Councilmembers OK property donation, spar over charges of inappropriate conduct

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, top row-L, speaks during council comments Tuesday.

The Edmonds City Council meeting went along in smooth fashion for most of Tuesday night, with councilmembers voting to accept a property donation from the will of longtime resident Shirley Johnson and postponing to future meeting dates additional discussions on changes to the city’s stormwater code and plans for adding bicycle lanes.

But the tone changed when it came time for councilmembers’ comments at the end of the meeting.  Councilmember Vivian Olson began by taking Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas to task for what she called “two blatant code of conduct violations.” Olson said later the violations of the council’s code of conduct involve two incidents: In the first, Fraley-Monillas was seen on camera during a virtual Aug. 24 council meeting drinking wine, and in the second, she was observed during the Sept. 7 virtual meeting flashing a “loser” sign while a resident was commenting on the councilmember’s Aug. 24 behavior.

As Olson began her comment, Fraley-Monillas interrupted with a point of order, stating the council comment period “is an inappropriate place to be talking about individual councilmembers. If Ms. Olson wants to bring me up on charges, there’s always executive session to do that,” she said.

Olson then asked Mayor Mike Nelson — who as mayor runs the council meetings — if Fraley-Monillas had a valid point of order. In response, Nelson suggested that Olson “refrain from identifying specific councilmembers in their comments.”

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis then called her own point of order, stating that “the purpose of a council comment is to allow a councilmember to provide whatever information she or he would like to say.” Buckshnis then added that in the years that she and Fraley-Monillas have been on council, “we have named names” during council comments.

After Fraley-Monillas again interrupted, telling the mayor that the comments by her fellow councilmembers are “against our code of conduct,” Nelson replied: “It’s up to you. If you want to use this as a forum to go after each other, then you are going to go after each other. I’m not going to tell you not to. It’s common sense how you want to use your time. I’m not going to rule on how or what your council comments should be.”

Olson then continued, without using names: “I don’t really understand the refusal to own them (the code of conduct violations) and then render a sincere apology to the public for both. And with that being the case, where is the council majority — this is my message to full council — with sanctions for this councilmember, snubbing the public and our code?”

During her comments, Buckshnis reiterated she was “in full support” of Olson’s statements, at which point Fraley-Monillas introduced another point of order, stating “I am not going to bring my medical issues in front of this full council. And I understand this is election season.”

In an interview the day after the Aug. 24 council meeting, Fraley-Monillas said the wine had been left over from her dinner before the meeting, and she absent-mindedly sipped it during an on-camera vote. She also stated she was “in an extreme amount of pain” due to an infection, which she was going to have surgery for the next day.

Fraley-Monillas is running for her fourth council term, and will face former councilmember Neil Tibbott in the Nov. 2 general election.

During the meeting Tuesday night, councilmembers held a public hearing on the city’s stormwater management code, but agreed to continue it to next week because no one showed up virtually to offer public comment. Both Councilmembers Olson and Buckshnis noted they had received several emails from residents expressing opinions on the code changes, and they worried that some people may have had technical difficulties commenting via the Zoom platform. Continuing the meeting, they argued, would give them an additional opportunity to do so.

The city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit with the Washington Department of Ecology requires that the city maintain adequate stormwater management code for new development in order to protect surface waters. Each five-year cycle of the permit requires an update to the city code to remain compliant with the most current guidance from the ecology department. You can learn more about the proposed code changes here.

The council also had a lengthy discusion about a city plan to add over six miles of bicycle lanes in various Edmonds neighborhoods, funded by a $1.85 million Sound Transit Access grant.After collecting and analyzing parking and traffic data in the affected areas, followed by community outreach that included virtual open houses to gather residents’ input, staff and consultant Blueline presented a set of alternatives to the city council in May. 

The project was further discussed last week by the council’s Parks and Public Works Committee.

The project would install bike lanes in the following areas — 100th Avenue West/9th Avenue South from 244th Street Southwest to Walnut Street, Walnut Street/Bowdoin Way from 9th Avenue South to 84th Avenue West and 228th Street Southwest from 78th Avenue West to 80th Avenue West. However, most of the discussion Tuesday focused on just one project — the busy intersection of 100th Avenue West and Highway 104.

Two alternatives have been proposed — Alternative 1 provides bike lanes in both directions but would eliminate one through lane for vehicle traffic, which staff said would create traffic delays and driveway blockages during the peak afternoon commute. Alternative 2 would include a northbound bicycle lane crossing the intersection, while the southbound lane would be a sharrow (a marking to indicate a shared lane with vehicles). Alternative 2 also provides ramps so that southbound cyclists can exit on to the sidewalk, walk through the intersection and re-enter the roadway south of the intersection.

Councilmembers Luke Distelhorst and Laura Johnson reiterated earlier concerns, expressed during last week’s council committee meeting, that the delay for motorists — estimated at an average of 28 seconds during peak PM traffic — under Alternative 1 was insignificant when compared to the safety that a two-way bike lane would provide to bicycle riders.

“Basic mobility is a human right and designing only around vehicles is not sustainable for our climate or our safety or for just our future,” Distelhorst said.

Councilmembers Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson said they weren’t happy with either Alternatives 1 or 2 for the intersection, and Councilmember Olson said that the delays caused by Alternative 1 would be “completely unacceptable.”

After more than an hour of discussion on the matter, which was scheduled to take just 15 minutes, the council agreed to postpone further debate about it until the Oct. 5 meeting.

In other action, the council voted unanimously to approve $320,500 in Edmonds Rescue Plan Fund grant awards — money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act — for the following nonprofit organizations:

Art Start Northwest: $18,000
Cascadia Art Museum: $50,000
Edmonds Center for the Arts: $50,000
Edmonds Driftwood Players: $50,000
Edmonds Waterfront Center: $50,000
Olympic Ballet Theatre: $45,000
Phoenix Theater: $27,500
Rotary Club of Edmonds: $30,000

The council also unanimously agreed to accept a property donation from the estate of longtime resident Shirley Johnson, with the understanding the land will be used as a community garden or park.

And it heard an annual update from the Snohomish Health District. You can view that presentation here.

You can watch the video of the Sept. 21 council meeting at this link.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. I encourage all to watch the video of the last 16 minutes of last night’s Council Meeting. At the end of a wonderful presentation about the extremely generous Shirley Johnson Property Donation, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas decides to go off on a tangent and make false statements to remind Council of the importance of a social service program. After Councilmember Kristiana Johnson clarified that not all what Ms. Fraley-Monillas said was true, Fraley-Monillas responded: “Well, thank you for correcting me”.

    Why would anybody bring up something not germane to the agenda item in the middle of a very special moment? Sad to witness such last night. I fear Ms. Fraley-Monillas made her comments because it is election season, and she is pandering for votes.

    I salute Councilmember Vivian Olson for representing the citizens of Edmonds and asking Full Council what they intend to do about drinking during Council Meetings and flashing the “loser” sign. The silence from 5 of 7 Councilmembers was disappointing. I guess we will soon see if the new Code of Conduct means anything or is more like the Code of Ethics adopted in 2015 – empty words on paper.

    Very disappointing to see confusion during last night’s meeting about how many public comments had been submitted in writing specific to the Public Hearing for the Stormwater Code update. I submitted written Public Comments for the Public Hearing early yesterday morning per the City’s specific instructions for written comments. The confusion about Public Comments causes me to wonder if City Council is reading Public Comments submitted in writing specific to Public Hearings.

    Furthermore, all attending the Meeting, including citizens, must have the ability to hear each other at the same time. City Council has refused to facilitate this throughout this time of Zoom Meetings.

    Other cities are able to accomplish this. For example, the City of Sea Tac reads Written Public Hearing Comments into the record, up to 5 minutes in length.

    1. Ken.
      I apologized to you last night in that I had not captured all the folks that sent in public comment for the public hearing at the meeting last night. As you know, the entire public comment process continues to be frustrating to me because nothing is read into the record.

      It would’ve been very beneficial for council to have that public hearing/public comments email as part of the packet. That’s another reason for the extension-so ALL citizen can be apprised of the commenters.

      I continue to receive comments from citizens regarding the lack of transparency and hope we can implement change as we continue to highlight these deficiencies.

      1. Hi Diane,
        I appreciate your apology. I am committed to doing what I can as a citizen to promote good government and open government. As such, I submitted the following yesterday morning:

        Dear Assistant Attorney General for Open Government (Nancy) Krier,

        The Edmonds City Council recently chose to return to the practice of remote, zoom meetings.

        It is my understanding that when the decision has been made to allow public comment, such as when Public Notice has been provided for a Public Hearing, all persons attending the meeting must be provided the ability to hear each other at the same time. I believe remote members of the public must be able to contemporaneously hear all discussion, including public comments submitted by other citizens.

        The City of Edmonds conducted a properly noticed Public Hearing last evening. The Public Notice informed that public comments for the Public Hearing could be submitted in writing to a specific City of Edmonds email address. I did so, along with an unknown number of other citizens.

        Much confusion was exhibited during last night’s Council Meeting as to how many Public Comments for the Public Hearing had been received. Several citizen names were mentioned as having submitted public comments in writing. I submitted public comments in writing, but my name was not mentioned. None of the content of the written comments was disclosed, so I have no idea what my fellow citizens had to say about the matter. I also have no way of knowing how many Councilmembers were aware of or read the Public Comments submitted in writing for the Public Hearing.

        I’ve been asking the Edmonds City Council to facilitate the ability for all persons attending public meetings to hear each other at the same time for over a year. Nothing has been done and last night’s conduct caused me to finally reach out to you.

        Please investigate. Please make sure Edmonds City Council is following all Open Government laws. Thank you.

    1. Edmonds is a non-charter code city and as such is governed by RCW 35A, the state’s optional municipal code. Section 35A.12.100 enumerates the powers and responsibilities of the mayor, including his duty to preside over city council meetings.

    1. Nelson should not be running the city council meetings. The Council President is the one that needs to take the reigns. I have requested that Susan Paine, the council leader, be the one to run the council meetings, not the mayor; however, her lack of leadership skills and close ties to the mayor are why nothing has changed.

      I hope every Edmonds citizen who cares about this city realizes how important this upcoming election is to turn the tide and remove AFM for good. Also, continue to put pressure on Nelson to stop his partisan politics or resign. There is growing momentum for change so let’s leverage this to stop further erosion of our charming city.

      1. The result of bike lanes and longer wait times for motorists on already busy streets could send even more cars onto east-west side streets into neighborhoods that already receive more traffic in and out of downtown. Is this the intended result?

  2. I want to applaud Vivian Olson and Diane Buckshinis for stepping up to support the pleas of our citizrns!! The willingness to hold another member accountable for wrongdoing on behalf of citizens is absolutely noteworthy. I also appreciated Mayor Nelson’s willingness to allow council to decide to let council handle their affairs so he did the right thing!! To me, this is a sign our government can start to make the right decisions. Susan Paine and Laura are weak in defending the public. Re bike lanes I’m glad Buckshnis did not buckle!! Luke is wrong on many issues! 28 seconds of delay in traffic! Not when there will be bikes and cars colliding with motorist not accustomed to have bikes on the road! The bikers by the way are a big lobbyist group! I was shocked to learn this. Fyi, I have seen a bike accident on the road and it was painful to see! Tonage of a car is not good to tango with. NOPE you won’t catch me doing that dance! Delays also do not account for increased traffic with increases in on our population! Lastly, if written statements are to be read aloud, council needs to accommodate that!

  3. Thank you to all of the residents who were watching last night. As painful as it will be, I will view the last 18 minutes of the meeting. I hope everyone reading this does the same.

    This is a great example of how important it is as residents to pay attention to our locally elected officials as they are representing the will of those they stepped up to serve.

    It is irresponsible for us to think our participation in our local government ends when we cast our vote. I am guilty of this myself, having lived in Edmonds for 13 years before tuning into a city council meeting and poorly vetting many of the candidates I have voted for.

    Edmonds deserves better, please pay attention this election cycle. Vet the candidates to the best of your ability.

  4. Bike lanes causing a car back-up is not a trivial point. As Mike Murdock notes, drivers – either on their own or through their car navigation systems – will opt for less congested side streets. Look at Pine Street from 9th down to 5th, or Pine from 5th to 3rd, or Dayton from 9th to 6th.
    Another consequence of poorly planned bike lanes (emphasis on poorly planned) is that the city falls farther behind on its CO2 goals. When you slow down cars from 25 mph to lower speeds, you increase the emissions and CO2. Per vehicle, per trip it may be minimal. But if your city carbon budget is computed using 25 or 30 mph and speed on a significant corridor drops by 5 mph, that will increase that part of the budget. A quick search gives numbers from 20 to 25% for a drop from 25 mph to 20 mph. Bikes may only be in the lanes part of the time, but if the lane configuration slows traffic, the emissions increases are taking place all the time.
    It’s more than ironic if efforts to accommodate zero-carbon bicycles cause a net increase in CO2.

    1. Brian. Amazing points. There are a lot of false economies with centrally planned environmental objectives. Recycling paper and plastics is half baked. There isn’t enough sand to build viable solar and there never will be.

      Speaking as a transportation engineer, macro, the US needs heavy rail (not light rail), curbside metro pickup (instead of busses), narrowed traffic lanes, smaller cars, and a reduction of commercial trucks to 40k pounds (see heavy rail). This would open up cities for bikes, rishaws, city use of light vehicles (such as golf karts).

    2. I’m sure there is software to model changes in traffic flow, but it seems the city could test this on the ground easily, before making any major changes. Set up traffic control along 9th/100th in the area, to simulate the modified lanes with bike lanes installed. Then set out traffic counters (mechanical or citizen volunteers) on obvious alternate routes and look at what happens. The impact should also show up in short order on Google Maps navigation, as it looks at delays in the traffic and suggests faster routes for drivers.
      Yes, the traffic control will cost money. But it’s going to cost a lot less than the $1.85 million the revision will cost.

  5. Wow! What an amazing gift Shirley Johnson have to the citizens of Edmonds! I can’t wait to see what this unique and special property has to offer. Thank you to everyone who made this land donation possible and to the council members for approving it.

  6. Regarding the concern that bike lanes, or reconfigured traffic flows of any kind, will increase automobile traffic on side streets and other alternate routes.

    All of the multi-use paths around here and in King County have posted speed limits of 15mph as a safety precaution where foot traffic (people) and very light vehicles coexist in close proximity to each other. Why then are residential streets without continuous sidewalks not limited to the same speeds?

    Do people living and raising families on Edmonds side streets not deserve the same consideration? Or is it mistakenly believed that pushing a stroller or walking a dog next to a disaffected motorvoter is somehow safer than doing so next to a bicyclist?

    If the speed limit on side streets were lowered to 15mph, or even a more doable 20mph, and enforced to any reasonable degree, I think the potential for increased traffic on side streets would either go away or become a legitimate revenue stream.

    The law of diminishing returns dictates that we have less to gain by speeding when we are closer to our destination… and if Edmonds isn’t the destination drivers should stay on the main thoroughfares.

    Automobile deaths, both car/car, single vehicle, and car/”pedestrian” have increased measurably during our anthropause. I honestly don’t understand how 15mph is the max for a parkway path but somehow 25mph is considered a safe speed for vehicles weighing 3000 to 5000lb or more with children and pets living and playing just a few feet away.

  7. This comment is directed to Ann regarding who runs the city council meetings. I researched the topic and found this link to the Association of WA Cities Mayor and City Council Handbook; .
    You are correct in that the mayor does preside over the CC meetings; however, the handbook is very clear that the meetings are not the “mayor’s meetings”. They are the city councils’ meetings. My earlier comment stands corrected. To clarify, my comments to Susan Paine was to have the council own their meetings and not the mayor. This takes her leadership to push back when needed.

  8. The great irony with CM Fraley-Monillas is that if she would simply “own” her mistakes, apologize and accept consequences for her actions, this would fall out of the news cycle. In many ways, her combative, blame others response is pulled straight out of the Trump playbook: All news, good or bad, is good publicity and accept no responsibility and admit no mistakes.

    As a father of two young boys (3 and 5), I teach them that actions have consequences and the most important thing they can do when they make a mistake is admit wrong doing, accept the consequences, learn from them and move forward in a positive manner. It was abhorrent watching a POTUS who refused to do this and it’s equally as alarming to see a local council member take same approach.

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