Commentary: City council needs to repeal 2021 budget, 2022-2026 Capital Facilities Plan

The citizens of Edmonds must be represented and heard by their legislative body (i.e., the city council) on how their tax dollars are spent in this city. But that did not happen on Nov. 17, 2021 when certain members of the Edmonds City Council voted to adopt a 2022 city budget and approved a six-year Capital Facilities Plan.

Edmonds’ citizens were prevented from providing public comments about the pending approval of the 2022 budget first by the mayor, who instructed the public to not make comments on the budget during the public comment agenda item and defer public comments on the budget to a public hearing agenda item, and then by the council president who made an unexpected motion at the outset of the public hearing agenda item to ban citizens who had commented previously on the budget from making public comments.

This outlandish motion by the council president, approved by the same four councilmembers who refused to continue the 2022 budget agenda item to a regularly scheduled council meeting on Nov. 23, didn’t even acknowledge that the council did not have the minutes of the previous council meetings on budget to determine who did and didn’t comment, or if they would be providing new public comments based on new information revealed at the meeting. I was prepared to provide the council with new comments I hadn’t made before about several of the decision packages and new amendments the council proposed, but I did not want to violate the council’s public hearing instructions so I did not get on the Zoom meeting to make comment and just continued watching on TV.

So, the “informed” citizens of Edmonds who had taken the time to listen in and comment during prior council discussions on the budget, and reviewed the details of the 2022 decision packages as well as “new” information on proposed amendments, were banned from participating in a virtual public meeting.

On the one hand, this group of four councilmembers had already established a reputation over the past year or more of not listening to the affected public, so many will say any informed public comments would not have made a difference anyway. So, why the intentional effort to ban public input? Is there something “bad” in the 2022 budget that these four councilmembers were trying to avoid being revealed by informed public comments?

It is also noteworthy that these four councilmembers not only don’t listen to the public, but they obviously don’t hear staff using “double-speak” and nonsense to justify getting council support for a staff recommendation. Just listen to the staff explanation during the Nov. 17, 2021 meeting on why the ecological restoration of the Edmonds Marsh-estuary has to be under stormwater in the 2022-2026 Capital Facilities Plan. Citizens provided multiple written and verbal facts on the negative repercussions of a stormwater impetus for marsh restoration and these four councilmembers couldn’t bother to sort out fact from fiction before voting to approve the Capital Facilities Plan.

One point I have made repeatedly to the council in writing and verbally during public meetings has to do with the lack of a restoration plan for the city’s destruction of Perrinville Creek salmon habitat last winter. Although the mayor promised last March (see city’s March 2, 2021 press release) to develop a restoration plan for public review and council approval, no such plan was developed. Instead, there is a piecemeal approach adding up to millions of dollars in the 2022 budget and the Capital Facilities Plan. Is that what the four members of the council are afraid will be revealed — the potential waste of millions of dollars due to lack of productive planning and public input? Are the four councilmembers afraid to tell city administration that they should first develop a realistic plan that Involves the City of Lynnwood (a major contributor of the excess stormwater problem) before proposing to spend millions of dollars of Edmonds’ funds that could be for naught?

The remedy to the mess created by the four councilmembers, other than legal action by Edmonds’ citizens, is for a newly composed council to repeal the 2022 budget and retract approval of the 2022-2026 Capital Facilities Plan.

This will allow a new councilmember elected by Edmonds citizens, Will Chen, to participate in the discussion of all public input on the 2022 budget and for council to undertake honest deliberations on the budget and Capital Facilities Plan. If there is concern that there isn’t enough time between now and the start of the new budget year on Jan. 1, the Council in repealing the 2022 budget can do as Congress does, and adopt a continuing budget resolution for continuation of the 2021 budget (without the millions added in the 2022 decision packages) into early 2022 so the council has time for a “true” public process for adopting a 2022 budget.  The public deserves as much.

— By Joe Scordino

Joe Scordino is a 40-plus-year resident of Edmonds

  1. Thank you for your well written commentary. I think that many Edmond’s residents agree with you. The rush to pass this budget reminds me of the rush to approve a new Police Chief which turned out badly. With two of the “four” gone, the budget should be revisited with a Council which will listen to Citizen input.

  2. Thanks for writing this excellent commentary Joe.

    Now we know that the last second surprise motion by Council President Susan Paine caused such confusion that you didn’t speak even though you hadn’t spoken during either previous Public Hearing on the 2022 Budget. I wonder if others were impacted like you were.

    Also, nobody on City Council made a Motion about adjournment or about an Order of Adjournment during the November 16, 2021 Council Meeting. This is indisputable. The motion specifically addressed continuing the meeting. Edmonds City Code also does not contemplate City Council voting to continue a meeting two hours BEFORE its scheduled end time. Why would City Code allow this – such makes no sense.

    Another key point is that the Order of Adjournment was not posted until November 17, 2021.

    RCW 42.30.090 states that: Whenever any meeting is adjourned a copy of the order or notice of adjournment shall be conspicuously posted immediately after the time of the adjournment on or near the door of the place where the regular, adjourned regular, special, or adjourned special meeting was held.

    City Clerk Scott Passey did take one action immediately after the November 16, 2021 City Council Meeting. He sent an email out at 10:38 PM on November 16, 2021. He obviously had time to act immediately after the November 16, 2021 City Council Meeting. He did not do so for the Order of Adjournment.

    Hopefully City Officials will clear this up promptly. Does another meeting need to be scheduled to adopt the 2022 budget?

  3. yes, Yes and YES! I agree with Joe on this. Aside from all the facts that he lays out, what irks me the most is that this budget overspends our projected revenue and there was NO discussion about it. In fact, the Council increased the amount of expenditures for their “wants” and not what our citizens have voiced as our needs. So now we’re spending from our reserve funds to cover this ill thought out budget. Doesn’t make any sense to me and I hope it doesn’t make sense to you either.

  4. Assuming we hang on to this Strong Mayor/Weak Council form of government (which we probably will since it seems relatively cheap and easy compared to some geographically based true representative system), maybe it’s time to at least look at changing how unexpected vacancies on the City Council are filled? It might be a good idea for the council to change the code, giving them the sole right to fill a vacancy and keep the already too powerful Mayor out of such critical decisions. Maybe it’s time to consider going to a hybrid system of equal Mayor and council where the City Council is still elected at large but has the sole power to hire and fire a City Manager who is actually trained in the intricacies of running a city (credit this idea to Rebecca Yalch, another periodic commenter to MEN). There just has to be a better, more open and honest, way of doing our business.

  5. I agree that the 2022 budget should be repealed. The manner in which this budget was rushed, despite input from citizens requesting that the typical budget process be honored, was dismissive of public input, dismissive of Council members Buckshnis, Olson, and K. Johnson, and dismissive of the citizen vote for newly elected Council member Will Chen.

    Most disturbing, of the many disturbing elements of this rushed process, was the last minute motion by Council President Paine to not allow those who had commented in a previous public hearing on the budget to comment again. This cut-off informed citizens from voicing legitimate concerns about the budget. I don’t recall this ever happening in any of the many public hearings at Council meetings I have attended since 2004, including those in which I had the honor of being a Council member.

    Thank you Joe, for this LTE and for your ongoing and diligent support of the Edmonds Marsh and of all our waterways (Perrinville Creek discussed above) that affect the health of salmon and other wildlife.

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