In the latest tally of proposed amendments to the City of Edmonds’ already-approved 2022 budget, the council has reviewed 30 of the 34 original proposals, approving three of them.
That was the count as of 10 p.m. Thursday night, after the council adjourned a three-hour meeting that was a continuation of its Tuesday night business meeting. The hope Thursday night was to get through the remaining amendments, but when the clock struck 10 p.m., a majority of councilmembers voted to adjourn. (Councilmembers Laura Johnson and Susan Paine opposed.)
The amendments were mostly made by councilmembers who have said they don’t believe the 2022 budget was thoroughly vetted prior to its passage in November 2021. To be included in a final ordinance, amendments must receive a 5-2 supermajority vote, which is required to make changes to the existing budget.
Just one amendment received 5-2 supermajority approval Thursday night: removing a $400,000 allocation for a green streets and rain gardens project, and sending it to a council committee for further study. The proposal was to be funded through the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic recovery funds.
Council President Vivian Olson said she believes both the council and the community need more information about the green streets concept before moving forward, and Councilmember Laura Johnson asked Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin to provide more details. McLaughlin explained that green streets is a generalized term that “could literally mean an abundance of landscape that’s intentional on a particular street — whether that’s to improve the pedestrian experience or an actual engineered bioretention facility.” The city is starting to map areas in the city that are suitable for biorention and creating a green streets network, she added.
However, McLaughlin added, “Green streets can literally mean planting trees, depaving and getting rid of as much impermeable surface as we can on our streets that tend to have excessive width in some areas.”
Councilmember Kristiana Johnson replied that she wasn’t familiar with the concept of depaving, and added she hoped such an effort wouldn’t impact the city’s efforts to build more sidewalks.
McLaughlin also addressed a question from Councilmember Neil Tibbott, who asked if it was appropriate for the city to use federal ARPA funds for such a project. “I see this completely consistent with how ARPA funds have been used by capital departments,” McLaughlin said. “During the pandemic, a lot of people started to appreciate their neighborhoods and their communities and really started to walk in their neighborhoods a lot more than they had.”
Councilmember Laura Johnson said she was “taken aback” by the council’s lack of understanding regarding green infrastructure and green streets. “Some people need to catch up with what it means to actually address climate change,” she said. “We need to do our own research on this as well. We’re never going to get anywhere addressing climate change if we keep coming to the table ignorant like this. I’m scared for my children’s future when our leaders think like this.”
The final vote on moving the amendment to committee for further study was 5-2, with Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Will Chen, Kristiana Johnson, Vivian Olson and Neil Tibbott voting yes and Laura Johnson and Susan Paine voting no.
In past meetings, the council approved the following two amendments:
– Changing the status of the city’s new Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) program manager from a full-time permanent position to a three-year contract role. Councilmembers who supported the change said they were worried that the duties for the new role had not been defined well enough to justify making it a permanent position.
– Moving $200,000 from the human services fund to the city’s homeless fund. The goal of those supporting this move was to ensure that the money will be used in partnership with other jurisdictions to create shelter for those who are unhoused in South Snohomish County.
— By Teresa Wippel