City council begins considering budget amendments; continues meeting to Wednesday night

Councilmembers and the mayor meeting via Zoom Tuesday night.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night managed to plow through 17 of the 48 amendments proposed to the 2022 city budget, voting 4-2 to continue Tuesday night’s budget deliberations to a 7 p.m. Wednesday meeting.

Councilmembers Vivian Olson and Kristiana Johnson spoke against the idea of carrying the meeting over to Wednesday night, asking instead why the work couldn’t instead be moved to next Tuesday’s regular council meeting. (Councilmember Diane Buckshnis is attending events this week related to a family wedding so wasn’t present.)

Olson said there was “a longstanding precedent” that the council hasn’t been continuing its meetings from Tuesdays to Wednesdays, adding she found the proposal — due to its last-minute nature — ” inconsiderate of the colleagues and the citizens. I’m extremely opposed.”

Kristiana Johnson also called the move “unprecedented,” especially when the council could continue its budget discussions on future Tuesdays. “It begs the question on why you are doing it, and there’s only one reason — you want to have Luke Distelhorst’s vote on this budget.”

The council’s budget schedule this year has been a bone of contention for some councilmembers and government watchers, who have accused Mayor Mike Nelson of attempting to get a budget passed before Distelhorst — who has generally supported the mayor’s proposals — leaves office. (Distelhorst, who was appointed to the Position 2 council seat in January 2020, lost in the August primary. Newly elected Councilmember Will Chen will fill the Position 2 seat starting with next week’s Nov. 23 meeting, and Chen has publicly called for slowing down the budget process.)

City Administrative Services Director Dave Turley responded to budget scheduling concerns last month, telling the council the city is following state law and accepted best practices in developing the 2022 budget. He also added the budget schedule has been on the council’s extended agenda since Aug. 4 and stressed that “there’s nothing unethical about trying to pass a budget before Thanksgiving.”

Until this year, the city council has routinely passed the budget in early to mid-December.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas replied Tuesday that she was “very disturbed” that Councilmembers Kristiana Johnson, Olson and Buckshnis — the latter of whom has in the past spoken out against the budget schedule — “are doing nothing but trying to push back on our agenda.” Fraley-Monillas also said that during the years she has been on council, she recalled at least one or two occassions when budget discussions have been continued from Tuesdays to Wednesdays.

“This is not the first time. It is not unprecedented,” she said.

Prior to Tuesday’s public hearing on the budget, councilmembers voted 4-2 (Councilmembers K. Johnson and Olson opposed) to limit testimony to those who hadn’t testified last week.

Among the budget amendments approved Tuesday night:

Staff-proposed amendments

– Restructuring the Edmonds Municipal Court, $265,000. 6-0 vote

– The Edmonds Downtown Alliance budget, $87,680. 6-0

– A satellite office for Highway 99, $166,576, 5-1 (K. Johnson opposed)

Council-proposed amendments

– Fraley-Monillas: Funding for Edmonds Center for Arts to assist with COVID recovery, $50,000. 4-2 (K. Johnson, Olson opposed)

– K. Johnson: A consultant contract with Windward Group to follow up on earlier Edmonds Marsh study, $60,000. 6-0

– S. Paine: Additional funding for sidewalk repairs, $20,000. 6-0

Among the conncil-proposed budget amendments that failed:

– K Johnson: $150,000 to conduct 4th Avenue Cultural Corridor study and design. 1-5  (K. Johnson in favor). General sentiment among councilmembers was that this project was too downtown-focused and the city should instead be ensuring equitable distribution of these efforts in other parts of Edmonds.

– K. Johnson: $235,000 for a subarea planning program, which included $135,000 to hire a full-time planner. The idea was to look at a range of issues — environment, transportation, utilities and stormwater — and tailor plans to the needs of Edmonds’ various subareas, similar to the the plan developed for Highway 99.  Several councilmembers agreed this had merit, but wanted to have department directors weigh in on whether they could use such a program. Johnson then amended her motion to provide just $135,000 for the employee, but that failed on a 2-4 vote. (K. Johnson and Olson in favor.)

– K. Johnson: $250,000 to add a two-year tree retention incentive pilot program. 1-5 (K. Johnson in favor)

– K. Johnson: Eliminating Mayor Mike Nelson’s proposal to hire a Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) program manager that would provide city-wide leadership to advance race, equity, diversity and inclusion goals. $155,677. Johnson said she didn’t think the position was necessary and also said she didn’t believe it should report to the mayor, but instead to a department director. Councilmember Vivian Olson proposed amending the position to make it a three-year contract position rather than hiring a full-time employee, to give the city more flexibility in determining the long-term need for such a role. The majority of councilmembers supported keeping the position as a full-time employee, with Councilmember Laura Johnson stressing that it will assist Edmonds’ efforts to engage the public and could save the city money be pointing things out that — if not addressed — could become an issue later.

Two other proposals by Kristiana Johnson — to reevaluate the funding for additional police department mid-level positions and to consider a phased approach for implementing police body cameras — died for lack of a second.

There were also several budget amendments that had been submitted by Councilmember Buckshnis, but those weren’t discussed or voted on because the councilmember wasn’t there to speak to them.

Prior to Tuesday night’s budget discussion, the council issued three recognitions:

Councilmember Luke Distelhorst, right, receiving his appreciate plaque from Council President Susan Paine.

– To outgoing Councilmember Distelhorst, who during his tenure helped to see the completion of Suicide Prevention Month, advocated for affordable housing, sponsored an eviction moratorium during the COVID crisis, and worked to implement changes to the city’s Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree and supported the creation of the Municipal Court’s Driver’s Relicensing Program.

Many of the volunteers who assisted with the marsh restoration effort. (Photo by Chris Walton)

– To Edmonds Marsh volunteers, led by retired fisheries biologist Joe Scordino, who last summer worked to remove chain link fencing and invasive nightshade to help restore the Edmonds Marsh. The proclamation noted that volunteers participated in one or more of the 11 volunteer work party days between July and September, clearing blackberry brambles to access the wetland, toiling in deep mud to remove thickets of nightshade in the water channels, and removing about 40 sections of fencing intertwined with nightshade in a successful effort to restore freshwater circulation in the marsh.

50-year City of Edmonds employee Rich Lindsay speaks to the council Tuesday night.

– To City Parks Maintenance Manager Rich Lindsay, who is celebrating his 50th work anniversary with the City of Edmonds. “Rich’s many years of commitment, dedication and loyalty to the development and maintenance of public parks, waterfront, beaches, trails, recreation and athletic facilities and open space in Edmonds are admirable and noteworthy,” the commendation stated. Lindsay began working for the city in 1971, as a park seasonal worker, then progressed to a full-time park maintenance worker, a senior maintenance worker and a maintenance lead. He was promoted to his current position of parks maintenance manager in 2001. Lindsay, the commendation said, “has dedicated his entire professional career to Edmonds Parks & Recreation and his passion for providing extraordinary experiences for residents and visitors is evident throughout the entire parks system.” Providing brief remarks, Lindsay said: “This has been a wonderful place to work. I mean, I wouldn’t be here this long if it wasn’t. The people I work with are wonderful. I can’t thank everybody enough for the great job I’ve had.”

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. Hmmm… fyi regarding, “He also added the budget schedule has been on the council’s extended agenda since Aug. 4”.

    August 4th was the day after the Primary election night. Based on the Primary election night results, it was very likely that Councilmember Distelhorst was not going to move forward to the General election. And the Nov. 23rd date of the General Election Certification (e.g., County Canvassing Board certifies and transmits results of November General Election) had been previously posted on the 2021 Election Calendar. Coincidence how these dates coincide with the budget deliberation schedule?

  2. I guess might makes right when making budget decisions now or when visiting them in a few weeks. Luke Distelhorst received a well-deserved plaque for his representation and loyalty to the three other council members.

  3. Technically, no one was “present” at this meeting, let alone Buckshnis. You get the government you deserve. Luke (the incumbent) got stomped in this election, but it’s his right to vote on this budget. Edmonds, learn from this. Don’t censor voices who knew this would happen. Listen to wise people.

  4. Matt, totally agree with you here. That Tuesday meeting was a total disgrace to all the citizens of our little village by the sea, that isn’t so little in reality. I guess that depends a lot, though, on one’s definition of “little.” I think that meeting made us all look “little.”

  5. Well, the City Council last night adopted the biggest deficit spending budget for this city that I have seen. Along “party” lines, they ramrodded through an ill-thought out budget with ALL of the administrations “wants” and little of the citizens voiced needs. In fact, the Council added to the proposed deficit by including some amendments to the budget. The deliberations, if you can call it that, were dreadful. Few on the council wanted to even discuss proposed amendments let alone act on them. It was obvious from the start of this that the majority on this council was going to rubber stamp the budget, and that is exactly what happened.

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