[Note: complete video of the October 16 ACE Forum for both Port and Council candidates is available for viewing here.]
The second half of Monday evening’s candidate forum pitted the candidates vying for three seats on the seven-member Edmonds City Council. Incumbents Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Kristiana Johnson and Mike Nelson are all running to retain their current seats. Johnson and Fraley-Monillas are being challenged by Josh Thompson and Alvin Rutledge respectively. Nelson is running unopposed.
Held at the Edmonds Senior Center, sponsored by the Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds (ACE), and moderated by Dave Buelow, the forum followed a similar format as the earlier Port Commission face-off, where the candidates first introduced themselves and identified the position for which they are running, followed by a series of questions posed to the candidates by the moderator.
Unlike the port forum, different questions were posed to the candidates rather than all getting the same questions. Candidates were not supplied with the questions in advance. Following this, each candidate was allowed to ask one question of his or her opponent. The session concluded with closing statements from each.
Following introductions, Buelow began the question-and-answer session, posing the following questions to the candidates identified in parentheses:
- Harbor Square Redevelopment (J Thompson, K Johnson)
Despite rejection of the Port’s Master Plan for Harbor Square by the city council in 2013, the port in March 2014 added what essentially is the same rejected plan in its “Eastside” Master Plan. Major issues in the port plan are:
- Zoning is changed from commercial to mixed commercial/ residential uses,
- Building height is increased from the current 35 feet to an overall average height of 45 feet and maximum height up to 55 feet adjacent to the marsh, and
- Minimum setback off Dayton Street is a 15-foot sidewalk, and no stated setback from the marsh is included as compared to the 25-foot setback originally included in the Port proposal.
Do you support the specific parameters listed above, and why or why not?
- Improve Transparency (A Fraley Monillas, A Rutledge, M Nelson)
What changes would you make in city council meeting, publicity and decision-making procedures to increase transparency and encourage community involvement and input into your decision-making process?
- Downtown Heights (J Thompson, K Johnson)
If elected, would you vote for height limits that exceed the current 30 feet in downtown Edmonds and along the waterfront, where and why?
- Homelessness (A Fraley-Monillas)
Edmonds has a small but growing homeless population, which the Senior Center serves with its Emergency Cold Weather Shelter. What can the city do to reduce homelessness and more effectively aid this population?
- First time Councilor (J Thompson, A Rutledge)
If you are elected, identify two or three proposals that you would make\advocate for in the next four years.
- Incumbent Councilor (K Johnson, M Nelson)
What are you most proud of in the time that you have served on city council, and what legislation do you intend to offer in the next four years?
- Downtown Parking (A Fraley-Monillas, M Nelson)
Downtown parking is an ongoing problem for both residents and business access. What solutions would you propose to address those parking issues?
- Reduce Size and Expense of Government (A Rutledge)
What would you propose if elected to reduce the size and expense of government to avoid new or higher taxes?
- Residential Density (All Council Candidates)
Several zoning changes (including Accessory Dwelling Units, Mother-in-Law Apartments, Rezoning from Single Family to Multiple Family, Mini-Homes) are being discussed that could have a major impact on residential density, traffic and parking throughout Edmonds. In general, do you support making these zoning changes, and why or why not?
Downtown Building Heights (Thompson and Johnson) –
Thompson said he is “not in favor of raising building heights.” He spoke of the importance of “protecting the postcard,” as long as we can, and keeping downtown “as it is.” He did allow that to compensate for the predicted 2-foot rise in sea levels, he would consider adding that increment to building heights.
Johnson also came out strongly against any increase in building heights. “This is my number-one issue,” she declared. “We need to protect our historic downtown and shoreline.” She then went on to specifically state her opposition to the Port’s Harbor Square urban village proposal which would allow buildings up to 55 feet tall. “The port is just waiting for the council to change,” she concluded.
Density (all candidates) –
Nelson said he favors a “careful approach” that would look at each situation individually and evaluate it on its merits as the best way to “account for growth while protecting what we have.”
Johnson said that the “council will begin a density and housing study soon.” She acknowledged that there are already “lots of illegal accessory dwelling units and mother-in-law apartments,” and that a mechanism is needed to deal with this issue.
Thompson said that “there are a lot of ideas on the ground,” and stressed the importance of carefully evaluating these. “We need to use the old carpenter’s rule of measuring twice and cutting once,” to avoid unintended consequences as we evaluate and implement these, he said. “Not all solutions are ideal for all situations, and we need to be able to accommodate specifics such as parking, presence or absence of sidewalks, and traffic impacts.”
Fraley-Monillas suggested that “we need options for seniors to be able to move into a smaller dwellings and rent out their larger home.” She agreed with the need to consider specifics for each situation such as traffic, parking and sidewalks, and also whether infrastructure like water, sewers and electrical capacity could support higher density.
Rutledge expressed that much of the issues around “bringing in more people” could be “addressed through the permit process.”
Parking (Fraley-Monillas and Nelson) –
Fraley-Monillas sees better enforcement of parking laws as the first step. “People just don’t adhere to parking time limits,” she said. She supports extending the striping of individual space throughout downtown as a way to encourage efficient use of street parking and discourage “one car taking two spaces.” She also would like to see more carpooling and bus access for downtown employees.
Nelson favors a two-pronged approach comprised of creating more parking while increasing enforcement of current parking laws. He observed that “the new parking enforcement officer has already brought some improvement,” and added that we need to “readjust the parking spaces we already have.”
Transparency (Rutledge, Nelson and Fraley-Monillas) –
Rutledge stressed that “the public has to come and ask for things to change,” suggesting that transparency could be enhanced “if meetings were held at a better time and place.”
Nelson observed that “mostly we look into an open audience” at meetings, and that to address this he’d be open to considering a “road tour” to bring council meetings to various locations throughout the city. He also suggested that committee meetings should be televised in addition to full council meetings.
Fraley-Monillas also favors televising more meetings. “We must make decisions in the open on the dais, and listen to citizens who come to the microphone to testify and send us emails,” she said. She also favors reaching out to the “22 percent of Edmonds citizens who are non-white,” and suggests that meetings held along the Highway 99 corridor would help with this.
What are you most proud of as an incumbent (Nelson and Johnson) –
Nelson said he is most proud of his efforts at gun safety and firearms control. “If the state doesn’t do it, we need to,” he said. He also expressed pride in our efforts to address the climate crisis, calling it a “moral responsibility,” and that “if the President of the United States won’t do it, we will.”
Johnson cited her introduction of Robert’s Rules to Council meetings as among her top accomplishments. She also expressed pride in the recently-adopted Highway 99 Subarea Plan and the new zero waste policy. Looking to the future she would like to “reinstate the Transportation Committee and enact a bicycle helmet law.”
Reduce size and expense of government (Rutledge) –
Rutledge observed that “every year we see revenues go up and the budget go up.” He feels that “councilmembers need to go to each city department and look at how to cut staff.” He concluded by observing that he “hasn’t seen the new budget yet.”
Homelessness (Fraley-Monillas) –
Fraley-Monillas observed that she “has spent time in the Senior Center’s cold weather shelter” and knows first-hand the problems faced by our homeless population. She identified her efforts to bring attention to this issue, including “guiding media tours” showing the homeless encampments along Highway 99. She also sees “many people becoming homeless because they can’t afford our increasing rents.”
Harbor Square Redevelopment (Thompson and Johnson) –
Thompson stressed that he “does not support the port’s plan as it is now.” He identified his “main focus” as wastewater, saying that “we need to deal with wastewater flooding the parking lots,” and that nothing can be done until the “council gives its final approval.”
Johnson stated that she has been close to the issue for years, and that she is “very well-versed” in the plan. Saying that she “does not support the plan as it is now,” she observed that the “council did not reject the plan; the port withdrew it,” and that the port is sitting on the plan hoping that the council will change.
If elected, what proposals would you advocate (Thompson and Rutledge) –
Thompson wants to put “more work into the Highway 99 Subarea Plan” to include “enhanced flexibility on commercial properties and enhancing traffic flow.”
Rutledge would advocate for enhanced neighborhood protection with “more police,” looking at ways to “increase city revenues,” working for a more comprehensive bus system that would serve “all four corners of the city,” and working toward “a family wage that would keep businesses in town and encourage more residents to move here.”
This concluded the formal question-and-answer segment of the forum, and opened the segment where candidates were given the opportunity to ask a single question of their opponent.
Thompson to Johnson – “Is there anything you regret from your time on Council?”
Johnson responded that early in her tenure on council she voted to approve a plat subdivision off of 220th Street Southwest that “didn’t make sense and was not logical.”
Johnson to Thompson – “The Port has emphasized that they have no plans for Harbor Square, but it looks like they will re-introduce their plan if you are elected. How would you respond?”
Thompson responded that he is “familiar with the port’s plan” and that he “does not support it.” He went on to state that he “believes in doing the environmental work in advance,” and that once that is in place developers will “find a way” that is in accord with this.
Rutledge to Fraley-Monillas – “Why did you not favor letting voters decide if they wanted Edmonds to be a sanctuary city?”
Fraley-Monillas responded that the Council approved a “safe city” designation, and that this is very different from a “sanctuary city.
Fraley-Monillas to Rutledge – “You talk about increasing revenues. How do you plan to do this?”
Rutledge responded that it would be accomplished by “bringing in more people to increase the population,” and that this would be facilitated by improved transportation to “get people downtown quickly.”
The candidates then moved into closing statements.
Johnson cited her five-and-a-half years on council, during which she has “learned a lot,” and believes that as a result she is “most effective now.” She reiterated her passion for historic preservation and the arts, adding that she looks forward to helping make the 4th Avenue Arts Corridor something “very special.” She ended by stating “no one will work harder for you.”
Thompson talked about his current work as a legislative aide for the county and that this allows him each day to “help people navigate government.” He said he would work to address the “gray wave,” of an aging population and the importance of ensuring that seniors are not forced by economics to delay needed home improvements or be “pushed into homelessness.”
Nelson returned to his earlier points about safe storage of firearms. He also stressed strong support for maintaining fire and emergency services, infrastructure and road repair, and ensuring that Edmonds remains safe, healthy and welcoming for all.
Fraley-Monillas said that “Edmonds is my home. It’s a great place to live and raise a family. I see much more good here than bad.” She advocates finishing the Highway 99 Subarea Plan to include more housing options, and to increase efforts to address the opioid abuse problem that is “killing people.”
Rutledge cited that he has lived here since 1986 and has been attending Council meetings regularly “for 30 years.” He asked citizens to “vote for me and I guarantee I’ll be out talking to you about helping to keep your neighborhoods safe.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel