Edmonds City Councilmember Joan Bloom continued her efforts to dig deeper into the city’s traffic calming program, and the result was a 30-minute interrogation Tuesday night of City Public Works Director Phil Williams.
Bloom had requested that city staff make a presentation to the council following the recent disclosure that Williams agreed to use $10,000 allocated to the city’s traffic calming fund to help the Washington State Department of Transportation build a crosswalk across State Route 104 near Point Edwards.
The Tuesday night presentation started with City Transportation Engineer Bertrand Hauss explaining that the traffic calming program is part of the City’s 2009 Transportation Plan. Hauss also outlined how citizens can petition the city to address traffic calming concerns in their neighborhood, and the criteria that the city uses for prioritizing those projects, including the speed at which cars generally travel in the area, the location of “pedestrian generators” such as parks and schools, existing sidewalks and accident history.
In closing, Hauss stated that transportation staff is hoping to have $20,000 in the traffic calming fund budget for 2015 to purchase a radar feedback sign (those signs that tell drivers how fast they are going) that is detachable from its foundation and can be moved around to different locations citywide.
After Hauss answered a few questions and comments from other councilmembers, it was Bloom’s turn and she immediately asked again about the $10,000 allocation to the state’s $300,000 Highway 104 crossing. The line of questioning caused Williams to take Hauss’ place at the podium, where he repeatedly defended his decision to allocate the traffic calming dollars to the state project.
Bloom asked Williams why he did not bring the request to the council as a budget amendment, and Williams replied that he had 24 hours to make a decision about the state’s last-minute request for grant assistance. Council President Diane Buckshnis later noted that Williams has the authority to make the decision for that dollar amount without council approval, and added that the council could decide to replenish the fund at any point with dollars from a different fund.
“I consider this (the Highway 104 crossing) a traffic calming issue and I have no problem with this,” Buckshnis said. “We probably spent more than $10,000 worth of time just talking about it.” Councilmember Tom Mesaros, who lives in the Point Edwards neighborhood that would benefit most from the project, thanked Williams for his quick action to help the state secure funding for the project.
Under further questioning, Williams said that his staff in the past had not solicited citizens’ petitions as a way of identifying traffic calming projects, but instead has used other methods of feedback — such as emails from local residents– to determine where the problem spots lie. But he agreed with Bloom that better publicity of the citizen involvement process — including an announcement on the city website and making submission forms publicly available — would be a good idea, and pledged to follow up on it.
At the end of the council meeting, Bloom announced that she would be hosting her own town hall meeting on another hot button topic — proposed zoning changes for the Westgate neighborhood — from 7-8:30 p.m. next Monday, Sept. 15 at the Faith Community Church, 10220 238th St. S.W.
Bloom and Mayor Dave Earling then had a pointed exchange about Bloom’s request for staff time to help with her town hall meeting preparations. Bloom noted that Earling denied the request, and Earling replied that he determined that city staff would not being able to allocate the time necessary on such short notice. In addition, Earling said that the city has already held many public meetings on the Westgate issue.
Bloom also requested that staff post information related to the Westgate project on the city’s website; Earling said he would share that request with staff to determine if they had time to take it on.
In other action, the council:
– postponed action on whether to endorse a resolution supporting passage of Washington State Initiative 594, regarding background checks for those purchasing guns. City Attorney Jeff Taraday said that the council is required by law to first provide citizens with proper public notice of the possible endorsement so they can comment for or against the idea. The measure is scheduled to be back before the council on Oct. 7.
– watched as Earling presented a proclamation to Edmonds resident Janice Freeman honoring both her and her late husband, Edmonds environmentalist Robert “Bob” Freeman, who died Sept. 1 after a long illness. The proclamation, which you can read in its entirety here, noted that as founders of local citizen group Sustainable Edmonds, the Freemans “supported and were in part responsible or the local legislative initiatives addressing climate change, including the inclusion of sustainability as an element of the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan, installing solar panels on the Anderson Center, and the creation of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee in 2006.”