No decision: Council ends up where it left off regarding vacant seat; Fraley-Monillas suggests an election may be the answer

After going through an additional 19 ballots Tuesday night, the Edmonds City Council ended up in the same place it was a week earlier to fill a vacant council seat — deadlocked with three votes for former Councilmember Steve Bernheim and three votes for former federal attorney Stephen Schroeder.

That’s despite the fact that several new candidate names were thrown into the mix, including Sound Transit marketing executive Tim Healey, Alford Group President and CEO Thomas Mesaros, D.A. Davidson financial consultant Timothy Schell, Edmonds Planning Board member Neil Tibbott and former City Councilmember Ron Wambolt. The non-Bernheim voting block of Council President Diane Buckshnis and Councilmembers Strom Peterson and Kristiana Johnson seemed to be offering alternatives to break the logjam, but the Bernheim voting block of Joan Bloom, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Lora Petso steadfastly stood by their man, and eventually the other council threesome returned to Schroeder, who had been their favored choice last week.

The council even retired to executive session — as they did last week — to hash out their differences but to no avail, and when another deadlock was declared by City Clerk Scott Passey, Buckshnis moved that the process be continued until the next council meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Whether another week’s time will make any difference is hard to say, but Fraley-Monillas did offer another possibility to her fellow councilmembers at the end of the meeting. During councilmember comments, she said she has asked City Attorney Jeff Taraday to research the logistics of running a special election for the purpose of letting the voters decide who should fill the vacant seat. If that possibility doesn’t pan out, the council has until March 31 to make a decision. Otherwise, by law the choice will be elevated to the Snohomish County Council.

In other action, the council also:

-Heard from attorney Robert Feldman of the law firm Feldman and Lee, which has been contracting with the City of Edmonds to provide public defender services since 1986. Feldman shared with councilmembers the challenges that his firm will be facing in light of a recent federal court decision that sets the bar higher for representation of indigent defendants — and will result a much heavier workload for public defenders, which will in turn will mean higher costs for the city. For example, Feldman said, public defenders will have to schedule private meetings with defendants, even if those defendants have already decided to plead guilty, and law firms may even been required to have private investigators on staff, regardless of whether they can keep them busy.

-Voted unanimously to streamline the process for hiring two open director level positions — for Development Services and Finance. Under a process approved earlier this year, the council agreed to waive the requirement that three candidates be interviewed for the Development Services Director position, and to waive additional rounds of interviews for the person to replace Roger Neumaier, who recently resigned as Finance Director. As a result of that vote, Mayor Dave Earling will be able to bring forward the second candidate from the city’s previous Finance Director recruitment cycle for confirmation, and will also be able to introduce the top two candidates — rather than the three normally required — for the development services post. (In the latter case, Earling had planned to have three candidates, but the third person dropped out of the running at the last minute.)

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29 Comments

  1. Enough of this nonsense. Save taxpayers money, and flip a coin.
    Cliff Ruthrauff

  2. Save the taxpayers money. It seems that there should be some consensus or at least majority rules. If politics is the issue, then please put it aside and vote for the council member who would represent the people of Edmonds. We voted for you so please show us that we made the right choice!

  3. I say go for it! Throw away the politics, and go for the one CLOSEST to the SOUL of this great little village. Without the polictics, not hard to figure out……

  4. I’m really opposed to a special election. For crying out loud, we elected the council members to handle issues like this. Either candidate would be a fine choice and would serve (at least) adequately until the next regular election. The council has wasted far too much time on this. I beg them to act like adults and get this done.

  5. Bruce, you are absolutely right

  6. Please, we cannot afford the cost of a special election. Choosing someone for this position is not a lifetime commitment to them..it is simply a placeholder until the next regularly scheduled election. We need someone to put on their grown up knickers and change to the other side (also known as a compromise) and move this forward. Could one of you please be grown up enough to do this?

  7. Dear city council members,

    I am writing you to express my utter dismay regarding your inability to fill the 7th position and all this time wasting. There are 3 of you who will not budge from voting for Steve Bernheim. I suggest you compromise on this. The city business is much too important for the kind of bitterness you are spreading through town.

    Mr Bernheim is not the choice we need. If he wanted to be in office, why did he not run for re-election? Towards the end of his term, he was interviewed by the Chamber’s Advocacy Committee as have most of you have been. He told us that he felt NOBODY should serve more than one term. Democracy should be open to everyone & everyone should have a chance to govern. Incumbency is a block to real democracy he told us. Well, he is now flip-flopping.

    The people of Edmonds I deal with professionally and personally think our city council is a joke – worse than congress! All they see is bickering & finger pointing. Please stop this nonsense and get on with the job we elected you to. Remember, you will come up for re-election soon & we have long memories!

  8. Chris, again I must say you are also absolutely right.

  9. When objectives are not clear and the vision not common, deadlock will happen.

    Council members represent different points of view, but should be aligned on vision – the city, many of our residents and our elected leaders worked to come up with a strategic plan; which candidate best aligns with accomplishing the first three top priorities of the strategic plan?

    Having been born here in Edmonds, walked the beaches with my grandparents as a young boy, now raising my girls here and having located my company here, I, like many, brag on the beauty and the unique environment we have here in Edmonds – when asked about our politics and our council – my unfortunate reply is, “at present, it is a goat-rope. Agendas over vision.”

    So – let’s keep this decision simple: of the candidate pool, who best aligns with getting the priorities of the strategic plan accomplished?

  10. Picking a candidate that supports the Strategic Plan is a good on. If we were to use that criteria for the existing members of council we would actually have to fire a couple of the current members. I guess we will have to wait until an election to hold all council members accountable for their positons on the SP.

  11. On April 2, 2013, the Edmonds City Council passed a Strategic Action Plan that was vetted with over 2000 residents, stakeholders, business people, and other community members. A statistically valid survey was conducted which showed broad and majority support for it.

    I believe it passed by a 6 to 1 vote. It is the vision of not just a few but of the majority in our City.

    It is consistent with the other specific adopted land use, transportation, environmental, etc. existing plans.

    It calls for annual reviews and updates of the Plan.

    Any and all members of the Council, elected or appointed have an obligation to implement this plan now.

    Any candidates being considered for appointment or who run in the next election should be asked the following 3 questions:

    1. Have you read the Plan?
    2. Do you support the Plan?
    3. If you support the plan, what will you do to help get it implemented.

    Obviously, if the answer is “No” to 1 or 2, the candidate should not be considered. That candidate (or Councilmember) can recruit others to create, pay for and vet another plan and then get it passed by a majority of council members.

    Everyday we don’t begin implementing this plan puts us behind the economic 8 ball – we will have to significantly increase property taxes or continue to defer maintenance. Any new infrastructure projects like sidewalks and flood control will cost more the longer wait. This plan lays out common sense and realistic ways to increase our tax base that is consistent with the character of Edmonds and a gift to future generations.

    Here is the website that contains the whole plan and process the City undertook to develop it.
    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Departments/Economic_Development/Strategic_plan/2013_04_03_ApprovedStrategic_Action_Plan_April_2_2013_copy.pdf

    Contact the City Council members at: http://www.edmondswa.gov/government/city-council.html

  12. There currently exists the beginning of the best possible permanent solution to this recurring log jam problem.

    Adrienne has wisely suggested a special election. If determined to be legal what could be possibly as judicious than a permanent procedure for the Council to select two candidates followed by a special election?

    The citizens deserve and should have the opportunity to express their decision for the one best qualified candidate to protect our small town values from the ever present potential opportunists. And do we really want the County Council choosing one to represent us? I certainly don’t think so.

    One lesser qualified new Council person could easily prove far more expensive to the city than the cost of a special election.

    The elephant lurking in the shadows of this situation is our ever present building heights issue, that is three for the current code and three that would like to see higher downtown buildings. For that reason alone a special election is by far the best answer to this dilemma.

    .

  13. A special election? Please! Just do the job you were hired to do – all of it – even the difficult parts. The procedures are set in place for selection of a replacement council person. Why go through the expense, the time & sign pollution associated with another election?

    I cannot believe the block of 3 who are supporting Bernheim cannot find one other worthwhile victim out of all the applicants. I know several of these men and would be comfortable with any of them.

    Time to **** or get off the pot!

  14. Sooner or later most people grow up and become flexible in their thinking. Apparently it’s not working here.
    Is Mr. Bernheim really the only person that can fill this vacancy? I think not.

  15. I am frustrated that the council has done little to implement the strategic plan. Why??

    I do not support a special election.

  16. Ah. The joy of public office – like money, serving in public office tends to reveal someone’s true character – does one serve to truly serve, thus becoming fixed on the mission, flexible on the method for the good of the vision, or is it all about power and control and succeeding to push an agenda, regardless of the cost?

    This situation is very revealing. It has nothing to do with building heights by the way.

    What we are witnessing is power/control over leadership; agenda over vision.

  17. It’s oblivious that me, Mr. Bernheim has received the most votes. I don’t understand, why Mr. Peterson, Mrs Buckshnis and Ms Johnson are unable this fact.

  18. Correct me if I’m wrong, but did not Mr. Bernheim state that one should only serve one term and then move on? Perhaps he is right, perhaps not.

    If he should serve again, what value should I place on his words? Was he “just kidding” or was he saying this to suggest it applies to others and not him?

    Listen, if there weren’t other qualified candidates, perhaps grace would be appropriate here. But he is not the only qualified candidate.

    And I would personally like to see how he measures up on the strategic plan – and since we have his past record that’s a great place to start.

  19. Hi Mike. The burden of correcting you if you are wrong should not fall on others. I spent over half an hour last evening looking for documentation of such comments and was unsuccessful. Please provide a link to Mr. Bernheim’s comments or some other documentation of what he said – I truly am interested in reading whatever related comments he made. Assuming he made such comments, is it ever acceptable for somebody to change their mind about how much time in public office is appropriate?

    I was able to find a May 27, 2012 MEN article which reported that Mr. Bernheim had stated that the prospect of serving out the last year and a half of Plunkett’s term “is more modest and personally acceptable than running for election for a full four-year term, which I declined to do last year. I am willing and eager to continue serving the residents and voters of the City of Edmonds on the Edmonds City Council under these circumstances if selected”.

    If we are going to discuss what “value” to place on Mr. Bernheim’s former words, shouldn’t we make an effort to get his actual words in front of us?

  20. Mike – furthermore, when it comes to candidates qualifications, should not our 6 City Council Members have a responsibility to analyze who is the most qualified candidate? An example of this type of comprehensive analysis is found in Council Member Bloom’s article titled “Why I support Steve Bernheim for appointment to Edmonds City Council”. This article is found on edmondsforum.com. I recommend everyone read it. What motivates those who accuse others of having an agenda when it is clear the voter has worked very hard to simply decide who they think the best candidate is?

    Finally, the Strategic Action Plan was approved after Mr. Bernheim’s term expired. As such, is it fair to see how he measured up to the Strategic Plan?

    Shouldn’t those interested be looking at how he measured up to the COMPREHENSIVE Plan?

  21. Today Edmonds city Councilman Strom Peterson stated in the Herald that Steve Bernheim is “divisive”. That is an offensive and obnoxious falsehood.. And it is especially repugnant coming from Peterson who was a consistent supporter of the flawed and wasteful administration of former Mayor Haakenson!! He also carefully avoided any real reform activity during the past serious budget crisis.

    As for Councilperson Buckshnis, who earlier supported our current building code, only to FLIP FLOP by raising building heights in one part of downtown from 25′ to 30′ . And now she hypocritically states her reason for opposing Bernheim is that he once said one should only serve one term and quit which is exactly what he did. He did not say he would never again run for office. Her position.is shockingly petty, shallow, and well as hypocritical. She has certainly surprised me with her radical flip flops..

  22. Its been pointed out to me that, I believe, that my second sentence in the second paragraph of my 8:45 comment is likely off track. Therefore please allow me to retract the whole second paragraph, with a specific apology to Ms. Buckshnis for the possible inaccuracy of sentence 2 of paragraph 2. Also the flip flop stuff is an unnecessary diversion of the real subject, that is the appointment of a Councilperson.

    However, Ms Buckshnis did indicate today in the Herald that she opposes Mr. Bernheim because he will not irretrievably commit to running for reelection in 2015. Eliminating a candidate solely for refusing to irretrievably commit to an life changing action 2 years (22mos) in advance is highly illogical and by itself is a totally minor and insufficient reason. It makes no sense.

    Hopefully, Ms. Buckshnis will come around and reconsider her vote for a person who has all ready served the city in an outstanding manner and who will with absolute certainty can be expected to do so again; and I might add, one who has previously worked well with her.

  23. Give us citizens a break! The stubbornness being displayed is ridiculous. And suggesting an election is silly, costly and a delay. Pick a thoughtful candidate and move on.

  24. Ken, you and I both know you are skilled in digging deep and finding errors…which is a necessary checks and balance. My statement stands unless you prove otherwise.

    But that’s a side note. Is there not a fresh, New, qualified candidate? Must we repeat history?

    The strategic plan is our blue print. Let’s execute and let’s select a candidate who will be objective and collaborative.

    • Mike, respectfully . . . my opinion is that it is unfair for a statement like yours to stand without some type of documentation. I have no burden to prove anything about your statement and I am very surprised you would ask me to.

      When I see posts accusing Council Members (who have obviously taken their voting responsibilities VERY seriously) of pushing an “agenda” and possessing bitterness, I am concerned as well as disappointed.

      I naturally wonder what motivates the attacks.

      What motivates Strom Peterson to attack Steve Bernheim’s character by stating that he believes Mr. Bernheim is “a divisive candidate”?

      Is Mr. Peterson’s accusation an ACTUAL ACT promoting divisiveness or is Mr. Bernheim guilty of divisiveness simply because Mr. Peterson represents such to the Everett Herald reporter?

      Finally – I believe the Comprehensive Plan is better referred to as the City’s blueprint.

  25. If truly “willing and eager to continue serving the residents and voters of the City of Edmonds on the Edmonds City Council,” perhaps an unselfish approach might be for Mr. Bernheim to withdraw his application.

    This would break the “logjam” and allow those unwilling to consider the many other qualified candidates to freely do so. Then the Council’s time could be fully spent on City business for the citizens of Edmonds, and the acrimony would diminish.

  26. THANK YOU to the council members that are standing their ground and still going for the person that truly cares about the SOUL of Edmonds (clear choice) and what the voters of Edmonds have stated over and over in what kind of town they wish this to be.. ……The voters are clearly not aligned with the OPPORTONISTS that have tried to use this town as their personal $$$$-maker for many years. ….

  27. I don’t know how the media can objectively report on this issue if anyone with the media has been selected to participate in “development” issues with the city by the Mayor…..just maybe, EVERTHING about a city isn’t about “development”, and that is WHY we need people to represent us that do not have only ONE agenda……I guess if you don’t see my comments here again, I’ve been blacklisted…..just saying…..

  28. Hi Tere: if you are referring to the fact that I am a member of the Economic Development Commission, please know that I am one of 17 volunteer members representing a variety of viewpoints — all with the goal of ensuring that the City of Edmonds remains financially viable to support services it provides to citizens. I put my name at the end of EDC chairman’s recent report on My Edmonds News to disclose that I am a member of the commission — as journalist ethics would require. I welcome all viewpoints of our readers and would not ban anyone from commenting unless they violated our commenting policy. — Teresa

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