On July 16, 1985, Edmonds City Council passed Ordinance 2511. Ordinance 2511 relates to:
-Publication of and posting of ordinances and notices by the city;
-Designation of an official newspaper;
-Designation of three (3) official posting places for the posting of notices;
-Provision for the publication and effective dates of ordinances and,
-Directs the city cerk to obtain affidavits of publication for city ordinances and to file the same in the official ordinance book.
At the time Ordinance 2511 was adopted, it was correct in stating that:
“The effective date of ordinances published pursuant to this section shall be five days after the date of publication, unless otherwise provided by statute, except that an ordinance passed by a majority plus one of the whole membership of the city council, designated therein as a public emergency ordinance necessary for the protection of the public health, public safety, public property or the public peace, may be made effective upon adoption, but such ordinance may not levy taxes, grant, renew or extend a franchise or authorize the borrowing of money.”
This part of Ordinance 2511 is consistent with RCW 35A.12.130, a state law in place since 1967.
Twenty-nine (29) days after Ordinance 2511 was effective as law in Edmonds, City council voted to adopt the power of initiative and referendum via Ordinance 2516.
Ordinance 2516 states the following:
“The City of Edmonds hereby adopts the power of initiative and referendum for the qualified electors of the City as provided pursuant to RCW 35A.11.080 through 35A.11.100. Such powers are to be exercised as provided in the above referenced sections of the Revised Code of Washington as they now exist or may be amended from time to time and said sections are hereby incorporated in full by this reference.”
RCW 35A.11.090 was adopted in 1973 and is still current law in Washington State:
Initiative and referendum—Effective date of ordinances—Exceptions.
Ordinances of noncharter code cities the qualified electors of which have elected to exercise the powers of initiative and referendum shall not go into effect before thirty days from the time of final passage and are subject to referendum during the interim except:
(1) Ordinances initiated by petition;
(2) Ordinances necessary for immediate preservation of public peace, health, and safety or for the support of city government and its existing public institutions which contain a statement of urgency and are passed by unanimous vote of the council;
(3) Ordinances providing for local improvement districts;
(4) Ordinances appropriating money;
(5) Ordinances providing for or approving collective bargaining;
(6) Ordinances providing for the compensation of or working conditions of city employees; and
(7) Ordinances authorizing or repealing the levy of taxes; which excepted ordinances shall go into effect as provided by the general law or by applicable sections of Title 35A RCW as now or hereafter amended.
Even though new Ordinance 2516 referred to RCW 35A.11.090 in the body of new Ordinance 2516 and even though only 29 days had passed since Ordinance 2511 was adopted, nobody at city hall recognized that the passage of Ordinance 2516 required amending the code adopted under Ordinance 2511.
It was simply missed, and ECC 1.03.030 has contained an error since 1985.
It is more than just a code error. Please consider how many ordinances effective dates have been wrong over the years. I wonder how many so-called emergency ordinances have been treated as effective immediately when they were not effective immediately. Ordinance 4189 for example. Ordinance 4189 declared an emergency and created a new Edmonds Cares Fund, which shall become effective immediately. This is false. Ordinance 4189 did not receive a unanimous vote and therefore was not effective immediately. What is the impact of that mistake and what will be done about it? I wonder if any city officials have notified the State Auditor.
And it may not just be emergency ordinances that have been impacted by the code error contained in ECC 1.03.030 since 1985. How many of our ordinances have gone into effect before 30 days from time of passage when they should not have?
How many votes would have been different over the years if city councilmembers had been advised that it only took one vote to stop an ordinance from being effective immediately?
Furthermore, please think of all the opportunities missed where this could have been noticed. For example, each time an emergency ordinance was considered, why didn’t any city official refer to RCW 35A.11.090 and recognize that a unanimous vote was required?
I fear that had I not notified city officials of this situation on April 7, 2021, the city would be marching forward as if an “emergency” ordinance passed by a majority plus one of the whole membership of the city council may be made effective immediately upon adoption.
Even though I pointed out this situation on April 7, 2021, not one city official has tried to correct the code error contained in ECC 1.03.030, an error that has existed since 1985.
I am thankful to see the following in new Ordinance 4226:
Section 3. Declaration of Emergency. The City Council hereby declares that an emergency exists necessitating that this Ordinance take effect immediately upon passage by a unanimous vote of the Council (RCW 35A. 11. 090), and that the same is not subject to a referendum.
But the work is not done. Our city code must also be updated to reflect RCW 35A.11.090. ECC 1.03.030 has contained an error since 1985.
Previous efforts have been made to update the Edmonds Community Development Code (ECDC). However, it is not just the ECDC that needs updating. Too much of our entire city code has been a mess for an exceptionally long time. I encourage city officials to prioritize full update of our entire city code. Please correct all errors immediately. Thank you.