Letter to the editor: Granting mayor legislative powers is un-American

Editor:

I strongly oppose granting the mayor legislative powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am opposed because it is un-American, it puts too much power into one individual and finally because the mayor may ask but can only gain these powers if the Council grants him the powers.

Americans have elections every four years to select our president, governors and mayors, all of which are the chief executive officer of their political jurisdiction. This is our treasured American way of governing.

It does not matter that Mayor Nelson wants these powers or that Council President Fraley-Monillas agrees with him. The mayor does not have a vote and the council president only has one vote. It would require four votes to reassign Council authority to the mayor and five votes to enact an emergency ordinance.

I ask each councilmember to consider your oath of office and continue to do your duty to the City of Edmonds. We should not shirk our duty or give away our powers to make it easier for the mayor to run the city.

The mayor’s job is to execute the laws and regulations of the city. The council’s job is to legislate polices, regulation and make all financial decisions. The municipal judge’s job is to interpret and carry out the law. Together these represent the balance of powers which our founding fathers felt were essential to our American form of democracy.

I urge citizens and business owners to write to the city council or provide testimony at the Tuesday City Council to share your opinion. Send your emails to council@edmondswa.gov.

I think that the city council has demonstrated that we can meet with the mayor any time and any day at his request to solve problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic. What I hope we are unwillingly to do is abdicate our roles and responsibilities as the legislative branch of the Edmonds city government.

Kristiana Johnson
Edmonds Ciy Council Position 1

9 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Granting mayor legislative powers is un-American”

  1. Thank you for your letter CM Kristina Johnson. Would you be able to expand on the potential complications from giving the Mayor the ability to provide quicker support to businesses during the pandemic? I am trying to understand more about where it would be helpful, and where it would be damaging.

    From what it sounds like, the added powers would allow the Mayor to cut red tape and move quickly to allow businesses to have outdoor operations and similar measures as State orders on COVID restrictions continue to fluctuate. Functionally it seems that it would be beneficial for businesses to have quicker guidance on the city regulations from the city, but it would set a bad precedent.

    I believe your characterization of the role of a Mayor is too narrow, and really no different than any other city employee “The mayor’s job is to execute the laws and regulations of the city.”

    Your letter reminded me of the quote “It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love Democracy, I love the Republic. The power you give me; I will lay down once this crisis is abated.” Emperor Palpatine – Episode II

    Now I am certainly not equating Mayor Nelson with the dark lord of the Sith, I think that he has done an excellent job as Mayor, but it certainly is an example where temporary powers turned into something quite different.

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  2. Evan, I agree with some of your concerns about precedent, and this — concentration of power in the executive — is a dangerous trend across our society generally. But the thing about genuine emergencies is that they are just that, and sometimes require exceptional measures.

    I think some of the dangers inherent in the approach could be minimized by limiting the scope of the powers granted to the mayor (maybe regarding how businesses can operate, as opposed to individuals?), as well as a sunset provision requiring it to be renewed at some point (say, mid-summer when the vaccine is expected to have some effects on transmission). I would urge the council to be circumspect in how they proceed.

    Let’s also remember these rules would apply to the office, not the man; Mayor Nelson may be the most responsible person in the world, but could be abruptly replaced for all sorts of reasons, with unexpected results.

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  3. Many good points well made. That said, I really struggle with anyone framing a position as “un-American” because it creates an unnecessary, unhelpful, limiting, and potentially loaded binary view of any given issue. That kind of thinking is inherently divisive and problematic. Haven’t we had enough of that lately?

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  4. Kristiana’s points are all well thought out. Giving blanket powers to the Mayor is both not necessary and also very unwise. As far as being divisive, I welcome different opinions–these are not divisive but just that differences of opinion and usually result in a better solution than if one sides opinions are suprressed. I challenge you to provide a scenario where there is a situation where the mayor doesn’t have a couple of hours to convene an emergency council meeting.

    This mayor who stressed a platform of “transparency” is doing just the opposite. He seems to crave the authority to do things in secret.

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  5. Please re-read my response because I am not taking a position re the mayor’s request. Merely troubled by it being characterized as “un-American.”

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