Buckshnis elected new council president as Earling breaks 3-3 tie; Fraley-Monillas calls it ‘breach in democracy’

From left, new Council President Diane Buckshnis, President Pro Tem Kristiana Johnson and Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

From left, new Council President Diane Buckshnis, President Pro Tem Kristiana Johnson and Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 Comments

  1. Congratulations to Diane on her position as Council President. I will look forward to seeing council work more cohesively under her leadership.

  2. 3 to 3 or 3 to 4 is always good in this town. It would be nice to find a way to have council members tell us what they are thinking so we can understand the divisions.

  3. Does anybody understand Mayor Dave Earling’s and the others’ votes for Councilmember Kristiana Johnson over Councilmember Lora Petso for Council President Pro-Tem?

    My opinion is that this vote promotes Council divisiveness. It is very hard to understand when one considers the vast difference in the two candidates’ City Council leadership experience level. Has Councilmember Johnson even chaired a Council Committee yet? Even if she has, does the least experienced member of the current City Council have the necessary City Council leadership experience to be the Council President Pro-Tem?

    On the same night that former Council President Petso is recognized for the diligent and proficient job she did as Council President during 2013, Mayor Earling, Council President-elect Buckshnis and Council Members Strom Peterson and Johnson vote for Johnson over Petso. Why?

    I’m having a hard time understanding their vote. No comments were made last evening explaining why they were voting for Councilmember Johnson. Perhaps they will be kind enough to explain it so citizens don’t have to wonder.

  4. Yes, I think the citizens of Edmonds should receive an explanation from each member and particularily the mayor on why they voted for someone that clearly has the least amount of experience. Is this for Council leadership or to rubber stamp for other entities, including our Mayor? I have to say, it is a quite blatant move from all that I have researched. It is no wonder that so many in this town do not trust this government. …..From where I sit, this does not appear to be about “leadership” at all. I guess we can fill all those empty storefronts down-town with more real estate, right of way, developement offices, construction, planning, etc. ad nauseum………

    When we first moved to town here four years ago, we wrote a letter to an editor (published) of a local media source in regards to a comment Buckshnis had made at the time about envisioning skyscrapers here (can we hope that she has changed her mind?!)….We were so shocked about the comment as we had moved here to get away from development, slick real estate salesmen/women, construction, stupidity, etc. from the big city (Seattle) , and EDMONDS WAS the PERFECT little town…..small town…..you know, Main Street U.S.A. That is WHY people come here!….

    As I have said before, people do not come here for the awful rubberstamped development that has been done (with blocks!! of classic homes torn down) here in the past 30 years for those brown and beige condos. Driving down 5th to come into town comes to mind. I have had friends come to town that way and comment on it……It is so blatant!……………….Again, as Joni Mitchell would say, you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone…..Paved paradise, put up a parking lot

  5. I recall that the council agreed to rotate presidency so one person wouldn’t have an inordinate amount of time as president and all long term members would have the opportunity to understand and share in the challenges of the position. Thus it makes no sense for it to fall upon Ms Petso so soon again. She should have said thanks but no thanks to the nomination and avoided the issue entirely.

    And while I am by no means a Buckshnis apologist I seriously doubt Ms Ryder should have any valid concerns about Diane banging the drum for taller buildings.

    I think it is always positive to beat that horse though, on the off chance it might rise from the dead. If Edmonds politics has taught us one thing over the years, it is that the spector of 35 foot buildings should be raised quarterly lest the quaint townspeople awake one day to a Kirklandesque wasteland.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Michael. Do you have any more information on that agreement to rotate the Council Presidency? The reason I ask is Councilmember Strom Peterson served as Council President in back to back years – 2011 and 2012. (He also served as Council Pro Tem in 2010.) The January 3, 2012 City Council Meeting Minutes indicate that there were no other nominations for Council President for 2012.

    I think it was honorable of Councilmember Peterson to accept that 2012 nomination and that it was honorable of Councilmember Petso to accept the 2014 nomination for Council Pro Tem. Once Councilmember Petso did so, I believe those voting had a duty to vote for the best candidate available for Council Pro Tem. My opinion is that did not happen. Maybe my opinion is wrong . . . but since nobody who voted for Councilmember Johnson explained why they were voting for her, I would simply like to know why. This request applies to Mayor Earling as he chose to cast the tie-breaking vote.

    I believe Mayor Earling did so in a questionable, bizarre fashion. The Council voted on Councilmember Petso’s nomination first. The vote was a 3-3 tie.

    At that point in the process, unless a tie vote results in a failed nomination, Mayor Earling may have been able to vote to break the Petso tie vote. Mayor Earling did not do so. Instead, without first resolving the Petso tie vote, he asked for a vote related to Councilmember Johnson’s nomination. That vote was also a 3-3 tie.

    If Mayor Earling didn’t vote to break the Petso tie vote, how can he then vote to break the Johnson tie vote? I wonder if this is allowed.

    Furthermore, E.C.C. 1.02.031 states that the City Council shall elect one of its members as council president who shall also be the mayor pro tempore. E.C.C. 1.02.031 does not state that the Mayor can vote to break tie votes for council president. I think there are very good reasons that E.C.C. 1.02.031 does not state that such is allowed. I am very alarmed that Mayor Earling cast the deciding vote for both Council President and Council Pro Tem for 2014 instead of the City Council electing one of its members.

  7. I believe the following is what Mayor Earling read from a prepared script during the January 7, 2014 meeting:

    After the nominations are closed, I will call for the vote in an order that the nominations were made. As soon as a nominee receives 4 votes, I will declare the Council President elected, and no votes will be taken on the remaining nominees. In the event that a vote on any particular candidate results in a 3-3 tie, I’ve been advised by the City Attorney that I’m entitled to break the tie pursuant to RCW 35a.12.100.

    Assuming Mayor Earling was “ENTITLED” to break tie votes, (which may not be consistent with E.C.C. 1.02.031) my opinion is that Mayor Earling would have been required to do so BEFORE taking any votes on the remaining nominees. I believe Mayor Earling had to break the original tie votes without any factual knowledge of how Council Members would vote on the remaining nominees. Otherwise, he would be voting with the benefit of more knowledge than the 6 Council Members had when they voted for the first nominees.

    Sadly, this is not what took place. Mayor Earling did not vote until he had MORE factual knowledge than the others had.

    I believe Mayor Earling had to vote on Ms. Fraley-Monillas’ tie vote without knowledge of how the Council would vote on Ms. Buckshnis’ subsequent nomination. I believe Mayor Earling had to vote on Ms. Petso’s tie vote without knowledge of how the Council would vote on Ms. Johnson’s subsequent nomination. Hence, I believe his votes were flawed and that the City Council will need to rule that the elections have to be thrown out.

    Council Member Petso tried to avoid this mess by proposing that the new Council President be elected by ballot. Ms. Petso stated that her reason for making this recommendation related to the fact that voting would be in the order the nominations were made, which kind of makes it a race to get your hand up in front of the Mayor. She clearly stated that this voting method would require the council to vote against the first nominated candidate to get to the second nominated candidate.

    Ms. Petso’s proposal was voted on and the related vote was another 3-3 tie. Mayor Earling broke the tie vote by voting against Ms. Petso’s proposal. As such, I believe Mayor Earling should have clearly understood that he could not call for a vote on second nominees until after the first nominee had been voted down.

    • Almost a week has passed since the bizarre process related to electing the Council President and Council Pro Tem last week. Assuming Mayor Earling was “ENTITLED” to break tie votes, I still can’t imagine any scenario where Mayor Earling had the right to call for votes on the second nominations without first breaking the tie vote on the first nominations.

      What would Mayor Earling have done if one or both of the second nominations had been voted down? Would Mayor Earling then have had the ability to go backwards and vote to break the tie on the first nomination?

      If so, he would have had to do so knowing that the nominations had been closed. A “no” vote by Mayor Earling in that situation would have resulted in both nominations being voted down. Could the Council have reopened the nomination process at that point in time?

  8. Ken is your point about process or outcome?

  9. I believe the Mayor’s votes are flawed…….speaking of OUR democracy. The citizens of Edmonds are entitled to that!

  10. Well Darrol, when I originally started thinking about this, my interest was related to the outcome of the Petso/Johnson vote. Without any indication of their reasons for doing so, 3 Council Members and Mayor Earling voted for Ms. Johnson when Ms. Petso appeared to be the far more qualified candidate. Also, I thought there were major advantages to pairing Ms. Buckshnis and Ms. Petso together as I thought the two of them could work together to lessen Council divisiveness.

    As I was watching the Council Meeting replay on EdTV, hoping that I had simply missed the reasons that Ms. Johnson was voted for, it struck me that the procedure seemed flawed.

    Then my focus turned to process. I researched this further and developed the opinion that the vote was flawed. Ms. Fraley-Monillas called it a breach in democracy. She has tons of valuable experience. Maybe I should have respected her experience and focused on process first. The votes for Ms. Johnson instead of Ms. Petso stunned me, however . . . so that is where I started. Thanks for your interest.

  11. Ken, with all your hard earned knowledge and understanding of City government I would hope you will apply for the open council position. Your knowledge would be helpful for making government more responsive to the people. I do not know who else may be applying but it is highly likely that the decision of council for adding someone will also be divided. Our selection process for department head and other positions for which council does interviews seems vastly different than selecting someone to sit on the council. Experience does not seem to have been part of the past decisions. So what are the criteria for council selection? The only one that I can see for sure is you must live in Edmonds. Even that has been confusing in the past.

  12. Thanks for the very kind words Darrol. I would love to apply, but not an option at this point in my life for many reasons. I hope many will choose to apply. The person selected to be our next Council Member will have a chance to make a true difference and contribute greatly to our City!

    I see Teresa just posted a related article. The application deadline is January 17th. To be eligible, you must be registered to vote within the City of Edmonds and have lived in the city for one year immediately preceding your appointment.

    Regarding any other criteria – looks like it may be subjective. I imagine this will be a very interesting process, using recent history as a guide.

  13. Is it possible that this same scenario might face the Council / Mayor in selecting Frank Yamamoto’s replacement?

  14. I hope not John. I don’t believe such is possible but it would be very nice of the City to let its citizens know up front.

    I believe the first candidate to receive a four-vote majority wins Frank’s vacant seat. In January 2009 following the resignation of Deanna Dawson, the council went through 37 ballots – all in one evening — before Strom Peterson received the necessary four votes to win the seat.

    I don’t believe Former Mayor Haakenson voted on any of those 37 ballots – what I do not know for sure is whether or not he was “entitled” to do so.

  15. From the January 20, 2009 City Council Meeting Minutes – the night of the 37 ballots:

    “City Attorney Scott Snyder reminded the public that an action of the Council required a vote of four of its members.”

    I see no mention of the Mayor being able to break a tie vote.

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