Round-two interviews of council candidates spark question about fairness

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night began its second round of interviews with candidates for the council seat left vacant by Frank Yamamoto’s resignation — but the process wasn’t without some drama.

The idea behind the second-interview concept, which had been agreed upon by councilmembers ahead of time, was to give the council a chance to better “get to know” candidates of whom they have less prior knowledge. Council President Diane Buckshnis had stressed, when describing the process, that the additional interview was not meant to indicate favoritism, and that all candidates would remain in the running whether or not invited back for a second interview.

However, prior to the start of the interviews Tuesday night, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas stated that she had been contacted by one of the council candidates who was not chosen for a second round of interviews – and she now believes that the process was unfair to the other candidates not selected. “I feel I owe the folks who aren’t being interviewed tonight an apology,” she said.

“I will not be participating by asking questions,” the second-term councilmember said, adding that she would, however, listen to all interviews.

Buckshnis and City Attorney Jeff Taraday expressed their surprise at Fraley-Monillas’ comment, noting that it had been their understanding that all councilmembers agreed to the procedure. However, Buckshnis said the concern was easily addressed: She directed that all candidates who did not receive a second interview be sent via email Wednesday a list of the second-round questions asked – requesting a reply in writing within 24 hours.

You can review the background of all 14 candidates at the link here.

Buckshnis also suggested that to avoid future confusion, councilmembers may want to hammer out a permanent process for selecting replacement councilmembers, noting that the approach has been different for each council appointment in the last few years.

The six candidates interviewed Tuesday night were asked a range of questions — some of which were holdovers from last week that councilmembers did not get to. Perhaps the most interesting of the questions was what would be each candidate’s top priorities if they were elected to council.  Among the answers:

Neil Tibbott said he would like to see a walkway that extends throughout the downtown area to the waterfront.

Stephen C. Schroeder said he would focus on a rewrite of the city’s code, adding “our zoning is kind of a hodgepodge right now.”

Carreen Nordling Rubenkonig noted that she has an interest in working with young people and getting them more involved in local government.

Thomas W. Mesaros stated he would like his legacy to be bringing unity to the council governing process.

Harry Gatjens said he would work on an issue he has heard concerns from citizens about — a deteriorating and unsafe Haines Wharf pier.

Kathleen Dewhirst stated she would work on downtown improvement issues.

The council also:

— Voted 4-2 to extend its moratorium — set to expire Feb. 20 — on marijuana-related businesses and activities for another three months. The extension is aimed at accommodating the Planning Board’s public hearing on zoning provisions on Feb. 12 and to give the Council a chance to review proposed licensing amendments to the City Code. Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Strom Peterson voted against the extension.

— Held a public hearing on the  Parks, Recreation, and Open Space and Community Cultural plans. (My Edmonds News will provide a separate summary of those plans in the near future.) The hearing will be continued at the Feb. 25 council meeting.

— Postponed the annual report for the Economic Development Commission until a new councilmember is selected. That selection process, by the way, will occur during the council’s next meeting, Feb. 11.

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