Citizen Harry: Edmonds City Council changes direction on bond payoff

By Harry Gatjens

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night reversed course and voted 5-2 to not pay off bonds with the $1.3 million Public Safety Reserve Fund. After limited public comment — one citizen — and a presentation from the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, the Council engaged in some prolonged discussions about the issue.

Councilmember Lora Petso thanked all the citizens who had spoken to her as well and also thanked My Edmonds News for its recent survey on the subject. She disagreed with the survey results (which showed citizens against the idea) and still pushed to pay down the bonds. Joining Petso was Councilmember Steve Bernheim, who tried to divert the argument away from what might happen once the bonds were paid down to the $100,000 in interest the city would save by doing so.

Council President Strom Peterson and Councilmember D.J. Wilson maintained their position that in these uncertain economic times it didn’t make sense to take a ready liquid asset and use it up on a long-term debt reduction. Meanwhile, Councilmembers Michael Plunkett and Diane Buckshnis reversed their earlier positions supporting the bond payoff and joined the vote against. Plunkett said he felt more information was needed regarding future projections and also supported the idea that the city should maintain flexibility with its cash, particularly with the possibility of self insuring for employee medical insurance. Buckshnis said she had also decided against the concept of the city using up the cash.

Needing a 5-2 super majority to pass, the vote was actually 5-2 against.

In other business, the council narrowed the list of City Attorney candidates from four to two: the incumbent firm Ogden Murphy Wallace and the Lighthouse group. Expect fireworks on this decision as it seemed the council was pretty evenly and adamantly opposed between the two groups. More public comment is being taken at the Feb. 15  council meeting with final decision scheduled for Feb. 22.

  1. Echoing Joe Morgan’s comments of support.

    One note, though – citizens often cannot make their voices heard in person at Council meetings due to other commitments. Having an online survey is one way to encourage participation in the process. It is sometimes implied that only those who make it to the Council meeting really care, but I can assure you, based on my schoolyard conversations with other parents, that is clearly not the case.

  2. I didnt particapate in this survey but I think there good, now I think the city needs to re do there loan at a better interest rate like Todd suggested. I hope this paper can do some kind of a survey on the two law firms left in the running

  3. I agree Mike…an online survey related to the two City Attorney finalists would provide valuable feedback to the City Council. It would also be helpful for a group of citizens to prepare an analysis, including a cost comparison of the two finalists. To see the Attorney Application documents, simply type “attorney applications” into the My Edmonds News search box to find the related article dated February 1, 2011. Links are still available to the PDF’s for the two finalists. I believe it is critical that the City Council makes the best decision for our City’s future.

  4. There are, of course, many ways to attempt to have council members hear your views. Citizens obviously often have other commitments, but I can assure you that the most effective way to possibility be heard is to comment at the meeting – it demonstrates that you care enough to show up.

  5. @Mr. Wambolt – that’s exactly the sentiment I’m talking about. Much of the population simply cannot make it to a three hour meeting on a school night. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize those who do make it there as somehow caring more.
    That may be true if you’re comparing two people with similar levels of daily responsibilities, but remember that we have thousands of young families in Edmonds who do not have the luxury of taking off an entire school night. Online surveys, and email input to Council Members, while not optimal, must also be given weight. Measures like this help to engage this segment of the population, the segment that makes up the majority of the voter base, but often has the least input to the process due to their other pressing demands.
    While at first it may seem that “if they care, they’ll pay attention”, I think otherwise. People are overwhelmed in their daily lives, and local politics is hard to simply add to your list of things to do. Active outreach to the population, and education on the issues of the day, helps bring Edmonds issues to the top of the pile. A local news website like this one has already made significant strides to help engage those who would not otherwise know what was going on in City Hall. Thanks, Teresa!

  6. Todd
    I simply stated it the way it is. As you know, life is not always fair; it’s often “the squeaky wheel that gets the grease”. All council members do not read this site, and some don’t read all of their emails. But they do hear audience comments.

  7. In my experience, Ron, while they may hear, many times they do not listen or even pay attention. Frequently, I have observed council members speaking to each other, reading or shuffling papers or playing with their laptops, certainly even pretending they care.

    I would be nice if, when a citizen makes some rather interesting comments a council member or two actually ask a question instead of sitting there like a stunned mullet!

  8. @Ron – fully concur with the reality of the situation. I just have this crazy idealistic streak of expecting things to be run with the public’s concern in mind. I know, I know… not realistic. But optimism got me this far. And sometimes, expecting the best, causes people to rise to the occasion.

    Maybe we should squeak about THAT for a while.

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