Tuesday evening the Edmonds’ City Council will be discussing several options to salvage what has been a very flawed process for adopting an Edmonds’ “Housing Strategy.” I strongly support the option listed as #5.
The 2019 chart of government organization in Edmonds notably places the citizens of Edmonds at the top, above the mayor, the city council, the various departments, the courts. As such it should absolutely be the citizens of Edmonds who decide what the city will look like in the future.
The Edmonds’ City Council “Code of Ethics” enumerates the ethical principles which shall govern conduct of elected officials. It clearly states that the douncil shall “conduct business of the city in a manner which is not only fair in fact, but also in appearance.” The administration has rushed to create a “new” housing task force constituted of handpicked and like-minded members. If the city council allows this process to go unchecked, it certainly is an example of the council conducting business in a manner which is not fair in fact or appearance. Citizens will continue to have little or no trust in the process.
On Thursday evening I attended a meeting of this “new” task force which is being called the “Citizens Housing Advisory Committee,” a group of handpicked Edmonds residents who purportedly represent different viewpoints. It was abundantly clear that the handpicked members on that committee lean heavily toward exactly what is in the strategy as it exists now: much greater density and the destruction of Edmonds’ small town feel.
I noted three very disturbing issues at the meeting when the members were asked to come up with “talking points.” Granted, these were labeled “talking points,” but each point was enthusiastically received by the committee and they were meant to be a guideline for issues the task force considers important. First, although a long list was compiled, nowhere on the list was what the costs to Edmonds’ residents would be from a housing strategy that envisions massive new development. All must concede, that was a huge issue with the Berk plan. There is no doubt that there will be costs to us and those must be discussed. We will see increased traffic, higher taxes, and a shortage of parking. Second, one member said, after it was brought up that the “charm” of Edmonds should be considered, that “charm” is in the eye of the beholder and that charm might mean high density and walkability to some, which of course would mean more developments like Westgate in multiple places. That might be true. However, the majority of citizens in Edmonds must be the ones who define Edmonds’ charm, not a faction on a committee, not the city council, not Mayor Earling. Edmonds charm should be defined by a majority of the citizens here. And finally, one of the talking points roundly approved was that the committee should “talk to people outside of Edmonds”! (Note, this was not to assess ideas that had not worked in other places as that was a separate talking point.”) I find this idea astonishing, that this handpicked committee thinks they should talk to people outside of our community about what our housing strategy should be, about what our city should look like, about how we should conduct ourselves. Edmonds government has really lost sight of who should be in charge here: us! Remember that very little public input was solicited from the start of this housing strategy process and Edmonds’ citizens were treated like our voices didn’t count. A stop has to be put to that frame of mind. The majority of Edmonds’ citizens should be allowed to say what our housing strategy will be.
The process by which this new task force was created was corrupt from the start and does not meet either the “fairness or appearance of fairness” test. Starting on Oct. 24 or perhaps even earlier, the Development Services Director began secretly handpicking members for this “new committee.” A first meeting was scheduled a mere two weeks later for which there was almost no public notice. This is more of the same flawed process that has gone on for almost two years. It must stop.
Option number 5 does several positive things. It calls for a legislatively selected committee. I understand that to mean an “open application” process as is currently used for boards and commissions in Edmonds. Although this group is labeled a “task force” or a “committee,” what it will be doing may ultimately change Edmonds and the way it looks far more than some of the other groups that are designated “boards and commissions.” The open application process means that task force or committee members would be confirmed by the city council and their applications would be public documents. The committee as it stands now and the process by which it was selected wlll not pass the transparency nor the fairness test. The citizens of Edmonds will not have faith in this new task force. This is not good government.
Option 5 also allows for extending the Comprehensive Plan completion date for the Housing Strategy element. This is necessary to give enough time to actually create a strategy that the majority of Edmonds citizens can support.
If the goal of the members of the city council is to have the citizens of Edmonds truly back a comprehensive and fair housing strategy, it will back option 5 which is more of a complete reboot and should be adopted so that the public will finally have some confidence in a much more transparent process. I urge Edmonds’ citizens to contact the city council and demand they vote for a complete reboot, Option 5.