It has not been uncommon during recent months for decisions on the Edmonds City Council to be divided between two voting blocks: Councilmembers Lora Petso,Joan Bloom and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas on one side, and Strom Peterson, Diane Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson and Frank Yamamoto on the other. When it was time to cast a vote Tuesday night for a new president to lead the council, there was a similar split, with one important difference. Since Yamamoto had left the seven-member council Dec 31 due to health reasons, the council’s vote was 3-3 between two nominees: Buckshnis and Fraley-Monillas. So it was up to Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, following consultation with City Attorney Jeff Taraday, to cast the tie-breaking vote, which he did in favor of Buckshnis.
During council comments at the end of the meeting, Fraley-Monillas said that while Earling’s tie-breaking vote may have been legal, the council could have put in a place an interm council president and taken a vote on a permanent replacement when there was again a seven-member council, following the appointment of Yamamoto’s replacement next month. She also intimated that Earling was biased against her, citing the mayor’s endorsement of her opponent, Ron Wambolt, who unsuccessfully ran last fall to unseat Fraley-Monillas in her bid for a second term.
“Most amazing to me was to have expected a fair decision to be made from a mayor that actively participated, supported, financed and appeared in ads for my opponent two months ago,” Fraley-Monillas said. “Some may say it’s politics; I call it a breach in all of our democracy.”
Earling also cast the tie-breaking vote for Council President Pro-Tem, since the vote was split 3-3 between Lora Petso, who had just finished her term as council president, and Kristiana Johnson. The mayor joined Peterson, Johnson and Buckshnis is supporting Johnson.
Despite occasional bickering during the meeting, the council did make unanimous votes on three significant issues:
— Approved a Planning Board recommendation to limit designated ground floor street fronts in the downtown Edmonds core for retail uses rather than service-based businesses. The idea has been under discussion since 2011, and councilmembers appeared satisfied that changes to the proposal addressed concerns that had been raised. The requirement will only go into effect when owners of service businesses choose to vacate their office space. In addition, property owners would have the ability to fill the vacated space with a similar use to the one that left, if it is done within 180 days or six months from the date a space is vacated. During a public hearing prior to the vote, representatives of local real estate firms testified that they should be included in the street-level retail mix, pointing to their ongoing efforts to market Edmonds. Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton assured the council that realtors would indeed be able to qualify as a retail use. Also, councilmembers were encouraged that the plan is being viewed as a pilot and will be reviewed regularly to ensure that it is working as intended.
— Authorized the mayor to approve a $159,000 contract to purchase equipment for a new spray pad play area at City Park. The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite provided a brief presentation on the efforts that her office has made to ensure that the spray park is not only attractive to a variety of age groups — toddlers, families and teens — but that it is environmentally sound, with a built-in water reuse system that will allow water from the spray pad to be treated and stored, then reused for park irrigation, toilets and the city’s flower program.
— Approved $17,219 in supplemental work for design services on the Five Corners Roundabout project.
The council also discussed procedures regarding its role in the appointment of director-level city staff positions; City Attorney Taraday was directed to come back with a final ordinance, based on that discussion, for the council to vote on.