Edmonds Chamber forum part 3: Questions to Edmonds mayoral candidates Nelson, Tibbott

Tibbott and Nelson share a handshake after facing off in Monday’s candidate forum.

The latest in the current cycle of election-season candidate forums brought 15 candidates in eight separate races to podium Monday evening in the Edmonds City Council Chambers. Hosted by the Edmonds Chamber and moderated by David Cornell, the event included candidates for Edmonds Mayor, City Council and School Board.

The candidates responded to a series of questions previously submitted to the chamber by its membership, and provided opening and closing statements. Candidates did not know the questions in advance, and the format did not include the opportunity for questions from the estimated 50 citizens in attendance.

What follows is a summary of responses from Edmonds mayoral candidates Mike Nelson and Neil Tibbott. You can see Edmonds City Council candidate responses in our previous story here and the School District Board of Director candidates responses in our story here.

Opening statements:

Mike Nelson stressed his conviction that Edmonds needs new leadership to move the community forward. He cited that Edmonds’ small town atmosphere and charm were the things that attracted him and his family to settle here, and that he got involved in local government to make a difference. He reviewed his various endorsements and pledged that as mayor he would work to ensure the city’s charm is protected and citizen involvement is enhanced, going on to enumerate what he would do to ensure this.

Neil Tibbott pointed out that being mayor of Edmonds is a serious job with serious consequences. He listed his endorsements, including one from current Mayor Dave Earling and mayors from surrounding cities. He pledged to work for positive solutions by coming to meetings prepared and working to elevate others around him. “I don’t care who gets the credit,” he said. “I just want what’s best for our city. I believe in putting people before politics and being fair and inclusive.” He promised not to come in with a laundry list of priorities, but rather work with citizens and staff to establish these priorities.

All subsequent questions went to both candidates.

What experiences and strengths do you bring from your time on city council that will inform your approach as mayor?

Tibbott cited his experience from his entire time serving the City of Edmonds, beginning 15 years ago on the Transportation Committee, where he learned about transportation systems and walkways, and how the city’s capital plan works. His four years on the Planning Board included a year as chair, where he learned about the intricacies and processes of city planning in Edmonds. This also provided the opportunity to hear from citizens about what is important to them and why city officials need to pay attention to them. As a councilmember, he said he learned the importance of always sharing ideas and coming prepared, and pledged to carry this on as mayor.

Nelson pointed out that as one of seven on council, you can’t be effective unless you can work with others. “Legislation is our job, and I have an extensive record of being effective in this regard,” he said. “I’m honored to see the level of engagement of our citizens, and I’ve only been effective by collaborating with citizens from all walks of life.  At the end of the day, we all have to do this together,” he concluded.

Next question:

We are long overdue for an economic downturn. How will you ensure our city is able to weather this next economic challenge?

Nelson stressed that the city needs to both maintain its reserves and examine carefully and prioritize decisions to hire more staff and consultants. While Edmonds needs to invest in infrastructure for the long haul, “we need to look out for our citizens and make sure we’re not taxing them too heavily,” he added.

Tibbott expressed pride in establishing the city’s reserves and the way city officials have practiced fiscal restraint. He cited several positions that were let go during the downturn and have since been rehired, saying that these are essential for the long-term economic health of the city. He said that Edmonds needs to invest in infrastructure that lasts, and work on continued economic expansion.

Next question: 

Non-profit organizations in our community fill many needs not met by state and local government budgets. In what direct and indirect ways can the city support these organizations in our community?

City Councilmember Neil Tibbott is seeking to be elected Edmonds Mayor. He is running against fellow Councilmember Mike Nelson.

Tibbott cited his experience with churches and other non-profits, including the Meadowdale Boosters and the Edmonds Schools Foundation, and that all need access to volunteers, funding and staff.

Nelson advocates for better coordination of efforts among the various non-profit groups, recommending exploring opportunities for collective vs. individual efforts as a way to better serve their target populations, and for opportunities for the city to assist, such as providing space.

Next question:

Initiative 976 is on the ballot and if approved would drop the annual car tab fee down to just $30. Are you for or against this initiative? Why?

Nelson responded that he has mixed feelings. While he and others have “enjoyed” the lower car tab fees of past years, he realizes that if car tab fees again drop to $30, cities like Edmonds will take a hit. “I’m still thinking about this one,” he said.

Tibbott stressed the importance of funding improvements to roads and walkways, and that car tab fees allow this. “We need to keep people moving,” he said, “and we need these funds to make the needed infrastructure improvements.”

Next question:

Can you speak to the perceived division of “the Bowl” and “the rest of Edmonds” and ways you hope to help bridge this divide?

Tibbott said that as mayor he would like to meet everyone throughout the city. He said he’s learned that no matter where you live in the city, people appreciate the amenities of Edmonds like walks, parks, theaters and schools. “These all bring us together and give us the opportunity to experience community,” he said.

City Councilmember Mike Nelson is running against fellow councilmember Neil Tibbott for Mayor of Edmonds.

Nelson pledged to look for ways to bring government to all parts of the city. This would mean regularly going into neighborhoods and meeting directly with citizens in coffee shops and living rooms to learn about the issues affecting them.  Every neighborhood is unique, and they all have different concerns, he said.

Next question:

What can you do to ensure that we attract and retain quality city employees?

Nelson stated that we are a great city and great place to live. “Edmonds sells itself,” he said. “People choose to work here because they want to make a difference.” He promises to spend time in each city department interacting with employees.

Tibbott stressed the importance of finding the right person for the right job. “When you get this you save money,” he said.  “Employees enjoy their job and do it with passion.” He also recognizes that the city needs to be clear about its purpose, so employees know the overarching goals, and that we provide employees with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs right.

Last question:

Name one “moon shot” project that you would like to see accomplished in our city?

Tibbott said he would love to see an interconnected walkway system throughout the city, linking downtown, the waterfront, Sunset Avenue, the arts corridor and Main Street.  “This would be a great way to tie our city together,” he said.  “It would be great for our future.”

Nelson envisions revitalizing Highway 99, addressing housing needs and reducing crime.  “The motels on Highway 99 are not where the tourists are staying,” he said.  “Shoreline did theirs in sections. We could do that too.”

Closing statements were next.

Nelson began by stating that he has the skills and experience to move Edmonds forward. “When issues have arisen, I have learned, taken action and introduced legislation,” he said, pointing to examples like gun storage, reducing carbon emissions, cutting property taxes, hiring more police officers and accessible playgrounds. He pledged to continue to act to keep our community healthy and safe.

Tibbott pledged to protect the unique character of Edmonds, not let anyone “Seattle-ize” the city and protect the environment and Edmonds’ natural beauty. “My career has been about collaboration and building consensus,” he concluded. “My only interest is Edmonds.”

You can watch the video of the forum here.

— By Larry Vogel







10 Replies to “Edmonds Chamber forum part 3: Questions to Edmonds mayoral candidates Nelson, Tibbott”

  1. I’m disappointed that limited debate time was wasted by asking the candidates their opinion on Initiative 976. How the #$&% is that a relevant question for determining who our next mayor should be?

    Ironically, while the question itself is irrelevant to the next Mayor, this is yet another example of Mike Nelson dodging a loaded and controversial question by giving a non-answer. If you can’t answer a simple question, how are you going to run or city with the diversity of opinions we all hold?


    1. How can a question be irrelevant to who the next Mayor is and at the same time be “loaded and controversial?” If it’s irrelevant, why would it matter if a candidate is “dodging” a direct answer? Could it be possible the candidate dodged the question because he thought it was irrelevant? Personally I want $30 tabs but will vote against the issue because we no longer live in a $30 tab economy. It costs money to run cities and $30 tabs won’t cut it. I suspect that’s where both Mike and Neil are at.

      I like both these guys. The city will be in good hands I think, regardless of which one wins. Same with City Council. Many great candidates. We are blessed as a city to have all these great people.


      1. It’s not relevant because it’s a statewide issue that will be decided before either of the candidates become mayor. Maybe there is loose correlation with understanding how the candidates view taxes and funding for infrastructure projects, but there is a slew of more direct policy-driven questions that could have been asked. The panel decided to push an item that is loaded and controversial on the state-wide stage rather than asking blocking/tackling issues about what they will do as Mayor of Edmonds. We get VERY few opportunities to hear both candidates ask questions and it just pisses me off when questions like that one get preference over issues that will be impacted by the new leadership.

        CW: I’m not sure how you can take Tibbott’s response as dodging the question? He might not have directly said “I’m voting “no” on the initiative” but instead, he explained why the funds from our car tab fees are necessary and well used. That’s about as clear as day to me that he’s voting no, especially compared to Nelson, who clearly articulated that he’s not answering the question one way or the other.

        For the record, I’m with you on the initiative. I would love to pay $30, but the funds are needed for worthy projects. I’m a hard NO on that initiative.


      2. The city can with a vote of the council vote an additional $20 for tabs. That money goes to transportation issues like streets. Are you for the added money for streets? Or is their another way to fix our streets?


        1. That’s an interesting proposition Darrol. If you thinking of funding sources, a “user” tax such as a car registration fee would seemingly be a decent option. People that don’t own vehicles wouldn’t have to pay for it; those that do would. I certainly wouldn’t want that option if it were coupled with a “yes” vote on I-976. While I agree with your below comment that the inflated car values was a dishonest method of raising revenue, I overall agree and support the projects that are being funded with the tax. After all, if it weren’t for the mistakes (my opinion) of our voters in 1970, we likely wouldn’t be having this debate. The time is now to get things done and stop kicking the can down the road.



        2. Tibbott’s response seemed the most informed with regard to the I-976 question. It’s absolutely relevant; I want to know who demonstrates the foresight to plan ahead for their new job, including looking ahead to implications of city revenue regulated at the state level.

          As for your idea DH, the simple title of the initiative means what it says: $30 car tabs. The text of the initiative (also) eliminates the state’s current TBD (Transposition Benefit District) provision, which is how municipalities can currently add up to a $20 fee without a vote of the people.


  2. It takes money to do transportation projects. I-976 does that in a way that is not fair. Using inflated car values instead of real values undermines the basic notion of legislative honesty. Local car tab revenue goes to local transportation infrastructure like street maintenance. We are falling further and further behind on street maintenance the new budget does little to deal with the backlog.

    An important question for mayor and council candidates would be:

    “With the backlog of street maintenance and the stated wishes of the voters in the Strategic Action Plan to provide a funding source for streets, would you support using local car tab assessments to help fund the short fall? If not, what funding source would you propose to deal with the backlog of street maintenance?”

    All candidates should be ask the tough funding questions for the basic needs of our city. We will have a softening of revenues and when that happens we will have to make cut and if we make the cuts on infrastructure. Both mayor candidates and one council candidate will have the opportunity during the 2020 budget review to address some of these issues but they will likely not deal with any of the tough questions before the election.


  3. Kevin, we already have the ability for council to vote the $20 car tab and it would raise around $600-700,000. That would help with the deferred road maintenance and go a long way to satisfy what the voters asked for in the Strategic Action Plan for a permanent funding source for roads. Such a vote for the local car tab fee would not in any way relate to the I-976 vote, they are totally separate. The local tab fee would stay in Edmonds while the I-976 goes to other entities.

    You are right about past votes for mass transit. In those days the Feds played a big role in project funding as compared to what the fund today.


      1. Brian, just got the voters pamphlet and you are correct that the TBD will be repealed. That would put a hole in our Edmonds Budget. The two candidate statements are interesting. Tibbott suggests support for transportation issues and that would lead one to believe he will vote no on the initiative and prevent the loss of revenue for Edmonds. Nelson is thinking about and acknowledges a hit to Edmonds. Focusing just on Edmonds, the candidates should outline their position on how they would replace the lost revenue if the initiative passes.

        It may be nice to say one is for less taxes but when that means not caring for our infrastructure that may not be a good trade off.


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