Letter to the editor: Asking Councilmember Distelhorst to correct the record


Wednesday night during the debate, council candidates in the primary election were asked if they supported Walkable Main Street on both Saturdays and Sundays.

All said no.

Councilmember Luke Distelhorst was challenged on this. It was known that he hadn’t supported my efforts to bring discussion of imposing limits on administrative authority to close rights-of-way to the council agenda*. In response, he suggested that he had asked me to return with parameters, and that it was my dropped ball in bringing them back that led to council inaction.

I take complete exception to this and asked (and still ask) CM Distelhorst to correct the record.

This is the proposal I made complete with parameters:

“Council approval is required for the closure of any City right-of-way exceeding 5 days in length when it is not affiliated with public works or construction projects.”

This balances government expediency where it makes sense versus vetting and judgment of the community impacts by more people for the longer, optional closures.

It was not parameters, but evidence that other cities had put such limits in place that CM Distelhorst asked me to seek. I obliged when he still wanted it after I told him I didn’t know how that was relevant, that what was good for Edmonds wasn’t dependent on what other other cities did or did not do.

The research provided him included mayors and city managers asking their councils to vote on these matters, but did not include proof that other councils had required that approval vote by code. It was this “lack” (not a lack of parameters) that made him unwilling to support bringing those limits to council for discussion.

I continue to seek a fourth CM’s support for adding the above proposal to the council agenda for discussion. CM Kristiana Johnson and CM Buckshnis have supported the ask both times so any one of the other four who have not already supported doing so will create the critical mass to make it happen when they sign on.

Vivian Olson

*The executive branch (Mayor’s office) has broad authorities granted to run the City; the legislative branch has the authority to make policy, including that which puts limits on the Mayor’s authority.

Publisher’s note:

In response to this letter, Councilmember Luke Distelhorstt provided a link to the city council meeting minutes where this topic was discussed and said the following:

“I think my quote that night (below) was consistent with what I said last night. I have not seen an agenda memo or supporting documentation/attachments, as is customary with agenda items.

 Councilmember Distelhorst said he had been contacted a number of times regarding this and provided the same answer, that there needs to be research of how rights-of-way are handled in other cities. There are a lot of examples in surrounding and other Puget Sound cities regarding how this is handled and that research needs to be done first so there can be informed decision making as part of the discussion. Once that research is done, he was very supportive of looking at how the City’s code may be the same or different and how that issue can be handled.”


  1. Janelle Cass was right to challenge Mr. Distelhorst on this. Not only have I seen no criticism of Walkable Mainstreet in its current format from Mr. Distelhorst, despite having countless opportunities to offer it; he has made posts across his social media accounts where he is very clearly touting Walkable Mainstreet in its current Saturday + Sunday format. This seems like all but an endorsement of it.

    If you don’t feel like leafing through his social media profiles to find these posts, I have provided screenshots of said posts at the bottom of this comment (copy the url into browser to see in google drive). You can judge for yourself what his attitude towards Walkable Mainstreet is.

    His response to Janelle Cass’s challenge was unsatisfying and frankly seemed like a cop-out. Whatever his true feelings about Walkable Mainstreet are, it is clear he is being inconsistent on this issue.

    Screenshot of Luke’s Instagram post about Walkable Mainstreet:

    Screenshot of Luke’s Facebook post about Walkable Mainstreet:

  2. Check out Luke’s LinkedIn

    Here he acts out being both a public sector contractor “slash” city council member that manages public sector contracts. Edmonds has contracts with Community Transit. Going through minutes, it does look like he’s stayed away from business doing with Community Transit, but apparently has been involved in discussions as a City Council Member about Community Transit. I don’t think abstinence or recusal is allowed per our city code, but the later would be a good start. If a City Councilman sold cell phones at the shopping mall for Verizon, we would not allow him to manage contracts having to do with 5G infrastructure. The last time Conflict of Interest was brought up in Edmonds, SEIU mysteriously lost their contracts here and the employees all moved over to another Union.

    Is there a recusal somewhere? I haven’t had any time to dig for it. It has to be articulated. Leaving the room is not a recusal, in our Mayor’s case.

  3. This will be the issue that will cost Luke his council seat, he was never elected to his seat and now never will be, and rightly so.
    Janelle Cass comes prepared and it shows. She is a stand out; a business person and a veteran.

  4. I have asked the economic director several times about which cities close there streets and get a list of 3 cities backeast and yet the mayor says there are hundreds and no websites. Luke just backs the mayor.

  5. Thank you for the information Vivian Olson and thank you Janelle Cass for questioning CM Luke on this. I was puzzled at his response too.

  6. From what I can see, Mr. Distelhorst had the simple choice of telling the truth or lying on this simple yes or no question and he chose to lie at worst or obfuscate the issue at best. Fellow Democrats and Independents of Edmonds, please don’t vote for this guy for two reasons. Number one he isn’t being totally honest on this issue and number two all positions in our city government should be totally non-partisan in nature. Personally, I’m not voting for anyone in these debates that says they are being supported by any national political party. This should have everything to do with just running a city efficiently and fairly and nothing to do with political ideology and favoritism of one citizen or business over another.

  7. Clinton Wright, you nailed it in your comment. I agree with you whole-heartedly. We need non-partisan council members.

  8. I hear political party thought process from some of the candidates, and their “this is the right way” without openly stating political party affiliation. It’s not party contribution that bother me as much as the candidates thoughts and actions, and would rather people came out openly with affiliation during this time of divisiveness.

    Politicians are most likely focused on one or the other political point of view whether stated or not, resulting in blame or nit picking arguments instead of working together on solutions to get things done.

    1. Party Contributions = “Think” and vote like the Party that endorses/funds the candidate. It is like adding 1 + 1 = 2. To think otherwise is naive, Period.

  9. The reality is local party organizations have no interest in the City of Edmonds. I was active for several years in the 21st District Democrats, and during that time I recall only one program on an Edmonds issue~ 15 minutes spent learning about the Marsh. Period. That’s all. Their real focus is on national and state issues. Party members voting those endorsements have little knowledge of Edmonds, what’s going on and our needs for improvement.

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