Letter to the Editor: There must be a better process for appointing councilmembers


Luke Distelhorst will likely serve Edmonds well.

During interviews, seated council members spoke of and asked questions regarding racism, housing and community outreach. The questions were asked, yet…

Highly qualified ethnic minority candidates could have bridged gaps in social, cultural, geographic, business, language and political barriers. Representation and inclusion play vital roles in outreach. When professional research is conducted, researchers of like demographics are the ones selected to work with the populations. When professional businesses meet to make deals, like demographics are at the table. When Rites of Passage are performed, Spiritual Leaders of the same culture are the ones entrusted….

For future vacant council positions, there must be a better process. The council replaced a white male candidate with the same demographic. I am not saying or implying councilmembers did this purposefully. The first candidate who receives four votes may be the one who is chosen by a “place your bets” and then by law, is appointed. It was clear councilmembers were not going to vote for certain minority candidate(s). It was more a process of exclusion and blocking rather than inclusion and voting in favor of a candidate.

As outreach is a primary objective of the mayor and Edmonds, the council’s appointment may have set the city back. I am not saying or implying Luke Distelhorst will not serve Edmonds well.  I am saying, the city may want to review the appointment process.

So many of us were interested in individual candidates, we didn’t send the bigger picture to the Council. Perhaps, by supporting our individual, highly-qualified, ethnic minority candidate of choice, we didn’t communicate, “A” highly qualified ethnic minority would benefit the city. Granted, one minority in one council position is not a fix all. However, it would have helped.

The following are excerpts from a professor of social work on how we naturally came from tribal membership, how it is spoken of so much in politics today, and even though we separate ourselves we need to take a step back, rise above it and look at ourselves as a shared tribe of humanity:

“Tribal membership meant survival… We are drawn to our group identities in part from a place of belonging, and in part from a very real evolutionary need for survival…  Our racial and ethnic identities tie us to groups in a deep way… We have heard the word tribalism used a lot today in reference to our politics. Today in our political world, we have “bad tribalism.” … “Ultimately our goal should be to build the tribe we all belong to that of humanity. When we can see each other as human beings, we change bad tribalism into good tribalism. We are part of the work to ensure the survival of our shared tribe of humanity.”

— Elizabeth A. Segal, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. In print: Social Empathy: The Art of Understanding Others. Online: When Tribalism Goes Bad Human survival relies on groups, but what if those connections are toxic? Posted Mar 30, 2019

Lori Rasmussen

13 Replies to “Letter to the Editor: There must be a better process for appointing councilmembers”

  1. Dear Lori Rasmussen, the process of filling vacant city council positions is working brilliantly. It is such a minor event that only happens when someone leaves their position on the council. The elections are open for all American citizens to cast their vote. It certainly is racist to think that it takes an ethnic minority candidate to bridge gaps that you may think we have. Do not create issues of racism that do not exist in Edmonds. The council has the freedom to choose who they want. Please do not even suggest that they need to follow a certain criteria to pick a candidate. This is the United States of America, if you want another type of political system, there are plenty of other countries you certain may choose from.


  2. Thank you for writing this. I whole-heartedly agree. Edmonds is stuck in a time warp. At the Council swearing in ceremony I lobbied for a more diverse, ethnic replacement candidate. I was quite disappointed to see a couple qualified candidates passed over. The city of Edmonds has work to do when it comes accepting diversity in its community; whether we’re talking about skin color, religious beliefs, sexual choice/identity, or social economic standing.


  3. In a sane world we would switch to electing our council people out of districts rather than at large. That would promote easier and better access of constituents to their representatives and our representatives always being chosen by members of the electorate and not the already elected (Mayor and Council). That would assure that the whole town has representation, not just the downtown area. The good thing is that the potential districts have already been established in formation of the housing commission. Our current system just begs for outcomes like just occurred. Very good on Mayor Nelson not to put himself in the position of making the final choice here, but will all future Mayors be as wise and ethically motivated? I would think our city clerk’s office would be capable of managing these special elections when they had to occur at odd times outside a normal County election format.


    1. Edmonds is a non-charter code city, which means its rules of governance are in state law, not its own city charter. State law allows cities to divide themselves into districts (called wards, RCW 35A.12.190), but those districts are only for voting in primary elections. In the November general election, the top two candidates in the district primary are voted on citywide — same as today. Not much of a change.

      I believe a better option for Edmonds would be to adopt Ranked Choice Voting, where voters rank their preferred candidates First Choice, Second Choice, Third Choice etc. When used to elect a multi-member city council, the result is likely to be a more diverse group of elected officials.

      Ranked Choice Voting is an important reform worthy of discussion. There’s a bill in the Legislature (HB 1722) that would allow Edmonds to adopt this election method, and it’s supported by several Edmonds’ legislators.


  4. Vote for Edmonds City Council candidates when you have the opportunity. Run for a position on the council if you like. However do not demand that we vote for a particular person because they fit your definition of diversity. The history of Edmonds goes back to many imigrants that came from Sweden and Norway, and this is ever changing. Most candidates are certainly qualified. If a candidate was Canadian and was also an American that spoke German like me, I certainly would put that person to the top of my list. Stop trying to tell us what diversity is, and try to tell us the kind of person we should vote for. I would suggest you move to a socialist country where you are a minority to feel right at home.


  5. “There must be a better process for appointing council members”……………..BECAUSE my personal pick did not win. Too bad for you! We support our city council and our mayor, (we did not vote for many who won). Most important, we support the “process” that was used to appoint the open seat for city council. We don’t care if the person is pink, green, blue,brown, white, or black. Our elected officials followed an approved process, and it was fair and it worked. There is a new “loser” mentality in this country that resembles spoiled children throwing a tantrum. Just watching the Iowa Caucus tonight and how the DNC is changing the rules to ace out Bernie, is indicative of what is sweeping the country. There sits Donna Brazile giving her opinion of what/why this is going on….. isn’t she the woman who gave Hillary the debate questions in advance? Luke will do well; as for you and your cultural misappropriation of your “Tribe”, we are not so sure.


  6. I agree with Mr. Pence. Ranked choice would be better for Edmonds than the system we use now. Definitely an improvement.


  7. The PC culture of today seems to salivate and push the litmus test of diversity over the litmus test for competence, character and quality.


  8. I had no “personal pick” or “racial” choice in this. I don’t think race, sex or socioeconomic status should have anything to do with this. I have no problem with who ended up getting the position. I have a problem with the concept of “appointed” by the already elected vs. “elected” by the voters. Every time you give politicians the right to appoint someone, you are opening the door to possible abuses of office and power. For example it might have been an abuse of power for the Mayor to make the final decision on who got the position. He chose wisely not to do this but he did have the choice, which is a flaw in the current system in my opinion. It is much better to figure out how to elect someone than to appoint them if possible. The ranked choice idea put forth by Mr. Pence might be a good alternative to what we have now. What the Iowa situation has to do with this is beyond my comprehension. Seems like comparing apples to oranges to me, but maybe I’m missing something. I would agree that the Caucus system is unfair compared to a real Presidential primary that doesn’t require someone to be available to attend an event. Mail in ballots as we have in WA. is the way to go.


  9. Now that the council voting record has been posted a look at the data is interesting. Lots of comments on the election and selection process show our folks are thinking of ways to do a better job of electing our leaders. Ideas like voting by district, selecting with some diversity goal in mind, and other ideas show we all care about how we elect those who will serve us. The 12 folks who came forward should all be commended and any one of them would have added to our council with their respective skills, experience, and ideas.

    Some have said the best model for selection would have been a primary and then a final election to select the replacement but that clearly is not possible. Now that the council voting numbers are posted a look at the process is interesting. With the 44 ballots there were a total of 264 votes. Here’s how it all played out. If we use the “primary” model to select the top two it took two ballots to produce the top 2: Crank got 6 votes and Monroe got 3 and we then had a top two. 204 votes were cast before Luke was nominated with Nomination 5. It took 10 more ballots and 60 more votes before a candidate got the 4 votes needed to win.

    When it was all over Luke was elected and his total vote count in the end was 16. But he got the 4 needed to win with this selection method. During those 44 ballots Crank got 86 votes, Monroe got 53. Petso, Cheung, Chen, and Grant ranged from 28 to 17 votes each.

    Looking at the patterns of how council members voted is equally interesting. But that’s another topic. Some have advanced ranking systems and other processes. Now that this selection is history it would be nice for council to explore other processes to see if they would produce a winner with less ballots and drama.

    Congratulation to Luke. You and all council member have much to do in 2020. Please engage the pubic in setting the calendar for discussion and seek the public input to help you with your decisions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *