Share your thoughts on future of Citizens Economic Development Commission

By the Communications Subcommittee of the Citizens Economic Development Commission:
M. Zagorski, D. Haug, B. O’Rourke, R. Senderoff

Two and a half years ago, the City Council created the Citizens Economic Development Commission (CEDC) with a sunset date of Dec. 31, 2010. Having found the work of the CEDC useful but unfinished, the council extended its life for another year. At the end of 2011, finding itself with inadequate time to consider whether to end or continue the commission, the council voted to extend its life for another 90 days. Now the council will again consider whether to extend the operations of this volunteer citizen group — for one more year or several years — or whether to let it expire.

As we review the CEDC’s accomplishments, we note that we worked with the city to assure a high level of citizen involvement in planning for the future of Five Corners and Westgate. We recommended, and the City Council approved, development of a citywide strategic plan and participated in the selection of the firm that is providing professional planning assistance. We worked with the city to develop and expand the sale of the city’s excess fiber optic capacity at a price that benefits both local business and the city’s coffers. Finally, we are working on several fronts to identify opportunities to increase tourism, and much remains to be done in this area. We think these are significant accomplishments for a volunteer citizens group that operates at no cost to the city other than providing a room for monthly meetings.

If the CEDC’s life is extended, we see the work for the coming year(s) might include keeping the citizenry informed about the progress of the strategic planning process and opportunities for giving input, participating along with the council and the Edmonds Planning Board in oversight of the process, working on challenges to increase tourism to our fair city in many areas, continuing to work on sales of the city’s excess fiber optic capacity, and more. Certainly the tremendous need to improve the city’s economic well-being continues to be of paramount importance.

We are interested in knowing what the Edmonds public thinks about the future of this commission. Should it sunset or continue and why? Are there other possibilities for raising city revenues that the commission should explore in the coming year? Should there be changes made to the way commissioners are selected or operate? What do you think? Please let us know. Stephen Clifton, the city’s director for economic development, has offered to receive your input by phone or email if you wish to give it directly. He can be reached at Clifton@ci.edmonds.wa.us.

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3 Comments

  1. If the commissions work is done then discontinue, if not, full steam ahead. I believe their is a never ending challenge to assist the city in the continuance and promotion of tourism, the continuing goals of economic growth while maintaining our small town feel and keeping the public informed of what we are planning to do before it actually happens.
    A couple of things that pop out at me as real benefits are the fact that our downtown over the last 10 years has really morphed into a pleasant week end destination spot. The exciting things proposed at harbor square could be a further attraction to draw tourists to our town.
    Something that appears to be overlooked is the fact that we now have what I consider the best or second best dive park on the West coast. Divers are fanatics when it comes to their passion. Divers as a group spend lots of money in the areas they visit. It’s an area that we can promote that will pay dividends.
    I think it was in 1929 when a member of congress suggested that we shut down the U.S. patent office because all the great inventions had already been invented. Seems to me that the Economic Development Commission is a vital component of our city. Of course we should go forward.
    Dave Page

  2. Excellent comments, Mr. Page. I hope that your concern that caused you to state the patent office analogy only applies to Council Member Plunkett, and perhaps Council Member Buckshnis, who generally supports Mr. Plunkett’s efforts to decimate the Economic Development Council. Mr. Plunkett commented at the Jan. 23rd council meeting that he actually wants to do away with the ECD.

    The root cause for Plunkett’s and Buckshnis’ ECD concerns is their dislike for a proposal from that citizen’s group to invoice citizens a non-transport charge when they call 911 for EMS, and after an onsite examination EMS personnel conclude that no transport to a hospital is required. The charge obviously will be a lesser amount than for transport. There are other communities that have implemented this charge that is generally paid for by insurance companies. Charges for citizens who do not have insurance will be written off.

    This non-transport charge has been deemed by the two council members to not be economic development. What is economic development? My view is that economic development is any action/activity, other than increasing taxes, that grows the city’s revenue. To suit their purposes, Mr. Plunkett and Ms. Buckshnis have defined the non-transport charge to be a tax. How ridiculous; they haven’t defined the transport fee to be a tax! I think that they should let us all know the names of their health insurance companies. Wouldn’t we all like to have health insurance companies who would pay taxes for us.

    Mr. Plunkett has stated that he feels that the ECD has diluted their mission of economic development by spending their time to develop this non-transport proposal. Since the formation of the ECD in 2009, I have attended, as an observer, all but two or three of the commission’s monthly meetings. Regrettably, most council members, including Mr. Plunkett, have not attended a single meeting. Had he done so he would have known that the proposal took only a miniscule amount of the commission’s time. Virtually all of the work was done at home by commission member Darrol Haug.

    So rather than criticizing the group Mr. Plunkett should be commending them for coming up with a viable source of revenue, at no cost to citizens, that no one else had conceived. I hope that at the council retreat next week city council will extend the ECD’s duration indefinitely, as is the case for other volunteer groups like the Hwy 99 Task Force and the Citizens Technical Advisory Committee. It’s reasonable to assume that there will always be a need for a focus on economic development.

  3. Ron and Dave, some good comments. More about the non-transport charge. A better name for it would be Urgent Care. What really happens is this. An aid car comes to where we are; home, car, or public place and when they get there they preform medical services. These are Urgent Care items like evaluating the situation and then as required other services like DeFib Paddles, clearing an air way, dressing a wound, giving an injection, and even starting an IV drip. These are all Urgent Care items for which most of us are insured. We are insured if they are given in a hospital setting or lying at home or in the street. Bottom line is these are Urgent Care items performed by trained and licensed medical professionals and if we have insurance they are often covered. Additionally if we need to be transported to the hospital there is a per mile transport fee for the ride part of the deal. Today we trigger a bill to the insurance company for both the Urgent Care and the ride to the hospital only if you go to the hospital. We do not charge to the insurance company for the Urgent Care work if you were not transported to the hospital. Urgent Care is billable to insurance companies even when no transport is given. We are not billing that today and that is what the EDC has recommended be studied for possible action. Today we contribute to these services from the General Fund. So any new revenue would in effect reduce some tax load.

    You can see the full report at the bottom of the EDC minutes at the following link.

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Boards_and_Commissions/Commissions/Economic_Commission/Minutes/2011/111019_EDCMinutes.pdf

    Here is how the EDC does much of its work. Individuals or groups work on projects and then report back to the total commission for discussion and action. In this case all commissioners had the full report along with background notes before the meeting and were prepared to discuss the idea and take action. So commission time was used wisely.

    As Ron mentions, the Council has been debating the EDC for some time now and have differing opinions on the next course of action. Basically they will decide to extend or dismantle the commission. If they extend the commission each council member and the mayor will be allow to appoint existing or new members. There is also discussion of limiting what the EDC works on going forward. Read ord 3735 at the link below and see the original rational for the EDC. As you will see by reading all the “where as” stuff, the motivation was rooted in the work of the 60 people working on the 6 or so levy committees back in early 2009. Those 60 people recommended asking the public for new tax dollars AND to find ways to make our budget sustainable in the future. The issues outlined then are still in play today. Here is the link.

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/City_Clerk/Ordinances/2009/Ord_3735.pdf

    Now the TAX vs REVENUE question. It is interesting that when someone wants to disguise a tax they call it revenue and when they do not like a revenue stream they try to tag it with a tax label. People in Edmonds are smart enough to know the difference.

    In 2009 those 60 people saw a budget issues looming and so did the 2010 levy committee. The EDC has been working hard to find any number of ways to develop more economic activity. We are also looking for all the revenues possible to help with the budget. That was our charter from the beginning.

    Now is not the time to limit thinking on ideas. Now is the time to nurture any and all new ideas for consideration. Council should want as many ideas as possible to choose from, especially if they would lessen the need for new taxes.

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