As ballots are marked, primary consideration should be given to Edmonds City Council candidates’ fiscal acumen, accountability and responsibility. The Edmonds “City Council Mission and Purpose” states that council is the legislative body that establishes city policy and represents the city on boards and commissions, among other duties. As such, councilmembers must be able to understand budgeting processes, oversee and advise on projects involving huge dollar amounts, be accountable to our citizens and transparent on how moneys are spent, work closely and in collaboration with the Edmonds’ financial department and, finally, make the best use of our tax dollars.
The numbers are significant. Edmonds currently has projected expenditures of over $109 million dollars in the 2019 budget (see the City of Edmonds Washington 2019 Adopted Budget Summary). Councilmembers are elected for a term of four years. We are therefore entrusting councilmembers with management of over $400 million with very expensive project focuses in the 4 year term. Money management and responsibility to taxpayers on project expenditures is essential.
As an example of just how important this can be, consider funding issues involved in the ill-fated and much-opposed “connector” project. Many Edmonds’ citizens recognize that we “dodged a bullet” with the elimination of that project. Councilmembers need to have the fiscal expertise to evaluate funding sources for major projects. The mayor and some on the council implied that federal funding was nearly in place. In fact, that was not accurate. Consider what one Edmonds’ citizen wrote about connector funding:
“…the city has spent significant dollars ($250,000 are allocated in the 2019 budget alone) on a project that relies heavily (65%) on federal funding. However, available federal funds for such projects has decreased (from $1.5 billion in 2018 to $900 million in 2019), up to half of these funds could be directed to projects in rural areas, and federal funding tends to be 50% of a project’s costs.” (Rebecca Elmore-Yalch in MEN 6/4/19)
Or, consider the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) program. Although some in the city espoused the belief that the MFTE program would cost taxpayers “nothing,” a closer and more responsible examination of that program showed that there is a substantial tax shift to Edmonds’ residents. No real cost/benefit analysis of MFTE’s was done before the city/council adopted this program. In this case, it was incumbent upon council and the city to provide a complete financial picture of all costs and municipal burdens to our citizens on the issue, not to mention transparency on what the program will actually cost us in increased city infrastructure, police and emergency services, impacts on traffic safety and density In other words, we count on our council to responsibly review the fiscal impacts of these types of programs.
These are just two recent examples of how critically important it is to elect to council candidates who have fiscal expertise and who recognize their duty to be responsible stewards of our tax dollars. There will be many more projects and expenditures in the future, including the Creative District, parking, infrastructure improvements and maintenance. Please make your vote count toward fiscal accountability on the council.