Letter to the editor: Let’s acknowledge accomplishments of our city government

Dear Editor,

I watched the Edmonds City Council meeting on Nov. 9 and was struck by just how toxic our local politics has become. Citizens calling in demanding civility but then making abusive and false statements against our public servants — who we elected and many of us continue to like and respect — demanding they resign and yelling at them for no clear reason. Calling the mayor “rude” when he’s only following the time guidelines set out from the beginning. Voicing their anger but not offering solutions, ideas or support for any specific policy. Just like our national politics, the main goal of many of these vocal citizens seems to be obstruct, delay and intimidate… to what end? How does this make our community a better place to live? How does this foster community involvement?

Perhaps that’s the point, to discourage the inclusion of multiple points of view, to get people to turn away and ignore what happens in our city. Or perhaps the goal is to push a false narrative about our city, that it’s failing somehow when in fact we have record tax revenues, sidewalks are being repaired, services are being expanded, a new AAA credit rating in the middle of a global pandemic while we managed to support our businesses and residents with grants and emergency measures designed to keep people safe and businesses open — success stories, not failure.

I encourage anyone to speak up at the next meeting — or to email the city council — so that a full picture of our community is represented. Share your priorities, urge action instead of delay and obstruction, show some support for ideas you like. I’m sure they could use a kind word or two.

Pam Brisse
  1. Amen! I have been so disheartened by the mud slinging and innuendos. This council has been stuck between a rock and a hard shell……can’t seem do anything right.

  2. I think the reluctance of some people to contribute to public comment at council meetings is threats and accusations received when posting comments here and in FB groups. Being accused of not living in Edmonds, being told that only people who’ve lived here a certain number of years can understand what Edmonds needs, receiving private messages that include offensive language…well, if that’s the response to comments not made officially at meetings, there’s less incentive to offer public comment. I don’t speak for everyone whose gotten this type of blowback, of course. But I never thought when I moved here that it would be this ugly. I expected disagreement but not this.

  3. I agree.
    There were *redundant* messages. Is there any way that all citizens with comments can come together, and have one person summarize those complaints prior to meeting?
    Also pls work on boundary issues. To those who email council members at their place of work with not too terribly helpful prompts, pls refrain; and council members who accept these interruptions, pls be more discerning as to their validity.
    I respect the position leaders have been voted into to—pls let them do their jobs. There are processes and issues that they must follow and learn and prepare for. It’s a tough job they after do with other career positions!
    Lastly, I appreciated Adrienne F-M’s adept leadership at about the halfway point to get the votes so that portion of the meeting was completed.

  4. I suppose that some points made in this are very legitimate , however when you come into the theater halfway through a movie don’t expect to know what’s really going on . I would encourage all citizens of Edmonds to participate in your local government and realize that everyone is entitled to a opinion like it or not …..it’s called free speech !

  5. Thank you Pam. I am in full agreement. Politics in Edmonds has become completely toxic thanks to this loud minority, to the point where the majority does not feel comfortable, or even see the point of speaking up. I was shocked at what I heard at the council meeting, and we can’t allow this type of behavior to remain unchecked. It is destroying the atmosphere of the city. People are afraid to speak up or get involved because they fear being associated with this type of behavior, and rightfully so. There is one person in particular who is obviously mentally unstable, and some kind of intervention should be held instead of allowing them to monopolize council time and harass council candidates and citizens. Edmonds citizens need to speak up against this behavior so we can begin to get back on track and restore some maturity and civility to the city. Thank you to Mayor Nelson and the council for doing a commendable job of leading despite the impossible situation they are faced with. Please know that you have the support of so many of us, despite our voices being drowned out by the aggression, anger, and toxicity of the loud few.

  6. If you don’t like what’s proposed or the way things are being run, offer alternative solutions or run for a council seat. I think if any person sat in a council seat for a year and had to put in as much time as a councilmember does to be prepared for meetings, to attend meetings, to be engaged, people would be a lot kinder in their interactions with them. Why anyone would want to hold public office is beyond me – the abuse that elected officials endure is awful. Remember, if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

  7. I agree! Let’s focus on the positives and accomplishments even during the pandemic!
    All of the council members and the Mayor are dedicated to serving Edmonds even though their ideas may differ.

    1. I think you are onto something, Judy. I suggest someone compile a list of the City’s “positives and accomplishments”~ areas the last year or two where our elected officials achieved success, in a transparent manner (kept the public informed), and where they followed the rules.
      There’s been too much heated rhetoric during public comment periods. People on all sides should learn to disagree without being so disagreeable.

  8. I too watched the Nov 9 special council meeting and interpreted the situation a little differently than Ms. Brisse.

    First off there was context only understood by the mayor, council members and some citizens speaking because of conversations going on in a Facebook Group. No idea what that was all about.

    The call for the resignation of certain council members was a direct result of those members’ actions.

    Paine’s retweet and doubling down without saying what the allegations were, providing any proof and telling the resident to make a records request for what I don’t know is disturbing considering she is council president.


    The citizen outrage stemmed from Paine canceling, apparently in violation of city code, the standing Finance Committee meeting which is held the second Tuesday in order to push up the time frame for voting on next year’s budget. The city not providing minutes to previous budget meetings. Conflicting, back dated and unsigned notices for public comment on the budget.

    Why the push to get it done now? The majority block will lose Luke Distelhorst’s vote after Nov 23 since he was appointed to the council.

    I didn’t see delay and obstruction. What I saw were citizens and certain council members trying to get the council majority to do the right thing, inform the public when public comment would even occur, provide the public with the information regarding past meetings and ensure that the budget discussion would be deliberate and well thought out.

    As far as contacting the mayor and council, good luck. I know from personal experience, the mayor and council majority except for Distelhorst do not respond to phone messages or emails. My concern – speeding. I’ve given up after seeing how the city wasted money on Dayton to address speeding next to Frances Anderson Center and the Library.

    Seems like my party and its local elected officials have forgotten “When they go low, we go high.”

    1. To me, this all comes down to leadership. A void is formed when there is a lack of leadership. What we see happening now is the chaotic filling of that void. We can expect this to continue until someone steps up and leads. And leadership is not done by proclamation. It takes a unique set of attributes and skills to be an effective leader. Someone who can work with people to accomplish what’s needed for the city to grow and prosper, all in a healthy and respectful environment.

      Yes, Edmonds is a great place to live!

  9. Having lived in Edmonds for 10 years before engaging in our local government, I am encouraged to see more people caring about Edmonds by speaking at council meetings, emailing elected officials about city issues and commenting online. (Long time residents are speaking up at council meetings for the first time – that is encouraging!)

    Are people taking the time to read the city code and encouraging our elected officials to follow it for the good of Edmonds? Yes. (We have a city code????)

    Is local politics messy? Yes. (I know why most people don’t get involved, it takes time and effort)

    Are people passionate about their town? Yes. (Remember the Connector?)

    Is engaging in the mess worth it? Each of us needs to decide for ourselves.

    Through this process of participating in local government, I have met many residents who love Edmonds and are willing to participate. We won’t agree on everything, but we can agee that we want better for Edmonds.

    At the end of each day I hope most of us realize how blessed we are to live here. For the good of Edmonds, engaging in the mess is worth it to me.

    1. Engaging in the “mess” is one thing. I understand that politics are messy. Receiving private messages that call me the “b word” and the “c word” and tell me that “my kind” isn’t welcome in Edmonds is something else. All that, because I shared an opinion different than the “old Edmonds” people messaging me.

    2. This isn’t complicated stuff. If you want to be respected you have to do and say respectable things and respect the people who don’t always agree with you. Am I supposed to pretend to respect people I don’t respect based on their words and actions towards me and others?

      I think this city government is totally broken, special interest oriented and generally not well run. The people that know what they are doing; working for the leadership we have; are leaving in droves. I’m sorry, but that says more than words ever will.

      1. Everyone deserves respect, Clint. That’s what civility means. I agree with Pam that it’s wrong to demonize our elected leaders and to take advantage of the public forum to indulge our meanest impulses. I hope you agree as well.

        1. Bill, “Everyone deserves respect.”? Really? I might agree everyone deserves civility, if fact, I do agree with that, but I don’t agree everyone deserves respect or that respect is one and the same as civility. You can treat someone in a civil way and still disrespect their ideas and how they treat other people very much.

          Respect is always earned and always reciprocal in any sort of equal relationship. It takes work and maturity to respect one who disrespects you in an equal relationship. In unequal relationships “fear” is often confused with “respect” and “civility” is often confused with “not making waves” or “going along to get along.” I believe in the concept of “good trouble.” Civil; peaceful protest is very effective in bringing needed change. Violent , mean and uncivil protests, on the other hand, are self defeating activities. Similarly, referring to the people you supposedly represent as ” all those racists in Edmonds,” is self defeating behavior and I don’t respect it one little bit.

  10. I just watched/listened to some of the Nov. 9th meeting and was struck by the hypocrisy of a citizen who called in to express her disappointment about Ms. Paine’s re-tweet from an unidentified person who disparaged Neil Tibbot, Janelle Cass and Kristiana Johnson. This citizen went on to ask “Where is the civility?!” (good question) and shared that she was sick of the bullying that occurs within the council (me too). In practically the next breath this same citizen sarcastically and rudely addressed Mr. Distelhorst: “Who is on first, Luke, voted out lately? Go. Ride. Your. Bike.”. Her pointed attack made me cringe. In my opinion, it’s extremely hypocritical that one would demand our council members “be better” and then exhibit the very same uncivilized, bullying behavior being called out!

    It would behoove us all to “be better”. We can start by looking in the mirror, as well as embracing some version of the golden rule.

  11. I agree with Clint. If Edmonds constituents knew the Mayor and other elected officials were truly working hard to better Edmonds….this would not be a problem. If I see elected officials being open to what are our problems and what they see is the answer and telling us…I don’t see a problem. I don’t like the smugness and arrogance of politicians who for whatever reason seem to think their titles give them entitlements…

  12. I’ve been very involved with City Government since roughly 2005. I’ve never seen so many members of our community doing what they can to make our community a better place to live. It is very exciting to witness. Something has fostered community involvement and I believe that community involvement is a big positive for Edmonds.

    Thank you for encouraging others to speak up at the next meeting or to email the city council. The more citizens that get involved the better.

    I encourage others to be persistent when offering solutions, ideas or support for any specific policy. Be prepared for things to require years and years of effort. If something is important enough, one must stay after it.

    For example, the November 20, 2012 City Council Meeting Minutes document I made the following public comments:

    Ken Reidy, Edmonds, recalled during the October 25, 2005 City Council meeting, former Development Services Director Duane Bowman said he had been describing the need to update the zoning code since he was hired in 2000. The comment was also made that the City’s code dated to the 1980s and piecemeal amendments make it difficult to use and administer. Former City Attorney Scott Snyder stated in his November 2007 City Attorney annual report that the biggest issue at the start of 2007 was the code rewrite. Mr. Snyder stated the intent was to begin the rewrite last year (2006) and finish it this year (2007). Mr. Snyder summarized that the code rewrite was approximately a year behind schedule as of November 2007. Mr. Reidy pointed out five years have passed and he questioned why the code rewrite had not been completed. He urged the Council to include the proper amount in the 2013 budget to complete the long overdue code rewrite from start to finish.

    It has been almost 9 years since I made those comments. The City refuses to provide a status update regarding the code rewrite. Despite that, I continue to advocate for its completion. My hope is that the City of Edmonds will complete the code rewrite someday.

    1. It seems to me if Mayor and some city directors and council members would respond to emails and phone calls and make government more open it would solve so many of our problems with government

  13. As I’ve discussed with Mr. Reidy privately, we both agree that Edmonds is a wonderful place to live and we have some serious governmental issues that need to be addressed preferably sooner than later but, at least someday. I agree with him that it’s good that more citizens are getting involved and making their views known to the Mayor and Council.

    We have an incredibly poor system of routine interactions between citizens and elected officials. For example, if a council person had to answer to a specific group of people (who elected him/her) every week or two weeks in an open meeting of some type and in person, you would never have an incident where they went to the press to complain about some of their constituent’s views that they don’t agree with. Council people would be much more pressured to make law and policy based on what the people really want and need, rather than something based on their own idealized view of how things should go down locally.

    The last point I want to make is that Edmonds is a much more difficult and complex town to run than most of those around us. Woodway has a residential area only. A town like Shoreline has a business district, residential area and transportation corridor. Same with Lynnwood. We have two large business districts, several distinct residential areas, a sea cost, a seaport, train and ferry terminal and at least two fairly major watersheds to run wisely and efficiently.

    Yet we stick with a part-time overworked city council and a rather powerful mayor who dominates city staff performance and responses to public needs. Is this a good way to keep doing things here? Personally, I don’t think so.

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