Letter to the editor: Why Will Chen has my vote


As a former Edmonds City Councilmember, I have a good sense for what our council needs in terms of qualities in our councilmembers as we work to address critical issues such as growth, public safety, improved city infrastructure and inclusion of all our population segments in local policy making. We need councilmembers who have a deep commitment to Edmonds, a strong sense of how we can stretch limited revenue to meet our city’s expanding needs and a personal understanding of how we can engage our diverse citizen base with our local government.

Will Chen has all these qualities and more. As a young man, Will immigrated from China to attend college in Iowa, where he earned an accounting degree. He eventually earned his CPA, opened an accounting business along the Highway 99 corridor in Edmonds, purchased a home in the Lake Ballinger area and started a family here. He is well connected with the local Asian-American community and understands the need to engage that community—which has been long under-represented in Edmonds — as we set city policies.

As a resident and business owner in the Highway 99 area (which is poised for dramatic change), Will has an excellent perspective of that area’s needs in terms of public safety, housing, green space, etc. and will be a strong voice in advocating for citizens and businesses in that area. He was also a volunteer on the Edmonds Housing Commission and has an intimate knowledge of the many issues around housing in the Highway 99 area as well as all other areas of Edmonds.

It has been my experience that there is never enough funding to accomplish everything our city would like to do. As a CPA, Will knows the importance of balancing the budget, limiting the tax burden on our citizens, and still finding a way to ensure our critical city needs are met.

Will is very smart, has an admirable work ethic, has deep integrity and is a model of civility. He is precisely what our city council needs at this moment in time. He has my vote!

Dave Teitzel

  1. Dave: You were on the City Attorney evaluation committee. The proposal was for 1 year contract extension and the evaluation was incomplete. Instead you and Councilmember Mesaros brought forth a 3 year contract extension with the Lighthouse Law Group including law back clause on their fees. Today, do you think Edmonds is receiving competent legal advice? Or is the City Attorney acting on the behalf the Mayor to cover up his failures to uphold his oath of office to uphold the laws of Washington and US Constitution.
    The City Attorney’s contract with the City of Edmonds violates the Washington State Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically, Rule Fees 1.5 (f) (2) A lawyer may charge a flat fee for specified legal services, which constitutes complete payment for those services and is paid in whole or in part in advance of the lawyer providing the services.

    Do you think it is ethical for a City Attorney to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct? I asked this question and got a response that he was running for the office. Will Chen will be another Luke “Milk Toast” Distelhorst, I took the OPMA training provide by the Attorney General Office but didn’t understand all City Council Meetings were to be open to the public.

    Mr. Teitzel, you were a contributor to the current problems Edmonds is experiencing!

    1. Finis, you are referring to the “lookback” option discussed in detail in the November 19, 2019, City Council Meeting Minutes. On November 26, 2019, the 2019 City Council voted to approve a 3-year contract which allows Lighthouse Law Group to convert the flat fee compensation arrangement to an hourly compensation arrangement if the City terminates the contract or approves an inhouse city attorney during the contract term (“Option Triggering Events”).

      It was represented on November 19, 2019, that the 3-year contract had a 60-day cancellation clause, so it was really a 60-day contract, renewable every day.

      I’ve often wondered how a city budgets for a professional services contract containing such an “Option”. I’ve also wondered if a conversion option like this provides a disincentive to terminate a contract or look for an inhouse attorney.

      The 2019 City Council was subject to Ordinance No. 3303 on November 26, 2019, when it voted to agree to this unusual City Attorney contract containing “Option Triggering Events”. Ordinance No. 3303 clearly stated that projects /purchases /professional services costing over $50,000 must be competitively bid, coordinated through the Administrative Services Department to ensure RCW compliance, and require bid award by City Council.

      Weeks later, on December 17, 2019, Ordinance 3303 was repealed via Ordinance 4171.

      You can’t make this stuff up.

      Chapter 2.05 ECC, CITY ATTORNEY still represents the City Council utilizes the consultant selection process established by Chapter 2.80 ECC when contracting for legal counsel. Chapter 2.80 ECC was repealed by Ordinance No. 3303 in 2000.

      I brought this to the attention of elected officials and Mr. Taraday in an email I sent January 18, 2012. Despite my efforts, Chapter 2.05 ECC, CITY ATTORNEY still refers to Chapter 2.80 ECC nearly 10 years later.

      The following is also in our City Code this very second:
      Chapter 2.80
      (Repealed by Ord. 3303)
      *Code reviser’s note: Ordinance 3303, Exhibit A, available in the office of the city clerk, adopts the purchasing policy of the city.

      Like I said, you can’t make this stuff up.

  2. Will Chen is a partisan candidate for a non-partisan position. He has numerous democratic party politicians supporting his election; Janelle Cass has none. They’re apparently supporting him because they are confident, if elected, he’ll join the surviving members of the current “gang of four”.

    Will Chen is being promoted by some as an Edmonds businessman when his business is not in Edmonds; it is in unincorporated Snohomish county – Esperance.

    Will Chen apparently supports rezoning more single-family zoned properties into multi-family zones. He says that needs to be done so that Edmonds is able to comply with the state’s growth management act (GMA). Edmonds has always been able to grow its population as required by the GMA and no future problem is anticipated. The re-zoning would simply increase population density and that’s not needed, or desired

    Will Chen’s accounting expertise does appear to exceed Ms. Cass’, but councilmembers are not required to do the city’s books or audit the city’s financial filings. I believe that intelligence, judgement, and character are much more relevant qualifications for being a councilmember. I don’t wish to infer in any way that Mr. Chen lacks those qualifications, but only time will tell. However, being a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy leaves no doubt that Ms. Cass excels in those areas.

  3. I totally agree with Ron on his Party affiliation point. I was wrong about it the last time around and won’t make the same mistake twice. Malignant ideological thinking is slowly destroying this country from the inside out and Edmonds is no exception to the problem. We’ve lost the concepts of deep collaboration, discussion, compromise, and then majority rule after the debate occurs. The ideological perspective is my way, or the highway; and only works to promote and preserve special interests. That’s the road we are on nationally and getting past the point of no return fast.

  4. Thanks Ron Wambolt- I concur with your comments. Will Chen was one if the first to announce his candidacy for City Council and I attended his kick off rally (virtual) to learn more. I found him to have a calm demeanor and appreciated his experience as an Accountant/Business owner. I even donated a small amount of $$ to his campaign because I was excited to see that someone was stepping up since the council was is such disarray. Then Janelle Cass announced she would be joining the race. I attended her kick off meeting as well. I found her professional and academic experience to be more applicable to the needs of Edmonds but more than that, her recognition that the City Council was there to serve the residents of Edmonds and to listen and respect their input.

    But the thing that sealed the deal was at the MEN Primary Debate. When I learned that Will Chen confirmed his affiliation with the Democratic Party when asked the question in the debate, my decision was made. City Council members are supposed to be non-Partisan. It is officially a non-Partisan position. Why, then, is Will Chen aligning himself and connected to the Democratic Party? Janelle Cass answered that question with an emphatic “no.” If this is something Mr. Chen would like to clarify or correct the record, I invite him to do so.
    Finally, when one considers the campaign donations of each candidate, close to 70% of Will Chen’s donations come from people/businesses that DO NOT reside in Edmonds. Only 30% of his contributions are from Edmonds residents. Why is that?
    On the other hand, close to 90% of Janelle Cass’ donations are from residents of Edmonds. That matters to me and it should matter to all of us. We need it to ensure that the candidate is committed to represent the residents of Edmonds.
    While I appreciate Will Chen’s willingness to serve and in no way disparage his character, when I see people campaigning AFM/Chen/Crank as a group, it gives me great concern.
    My vote is for Cass.

  5. If party affiliation is a litmus test for city council candidates we’ve all been voting for the wrong people for many, many years. Let’s be realistic, most of the people who have held these positions have been declared members of a political party – but they have not necessarily carried out their role in a partisan manner. If there should be a litmus test I would suggest integrity, a commitment to municipal issues and a willingness to work hard, be respectful and listen to others. Both these candidates score high so a decision is not easy. Let’s take a good look at who they are and avoid eliminating either for points that have an appeal but detract from the need to elect one that will serve our community well.

    1. I did not designate party affiliation to be a litmus test. And yes, councilmembers are typically members of a political party. But in my experience it is exclusively only those affiliated with the democratic party who routinely act in a partisan manner.

  6. I agree with Ron. Cass vs Chen is clearly Edmonds real life needs vs Democrat regional agenda! Cass vs Chen is City Council member technical skills vs political gamesmanship.

  7. Thanks, Bob. I find it telling that Ron says “only those affiliated with the democratic party who routinely act in a partisan manner.” I guess that means that Republicans are above partisanship.
    I find Will to be a man of tremendous intelligence, compassion, experience, education, work ethic, and commitment. As someone who grew up homeless in Communist China, his passion is to give back to the country and the city that has given him great opportunity, and has given him the life of his dreams. Kimberly Clark, a Fortune 500 company, trusted him to send him overseas as an auditor, as a CPA his clients trust him, the Asian community trusts him, I trust him to be an effective Councilperson, and to represent all of Edmonds.

    1. So not only don’t you believe what I’ve said, you also don’t believe Will Chen.; he has said that he’s a Democrat.

      1. Anne, when I was chair of the Republican LD, I carried water for Mitt Romney (not by choice and not proud of it). He was the nominee and I had to. I’m saying this as a matter of fact – a typical Republican is a Progressive 5 years ago. The Overton window is moving so fast, that anyone who doesn’t hate who they were 5 years ago is a Republican. Basically we all hate Republicans because they cannot keep up with the bleeding edge of nonsense.

  8. “But in my experience it is exclusively only those affiliated with the democratic party who routinely act in a partisan manner.”

    Or might it be true that we all are inclined to see partisanship only in the opposing party? Or that we tend to judge the opposing party only by its extremists? The person I want to vote for is the practical candidate with a reasonable agenda and a reputation for honesty, qualities which I like to think can be found on both sides – as are the opposite qualities.

  9. The statement about democrat affiliation I found agreement with was “routinely act in a partisan manor.” It’s a fair statement in Edmonds. Regardless, “party” is not relevant to the work at hand for Council going forward, and neither is the tremendous intelligence, background of a candidate. What is at stake in Cass vs Chen is choosing the candidate who has the direct in-town experience and skill set to be a great Edmonds Council person.

    By comparison to the comment above – Cass has the – Edmonds “intelligence”, Edmonds “compassion”, Edmonds “experience”, Edmonds “education”, Edmonds “work ethic” and Edmonds “commitment.” If we are voting non-partisan on that basis, Cass scores the highest in this race, indeed she may score highest in comparison to many current and past Council members.

    Council needs her skills and leadership to make the tough choices – for example, allocation of limited budget for four major environmental projects involving Edmonds natural resources: watershed restoration vs stormwater management, daylighting the Edmonds Marsh, City management of the Marine Sanctuary, in-stream improvements and erosion prevention to maintain the best salmon runs we have – in Shell Creek, restoring basic in-stream channel structure to Perrinville Creek, and eventually shoreline enhancements to improve our estuarine habitat in Browns Bay.

    Edmonds is at a crossroads on these vital projects and without a Council with a member(s) appropriate environmental skill set to evaluate technical environmental restoration science – what happens? WE KNOW WHAT happens – just like the connector, the administration and Council hire the “experts” and vote – and vote how – not on the basis of technical savy (which they lack), but on a partisan basis. Do we want more of that show?

  10. It’s probably a bit of human nature to think the political party you most often affiliate with is the least partisan. None of us try to go out of our way to be wrong about something or anything, if we are sane. What we all need to keep in mind is that political ideology, like any ideological system (i. e. organized religion) is group think and prone to become cult like in nature when taken to the extreme. That’s what politics have become in our country. You are either with me or against me, there’s no middle road available to either the Conservative side or the Liberal side. We’ve lost the concepts of “moderation in all things” and doing what is the best for the majority of the people after looking at all sides of any given issue and voting on it (directly or by representation of some sort). One strong man rule is easy and arbitrary;l true Democracy is hard and complicated.

  11. Back before the August primary election, I attended a virtual meeting of the 32nd District Democrats. Will Chen had volunteered to serve on some minor party committee, one of the more thankless jobs in such organizations. Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, a party insider, was working hard to deny Will that post. Apparently he wasn’t enough of a Democrat, or so the argument went.

    I know Will Chen, and I know he will be an independent thinker on City Council. He will definitely NOT be joining the Bloc of Four that created such havoc the last two years!

  12. You aren’t going to prevent voting blocs from forming until you devise a system where blocs can’t or at least tend not to form in the first place. A start would be to elect council persons based on where they actually live in the city. If AFM, for example, wants to represent mainly the wants and needs of people living along the Hwy 99 Corridor then she should be voted in or out by the people who actually live there. The system that now exists is the Mayor supposedly representing the needs and wants of all citizens and the Council Persons doing likewise. It’s an impossible task for either position and it so obviously doesn’t work that I’m amazed more people aren’t clamoring for a change of some sort. It’s a minor miracle that things run as well as they do and probably more the result of good line staff than particularly competent political types.

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