Letter to the editor: Will Edmonds Civic Roundtable honor its commitment to objectivity?

Editor:

This is an excerpt from the Edmonds Civic Roundtable’s (ECR) website:

“We strive to provide balanced and objective information to our residents, media, elected and appointed officials and other stakeholders in our community to assist in making informed decisions…”

On Jan. 24, I (Zoom) attended an event that the ECR had coordinated for citizens to learn about ranked-choice voting. Currently the laws do not allow for Edmonds to adopt ranked-choice voting, however there are bills being considered by the Washington State Legislature that would allow for this system to be adopted by our city council, should the bill pass.

I wanted to learn more about ranked-choice voting so I attended the public forum event virtually as I was out of town. Specifically, I was hoping to hear the pros and cons presented so that I could make my own informed decisions on the matter.

The keynote speaker was Lisa Ayrault, executive director of FairVote Washington. I found the presentation she gave to be informative, but one-sided. It was more of a “pitch” for ranked-choice voting than an objective presentation of facts, and it was short on data to support the argument to support this idea.

There were no speakers representing an opposing viewpoint at this public forum, the exception being a few attending residents who raised concerns related to the potential pitfalls of ranked-choice voting.

I guess that I assumed there would be a more balanced approach to the discussion of this topic presented to attendees based on the ECR’s own mission statement.

To ECR’s credit, they added the Zoom option to accommodate more attendees and they allowed time for questions and comments from those attending in person, as well as those attending virtually.

Toward the end of the meeting there was a question posed to the ECR group by an attendee as to why there was such a one-sided presentation. This also came up in a comment by a gentleman who I believe was a member of ECR (sorry, the Zoom connection wasn’t great), who expressed his concern that there were lobbyists being given the opportunity to share their views but only from one viewpoint. The response was that there had been guests booked to represent the opposing viewpoint but that they had canceled at the last minute and there was no time to re-book someone else.

Finally, Lisa Ayrault stated emphatically that she was not a lobbyist. However, according to online records, she is registered as one and receives compensation, which I found disappointing and confusing. This kind of undermined much of what I had heard during her presentation.

https://accesshub.pdc.wa.gov/node/74843

https://accesshub.pdc.wa.gov/node/74844

It is not currently a legal option but I have not yet made up my mind regarding ranked-choice voting and I look forward to the next public forum that Edmonds Citizen Roundtable organizes for residents to learn more about the opposing viewpoint toward RCV “to assist (residents) in making informed decisions…”

Elizabeth Fleming
Edmonds 

12 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Will Edmonds Civic Roundtable honor its commitment to objectivity?”

  1. It was disappointing to see such a one-sided presentation put forth by the ECR. It clearly was an event that pushed forward only one point of view and one set of “facts”.
    ECR could have at least made some effort to counter the Lobbyist’s presentation by putting out printed materials (even if downloaded from simple research online) to counter the 23 pages of materials in favor of RCV that were set out for attendees.
    Hopefully in the future, ECR will be diligent in presenting both sides of an issue when they choose to do these type of events, as balance is always appreciated.

    Ignored

  2. The purpose of this forum was to present information on how Ranked Choice Voting actually works, and some of its history and benefits. Yes it’s controversial in some quarters, but experience has been that much of the opposition is based on misinformation and misunderstanding~ thus our informational focus at this forum.

    If the Legislature approves the bill, and if the Governor signs it, only then will cities be allowed to adopt RCV. Then we can debate whether or not this is good for Edmonds. And hopefully such debate would be based on some agreed facts, truths about RCV.

    As Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Robust discussion and debate is great, but it needs to be grounded in some realities. Otherwise it’s just more political noise, and God knows we already have enough of that at the national level.

    Roger Pence
    Chair, Program Committee
    Edmonds Civic Roundtable

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    1. Roger. The meeting was fantastic. I would have couched it as “FairVote Presentation on RCV” instead of a “A discussion on a current issue being considered by the State Legislature”. A discussion more than likely would be balanced. There is nothing wrong with presenting one side. I do not think the FairVote people would have been there at all if it were a “discussion” with a real minority report. Mostly I think people appreciated their presentation. I am willing to present the other side. Why not divide the city council up into districts and each hold a caucus? – a republican form of selecting councilpersons? Highway 99 could get their own representative. The whole election might cost $10k.

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  3. Mr Pence, when I went to your website it listed the following questions to be addressed during the meeting:
    1.Do you understand RCV
    2.Should Edmonds consider this method of voting
    3.What are the pros and cons of this method of voting
    4.Who else in America uses this method of voting,
    5.How does it benefit voters

    The CVR clearly failed in it’s goal of presenting the Pros and CONS of RCV, and also failed in convincing me that it benefits voters.

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  4. Mr. Pence, the information presented on RCV is appreciated. From your comments, it is clear what your position is and represented for the round table and that’s fine.

    As informed voters, my wife and I have voted many years on virtually all ballots. Isn’t it also reasonable to think folks would be skeptical and questioning anyone or group proposing election voting changes with what is going on nationally with voting? Why do we need changes? Why does voting need to be a further confused process? Thank you.

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  5. Posting this comment on behalf of Theresa Hutchinson, who is unable to do so:

    I was one of five or so members of the ECR when it was formed about about 18 months ago. It was prompted to me as a group striving to promote and provide balanced and objective information and ideas to the residents of Edmonds; and to look for quality folks in our community to run for non-partisan, elected office. It was to strive to be non-partisan as we worked toward these goals. I was all for this and jointed the ranks, working very hard to achieve this goal.

    In the last several months I have separated myself from the ECR as, in my opinion, it has not lived up to its commitment to objectivity and non-partisanship. It has promoted its own biased opinions and goals under the guise of educating the public and non-partisanship. This presentation on Ranked Choice voting is an example of that. Roger Pence states the ECR tried to get a speaker with an opposing point of view to speak but was unable. Perhaps, in the spirit of of truly educating and presenting both pros and cons – an objective presentation of facts on the subject – the event could have been postponed until both sides could be presented. As turned out the ECR enlisted a lobbyist to present what in her opinion are reasons for RCV. It was more of pushing, promoting, an agenda. Is this what the ECR considers educating the residents of Edmonds? I’m sorry that the ECR has dissolved into what I see as a partisan organization. That is certainly their right, just call it what it is.

    The ECR in its Mission Statement states that “We strive to provide balanced and objective information to our residents, media, elected and appointed officials and other stakeholders in our community to assist in making informed decisions….” I believe the ECR failed the residents of Edmonds. The “leadership” is a group of educated, politically savvy folks and well aware of what it does and for what reasons. This was an unforced error. Not a good look.

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  6. I too participated in the early forming of the ECR and have continued on as a member with the hope that it will work into a group that presents issues in a balanced way for the good of Edmonds.

    However, I was surprised to learn that the discussion regarding this topic was not presented in a balanced and objective manner. Thank you Beth for taking the time to point out a stated objective of the ECR and holding it accountable.

    Having a speaker cancel at the last minute happens. I would have favored canceling the event rather than turning it into a publication relations event for one side of the issue.

    While canceling might have been an inconvenience to those who made the effort to attend, it would have been an admirable display of integrity on the part of the ECR to make good on its promise to present issues in a balanced and objective manner. Just a thought.

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  7. We want to thank those who have been weighing in on the topic of RCV. We are committed as an organization to providing information so that citizens and elected and appointed individuals can make informed decisions. We are also committed to advancing public discussion and decision making that is informed and respectful. That does not always mean presenting two sides to every issue as was the case with RCV. As an organization we do not have a position on RCV. However, we believe that the topic is current, relevant and not well understood. Over the past five months we have held two programs on the issue of housing and homelessness, sponsored candidate debates with My Edmonds News, hosted an open discussion with new police chief Michelle Barrett and hosted an elected officials’ reception. We are encouraged by the favorable feedback we have received and grateful for the constructive suggestions.

    As an organization we appreciate and welcome feedback on how we might improve and encourage those interested to join us and help shape the future of Edmonds Civic Roundtable and our community.

    Respectfully,

    Tom Mesaros
    Board Chair
    Edmonds Civic Roundtable

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  8. The main problem with your presentation was that your website stated that you would present the Pros and Cons of RCV. For most people Pros and Cons means both sides. Your statement “That does not always mean presenting two sides to every issue as was the case with RCV.” is disingenuous.

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  9. I happen to agree with Mr. Chaffee here. The first rule in crisis management is to stop digging the hole deeper.

    I too am trying to understand both sides of this topic. Just as it was presented to the City Council, the ECR discussion ended up apparently as a one-sided perspective. All too often, that is the same way city staff presents to our City Council. Rarely do I see pros and cons being presented in a non-biased manner on any particular topic. I was told by a city Director “that is not the Edmonds way”. It’s unfortunate that the ECR has found itself in this same situation. I’ll attribute it to growing pains. But Mr. Mesaros, stop digging!

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    1. But Jim, Edmonds city elections are not in crisis; there’s no crisis to manage. Ranked Choice Voting is a totally new concept for most people, so it made sense for ECR to hold a public forum to describe what it is and how it works and why some people think it’s better than conventional voting. We had 75 minutes on Monday, and that’s really all we had time for.

      If the Legislature passes the bill to allow RCV, and if the Governor signs it, and if anyone in Edmonds thinks we ought to use it here, THEN we can and should have robust debate on whether or not Edmonds should adopt RCV to elect our mayor and city council.

      Ignored

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