Two councilmembers threaten boycott over plan to hold non-televised levy workshop

The Edmonds City Council’s plan to hold a non-televised public workshop Tuesday to discuss ideas for a possible levy came under fire Saturday, with two councilmembers threatening to boycott the session if the workshop goes forward as planned.

My Edmonds News received a flurry of emails Saturday, starting with one sent by Councilmember Michael Plunkett with the subject line: “Next Council Meeting not on TV – Councilman Plunkett Will not attend”. The email was also sent to select citizens.

“There is no reason for the council to go off camera,” Plunkett wrote, adding that during his 15 years on council, there has not been a time that that a council session has not been televised, with the exception of the council’s once-a-year retreat. “I believe the Council works best when on camera and under the watch full eyes of our citizens,” Plunkett added. “I respect my fellow council members but I just can’t agree to join them in this unprecedented action to go dark on the people of Edmonds.”

A few hours later, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis also sent My Edmonds News an email, stating that she “will not be participating in any meeting that is not recorded for all citizens to see and hear…. especially when we are talking about financials.”

Both Councilmembers Plunkett and Buckshnis said they first learned that the session wouldn’t be televised when the council meeting agenda was sent out Friday.

But Edmonds City Council President Strom Peterson, who scheduled the work session for the Brackett Room, said via email he is “at a loss as to why some councilmembers claim to have just learned of the format of the meeting on Friday.”

“The work session outside of council chambers has been on the extended agenda since May 27,” Peterson said.

Peterson said that the council decided to hold a work session during the May 24 council meeting, after levy negotiations failed. “I worked with Council VP (Lora) Petso on an option to address council’s concerns,” Peterson said. “We opted for non-televised work session (similar to our council retreats) in the Brackett Room. Not only has this been on the council agenda since then, but it has been mentioned during council meetings, including this last Tuesday.”

Peterson said that he will explore the option of moving the meeting back to the council chambers, located in the Public Safety Complex, “to avoid any boycott of this important issue.” The Brackett Room, located on the third floor of City Hall, does not have cameras that can record meetings. Edmonds City Council meetings are not shown live; instead they are tape recorded and rebroadcast at noon and 7 p.m. daily on Comcast channel 21 and Verizon channel 39.

In addition to discussing a levy, the council is scheduled to approve collective bargaining agreements between the City of Edmonds and two unions — Public, Professional and Office-Clerical Employees and Drivers Local Union No. 763, and the Service Employees International Union, Local 925. Those agreements are currently on the consent agenda, meaning that they aren’t discussed, but could be pulled off that agenda and discussed publicly if any councilmember chooses to do so.



  1. I fully understand Council President Peterson’s frustration. All those who follow council proceedings knew for some time that next week’s meeting was not scheduled for the council chambers.Any objections should have been registered earlier.

    The rationale for not televising work sessions, like council retreats, is to better facilitate discussion amongst the council members – which is also the reason for dispensing of the parliamentary rules and having the work session. It seems to me that the highest priority is the council members having as productive a meeting as possible. If that requires some concessions by the public, so be it.

  2. Ron,

    I disagree with everything you have said. First, it was not clear to me that the June 28 meeting was being held outside Council chambers until today, and I follow Council proceedings.

    Second, there is no rationale for not televising this important meeting. Council members will have a productive meeting if they take public participation and involvement seriously. Not televising an important council meeting will only serve to stand in the way of public involvement. After all, the levy they are spending three hours talking about has to be put before the public for a vote.

    Third, the public should make no such “concessions”. In fact, I propose that public comment be taken in the middle of the three hour session, as well at the end. This will give council more citizen opinions on which to inform their decision making.

  3. Joan:

    If it was’nt publicized I don’t know how I knew about it because I don’t have any sources that you don’t have.

    They certainly do need public participation and that can be accomplished at the following meeting when they undoubtedly will hold a public hearing on whatever concensus they’ve arrived at at the workshop.Therewill be many opportunities for people like you and I to give our inputs before anything goes to a ballot.

    I wouldn’t be too optimistic about an abundance of citizens getting engaged with this issue. Just look at the miniscule attendance at the earlier meetings this Spring when council was deliberating putting a levy on the ballot.

  4. You seem to have missed my points entirely, since you equate “citizens getting engaged with this issue” with “attendance at earlier meetings”. Perhaps there won’t be many citizens who comment at the meeting, but there won’t be any who will get to watch the Council’s discussion later if it is not televised.

  5. They are going to come up with something one way or another and we the citizens get the final word a vote,Im kind of glad it won’t be on television cause I have better things to do with my time,anybody that can sit and watch the council talk about a levy for 3 hours, i kind of wonder Don’t you have better things to be doing really go to a ballgame go to the beach work in your yard or on your house theres better things to be doing

  6. I applaud Joan Bloom for her stand as I totally agree with her view and Plunkett and Buckshnis for not participating in the council meeting on Tuesday unless the meeting is in a fully open meeting televised for all to see. This is called TRANSPARENCY” and is much needed in Edmonds. People who are on city Council should feel comfortable to talk about city business openly on or off camera, anywhere and anytime and most do.It should not make any difference! I suggest that those who do not agree or are uncomfortable about being transparent or for whatever reason should resign and find another way to spend their Tuesday nights!

  7. After the past 10 years of too much secretive behind closed door procedings, Edmonds citizens are likely to insist and support only the most complete, honest, and full disclosure of the behavior of our trusted elected officials.

  8. The solution is to move the meeting to council chambers. Set up the room like it was done for the directors presentation to council. That was tables on the floor and in a discussion look and feel. Just get them off the stage and get them around a table and turn on the cameras. This is exactually what the levy committee recommended on Feb 22. If you leave it in the Brackett room the only thing you have is the audio recording like they did for the retreat.

  9. Just looked at the agenda for Tues on the City web site. In addition to the 3 hour levy discussion the is a very important item on labor contracts. Looks like the new contracts are done? It also looks like pay can increase 3 ways. 1. Seattle CPI at 100% 2. Some kind of longevity increase that can be up to 2%. 2. Some “Step” type of increases. Hard to understand Step increases but the numbers look like a 5% going from step 1 to 2 in 6 monghs? Then about every year there after another step increase of about 5%. Does anyone know how that works? If step increases are awarded on a time schedule then how does that differ from CPI and longevity?

    Ron W. you are a wizz on these things. Tell us what is going on.

    Labor costs are the most important element of our total costs and if they are going to be on the agenda then the public ought to be able to follow along on TV.

  10. Yet another thought. The meeting wherever it is held has an audio tape. Just play the audio tape on channel 21 and 39 with some rotating slides about taxes about how are we are taxed. EMS, Property, Bonding. I have already given council some sample Edmonds reports that are patterned after Redmond’s reports. Maybe they could be rotated along with the audio tape.

  11. Darrol:

    I only have a few minutes now as we’re off to church. I reviewed the contracts yesterday. COLA, step increases, and longevity pay are all additive, as well as being typical of all government union contracts.

  12. Just one other quick thought, I could be wrong but these contracts are done deals. They’ve been finalized in executive sessions and have been ratified by the respective unions. They’re on the consent agenda to go thru the formality of having them approved in a public meeting.

  13. i was aware of the the meeting not being on channel 21 as it was announced several times and was on the the extended agenda. My problem is the consent agenda as it was my understanding this meeting was to be about coming to a consence on the levy. When the consent agenda was added with the union contracts on them and there being no discussion so the public would know what these contracts are going to cost us or hopefull save us some money,to me it became a matter of transparency which is a buzz word the council likes to us. I urge you to email council president peterson to change the meeting back to the council chamber

  14. Work sessions are permissible, for the City Council and any other public body. What is not permissible, is the making of decisions without public debate of the issues.

    To say that the Council is NEVER allowed to meet outside the Council chambers simply isn’t true. They can discuss whatever they like. This does not make any portion of the process less transparent, as the entire meeting is still recorded, all materials available, and all decisions must be made in public, with public hearings on topics that warrant them.

    There is no grand conspiracy, in my eyes. Nor is there an effort to “exclude” the public. Rather, there is a recognition that the Council doesn’t seem to make much progress in having discussions during Council sessions, while working sessions such as the annual retreat often bring about freer discussions and development of outlines of potential solutions.

    However, now that the accusations of non-transparency are out there, there is no chance that this meeting can be productive.

  15. Darrol Labor contracts with pay increases I forgot about that thats a bigger deal than the levy, at least we get to wote on the levy they want to give pay increases when there running out of money what say do the citizens have in that were paying for all this stuff

  16. It the labor contracts are on the concent agenda then how do we learn what the contracts will cost vs what is already in the forecast. I think the forecast has 5 % labor and 5 % benefit elculations already in the budget. Will this contract cost more or less that what is already in the forecast. If it cost less then the pressure on the GF is reduced. If it cost more than forecasted then what are the options to pay for the increases with and without a levy. They tie together.

    Todd, I am just trying to find out the facts not add fuel to the fire. With Diane and Michael not attending it will not be productive. It was Diane and Michael who guided the levy team this last year and without their input that is reflective of this years work then it is like a slap in the face for those of us on the levy committee who gave of our time, energy, and talent to try and help the City. The final recommendation of this years team is a good one and our recommendation was to have a retreat like session, in chambers, just like the one that was done with the Directors.

  17. Since this is a regularly scheduled meeting, a sign on the door of City Hall stating the meeting has been moved to Council Chambers across the street should do the trick. In my opinion a discussion that may likely form the basis for a substantial levy of tax on the citizens MUST be available for viewing on Channel 21. Darrol’s suggestion that it be done on the floor around a table puts it in an informal setting.

  18. Mike McCarthy – Um, your say is at the ballot box. That’s why they call it “representative government.”
    Also, it’s amazing to me how many people are so convinced that government officials have to stay on camera or they’ll be plotting something dire against “the people”. It’s also amazing how many people can’t distinguish between “the council didn’t listen to me” and “the council didn’t do exactly what I told them to do.” A representative body is there to accomplish the former, not necessarily the latter.
    And anyone who thinks that an honest conversation about difficult decisions can be made with cameras rolling has never been in that position. If your priority is a productive meeting with everyone comfortable with putting all ideas on the table, then the best option is to do that without the cameras rolling. If your priority is to get some footage designed to embarrass someone in a future election, then, by all means, keep the cameras on. People will naturally be much more careful about what they say, and will absolutely not try to make any kind of creative suggestion or ask any clarifying question that they think may come back to haunt them.
    Bottom line, do you want solutions or do you want politics?

  19. This is just another reminder why we must vote NO or AGAINST another LEVY to save the city, what looks like no money to run day to day, Pay increases should be put on hold for a couple years, lets not forget the city has not said how they are going to pay for the ECA shortfall of $150,000 to $250,000 this yaer and many more to come, my thought was to Sell it, pay off the outstanding dept and if there is any cash left use it for something that affects all of us, Lets be honest when you cant find money to operate and the future doesnt look any better, Time to cut your losses and Sell.

  20. Boy! And, I thought my seven year old was a drama king. It must be an election year.

    Right on point, Sally @21.

    Here are my questions:

    (1) Why didn’t Mr. Plunkett and Ms. Buckshinis simply drop an email to Mr. Peterson asking that recording happen? Did the two counsel men take those steps or simply decide to fly off the handle? I know Mr. Peterson to be a reasonable person. Why the public hysteria?

    (2) These meetings, I believe, are open to the public, whether or not they are recorded?

  21. Sally I really don’t understand what you are saying, if i was going to watch that meeting which I won’t even if its on tv I would be more interested in the contract talk than the levy talk, I get to vote on anything they come up with for a levy so why do I need to watch that, Do I have a say in how much they come up with for the workers in a contract, I don’t think so I’m not a union rep, but it will have a baring on how I vote for a levy lets just see how the city handles there money here on out , one last thing anytime anybody has ever come to me for money I always want to look at how they are spending it why should it be any different with the city?

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