Edmonds Chamber to discuss Mayor vs. City Manager Wednesday night

The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce has taken a stand on the city manager vs. mayor debate, and it’s thumbs down.

At a recent meeting, the chamber’s board of directors discussed the proposal by City Councilmember Michael Plunkett to place before voters a proposal to change the City of Edmonds governance structure, and determined that “a governance change at this juncture is unwise as it could cause political and economic instability.”

The chamber invites business owners and the community to further discuss the issue during its July After Hours event, scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, July 14, at the Edmonds Senior Center, 220 Railroad Ave. The event includes food and networking, plus a short presentation, “Mayor or City Manager.” You can view a summary of the presentation here.

The chamber is also encouraging city residents to attend the July 20 meeting of the Edmonds City Council, which will hold a public hearing and possibly make a decision on whether to place the proposed change before voters.

My Edmonds News has been running on a poll for a few months on the City Manager vs. Mayor topic. So far, 180 people and voted and the results are nearly evenly divided between those who support (47 percent) and oppose the measure (46 percent), with 7 percent undecided. You are invited to express your opinion here.

[polldaddy poll=3169906]

  1. The Chamber of Commerce represents a few developers and bowl businessmen who are dead set against a Council/Manager goverment because they want a “strong” Mayor who is more likely to share their limited interests. Such has been the case for the past 10 years. The Chamber will seek to persuade the Council to forgedboutit and absolutely do not want the citizens of the whole city to have the opportunity to decide.

    One big advantage of the Council/Manager system is all ready apparent. In just two weeks civility and cooperation has increased greatly among our city officials, elected and otherwise. The absence of a overly aggresive Mayor (aka “strong”) continually engaged in a constant tug of war with the Council is quite noticable. Efforts are underway to get our finances straightened out and more transparent.

    The Council should put the issue on the ballot and permit citizens from the whole of Edmonds to make the decision on Council/Manager and not just the few downtown bowl folks. The 20K cost will be a superb investment. Considering the 1 million dollar cost to the city for the transition to FD#1 pushed hard by our “strong” Mayor, it will certainly be a bargain if voted into law..

  2. The transition to FD1 saves the city about $1 million annually – it does not cost the city more as stated by Ray Martin.

  3. Mr. Martin,

    Having been a past Board Member of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and and the past Chair of the Member Development Committee, I talk with some authority when I tell say that the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce does not only represent business in the bowl. And, if I remember correctly, there are zero developers that are members of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce.

    The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce is a service based organization that runs the Edmonds Fourth of July parade and fireworks, the Taste of Edmonds, the Edmonds Car show, amongst others. The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce also provides support to our local businesses, our tax base. You may be think of the Downtown Edmonds Merchant Association (DEMA). However, I think youhave to be a merchant to be part of that organization.

    Although my practice is now in Seattle, I am still a member of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce because it provides services relevant to all of us who live in Edmonds. Perhaps you should become a member too, Mr. Martin.

    The letter the Edmonds Chamber of commerce wrote was well thought out and based up reason and logic. Not emotion. Mr. Martin, let me remind you that Mr. Plunkett and Mr. Orvis have taken a bit of money from Edmonds Developers. I’ve seen the PDC filings. How about throwing some smack their way?

    Civility on our Council? Perhaps you have failed to read the continued personal attacks on Mr. Wilson. Our Council’s biggest failure is that it cannot discuss the issues without resorting to personal attacks or screaming DEVELOPER. Mr. Haakenson certainly fed that fire. In my experience, he played into petty politics of the Council. I’ve seen the email that proves it. However, does that mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater?

    Mr. Martin, I know you are a Navy veteran, like my husband. And, I know that both of you fought for our Constitution and the form of government that it envisions. That form of government has checks and balances. Without a Mayor, there would be no one to check our Council and vise versa. Because you agree with our Council today, that may seem like a good idea to you. However, it is short sighted. Edmonds is not a corporation controlled by a Board of Directors. I encourage you to read the papers of John Adams on a representative form of government. I have a few books I can lend you, if you wish.

    Finally, regarding the sale of our Fire Department, Mr. Martin, your memory is short. Almost, everyone seated on the Council today and the Mayor supported the sale of the Fire Department. That’s right, even your most favored Councilmen. And, if I remember correctly, it was only Ms. Buckshinis and me who opposed, during the course of the last election, that sale. I continued to object to it even after. You cannot blame that mishap only on Mr. Haakenson.

  4. I encourage Mr. Martin and anyone else who is so deluded as to think that in the last two weeks the city is running better to go and talk to the city staff. Go ask them, politely if at all possible, what the general feeling and morale of the staff is. You might be; no you will be surprised. The people engaged in the day to day operation of this city are not happy.

  5. The main reason for not supporting this proposal is that its few proponents have not identified a ‘why’ for making this change. No one has pointed to a significant flaw, error or finding in the Mayoral office, or among its holders, that is reason enough to change our manner of governance. Nor have they discussed the horror stories, concerning City Manager experiences, that could be ours. Either the proponents have not studied this sufficiently, or are trying to sell this pig-in-a-poke with as little detail as possible. And for the money it would cost the City, we should all just say ‘NO’ to the Council.

  6. I urge the council to let the public decide.

    No matter whether you are for a Strong Mayor or a City Manager, most would agree the public should get its way on this issue.

    The public’s debate will lead to a stronger government, because it will be clear the public supports that form of government.

  7. Please permit me to rebut my critics:
    Developers are mostly normals folks just like the rest of us.. A few periodically come up with gimmicks such as modulations, lighthouses, 12′ ceilings, roof gardens in order to raise heights. This has been the number 1 issue in the 40 years that I have lived in Edmonds.

    Our recent Mayor was sympathetic to this special interest group and we ended uo with a mayor/council tug of war for ten years which wasted a lot of time and energy for all. Counci/manager would prevent this. this is my major reason for supporting it. On the other hand, it can be argued that a beter Council would result if a career opportunity to be mayor existed.

    Remember the Alliance that the Chamber recommended? It cost us 500K to be told only to raise building heights. Following this the mayor hired an ecomonic develoment director who cost us another 300K for the same rejected message. I believe that both of these would not have happened with a less political head city official.

    For the past 10 years we have subsidized FD#1 and Woodway, in flawed contracts negotiated by our former mayor in a similiar amount annually mentioned by Ron Wambolt. The total wasted is large. We have to do better.

    If you haven’t yet noticed the improvement level among our elected officials in civilty and cooperation stay tuned. It is an unescapable and emerging fact. I was impressed last night by the professional manner in which the mayoral interviews were conducted.

    Mr Underhill states no one has given a pro Council manager reason. Wouldn’t preventing tug of wars, increasing civilty and cooperation be good and compelling reasons to support same? And I’m told by good authority that financial information is uniformly more available, transparent and understandable in council/manager cities than is our present mumblee jumble confusion.

    DJ will tell you that the council has personality problems. I tell you that is baloney. DJ has the personality problem. He wants “bygones to be bygones” Well, in this world you don’t get to unring the bell. DJ further chided one candidate for being a critic. DJ has made some rather poor choices at times and they have frequently backfired on him. DJ may begin cleaning up his act by first eliminating his propensity to project his failures on the entire Council. In any event he will be judged by the voters ultimately. And critics are part of the game, like it or not.

    So, why not have a rousing debate on the council manager followed by a vote of the people? Why do you opponents dance around it as a ballot issue? Why do you fear the people’s decision?
    Democracy is messy and time consuming. However, I strongly believe that given a healthy debate, citizens will usually make the best choice if given the opportunity. I have little patience for those opposed to a vote.

    My positon on the issue is about 65% yes to council manager. Whaf if I told you that our former mayor favors it? Well, that is exactly what I am telling you. He approached me one evening and told me exactly that. I had had a couple of conversations with leading citizens on both sides of the issues and was undecided at the time we spoke. I hope Michael Young isn’t too offended by all this “name calling” Relax and stay loose Michael, its good for your blood pressure.


  8. Mr. Martin used a large number of words to say he supports a debate about this because he didn’t like Gary as mayor and many decisions made by the council while he was in office.

    I oppose the concept of limiting checks and balances and having the city administrator at the whim of the council. However, I am always open to debate.

    No one has of yet come up with a strong reason to switch now. In this time of economic crisis it seems inappropriate to add another distraction to the city as a whole, let alone spend between $20,000 and $80,000 to put it to a vote.

    Before anyone attacks me for short changing the public voice; I certainly believe in a the public having a say. We live in a representative democracy and not a direct democracy, thus not everything needs to go to vote. Further, if we look at the corollary, why should we remove a an official position that is directly responsible to the voters?

    This proposal may have a time and place. I don’t believe that it is here and now.

  9. Mr. Martin:

    I’m a bit confused by your posting above. You spend a lot of time arguing that an elected Mayor is bad for Edmonds and use Mr. Haakenson as an example. You have repeatedly said that he is untrustworthy. THEN, you say that Edmonds should go to a City Manager/Weak Mayor system because Mr. Haakenson recommended it. Wait a minute! Should I trust the guy or shouldn’t I? You seem to be saying that you trust him when he says what you think he should say. I think you need to re-think your argument.

    Regarding DJ, you say that its his fault that the Council is not civil to him. In my house the rule is (and even my 6 year old understands it) that you can question or criticize however, you must (1) do it in a nice voice, (2) cannot call names, and (3) cannot tell lies to win your argument. You don’t get to break those rules just because the other party did. Assuming, for argument’s sake, that DJ is a total butt, the grown ups on the Council should be mature enough to follow the simple rules that even my six year old knows.

  10. The newfound populism of some of the Council, and their supporters, is misplaced. By repeating “the public should decide!”, they shortcut the entire process by which priorities are set, and questions get on a ballot.

    1. First, there must be an issue – a problem trying to be solved. That is not the case here. There is no clearly identified problem.
    2. That issue must be of such importance as to demand the Council’s attention, or the attention of a board or committee that can develop the issue further. The issue gets a spot on the Agenda based on merit. This is not the case here. We have one enormous issue – the economy: from individual employment, to solvency of our businesses, to City finances.
    3. The issue gets defined more clearly through meeting after meeting, debate after debate. Through the wonder that is deliberation, a small set of potential solutions remain. They may be of a nature that requires a vote. This is the step where we entered the process, inappropriately.
    4. THEN we decide to have a vote, or not to have a vote. Again, a matter of priorities, as votes cost money, and take up manpower in getting the message to the public so that they are informed. Since people only have so much time, having too many issues to discuss with voters dilutes the message, and may lead to unexpected results.

    We have not followed this basic process. By short-circuiting the issue identification and prioritization steps, we get very busy on things that do not matter. As my Marine friends say, “Keep the main thing, the main thing”. In English: do what matters and success will follow.

    If we follow the arguments of the “trust the people and put it to a vote!” crowd, we’d be busy indeed, voting on all sorts of things that just are not pressing issues right now.

    Who wants to wager that my discussion above will be summarized as “he doesn’t trust the people enough to let them vote!”? This is exactly the kind of divisive tactic that needs to stop, now. We have real problems in our City, and throwing up “chaff” issues to distract the public brings harm.

    If we allow ourselves to be distracted by non-issues like this, we will lose focus on the “main thing”. We need every available mind in the city to be focused on our economy. Please tell your Council member you want to get the City Manager discussion off the agenda, and focus on the higher priority issue of the economy.

  11. Todd,
    That’s aong essay, but it’s all just an excuse for imposing your views on the public.

    Let the public decide and debate. Let them make the choice. The people of Edmonds are wise, and they will make a good choice. There is no reason to deny them this option.

  12. Dave, If you thought your opinion was one that was important to the people of Edmonds, why did you QUIT the position you were hired to fill before the term was up, thereby letting down your supporters (and setting up the appointment of Laura Petso)? Was is because you thought you would be beat at the next re-election & decided to do a Palin and just QUIT your post so you could criticize from the sidelines?

    You accuse Todd of imposing his views on the public. Dave, shall I introduce you to Mr. Kettle? What do you think this forum is for but for people to make their opinions known? At least you are not beating around the bush with your opinions. You should not be beating on people whose opinions differ with yours, but welcome the discourse. Instead you keep turning your anger on developers & building heights. Time to stop beating that one note song.

    Regarding your stated support for the appointment of Laura Petso to take your place, the anger around town over that move by the council will certainly backfire on them when her seat comes up for a vote next year. This is so divisive a move that those who voted her on will be voted out of office as well.

    We will then have a council of reasonable fair minded individuals willing to listen to opposing viewpoints before making a decision instead of ignoring those who differ with them. Just like in the good old days.

  13. Chris,
    Back to city manager vs. Mayor. What is wrong with the public deciding this issue?

    As for Lora Petso, I think your assuming that “your” anger is the public’s anger. I understand why you would despise Lora’s presence on the council, you’re on of the bigest advocates for taller buildings in Edmonds, and Lora is an ardent opponent of taller buildings.

    -Dave (a.k.a Mr. Negative)

  14. Dave Why dont we get off building heights and talk about what is really important . The budget, economic developement, Yost pool, parks, streets all the basic things that this city should be providing to become an even greater city than we are now.

  15. Don,
    No, I am not going to leave building heights. Small town charm is too important, and we don’t solve economic problems by sacrificing it.

    But seeing as this thread is about council manager v. Strong mayor, shouldn’t we keep it there?

    And once again, I ask, why not let the public decide?

  16. @Dave

    On building heights – it is not an issue, as there are no decisions before us. It is a principle by which we will judge future issues or questions. And yes, it is important that we retain a small town charm. Ok? Please, try to stop making this some sort of fear-driven wedge topic.

    Regarding why some disapprove of your picking Lora Petso as your relief, I don’t think it’s your place to say WHY others disapprove. I’ve heard many earfuls of reasons, but not one person has mentioned building heights. Those reasons don’t matter now, though, we have to play with the team we have on the field, regardless of past problems. To you and others – look forward, not back.

    Regarding mayor vs. manager, see comment #10 above. It’s a distracting issue. Or, look at how it’s torn Shoreline apart. No thanks.

    Priority 1: economy. We need to bring people to Edmonds to live, work, and shop. Spending our time and focus trying to solve a non-existent problem only delays addressing our economy, and our people and businesses will continue to suffer.

  17. Oh, I see, building heights is not an issue, Gosh, I’ve long been laboring under a false reality. That’s great news. I guess I’ve been wrong along with the majority of citizens in Edmonds for the past forty years. It just takes someone with so more experience like yopurself to point that out. By the way Todd, how long have you lived in Edmonds if you don’t mide my asking? I’d like to know since you seem to know so much about everything.

    And tell us, oh great one, what then would be wrong with letting the citizens decide what form of goverment they would prefer? There seems to be a deafening silence in response to that question from the town’s usual naysayers, including yourself. Perhaps you could elucidate why we should continue the tug of war politics that has wasted our efforts, time, and millions of dollars.

  18. Geez. Can’t an issue just be discussed without resorting to such spurious arguments being presented? No one has said that “tall buildings” isn’t an issue in Edmonds…it always has been and always will be, but it seems that the current ordinances and building codes have addressed that issue.
    I am a long time resident of Edmonds, and am distressed by the level of discourse on the blogs. The issue is the current form of government in Edmonds.
    I would suggest that if we had a City Council that we could trust (without the Skipper’s fiasco), and the Council could present coherent and well thought out reasons for a City Manager at this time then it would be something to consider.
    However, no cohesive arguments for a change in a form of city government have been offered, and merely “letting the people” decide will cost $80K. Money that without a compelling reason would be best spent elsewhere.
    I have not heard anyone, except the Council, pushing for a City Manager.

  19. Council member Plunkett stated in an email to council members dated may 9th that with the budget, labor negotions, levy etc. that he would not bring forward the city manager discussion, wonder why change of mind. Guess we will hear why the need for change tuesday nite. Would like more than 1 public hearing on such an important issue

  20. Ray;
    Thanks for the feedback again. Since you seem to have missed my previous entries, it looks like “Diane T.” answered your questions. Other than my time here in Edmonds. I’ve only resided here since 2005, as my Navy career kept me from really settling down. Hope you don’t hold that against me.
    “Diane T.” – thanks for the lucid response. Drop me a line if you have time, and we can bounce ideas off of each other regarding this and future issues: todd.cloutier@yahoo.com

  21. To All – It is said on this string that “…you’re on of the bigest advocates for taller buildings in Edmonds, and Lora is an ardent opponent of taller buildings.” (spelling mistakes are not mine) . Even though I vowed to ignore the poster, I must challenge him to PROVE IT.

    C’mon Dave – put up or shut up!

  22. It appears that if there is any disagreement, rather than deal with the issues at hand, saying “tall buildings” is supposed to detract from your point. Don’t worry, the rest of us are taking your points and enjoying the discussion. You should not feel that you have to defend yourself on a point that you didn’t bring up.(And you didn’t). But that is kind of what Mr. Orvis seems to be doing, Even if someone is not opposed to tall buildings (just saying), they are entitled to make their opinion known and have their ideas respected. I always learn more from points made by people with whom I disagree, than those with whom I do.

  23. Again the question, as Diane T. pointed out, is that no one has pointed out why we need this now? It seems like a distraction from the real current set of budget priorities.

    And where is this new found populism ,that we as citizens need to vote on every item that comes up for discussion, coming from. Isn’t that why we live in a representative democracy?

    All the snarky comments and tall building boogeyman talk does not answer the basic question of why we need to do this, and why we need to do it now. And without these questions asked, why do we need to spend $20,000 to $80,000 dollars on a vote for distraction.

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