Today’s ‘Coffee with Citizen Harry’

By Harry Gatjens

The first “Coffee with Harry” was held this morning  at Chanterelle Restaurant in downtown Edmonds. First things first: Thanks to proprietor Brooke Baker and her staff for hosting the meeting. The coffee and service were outstanding.

 A small group of people showed up to talk and most stayed for at least an hour. The overriding concern was that of transparency and accountability of government — local, state and federal. Citizens are feeling increasingly mislead and becoming distrustful of their elected official. Long term, this can only lead to further erosion of public confidence and ultimately political disaster. Our government needs to be open with us about what they are doing and not try and hide behind committees and commissions to deflect attention away from the politicians themselves.

 There was a feeling that the Levy Committee, the Transportation Benefit District and other groups were just designed as a way for the local politicians to cover themselves and not take responsibility for  the need for additional taxes. Concern that things are sculpted by wordsmiths to try and hide the true story.

Why is the proposed license tab increase referred to as a “contribution” by the citizens rather than as a fee or a tax? Why can’t we just lay out the City’s budget and say we can do “X” amount with taxes as they are now and we can do X plus Y more if the voters approve a property tax levy? The citizens are smart and rational. Give them the facts and they can make solid choices. Muddy the presentation and they can’t make an informed decision and they lose faith in your integrity.

The one main task I was asked to accomplish was to make it clear that if the Council wants to propose a levy to the citizens, they should first demonstrate that the City has looked for every efficiency it can find and then second, lay out precisely what will be accomplished with the increased tax revenue. Don’t use emotional rhetoric but lay out actual decision choices.

My goal after hearing from this group will be to continue to try to give fact-based reports on committee and issues as I see them. I will give an opinion from time to time. but my goal is to provide the factual basis so people can make Informed choices.

While the turnout was small, I was pleased that citizens had an interest in what is going on. I think there will be another opportunity to meet and have coffee.

  1. Good report Harry. As one of the folks at the coffee I feel you captured the discussion very well. There were many good comments by those attending. Each comments was well thought out and all folks listened to each other. It was a great conversation by some well meaning folks. I hope you have other sessions on a regular basis and maybe even ask for topics to be discussed in advance so folks can come prepared to offer their views on specific topics. Chanterelle’s is always a great place to meet and all who joined Harry bought other menu items. At the next meeting Harry, I wll buy you a slice of the Coffee Cake, it is wonderful. It was kind of like what we expect from good government…
    “We know what it is and what it will cost and when it is all over we enjoyed the experience.” Keep up the good work Harry and let us know when the next coffee session will be in enough time to help increase the attendence.

  2. Good Job Harry. As always you have a very honest approach and have great candor. Yes, I enjoyed my town hall meetings when Adrienne and I held them and now that fall is here, we may start them up again. But, as you know we are quite busy with the levy commitee of which I have spent hundreds of hours researching how other cities operate. I glad you are part of the levy committee.

    I would hope that citizens would become more engaged in our finances and look at our City Website which new city policy requires monthly and quarterly reports. We need to start understand our situation before we can ever recommend what is needed. Transparency is key and honest conversations between staff, citizens and council members is necessary. So, thanks for the citizen input.

  3. Agreed transparency and honesty are paramount in the process. Harry embodies those qualities and is an invaluable resource to our community.
    When those town meetings were held, they were announced as only positive people need attend.
    Transparency at the City Website begins with honesty. The City Website, as you are aware, stated misleadingly that the “TBD Votes to Place Annual $40 Car License Renewal Fee on November, 2010 Ballot” when it is actually a $40 increase? That was not changed until 9/14 and then very quietly done. Who wrote that statement? Who approved it? Who posted it, and why was it left on the for any length of time?
    If knowing the state of the finances is paramount to making decisions about spending, and levies, then why were you one of the Council Members actively trying to purchase the Skipper’s Property for $1.1M? Why did you support a water/sewer tax increase of approx. 8% per year? Why do you support the TBD tab tax increase of 200%? Spending hundreds of hours on how other cities handle financing? Why? Those cities have their own unique circumstances. Would it not be more productive to spend that time on Edmonds finances?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.