Mayor willing to find $1 million for marsh funding; council revotes to include federal lobbyist

1477
19
The Edmonds Marsh (Photo by Bill Anderson)

In an evening of twists and turns during deliberations over Mayor Dave Earling’s proposed 2019 budget, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night moved a step closer to approving $1 million that would be used for Edmonds Marsh restoration, and reversed its decision on funding a federal lobbyist.

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who has been pushing for increased marsh restoration funding, told her fellow councilmembers Tuesday that “the iron is hot for salmon recovery and near-shore estuary restoration. This project will put Edmonds on the map as we will become environmental visionaries, and will allow us to prove that we can collaborate with state, federal, local and transportation stakeholders to provide a sanctuary for our salmon and wildlife.”

Marsh supporters and city officials believe that additional investment would help the city in its efforts to obtain grant funding for the Willow Creek Daylighting project, which is key to marsh restoration.

Setting aside $1 million will also demonstrate that the city is serious about its Marina Beach Master Plan process, added Buckshnis, who made a motion to do just that.

After taking a short break to speak with Finance Director Scott James and listening to council discussion on the matter, Earling said that he and James have identified several possible sources of money for marsh funding in the city’s budget. The mayor proposed taking a week for further consideration, promising Buckshnis that “I can bring back a package that you will find very satisfactory.”

“I’m willing to collaborate,” replied Buckshnis, who withdrew her amendment pending the discussion at next week’s council meeting. “I think those pieces will fall into place.”

“It will be a matter of showing people we are willing to talk our talk, and put money where our mouth is,” she added.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said she was pleased with the city administration’s response to Buckshnis’ request, adding that she believes marsh funding is “one of the. highest priorities for the city council.” As such, Johnson said she has been exploring how the city can use its federal lobbyist to find marsh funding. And she noted that the lobbyist’s contract has been modified to include marsh restoration, in addition to working to obtain funding for the Edmonds Waterfront Connector and Highway 99 improvements.

Johnson then proposed that the council revisit the amendment proposed by Council President Mike Nelson and approved Nov. 27 to remove the lobbyist from the budget. She stated she had a change of heart after speaking with Mayor Earling and Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty about the lobbyist’s work and direction.

The Nov. 27 decision to remove $72,000 for the federal lobbyist had been approved by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Johnson, Nelson, Fraley-Monillas and Buckshnis voting for. During Tuesday night’s vote, Johnson and Buckshnis joined Councilmembers Neil Tibbott, Dave Teitzel and Tom Mesaros in reversing that decision and approving the lobbyist’s funding.

Among the many budget amendments both approved and rejected Tuesday night, the council agreed to add $200,000 to begin the process of making Edmonds’ playgrounds accessible to people with disabilities and voted to decrease the budget for the much-publicized Edmonds Gateway sign from $35,000 to $10,000.

The latter two items were among several budget amendments that had been proposed by  Nelson. He suggested that the city begin adding rubberized pathways to its parks after meeting with a family whose son wasn’t able to travel through wood chips — the current play surface in most parks — when using his wheelchair.

“It’s really hard to get a wheelchair over wood chips,” agreed City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite. The best practice for an accessible parks pathway currently is a poured-in-place rubber that would cost an estimated $150,000, Hite said.

The idea, Nelson said, would be to make such improvements gradually as parks are upgraded with new equipment. The next park on the schedule is Seaview.

The discussion about the Edmonds Gateway sign — which the city has proposed to redesign, to the consternation of some  — focused on the $35,000 proposed cost. “I just think that’s too much money,” said Nelson, who suggested reducing the amount to $10,000.

Councilmember Fraley-Monillas said she had heard from several citizens who were upset with the cost “and they believe that $35,000 for a sign — you can buy a car with that. If we can’t have a sign built for $10,000 coming into Edmonds, then there’s something really wrong with government,” she added.

Parks Director Hite said that $10,000 would likely be adequate if the city ends up staying with the current wood design now at the Highway 104 location. However, she noted the city has begun an extensive public engagement process about sign options and that more money may be needed if another design is chosen.

Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked if the current wooden sign would last a year, while the community discussion continues about the fate of the Highway 104 sign. Hite said it would. She also reiterated that after a decision is made about the Highway 104 sign, the city would turn its attention to the design of gateway signs throughout the city. The council voted 5-2 to approve Nelson’s amendment reducing the sign budget to $10,000.

The council also voted against Nelson’s proposal to remove $323,000 for an in-house sidewalk crew that would work on general construction and repairs as well as get a start on ensuring the city’s sidewalks are ADA compliant. And councilmembers rejected another Nelson amendment to add two new police officers to focus on drug problems, with the consensus that such a proposal should be vetted as to need and purpose.

In other action Tuesday night, the council approved:

— a $197,000 change order to cover additional work on the city’s Five Corners reservoir recoating project;

– the following candidates for the newly-formed Edmonds Youth Commission:
Caitlin Chung, Caroline Wills, Kaleb Nichols, Nathanael Perdomo, Owen Lee, Sydney Pearson, Stephany Janssen and Noah Erickson;

– the city’s 2019 state government legislative agenda.

— By Teresa Wippel

19 Replies to “Mayor willing to find $1 million for marsh funding; council revotes to include federal lobbyist”

  1. Thanks Teresa.
    It amazes me that the Council has to go back and forth on whether or not to have a lobbyist. We need a lobbyist. Period. Councilmember Buckshnis reportedly said she couldn’t point to anything the lobbyist did last year. Lobbyists often work shoulder to shoulder with other lobbyists for mutual concerns so it’s not always easy to quickly discern their efforts. Please keep our lobbyist permanently and concentrate on bigger issues. $75,000 is a deal especially when we would even consider paying $35,000 for a sign.
    All that said, I appreciate the work of our council, I know it can be a thankless job sometimes.
    Happy Holidaze!

    Ignored

    1. Thank you for your question and of course this was orchestrated by the Mayor and Ms Johnson.
      What wasn’t made public was that the Mayor updated and finally showed Council his contact. This contract is similar to our local lobbyist, Jennifer Ziegler. Of note to me was the Mayor updated the contract to include looking for funds for Marsh Restoration which was not even on the Major Projects list for the City (if you have been following the entire budget and CIP/CFP process). So for this reason -I am giving the Mayor another chance. Having said that – I am hopeful the Administration will see the value of my $1mm set aside for the Marsh (it was very late last night so I agreed to move the decision until next week). To me, the clock is ticking on the massive funds available for Salmon Recovery and the Administration has not been shy putting millions of dollars aside for THEIR priority projects. So let’s update the timelines, work with Stakeholders, set aside the $1mm for “skin in the game” matching, start the grant writing and let everyone know Edmonds is serious about our environment. This should be our legacy not a massive concrete overpass (for some though – we can have two legacies).

      I know this is a long answer – but that is why I changed my vote; and you can be assured this will be the true test of his value in DC.

      Ignored

    2. I was at the Council meeting last night and heard that the lobbyist hasn’t secured any federal funding for Edmonds. The idea of a federal lobbyist is a sound one, but unfortunately our current choice hasn’t produced any federal dollars for Edmonds.

      Ignored

  2. Did they deny another police officer? I thought they were going to vote on two?? With the huge increase of drug related theft and more I thought an additional policeman was going to be added?

    Ignored

    1. The amendment to add two additional police officers was defeated. The final budget hasn’t been approved yet though.

      Ignored

    2. We have yet to hear from the Council’s Opiod Task Force that we set aside money ($250k) for in last year’s budget. For me it was confusing as some wanted only one and then two and I just ask if we could wait a month and educate all of us about the task force results and what they recommend. One Council Member said she thought our designated 2018 funds could be used to fund an officer – so again there were four of us that had not been part of that task force and needed more details.

      I was on the phone -so I may have heard differently too – but this issue will be addressed next month and all of us will be able to understand the degree of problems.

      Ignored

  3. Well I am truly flabbergasted that no elected official, and no relevant member of the administration, has yet shown any recognition of the need for traffic enforcement in our city. Public safety is suppose to be one of their top priorities. Their lack of attention to this, once again, demonstrates that they simply don’t care. Unbelievable!

    Ignored

    1. Thank you for your timely comments. From my experience working on traffic control on Pine Street I know that many people share your opinion. From your experience as a City Council member how do you think we can make a change?

      Ignored

      1. Undoubtedly the police know all about the traffic problems. What I don’t know is why they have not requested more resources to deal with the problem. So we need the city council to take the initiative and provide the funding for two officers who will be devoted entirely to traffic enforcement.
        Another aspect of this is the ferry traffic that races thru our city all day long. Most of this traffic is on state routes 104 (Edmonds Way) and 524 (196th St.). Has anyone ever seen state police stopping speeders on those routes? Is anyone aware of a state elected official taking the initiative to deal with the issue? State elected officials seem to be more concerned about the health of the fish in our waters than they are about the safety of people on our roads. If the state does not want to take care of that traffic they should be made to provide our city the resources to do it.

        Ignored

  4. Why was the amendment to add two new police officers defeated? It would appear that the Chief and EPD are being proactive in protecting public safety by getting ready for all these new residents we keep hearing about. Public safety and basic police and fire services should be in the forefront and of tantamount importance. I know they were widely illustrated in the waterfront connector project. There is another big Edmonds outside the bowl as well.

    Ignored

    1. The sense I got in listening to the discussion was the new officers had not been requested by the police department and that this was a new amendment that had not been fully vetted by the council nor included in their list of budget priorities identified earlier this year. There was also the discussion — referenced in an earlier comment here by councilmember Buckshnis —about using the money the council set aside last year for the opioid crisis. They need to discuss that idea before approving.

      Ignored

  5. The request for two police officers had very little to do with the Edmonds opioid task force. ( although Diane is correct we have been waiting for data that’s going to be provided by the local health Jurisdiction, for the past five months).
    It is clear when we do have a better understanding of the effect on Edmonds, we will have no silver bullet to “fix” the situation, especially for $250,000.
    We will gain a better understanding of what starts the opioid addiction in our community as well as services potentially needed to treat the opioid addiction of our citizens

    The request for two more police officers had to do with crime levels Edmonds citizens are enduring . The opioid disease that has struck many of our Edmonds citizens is not the only reason for crime.
    Physical location, alcoholism, Unemployment, heroin abuse, untreated mental health and our newest illegal drug of choice fentanyl are many of the issues playing gigantic roles in this crime of neighborhoods .

    Mr. Wambolt is also correct that we need more trafffic officers. We attempted to get adequate traffic officers in the past and that also died in budget process.
    You would’ve figured the council would’ve supported more officers again considering our crime rates have sharply increased in the past two years .

    But without detailed information we seem to be able to fund projects and priorities without given thought to the taxpayers and their needs for safety from crimes in and out of their homes. we mostly have a fantastic, hard-working police force in our neighborhoods, but they are stretched too thin.
    I’ve lived in Edmonds close to 35 years and have seen many changes occur. As most growing cities, crime has increased with the growth. We must pay to protect the public.
    Yet, this is what democracy looks like in a free country. The good, the bad and the ugly .

    Ignored

  6. How about splitting the difference and bringing amendment to support one new officer? Thank you for council members and mayor supporting needed EPD budget requests.

    Ignored

    1. I also attempted a motion for 1 officer when it was clear 2 proposed officers weren’t going anywhere. That was also defeated at a 5-2 vote I believe

      Ignored

  7. Regarding funding additional EPD officers, I’m a little surprised and disappointed by the sentiment I see being expressed. Please pump the brakes on blaming Chief Al and EPD for the officer request’s that have been made public to date.

    1) Council is fully aware of how the budgetary process works.
    a) Each department head is directed to present a departmental budget to their boss, the Mayor, according to his mission. According to the Mayor – “It’s prudent to expect that the economic “bump in the road” will show up at some point, he added, and that means the city should avoid excessive spending.”
    b) The Mayor then evaluates the proposed budget, makes adjustments according to his best judgement and presents it to council for approval.
    c) The specific details of what was proposed to the Mayor and what he chose to incorporate into his budget are up to the Mayor to release. Department heads should never be expected to expose Mayoral budgetary decisions. He’s their boss.

    2) Council nor the Mayor should be telling the police department how to distribute additional resources. They are a professional agency and know how to best “Protect and Serve”. (Not council or the Mayor)
    a) FYI – the two officer’s being proposed, regardless of departmental designation, will only replace the two officer’s lost during the budget crunch of 2008. Yes, 2008.
    b) One officer being designated as a school resource officer protecting our children should be priority #1 for the citizens, council and the Mayor. As, I can assure you it is for EPD. Additionally, there is a funding partnership with Edmonds Scholl District.
    c) A decision to fund a second officer focused on crime prevention, traffic, narcotics enforcement should be based upon the wisdom of EPD crime/enforcement data.

    Ignored

  8. “The Nov. 27 decision to remove $72,000 for the federal lobbyist had been approved by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Johnson, Nelson, Fraley-Monillas and Buckshnis voting for. During Tuesday night’s vote, Johnson and Buckshnis joined Councilmembers Neil Tibbott, Dave Teitzel and Tom Mesaros in reversing that decision and approving the lobbyist’s funding.“

    Your tax dollars at work. Wonder what special interest project she got out of the deal to switch her vote?

    Ignored

    1. No nefarious reason for the vote reversal. The purpose of banking $1 million for Marsh restoration and daylighting of Willow Creek is to enable the city to apply for grant money, and granting agencies generally require at least 15% in matching funds. Now that the Unocal property is about to be turned over to WSDOT, and matching funds look like they will be approved, this important environmental project can proceed and it now makes more sense to have a lobbyist who can help secure grant funding.

      Ignored

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *