Letter to the editor: Questions for the former mayors and councilmembers


Regarding the recent letter from former mayors and city councilmembers, thank you for your past service. Edmonds is what it is today for your contributions.

Having relocated to Edmonds only a few years ago, I (like many) am awed by the natural beauty that surrounds us. That beauty, the majesty of our home, is one excellent reason we live here — and that we stay here. And, for some of us, draws us here.

I ‘get’ it, really I do; preserve Edmonds for what it has been, not change a thing, is a worthy goal. It also is a chimera. The growth in the local population comes with responsibility. How best to manage the growth so that Edmonds continues to function for each and all of us? To ignore the growth is akin to sweeping dirt under the rug; the dirt is still there even though out of sight.

I admit much of your message confounds this reader rather than helps. For example, when you say…
1. “For this 2019 election, we ask that our citizens seriously research and evaluate the candidates…” Do you mean only this one time? How does this election differ from previous elections… from your elections? Nonetheless, I did as you bid and investigated Mike Nelson. I also investigated you, the handful of signatories to your letter to the editor.
2. “Mike Nelson’s connections create a conflict of interest…” A bold assertion. And like all such assertions, should be supported with documented facts — that you fail to provide.
3. “An extensive investigation.” Who performed this investigation? Who paid for this investigation? Why do you not share explicitly the findings of this investigation? Does the “extensive investigation” not support your conclusion?
4. “Nelson … did not disclose that as the executive director of a statewide union…” I wonder whose responsibility it was then (and is now) to ensure such a disclosure is made. For Mike Nelson — really, any person — being elevated to a city council role from a role at a union, two entirely different roles with different requirements, the person should receive guidance to ensure all the regulatory filings are made. Seems to me a failure of commission by previous city officials not to put into place the mechanisms necessary to ensure compliance… If even required. You do not say, you only intimate Mike Nelson is guilty of the sin of omission. Another unsupported assertion.
5. “He openly admits being delinquent in paying federal income taxes on time…” I believe our trials and tribulations help us grow and evolve to become a better person. Shame on you for focusing on only one-half of that calculation. Perhaps it would have been better for your argument had you proved that Mike Nelson learned nothing from his experience of being tardy on paying a few tax bills; that past behavior could damage Edmonds. You do nothing of the sort. Having met Mike Nelson a few times, he strikes me as a humble man, someone who learns (has learned) from experience.
6. “His union was fined $250,000 by the Attorney General for under-the-table campaign contributions while he was in charge.” This assertion is beyond the pale, really nothing more than dirty politics. The Attorney General was clear the charge did NOT implicate Mike Nelson, did not explicitly name him. Shame on you for attempting to obfuscate facts with innuendo.
7. “He has not disclosed that his spouse is employed as a lawyer.” Here you go again, making unsubstantiated assertions. It would help your argument were you to cite city codes, policies, and regulations Mike Nelson violated. Moreover, should Mike Nelson’s wife reveal her entire roster of clients, past, present, and future for possible conflicts of interest? And even were conflicts to occur, you do not state whether Mrs. Nelson has recused herself from representing any clients that might manifest as a conflict of interest, now or in the future. Or any other material difference from your naked assertion. Most of us live lives shaded with grays; I am happy for you that your lives are writ in black and white.
8. “Mike Nelson’s commitment to our community is lacking when records from the Secretary of State indicate that he failed to vote…” This assertion, also unsubstantiated, troubles me. Having voted locally many times over many years, I would like to know how you know whether a private citizen votes. My ballots have all been cast anonymously — do you also know how I vote? Whether I vote? Where I vote? What I ate for dinner last night? Do you know how – when, whether, method – all private citizens vote? Leaving off that troubling admission by you, you allow for no shading of black and white; perhaps Mike Nelson abstained his vote(s) for reasons of principle? Perhaps this or perhaps that. You do not ask; you reveal no interest. You only assert with no substantiation. And of course no proof.
9. “Citizens in Edmonds deserve the best person for mayor. Anything less is not acceptable. We recommend that citizens vote for Neil Tibbott to fill this role.” I believe you mean to say, ‘anyone.’ Or perhaps Neil Tibbott in your estimation is a “thing”…?

]I originally met Mike Nelson at a campaign event. Someone in the audience asked him about being “divisive.” I found the question interesting because what I saw that day is a person who cares. Who listens. Who learns. Anyone interested can see that arc play out in his life: from boy to man to husband to father to citizen to Edmonds denizen to public servant. To (possibly) Mayor of Edmonds. Edmonds will be all the better.

Pluralism demands we manage for all citizens, not just a few. Mike Nelson is politically progressive, which fact troubles some people but does not stop him from wanting to be everyone’s Mayor. Mike is still here, still standing, and still running for Mayor despite your bald attempt to tar and feather Mike and his family.

Mike Nelson has my vote.

David M. Gordon

13 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Questions for the former mayors and councilmembers”

  1. I find the mention of plurallism ironic. Where is the plurallism in thought on any of the statements above? Where was the concept of all parties have input? It still begs the question that none of the issues have been clearly addressed. To the contrary, an ambiguous political theory gets mentioned. In this case, poorly. In this case, pluralism seems to focus purely on Nelson’s supporters, not the rest if the constituents that may or may not be governed by his choices. Frankly, no matter my political leanings, I find the last thing any of the commentary to be is a display of plurallism in action. As a matter of fact, sidewalks and streets have no political leanings.


    1. 2. The conflict of interest is a matter of fact. The City Council hires SEIU and manages the contracts, Mike is on the City Council and a lobbyist for SEIU. City Ordinance 3689 even requires a 1 year hiatus between those activright. Mike was aware of the COI. He reportedly “left the room” SEIU business was on the table. I verified in meeting minutes that he would leave most times SEIU was on table. He never recused himself, which would have been over the table. Regardless, even recusal isnt a permissible firewall per City Ordinance as the possible exchange of information is the reason for the 1 year hiatus requirement.

      4. You are right, the checks are inadequate. I pulled Mike’s City Council application from the clerk. It asked him specifically about outside government activities and he mentioned some non-profits he worked for. Neither in the application or interviews did I see SEIU lobby disclosure.

      5. I also think focusing on his taxes is not proper, but I’m not running for office. I dont understand the issue with Mike’s wife, not did I even look into it.

      6. You are wrong. The AG complaint named Mike Nelson. He is almost solely responsible for the investigation and punitive action.

      Please write any questions to mdrich2012@gmail.com


  2. Boom! Mr. Bennett, thank you for interpreting this letter to the editor……… it needed help…. wading through the murk of pointless statements as only you could do. I am left to wonder if even Mike Nelson understood his point; Mr Gordons letter did nothing to encourage people to vote for him.


  3. Wow. I had many of the same thoughts as David Gordon about the anti-Mike Nelson letter. I have never met Mr. Nelson (or his wife), but clearly the 14 retired politicians who let their names be used by whoever prepared this attack don’t care for him. I get the feeling, however, that they and the letter preparer don’t like him for reasons other than what they are telling us. I think maybe they don’t like his politics.

    But they don’t say that. Whoever wrote the letter suggests instead that Nelson’s “trustworthiness, integrity, professional attributes, and commitment to office” are suspect; and they have vague misgivings about his “connections.” What connections do they mean? Their exhaustive “research” has turned up five specific items:

    1) Nelson, they say, was executive director of a statewide union (and, as part of that job, a lobbyist for the union). At some point, however, he “did not disclose” this fact to somebody. The 14 letter writers don’t say it, but the union is, I believe, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents working people in health care, public services, and a number of other important areas. The SEIU is a major supporter of pro-union political candidates, mostly Democrats. You would think that holding a fairly important job like Executive Director of the SEIU would be a matter of public record and a hard secret for Mr. Nelson to keep hidden. Surely a few of the 14 politicians, or the people behind the letter, knew all along what Nelson did for a living. Maybe he just didn’t want to brag about it.
    2) Nelson, they say, “openly admits” to getting behind in his taxes and having to pay some fines when he eventually paid the IRS what he owed them. This happens to people who aren’t wealthy more often than our 14 retired politicians might imagine. It is embarrassing, no doubt, and certainly not a badge of honor, but is it a moral failing? I don’t think so. Saying it “blemishes [Nelson’s] ability to properly administer the city’s financial activity” is, I think, extremely pompous.
    3) The SEIU, they say, was fined for campaign expenditures that were later found to violate the state’s campaign laws. I appreciate David Gordon’s clarification about Mr. Nelson’s lack of complicity in this matter. Labor unions are under a lot of pressure to match the speed with which right-wing organizations like the Washington Freedom Foundation (which has plenty of money to appeal a recent similar fine to the Supreme Court) are able to pour large sums into initiatives and campaigns designed to weaken unions and elect anti-union politicians. Both sides test campaign finance limits in this fight, and both sometimes go too far and get fined, which is a good thing.
    4) They say that Nelson “has not disclosed that his spouse is employed as a lawyer for the firm that represents the Edmonds Police Officers Association.” Pretty shocking! Are these the kinds of “connections” that concern our 14 former politicians? What kinds of jobs and connections do their spouses have?
    5) They say Nelson didn’t vote in a primary election and on two school bond ballot measures in 2012 and 2014. Did he smoke in the boys room when he was in high school?

    Judging from the lameness and bad faith of the talking points from the people who don’t like him, I think he might just make a very good mayor for Edmonds.

    Bob Hinck


    1. I’ve been reading the comments on this website for the entire decade that it has existed. Mr. Hinck, you take the prize for being the biggest “rationalizer”. I don’t have time to address all of what you’ve stated, so I’ll just comment on your 1). Mr. Nelson did not reveal that he was also a lobbyist at the time that he was being appointed to city council. Being a lobbyist at that time was a violation of a state RCW.


  4. Bob,

    I thank you for your very well thought out response. This has nothing to do with what Mr. Nelson does for a living, what his wife does or his financial past. This is about the fact that the authors of that letter don’t like his politics, as they are not ‘Old Edmonds politics’. It’s all very obvious. The names alone show me that.


    1. I am not going to respond to the old politics comment, I have not been in Edmonds long enough to qualify for that subjective adjective.
      My biggest concern, and one raised by Mr.Hinck, is the SEIU. Now, I probably will not garner any kudos for saying this from conservatives, but unions are necessary to combat wage inequality in today’s economic climate. The SEIU is not a small player in this fight. In fact, they have a national budget of around 300 million dollars. I believe they gave 74 million in the 2018 cycle to labor friendly candidates. The argument that the SEIU had to play fast and hard to keep up with their opponents is the same as saying Tom Brady was possibly okay for slightly underinflated footballs or my wife is a little bit pregnant. That’s what we know. We know the fine, we know the under reporting, but we dont know the reason. That is my concern. If Mr. Nelson was the head of the Wa Freedom Foundation, I would ask the same questions (although it would be a generally moot point in a Western Washington election). I have agreed in some part to Mr. Nelson’s council decisions and in others, think that there good have been a bit more transparency (the Connector among one of them). I don’t care what his wife does for a living. I do care about the rules. They are the same for everyone. I want to vote for the candidate that is going to promote fiscal responsibility, command oversight, and assist staff in allocating and acquiring resources that allow our community to thrive. That’s all. None of us have voted yet, so there’s time for both candidates to make their case. I don’t know any of the 14 folks who signed that letter, and don’t know any of the folks who are commenting, but I do know that not addressing Management history along with future vision (and not just future vision) is a myopic way to pick a racehorse, let alone a mayor.


  5. This is not the first attempt to take Mr. Nelson down or the revelation by his detractors of personal information that no one should get their hands on. Interesting to me, is that after the first take down attempt (anonymous delivery of Mr. Nelson ‘ s private tax information to the Edmonds Beacon), Mr. Nelson still won more votes in the primary than the other mayoral candidates. He must pose a threat to some special interests because a lot of energy is being expended in opposition. I do not know him personally, have seen him at 2 candidate forums & read his explanations in the Beacon & herein. I’ll be voting for him, just as I did in the primary.


  6. I read the letter supported by the previous mayor’s and councilmembers. I thought it was in very poor taste and viewed it as nothing more then Hate Politics at work. I mentioned this to Earling last night at the forum. This is straight out of DC playbook and shouldn’t happen in Edmonds. Dave did say he had nothing to do with the letter.

    You will never succeed when you try to make yourself look good by making someone else look bad.


    1. No one is trying to make Mike Nelson look bad. On the contrary, folks are giving ample opportunity for him to look fabulous. As an undecided, I have questions. The more I see (the recent 3.25 million dollar settlement for forced Union Due deductions – was this transparency, was it settled out of convenience, did Mr. Nelson have any decisions tabled in this fight) makes me even more nervous about elitist approaches to unilateral decisions that could, if exercised in an executive capacity, end up costing Edmonds money, and leave us with crappy sidewalks, crappy streets, less focus on revitalization of important areas, and less capacity to be prepared for an economic downturn.

      On a personal note, I will never run for office, because I dont want to answer questions about my past choices or practices. If you do run for office, it is just fair game.

      This started with real questions about a candidate, and has turned into something of a continued emotional ploy to make the folks asking the questions seem like the aggressors.

      Mr. Nelson has the opportunity and the stage to address all of the concerns (some dont warrant a response, but some do). Instead, going back through the comments, the answers are “you are a bunch of old meanies with bad intentions who support the bro network”. (Followed by a resounding raspberry sound I imagine). I am not mean or mean spirited. I am cheap. I don’t know the bros of which folks speak. I see their posts. I am not passing judgements on his intent, because I think the intent of both folks is to serve. I am questioning past decisions and unilateral approaches that will stymie the council and lead to more cost and less benefit for the town. No more, no less.

      I want to know more and want Mr. Nelson to explain it. Again, if Mr. Tibbot had the same issues about management of and consequences of decisions that were made under his watch, I would ask the exact same questions.

      Finally, I still really do not care what Mr. Nelson’s wife does for a living.


  7. This “mudslinging” of a candidate is terrible, although it based a verified facts and truths that relate to qualifications of being a town Mayor. Please join me in sticking fingers in our ears and go “LA LA LA LA LA!”
    See it’s all gone now.


  8. I’d encourage voters to look at the ‘aggregate’ of the candidates and their respective campaigns, including debates.
    This is politics at its finest, look for an opportunity to attack with counter commentary. Very small percentage of Edmond’s citizens have the time/energy or interest to investigate the ‘aggregate’ of the candidates in detail.
    My point? Basing ones vote on one politically driven ‘letter’ resulting in counter commentary may be very short sighted. “He who is without fault, throw the first stone”. No stones should be thrown. Facts are facts, they need no commentary. It does take time and energy to do our due diligence in researching the candidates. I’d encourage voters to do so; our 2 Edmond’s mayoral candidates are quite different. The best choice will be clear if you respect integrity, listening skills and a collaborative approach to governing.


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