agenda item was for the Mayor and representative from the City Council to recommend a process to select an outside and independent investigator who will evaluate and report back to the City Council whether any civil or criminal laws or city policies were broken.

    As the City Council decided to not even commence an independent investigation into the matter, I simply must consider this when I decide how to vote on the levy matter.

    Sorry Darrol, I factor what happened in the past into my decisions. I fear ignoring the past enables similar future conduct. I’m not saying I am right, just being honest related to how I make my decisions.

  8. Ken, I appreciate your view point, you are always very through in you analysis. And I mean not disrespect with the following comments but here is how I think about street overlays and anything else for that matter which the voters can take charge. I council or the administration is not prioritizing expenditures the way I like I have a few options. 1. Ask them to change the priority. 2. If they will not do that, then I can vote them out of office, or 3. Find another way to get the money to do something that will be good for the city.

    In this case 1 did not work and 2 does not insure the next council member elected will do any better. So that leaves me with option 3, find other money. Working on the levy committee, we crafted the concept of targeted, limited time levies to “let the people decide” At least 6 out of 7 members voted for Prop 2, streets, 1m, 3 years. DJ not only voted no, he wrote the no statement for the voters pamphlet and made up misleading statements to support his position. He is using a technique we use to call the FUD factor. “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” to confuse the vorters. So if I am angry at the administration or the council a no vote will not harm them, it just won’t get our streets fixed. To me the biggest thing we can do it to vote yes on some of our priorities. Then as we move forward with the Strategic Planning process, we can all say what we feel are our priorities and build support during that process.

    So Ken as you make your voting decision factor in a little for the fact that voting yes for streets will help the city and voting no will not fix the streets. Voting no may make one feel good but voting yes will do something. We stiil need to have that coffee we have vbeen planning to do!!!

  9. Excellent points Darrol and I hear you clearly. We do need to address our street issues . . .without a doubt.

    To everyone – do what you can to attend Harry’s Coffee tonight at Chanterelle’s at 7:00 pm and/or tomorrow at 10:00 am. These are typically great events.

    Darrol…hope to see you tonight or tomorrow. Let’s meet for coffee after the election.

  10. Related to post 8 above:

    Ogden Murphy Wallace’s detailed billing for March of 2011, includes the following coded under Matter No.: 0006.170095 – 76th/75th Walkway & 162nd Park Project(Haines Wharf):

    3/28/11 – GJB (Geoff Bridgman) – .30 hours: Telephone Conference with potential expert G. Gottgetrue .2; receive G. Gottgetrue CV and forward to client .1

    It is possible that G. Gottgetrue works for Herrig & Vogt, Attorneys at law with an office in Redmond, WA. Herrig & Vogt’s website indicates that the firm has provided work for the City of Edmonds in the past:

    EXPERT WITNESS/CONSULTANT EXPERIENCE

    City of Edmonds, Washington Analysis and defense of contractor’s claims for extra costs and delays incurred building a new city hall, police facility, and fire station complex.

    I believe “CV” refers to a Curriculum Vitae, which resembles a resume, but is much more detailed with an emphasis on academic achievements.

    Can a City representative explain why Ogden Murphy Wallace was involved in seeking this “CV” related to Haines Wharf in March of 2011?

    Was the City Council aware of this and what it related to?

LEAVE A REPLY