Letter to the editor: An open letter to the Edmonds City Council

Dear City Council Members:

We are writing to you as Edmonds residents and/or business owners motivated in part by the recent resignations of two Director-level staff and our observations of recent Council activities.

Edmonds is a rare and special jewel. Each person who lives here, does so by choice. We all have options, but we all chose Edmonds. It isn’t just the stellar beauty or access to unparalleled recreation that keeps us here. It is the spirit of the place. And that spirit is generated by us, the residents. We are people who show up for the 4th of July parade a day early. We stand in long lines for coffee, as much for the coffee as for the conversation that takes place in the line. We go to the weekend market, enjoy performances at ECA and in the park. We smile as one, surrounded by thousands of children in Halloween costumes and we sing loudly, and off-key, when we light a holiday tree. But, most of all, we are friendly. We have been named the friendliest city so many times they have stopped giving out the award.

Our City Council is the keeper of that spirit and we thank you for your service, your passion, your long hours and your committing to an oath to faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of your office.  It is not an easy thing that you do.

There are many threats to the spirit of Edmonds, some are internal and some are external. We don’t want these threats to result in tribalism, which can result in disrespect and an us-versus -them competition for power. Working together using constructive problem solving will reveal innovative solutions and mutual gain.

Governing isn’t easy. We are going to disagree. We are going to be passionate. We are going to fight for what we believe in. But, we have big problems to solve and need to call on our shared spirit to solve them. Our shared spirit allows us to collaborate, to improve our environment, to improve our community and our security. Science tells us it also will extend our lives and the quality of our lives.

We have observed the recent departure of two key high-level city staff members. We recognize that there are many reasons for staff to depart. But, both have expressed frustration with our city governance.

We have a very well-run city. Many of us have lived in other parts of the country and have witnessed poorly run cities, lack of citizen engagement (or caring), and outright corruption. How wonderful to live here where “doing the right thing,” professionalism and courtesy are the norm. Everyone going into city hall is greeted with professionalism, kindness and respect. We recognize that our city is governed by our city council, but it is run by our city staff under the leadership of our department heads and mayor. They deserve the utmost of respect, courtesy and support from our city council and community. Two department heads resigning in part for reasons of frustration are two too many. Please join us in supporting our city staff and thanking them for the great jobs they do every day.

Rather than address the past, we want to visualize a desired future. How do we create a work environment where staff can do work that is the envy of cities across the globe. How do we create a work environment so desirable that when those cities try to steal them away from us, they can’t even turn their heads? How do we create a work environment where we never need to advertise for staff because there is a line out the door of the most qualified people in the country who can’t wait to work for our city?

We ask that you be the torch bearers of this spirit. We implore you to model behavior that will help us all rise to be our best selves. We ask that you create an employment culture that unleashes the human potential. We ask that you demonstrate that people who disagree with you are not your enemy but rather a potential path to a better solution. All residents of Edmonds have a social contract with each other and with you as our elected representatives. Our spirit has a special sauce and it includes respect, kindness, dignity and integrity. We are in it together. We created this special jewel together.  We can only protect it and improve it, together.

Submitted by (listed alphabetically)

Randy and Brooke Baker
Barry Crane
Nancy Ekrem
Cheryl Foster
Darrol Haug
Sharon Howard
Steve and Wendy Johnston
Jack Loos
Phil Lovell
Mike Meeks
Bob Rinehart
Mike Rosen
Steve Shelton
Carl Zapora

35 Replies to “Letter to the editor: An open letter to the Edmonds City Council”

  1. Well said. They have clearly stated the reasons we moved here 20 years ago after living in Shoreline for over 30 years and shopping in and observing Edmonds all that time. Partisanship is not necessary in our city. It too often becomes divisive.

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  2. What an extraordinary letter and vision for the future! I add my name to the list of respected community members to support more collaborative and productive leadership and relationships going forward.

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  3. Add my name to this list. Council has a politically motivated job to do – City employees have an actual job to do (and deliver under budget, on time, and without fail). In almost all cases it is much easier to govern than it is to execute on the government’s decisions and whims.

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  4. I compliment the authors of this letter. How refreshing to read something that is positive and forward looking. Thank you for illuminating the spirit of Edmonds that sits in all our hearts.

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  5. I witnessed a WONDERFUL Department Head (one who has not already resigned) being treated very badly by citizens at a housing meeting and had the same thoughts (that they shouldn’t be talked to that way AND that that behavior isn’t very “Edmonds”).

    Citizens AND Council- we can do better here than that which we are seeing on the national level….

    Civility and kindness always. And Edmonds first.

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  6. LOVE this letter and support it whole heartedly. I have lived here since 1967 when we immigrated from England. It has always been my home and safe place because of all of the reasons addressed here. Let’s keep it that way for all of us, both old and new to this amazing “Gem of the Puget Sound”!

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  7. My Edmonds house goes on the market Thursday. Edmonds will be the next Seattle thanks to the Socialist people who have moved here.

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    1. Smart Randy. Housing market here will roll over hard. Even with interest rates being lowered (who called that?). This area was #5 in nation with negative equity in 2008, Vegas being #1 [Zillow]. Now the Seattle area is #1 in housing inflation, Austin being #2. It wouldn’t be remarkable to say that volatility we didnt see at the last crash spurred an irrationally hot market leading into second crash. Sell your house and rent for a while.

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  8. Randy, some “Socialist” will probably buy your house for way more than it’s really worth and sell it in 10 years for even more than you can dream of right now. So long. Hope you find Paradise out there somewhere. Don’t know your circumstances but suspect you might be making the mistake of your life.

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  9. Thank you for your participation in crafting such an elegant and eloquent letter. My hope is it reaches those of us who need directions to a path of expressing disagreement without rancor but with civility and facts. Differing points of view help us get to decisions that are balanced and inclusive. Shouting and name calling defeat rational
    discourse.
    We all have a responsibility to protect the warmth, thoughtfulness and kindness that drew us here. We can start by not shouting at the person who goes, out of turn, at a 4 way stop. Really, is that worth a spike in blood pressure? Hopefully not.
    This is the perfect time for us to model behavior far elevated from what is being spewed at the National level. So, take a deep breath, look around, smile at your fellow man and let’s work on the important issues ahead of us, together.

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  10. Thank you for a very thoughtful letter. There is no excuse for lack of civility. Treat everyone as you want to be treated, that’s what I was taught.

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  11. Thank you for writing and posting such a collectively wonderful breath of gratitude. I’m so glad to be a part of this amazing community.

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  12. Excellent letter and kudos to this group of citizens for taking the time and effort to eloquently express what so many of us feel – the need to focus on the future and keep Edmonds special in so many ways. As difficult as it may be at times, I agree we need to treat our hometown and its residents and visitors alike with warmth and compassion. I was recently on the other side of a driver who shouted and gestured at me at the 9th/Walnut four way stop while I was turning right towards Yost Pool (taking my son to swim practice) all because I had nudged a bit out to see around a truck that was going straight. While she raged, I smiled and waved.

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  13. I’m amazed at the pessimism expressed about the future here. Yes, the housing market will go up and down just as the stock market goes up and down short term. Long term, the housing market has always gone up the same as has the stock market and that won’t change short of nuclear war and/or Armageddon. My parents paid $16,500 for my house in 1960. My wife and I paid my mother $230,000 for the house in 1997 (the fair market value, not a deal). The latest valuation on the house is South of $800,000. There are lots of reasons to sell a home in Edmonds, but the home becoming a bad investment probably isn’t one of them. Geeze, we are discussing people getting along with each other, not the end of the world.

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    1. You are precisely right! Coincidentally, we bought our first home in 1965 for $16,500 . In 2018, seven homes later, we sold for $1,850,000 and we never added a lot more cash along the way. And, as you’ve stated, the same can be said for the stock market – over the long haul you’ll do ok.

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  14. 68 years old and lived here my entire life. Mr. Wambolt and Mr. Wright’s real estate facts for Edmonds are right on track.

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  15. Since I just bought an R/V and my significant other has a home in Tucson, Matthew, I’ll pass on your idea of buying Randy’s house. I do know he won’t have any problem selling it. Might just use my new R/V as an “illegal” tiny home in my side yard and invite some “Socialist” to live here for about a grand a month to pay for the sucker and buy my beers at the Salish on Friday nights. (You are invited too, by the way). Actually won’t resort to renting R/V out unless the District decides Woodway needs it’s own H.S. at my expense.

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  16. You guys are all wrong about real estate. All of the fundamentals of the market have changed. There are more beds per capita than ever before. From a supply and demand perspective, this area is tremendously over-supplied. The 30 year mortgage didnt used to exist, now banks are exploring multi-generational loans (40yo parents get younger kids to co-sign). Volker raised rates to 20% in the 80’s, rates have only since gone down. Theres been no cycle here (fed funds has be effectively zero for the last 12 years). We cant go lower than zero, so the fed started buying houses. The Federal Reserve never used to have a balance sheet. They still own trillions in mortgages and securities. No one from China used to buy houses around here. :/ Now that rates are reversing, the Fed will once again buy mortgages to buoy the market. I literally am floored that folks will speak of this as a cycle, or an endless upward trend, like pennies from heaven. Its malpractice. This real estate scam is designed to work for just one generation, just like social security. Ron, you were just born in the right place at the right time, boasting about buying $17k house now worth $2m. I was born in 1980, grew up thinking about how hard my folks had it, but what a lie. The kids are going to pay for decades of malinvestment. This generation is screwed I’m afraid and people on their way out reflect on what a great job they did.

    For that matter, Trumps deficit spending is alarming. All of his recovery is based on making us pay for it later. Eventually we’ll call this what it is, socialism. Venezuela, the richest place in South America ran out of chairs when the music stopped.

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    1. Mom and dad used to co-sign so the kids can get a loan. Eventually the kids will need to co-sign so mom and dad can get alone. Eventually we will run out of things to pawn off.

      https://www.homes.com/blog/2016/05/fannie-mae-offers-new-loan-program-multi-generational-families/

      Negative interest rates are even under serious consideration,
      https://www.forbes.com/sites/pedrodacosta/2019/02/21/get-ready-for-negative-interest-rates-when-next-recession-hits/

      Sell your Edmonds house. Rent. Wait.

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    2. Matt:
      When did the 30-yr mortgage not exist? Its existed since I’ve been buying homes. You’ve been preaching doom for the housing market for at least a few years. Homes have been continuing to go up in price. Sooner or later you’ll be right.

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  17. Matthew, our kids are 41 and 39 years old. They both own their own homes locally without parental support. We realize it is challenging but still attainable. We can’t be all wrong.

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    1. Mike, You’re sort of missing the point about centrally planned mal-investment. Saying your kids mal-invested isn’t proof that mal-investment doesn’t exist. Ron Wambolt bought his house in 1965 at $16,500. Assuming an $8.05 inflation ratio, that house should cost $133,000 today. He sold it for more than [14x] that. Population here is only about 25% more today than in 1965 (looking at graphs from 1965, it looks like there was actually a large expansion in population at that time, meaning the prices were likely already high here for the time). I understand there’s a lot of other factors, but a 14x factor not including inflation? Lest not forget the biggest factor – houses became an investment tranche.

      I’m guessing Ron didn’t buy his house as an investment. People then bought them to live in. A house used to be a liability, not an asset. It cost people money to live somewhere. Ron didn’t pay it down over 30 years; those loans didn’t exist. He might of even put 50% down if he got a loan at all (I’m speaking about the typical ‘Ron’ in 1965).

      Today, houses are mostly worth people’s ability to get the loan, and all stops have been pulled to be sure people can get the loan. Universities charge 10x the rate of inflation because people can get the loan. A pickup truck cost $50k because people can get the loan. These things simply aren’t worth that much, and the appreciation is completely predicated on music that keeps playing and chairs that don’t get removed.

      My dad told me once I was wasting my money by renting. He said the rent was equity I was throwing away. This folksy saying was invented when house prices were market-driven. I’ve paid about $250k in rent since say 1997. If I buy a $400k home on a 30 year mortgage (not a nice house around here), I’ll pay $400k in interest before I chip into the principle. So, the contrary is true, if you buy a house to live in (as opposed to an investment) you are throwing your money away on interest and the equity is only realized if you’re able to sell it to someone else AND if you don’t need to buy a house again. You need two new people to sit in order for one new person to leave musical chairs. It needs an endless supply of loans with lower rates and longer terms – and in the Federal Reserves case; centralized appropriation and quantitative easing. The fed will buy houses again so that the rest of the boomers can retire on their nest egg – then we’re done.

      I’m stupid in that I don’t work in real estate. It’s relatively easy money. Our kids can’t Ron-out of this. Their house in 50 years isn’t going to appreciate at 14x the inflation rate. 50 years from now a loaf of bread will cost $16 and the average salary might be $400k per year, but a $1.85M house wont be worth $209 million dollars. It’s absurd to think this can keep going. This should be the take-away, loan terms can’t get longer, interest rates can’t keep getting lower, the Fed can’t buy all the houses. (someone check my math). Ron was just lucky and I don’t hate on that.

      My dad also told me once that buying a car was a bad investment, that it devalues by thousands of dollars as soon as I drive it off the lot. Fundamentals are so broken that –cars– were the #1 investment of the last decade. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-best-investments-of-2018-art-wine-and-cars-11546232460

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  18. I am curious to know if we can stay on topic? I wish you guys would take your real estate discussion some where else. Just write a letter to the editor and do the gab fest there. This discussion is not about real estate prices. It was going well until Randy decided to move.

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    1. I know Randy, and I’m sure City council is part of the reason he’s selling his house. 🙂 Sorry Darrol.

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  19. Thank God, Randy is getting out of this Hell Hole of Communism and economic malpractice while he still can. (Sorry Darrol, I just couldn’t resist one more stupid comment. You know me).

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  20. Thank you all for the commentary. It provides recently arrived residents a wiindow into what makes Edmonds special. There are towns around Puget Sound that are situated with water views and accesses.
    The cost of governance, the budgets that are needed, the processes/protocols required, and the personal biases of all, make infrastructure more challenging. How will the city government and the community prioritize and resolve the best solution for the necessary and optional pending needs?
    Even when the concepts have been resolved, there is still the issue of funding. Infrastructure for communities is not cheap. Everyone should want the best, cost effective solution. Compromise can be challenging but at some point it has to occur.

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