Nine thousand signatures for the Save the Beach Campaign. Four hundred people protesting in the Public Safety Complex during the June 2019 City Council meeting. Mike Nelson yard signs proliferating in Edmonds. It was probably difficult for the Earling-Tibbott political establishment to ignore the widespread and growing backlash against the Edmonds Viaduct.
But why did Tibbott flip? After all, he has been a consistent supporter of the Viaduct. I guess that the Earling-Tibbott establishment recognized that the anti-viaduct tsunami would vote Nelson into the Mayor’s office and perhaps even elect a city council that they cannot influence. I speculate that their strategy was to make the viaduct issue go away, at least until the November 2019 elections. This meant that one of the four pro-Viaduct votes in the city council needed to change. Tibbot was the only one of the four up for a “real” election.
Tibbott’s June 2019 flip should be interpreted only as a tactical withdrawal by the Edmonds establishment. The city council giveth, but the city council can taketh away too. In February 2019, the council voted 4-3 to move ahead with the viaduct. In June 2019, the same council voted 4-3 to stop the viaduct. What prevents the council from resurrecting the viaduct in the future?
Suppose there is an unfortunate medical emergency across the railway tracks. Emergency medical help does not reach in time. The Edmonds establishment quickly pins this delayed response on the viaduct opponents. There is a carefully constructed outrage with the mayor’s allies taking the lead in local papers denouncing the irresponsibility of viaduct opponents. The mayor demands an emergency meeting of the council. The viaduct is in play again.
What needs to be done? Three things. First, the council should come up with a plan to provide help for medical emergencies across the tracks. If the council is not willing to do so, let citizens form their own commission and give a recommendation. Save the Beach group should take the lead.
Second, we need to elect a mayor and a council that listens to us. Mike Nelson as mayor fits the bill here. But we also need a city council that shares the same perspective. Between 10,000-11,000 votes were cast in the 2017 City Council elections. Nine thousand-plus petitioners have signed the Save the Beach petition. Imagine if the signatories can be mobilized to vote for a specific non-partisan council slate. The 2019 city elections should remain a referendum on the Edmonds viaduct – don’t let the Earling-Tibbott establishment bury this issue.
Third, we need to revisit the so-called stakeholder consultation process and establish term limits for citizens serving on city commissions and committees. We were told that the viaduct has been discussed in many stakeholder dialogues. Really? Save the Beach Campaign gathered 9,000 signatures and mobilized 400 folks for the June 18 anti-viaduct rally. I could not find any campaign by “official” stakeholders in support of the viaduct.
How folks get appointed to various city-level commissions and committees is not transparent. We need political reform. I favor term limits for citizens to serve on any commission so that a more diverse group can serve on these consultative bodies. This will transform these bodies from country clubs packed with cronies to true consultative bodies.
The message of the June 2019 vote is clear: We, the people of Edmonds, need to take back our city.