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