From the Edmonds Mayor: To Town Hall, or not to Town Hall

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Mayor Dave Earling
Mayor Dave Earling

Recently there was a Letter to the Editor of My Edmonds News concerning a request received by the Council to hold a Town Hall meeting on the Sunset Avenue Walkway Project. The letter was sent to the Council, and I am assuming (since I did not receive the letter), the letter and request may well be from the same person.

Even though I did not receive the letter, I gave the request considerable thought and as part of the consideration asked the staff to review the number of times Sunset has been placed on the City Council agenda as a separate agenda item.

Here are the results of the review: Sunset Walkway has been on the Council agenda 12 different times, four of those times with public comment invited as a portion of the agenda item. Of the remaining eight times, extensive comment was received from interested citizens under audience comment. In addition, there was a meeting at the Plaza Room specifically on Sunset Avenue which was very well attended.

Beyond the above, we have had many Letters to the Editor submitted to The Beacon as well as extensive comments on My Edmonds News. By now the Council certainly has heard an enormous volume and cross-section of community opinion!

Now, at the request of the Council, staff is currently pulling together further feedback from the public with on-site visits, asking questions of local citizens and out of town visitors, as well as studying parking patterns, traffic speeds, congestion issues, and safety issues.

Staff is preparing an online polling tool to receive even further community feedback. All of this work and results will be brought to Council for their consideration, analysis, and decision. You can be sure the Council will ask for and receive further public comment, as they should.

As many of you know, I have held Town Halls for the past couple of years. We have scheduled the meetings around the community in different geographic locations; Perrinville, Highway 99, Point Edwards, top of the Library and Swedish Edmonds Hospital. And, for the most part, we have kept the same format for all meetings with our Directors in attendance to discuss activities within their various departments.

The exception to the general format mentioned above, is when the coal/oil train issue came to light. While very important, the meeting was time consuming to assemble and a challenge for the staff to organize as we had a variety of speakers to co-ordinate from around the region.

With the Sunset Walkway Project, I believe the Council and staff have gone out of their way to hear from and interact with the public. And there is still more opportunity yet to come.

Whatever the end decision regarding the project, the Council has asked hard questions, listened to the opinions and gathered information. Will everyone be satisfied with the end decision? Probably not, but to suggest the community has not participated and been listened to is simply not the case.

— By Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling

18 COMMENTS

  1. Put Sunset Ave project on the November Ballot for an Advisory vote…no on-line poll…they are rigged to influence the outcome!

  2. I see nothing noted by our Mayor regarding the two citizens that actually spent a lot of time (months) setting up tables on Sunset and going car to car (elderly citizens I might add) and having people from everywhere that has come to Sunset fill out a poll showing what they thought of the changes and configuration. I believe there were over a 1,000 comments from the PUBLIC, and I also know this was presented at Council recently, so I guess I’m wondering why a poll from Mr. Williams and staff is the only one that really counts or is mentioned by this Mayor regarding the poll they want

    It is clear that the leadership, staff, etc. in this city wishes to control any input and at another time and place t here is a word for this type of government. This government has controlled this whole Sunset Project.

    We need a change of government if this city wishes to move forward and not backward. Four hundred people coming to Edmonds in the past 10 years says everything, with business leaving also. Time for change.

    Yes, very rigged. The citizens did not just fall off of a turnip truck.

  3. I do not trust the integrity of the Mayor’s Sunset Avenue Town Hall message. For some strange reason, Mayor Earling goes overboard pointing out that he personally “did not receive the letter”. Also, does he really expect citizens to believe that he was unable to determine if the letter and request came from “the same person”? If that point mattered enough for Mayor Earling to emphasize it at the start of his Sunset Avenue Town Hall message – How hard would it have been to have staff advise him so he didn’t have to assume anything? Is Mayor Earling telling us that staff had the time to review the number of times Sunset has been placed on the agenda but they couldn’t take a few minutes to ask a Councilmember if the letter and request were from “the same person”?

    Is Mayor Earling trying to build the case that the community has participated and been listened to? I agree that there has been participation later in the process – once people started to understand what the City was up to. Whether or not those that have participated have been listened to equally, I think that is very debatable. Are certain commenters labeled as a “vocal minority”? If so – what if those classified as the vocal minority are really part of the majority?

    Maybe Mayor Earling or his staff can openly address the following:

    A public hearing for the Six-Year (2012-2017) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) was held on July 19, 2011. The related City Council-approved minutes include a councilmember comment that there had been a lot of staff work done on the Sunset Avenue project. The minutes include comments by the Public Works Director that the Sunset Avenue project includes a 12.5-foot-wide sidewalk and an adjacent 5-foot-wide bicycle facility. What is uncertain is why staff had done a lot of work on a project that had yet to be added to the TIP. The July 19, 2011 minutes document no public comments about the Sunset Avenue Overlook.

    So please answer the question: Why was a lot of staff work done on a project that had yet to be added to the TIP?

    Will the City listen to all citizen voices equally or only those that support the significant changes along Sunset Avenue? This is a real concern as evidenced by the City’s past representation to the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) on Aug. 26, 2013:

    “Public comment was received at a meeting held on April 11, 2012, and followed up with written survey results that were collected April 25, 2012. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with all respondents supporting the concept of a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facility in this corridor.”

    Later in the document, the City of Edmonds also stated: “To date, there have been no negative comments recorded.”

    Through the public record request process, the City has provided survey documentation that indicates negative comments had indeed been received 16 months before August 26, 2013. Also, the My Edmonds News article from April 24, 2012 includes several negative comments. Here is that link.

    Again, I am concerned that the Sunset Walkway process to date has promoted divisiveness between citizens. With all the known issues and problems – how is it that we find ourselves at the end on a one year trial period with no public clarity as to how the trial period will be evaluated? Also, the citizens have not been told what options exist after the undefined evaluation is complete. Who is going to make the final decision as to what we end up with along Sunset – mayor, staff or council? Will those who have participated really be listened to equally?

    One final important piece of the history on this project:

    The April 17, 2012 City Council Meeting minutes document that the City took steps to approve Resolution No. 1273 authorizing the submission of an Application for Grant Funding Assistance to the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO). Two citizen comments were made during this RESOLUTION process. One citizen commented: “he has a number of friends who live on Sunset Avenue and he did not think they were informed of the opportunity to speak to the Council tonight.” He requested a formal public hearing to allow the neighborhood to be involved.

    Despite this, the City Council passed Resolution No. 1273 and the Mayor signed it the next day, April 18, 2012. Here is a link to the actual Resolution.

    Please note that point #8 states that “We provided appropriate opportunity for public comment on this application.”

    Was point #8 an accurate representation to the RCO?

    The related April 17, 2012 City Council Meeting Minutes conclude as follows:

    Councilmember Fraley-Monillas agreed a public hearing was a great idea but preferred to wait until the grant was awarded.

  4. I strongly support a Town Hall meeting on the Sunset Ave. proposal. Aborting the democratic process on a decision so many residents take exception to is a transparent attempt to avoid dealing with the obvious; People don’t like the plan or the way it has been pushed. There has been zero opportunity for citizens to comment in any meaningful way on the city’s experiment. Now that we’ve lived through the trial period, let’s get together and discuss how it has or has not worked out.

  5. Wow, I find it hard to believe that this is any kind of representation of the citizens in this city that I know.

    Regarding the “corridor”, I remember filling out a very general survey with no mention of a specific area such as Sunset Avenue……..Sunset Avenue street to my recollection while filling out that survey didnt even come to mind in regards to a “corridor” generally mentioned There was simply no direct reference to Sunset Avenue that I remember (and I live right here, so think I would have noticed it) so to say later regarding that survey that people were overwhelm ingly positive about it (Sunset Project) and implying this was specifically about Sunset was simply not true from what I remember reading. Hence, the surprise regarding the Sunset Avenue Project and not surprising the mess………one block in this whole city and I guess Im wondering how much $$$$ we have spent to make this a dangerous street. ……all for the one person I understand originally requested it.

    I think we need new leadership here running things. This feels to me like a system of smoke and mirrors and those operating the smoke machine assume the citizens are stupid and just fell off the turnip truck….yes, that turnip truck

    Lets show this government we want an honest and ethical government and move those along that dont believe in that ( starting at the top) and think they can run government with smoke and mirrors for the citizens.

    Originally, I put smoke and minnows…..I like that better….at least the MINNOWS part…….no big fish

        • Perhaps this publisher will identify the real name for “Art Wup” now that she has identified that commenter. No reason not to identify. We all give our real names for our comments. I believe there is something in the code of ethics for this publication that commenters are identified by a real name………..Please identify this commenter

  6. It is amazing to me on how much effort and money the City has put into the Sunset “new look”. It looks more congested with cars than ever before the remodel happened, also, often those parked cars sit there with their engines idling and making noise for the poor residents who live there. They even planted roses along the way (the west side that belongs to Burlington Northern).
    The citizens are slowly being brainwashed into accepting this “change” as inevitable. However, others who question this and request a Town Hall meeting are being dismissed out of hand. This City should have a Town Hall meeting on this very important aspect of our City, and hopefully democracy will be achieved.
    There are other possibilities that could be mentioned, such as:
    No cars parked, a one way street and cars only for those who live on the street (very popular in Europe)
    Extending the side walk on the east side of the street (which the City owns) and making it a safer, wider walkway. After all you can still see the Sound from there, right? The present sidewalk is a mishmash of half a walkway and then, flowers, tree stumps, shells, grass etc.
    Having a trip to Southern Ireland in September, and see their “natural” approach to the seaside views, we truly are overdoing this street of ours called “Sunset”. Perhaps the present look of the street can be “sunsetted” out of the way.

  7. Im not sure what they can do with sunset first of all they dont have enough land to do much of anything i would just leave it if i lived down there i would not be happy with all the people. just for kicks after fishing yesterday i drove up to woodway to have a look at the new fields its bad enough having field turf but what a ugly paint job there just plain ugly, now another subject and growing sport taking place right on the water in edmonds has anybody been paying attention to the kite boarding thats going on on the water just in front of the dog park those guys and gals fly there boards don’t even touch the water there on a wing they look like there having a blast

  8. I agree with Mr. Farmer.

    If the City Council were to base its decision on the total number of column inches written by the opponents of this project over the last year, and by the SHOUTING and redundancy from the (almost) daily rants of two of today’s contributors, then Sunset would probably be returned to its previous configuration. In my opinion, repeating the same arguments, ad nauseum, has become counterproductive.

  9. I agree with Mr. Farmer as well. This has had enough review and discussion. We elect representatives as council to take a leadership role and consider the evidence and make a decision. I love this walk which has been improved and hope that it stays. You can’t please everyone no matter how many hearings.

  10. The August 19, 2014 City Council Meeting Minutes prove that part of the Sunset Avenue proof-of-concept project was so that “Data can be gathered that will either be used in the design of a follow-on walkway project or used to make a decision not to pursue the concept further”.

    The motion to implement the recommended demonstration project on Sunset Avenue passed narrowly, 4-3. Since it did pass, the City now has a duty to its citizens to use the Data gathered either in the design of a follow-on walkway project or to make a decision not to pursue the concept further.

    Just how will these decisions be made? A major problem is that this was not decided up front. There is confusion as to where the process goes from here. The City itself has admitted that it needs to get more citizen feedback, so it is drafting some type of survey or poll. As more citizen feedback is desired, I applaud Janet Henry for trying to help the City accomplish its needs by suggesting a Town Hall meeting. It would be nice if Mayor Earling had applauded her for her active citizen involvement. The following quote is from an article written by Don Gerend, Sammamish Councilmember in AWC’s City Vision Magazine:

    “Cities today must recognize that such citizen involvement is not a nuisance or a threat. It reflects local government operating in a transparent manner with very active engagement on the part of a highly educated citizenry. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

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