Who should be appointed to vacant City Council seat? Ex-candidate weighs in

Publisher’s note: The Edmonds City Council will begin interviewing candidates for the vacant council seat at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12 in the council chambers. The interview schedule can be found here. The successor will be chosen at the next regular council meeting, Jan. 19.

This is an open letter to the Edmonds City Council. Soon the Council will deliberate to fill Peggy Pritchard Olson’s seat on the Council. I’d like to offer a few opinions.

The goals of the Council should comprise at least the following: (1) increase and diversify Edmonds’ tax base, (2) keep Edmonds a great and affordable place for young families, the elderly, and everyone in the middle, to live and thrive, (3) consider all of the neighborhoods of Edmonds, not just the Bowl, as important components of our plans for the future, and (4) avoid drawing absolute lines in the sand with a “you’re either with us, or against us” mindset.

We need a new Councilperson who already walks the walk; someone who has been proven in their ability to move Edmonds forward towards these goals.  I also believe that the appointed Councilperson must be interested in, and capable of, running for the position in 2011. Campaigns are tough – and so the candidate must be tough.

Before going on about the prospective Councilpersons, it is informative to review the talent set of the current Council: a lawyer and a downtown merchant with strong environmental credentials, a realtor and an engineer with deep ties in the downtown area, a retired civil servant new to the Council who also has strong ties to the downtown area, and a public affairs consultant with connections across the nation and broad experience across the region.  We are fortunate to have such a group.  I see this selection process as an opportunity to add even more talent to this group; talent that would benefit all of Edmonds.

In the last 24 hours, I have had the pleasure of talking with three individuals who have applied for the position: Kerry Ayers, Diane Buckshnis and Michael Young.  I will discuss each in turn.

Kerry Ayers is the founder of the Edmonds Community Foundation.  Her group runs multi-generational programs and provides education, food, and clothing to the less fortunate in Edmonds. Because of Ayers’ hard work, local churches are now allowed, under Edmonds code, to open their doors to the homeless. I believe Ayers would bring a unique perspective to the Council.  She understands the real dynamics of Edmonds. She understands that downtown is important, but that Edmonds is more than the Bowl. Ayers has a can-do attitude and knows how to find solutions; not just problems. She also knows how to build consensus.  I believe Ayers would work as hard on the Council as she has worked on any of her endeavors.  However, I am worried that the campaign trail may be a bit of a shock to her.

Diane Buskshnis worked to establish the Edmonds Dog Park and is on the board of the Edmonds Arts Foundation. Buckshnis wants to bring transparency to Edmonds’ finances and believes that we should market ourselves to bring tourists and others into town. She indicated that she understands Edmonds is not just the Bowl but that building heights are an important issue to her. And, we know she knows how to run a clean campaign. I believe Buckshnis is sincere in her desire to help our community.
However, I am concerned that Buckshnis’ major supporters are a group of people that are only concerned with the Bowl area and building heights. They are a “you’re either with us or against us” group.  Finally, it has been my experience on the campaign trail that these are also the people who do not care to look for solutions – only problems.  In our conversation, Buckshnis very sincerely indicated that she is not beholden to these folks.

Michael Young is a downtown merchant. He gives his time to the ECA and sits on the Board of the Edmonds Community College Culinary Program. I believe Young is a smart businessman interested in helping his community. I think Young would add an interesting perspective to the Council. He has a feel for marketing and business development; something our Council needs. Young is a lifelong friend of Councilman Peterson and has been active in Peterson’s campaigns and other campaigns.  Therefore, we know he is not a novice to the campaign trail. However, I am concerned that with the appointment of Young, the Bowl and the wealthier side of Edmonds would be overrepresented on the Council. Additionally, at this point, I am not convinced that Young understands the challenges that other people and neighborhoods in Edmonds face.

All three of the prospective candidates with whom I spoke are outstanding, and we are lucky to have such an array of talent from which to choose. Kerry Ayers would bring to the Council what it most needs: a team player without any political strings, a proven genuine concern for all of Edmonds, and the energy to tackle the hardest problems with real and working solutions. If I had a vote, I’d vote for Kerry Ayers.

Priya Sinha Cloutier

  1. While Priya and I had a wonderful conversation about my supporters, she failed to look at ALL my supporters and I have many that live over in the Firdale Village area, Westgate, Lake Ballinger and 5 Corners. Her largest concern was that I couldn’t control Dave Orvis, a City Council member who helped me tremendously, but was also a Plunkett supporter. While I ran a dignified, positive and grass-roots campaign and received more votes than any of the other candidates. Having said that, Kerry Ayers did a nice job last night at the interviews as did everyone, so you can check out Channel 21 and make your own decisions.

    Thanks Priya for taking the time to put this together. By the way, I am not with the Edmonds Art Foundation. i am very active in Rotary, the Senior Center, the Garden Club and of course, my jewel, the Dog Park.

  2. Thanks Diane. Actually, my big concern is your connection with the “no big buildings” group who refuse to see any possible solutions. These are the people who draw the line in in the sand. And, Mr. Orvis and Mr. Plunkett are a part of that group. I wrote exactly what I wanted to say.

    Thanks for the corrections on your involvements. And, most importantly, thanks for doing so much for our town!

  3. It seems that Priya is still angry with Edmonds voters for her loss in the election to Michael Plunkett. It is quite clear that Priya is the one drawing lines in the sand by identifying “Buckshnis’ major supporters” as “are either with us or against us group.” When we categorize each other as belonging in one camp or the other, we lose the ability to hear what the other person is saying. And when we make voting decisions and recommendations based on our assumptions, we do a disservice to our fine city.

    I strongly recommend to City Council that they appoint Diane Buckshnis to the open council position. The budget is the most serious issue facing Edmonds today. Diane has the expertise, the commitment, and the persistence to bring transparency to Edmonds government. The citizens of Edmonds deserve to know how their money is being spent and to actively participate in a transparent budget process.

    At this time I will not list the many other reasons that I support Diane. I will, however, express additional concerns about Priya’s “open letter to the Edmonds City Council.” Priya did not attend the interviews on Tuesday night. I know because I was there from beginning to end. I find it astounding that she would presume to make the above statements without having observed the candidate interviews and their interaction with Council.

    Let me explain my concern. Priya states “I think Young would add an interesting perspective to the Council.” I am curious how she came to this conclusion. Mr. Young used his entire twenty minutes to criticize the Council. Despite Adrienne Fraley-Monillas’ repeated attempts to ascertain what he thought he could offer to Council, Mr. Young was unable to list, or demonstrate, even one positive quality or skill that he could bring forth. Further, I had no idea at the end of the interview where he stood on any of the many serious issues facing our city.

    Kerry Ayers, as several other candidates, presented well in her interview and has many positive qualities to offer. I look forward to her involvement in the political scene in the future.

    Priya, I respectively request that you join me in focusing on the positive as we imagine the future of Edmonds together. It is critically important that we elevate our discourse to a much higher level than you have demonstrated here.

  4. Diane Buckshnis received 6,299 votes in the 2009 election, and I think is quite presumptuous for Ms. Cloutier to conclude that those voters are the “you’re either with us or against us” crowd. That sort of non-substantiated statement creates polarization in a community that is facing issues that are better solved by working together. It is simplistic thinking to conclude that if Ms. Buckshnis (and a great number of other citizens) oppose 75 foot condominium buildings on the Safeway site, that we are against any development within the city limits. Let’s get over this and have an honest debate. Thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to this dialogue.

  5. Ms. Bloom: I am not upset at my loss. I learned a great deal during the year and grew a a person. You are right that I did not attend Tuesday’s candidate interviews. I was busy in a planning meeting to raise funds for the EWHS Music Program. I watched the interviews on television. My input was written prior to the interview process. I actually sought Diane out to speak with her in order to get to know her a bit. Mr. Young and Ms. Ayers actually contacted me. I had a great conversation with all three.

    Ms. Tipton: I don’t thing anyone wants 75 foot condos on the waterfront. I actually think it is a non-issue; especially since we now have laws that prevent such ventures. Yes, lets have an honest discussion of how to diversify our tax base in Edmonds under the restraints we all agree upon.

    All three candidates have positive qualities. I was very clear on that in my letter. We simply came to a different conclusion on who is the best candidate.

  6. Hello Priya,
    These women are only providing you with what they see as their analyses, like you have provided yours. I don’t see this as a debate. Like I said to you in our conversation, both you and I have been vetted by the public “harshly” and i did win the Primary and received 47 percent of the general vote and actuallly received the highest vote of all folks that did not win. Both of us were unknowns a year ago, so I find this percentage a sign that I did connect to the citizens of Edmonds.

    So, I agree that you stand by your word (and will always), but that does not discount my opinion or the opinion of these fine women who are well known in the community.

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