City Council wades through more budget amendments, passing one

This graphic shows the anatomy of a green street. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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

 

 

 

 

24 Replies to “City Council wades through more budget amendments, passing one”

  1. Looks like we now have five open minded, unbiased, and constituent oriented city council persons. What a breath of fresh air. There is hope for our city.

    To the other two party loyal and politically correct oriented C.P.s. Enough with the virtue signaling and put down rhetoric. Just vote as you want and spare us all the lectures. We all know what positions you are going to take so how about more action and less talk. That might help end those marathon meetings you are famous for.

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  2. A new book ” How to win friends and influence people!” by Laura Johnson. A must read for all who deem cooperation and collegiality a misnomber in their life.

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  3. It’s concerning how many hours are being spent on this process with so many amendments either failing to pass or not even getting a motion made. City staff are clearly repeating things they said in the fall; there’s not that much new info available. This is turning into a waste a time. There’s also a big lack of transparency over who is pushing for all these amendments in the first place!

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  4. I am quite interested in the “green streets and rain gardens project” as it sounds like something that would benefit everyone and could potentially make Edmonds a greener and more walkable city. I certainly agree with Councilmember Olson’s assessment that we need more information, but for me, with the understanding that such projects could be a welcome asset for Edmonds.

    Then, reading further, I met with Councilmember Laura Johnson’s arrogant and rude comment. Councilmember Laura Johnson, if you want to promote your ideas you might want to consider being courteous and professional. Calling the rest of Council “ignorant” does not sit well.

    I for one would like to see Edmonds City Council members maintain a sense of propriety and civility. We have seen more of that with the seating of Councilmember Tibbott and Chen and that is a welcome change.

    Councilmember Laura Johnson, while it is can be a good thing to be passionate about an issue, please refrain from discourteous, disrespectful language and respond to others’ ideas and opinions in a respectful manner.

    Lynne Chelius

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    1. The “green streets” are feelgood ecological nonsense. Talk about a first world problem solution.A few expensive streets in a suburban town have nothing to do it with improving the global temperature ecology. Not even one trillionth of 1/10%. How about using that money for safety improvements fixing or adding sidewalks.Council Member Laura Johnson’s weekly tutorial on her virtues wear thin.

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  5. Mary, couldn’t agree more – a waste of time. I’ve been listening to the meetings when I can and have been shocked at how uninformed some of the council members are. And, what is happening to the functionality of the City with the budget still “undergoing revisions?”

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  6. Yes! The lack of prep is surprising. There’s a ton of helpful info just on this website about budget presentations from the fall. You can easily learn more there, plus obviously other forms of research.

    Also… The way CM L Johnson is being called out in the comments is troubling. I appreciate how often she speaks up! You always know why she voted for something.

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    1. One can certainly state one’s position without calling people who disagree with them “ignorant.” Terms like “short sighted” or “misinformed in my opinion” would have made Laura’s point just as well and not been so inflammatory. One C.P. who actually had a lot of strong points and things to offer going for her, has lost her position largely due to being too abrasive toward her constituents and fellow C.P.’s.

      I think Susan, Laura, and the mayor are in danger of being one term public servants if they can’t learn to dial back the highly opinionated partisanship a little. If they’d take a little break from the party line and be a little more open minded, I think we’d all be better off. Likewise, people like myself need to dial back our criticism of Susan, Laura and the mayor and try to find collaborative ideas and solutions for our problems which are soon going to get worse I suspect. Peace and hope for a better future everyone.

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  7. When referring back to the original verbiage within MEN article I believe that Director Susan McLaughlin meant to be quoted in her defining ‘green streets’ meant to mean “…. removal of impermeable roadway material…” vs. permeable, etc.

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      1. The original quote was correct. Director McLaughlin said “Green streets can literally mean planting trees, depaving and getting rid of as much permeable surface as we can on our streets that tend to have excessive width in some areas.”

        I’m sure she meant to say impermeable, but we all make mistakes.

        I’d be interested to find out more about maintenance responsibilities if portions of some of our streets are “depaved”. Edmonds City Code states the duty, burden, and expense of constructing or repairing a sidewalk shall be upon the property owner directly abutting the sidewalk zone.

        City Code also says it shall be the responsibility of the abutting property owner to maintain, repair and reconstruct adjacent planting strips in an attractive and safe manner, while continuing to provide stormwater management as required. Planting strips shall be maintained, repaired or reconstructed with approved materials that allow for use of the right-of-way for public purposes. Nonliving material shall be level with the top of the curb and the sidewalk and shall be contained within the planting strip so as not to be a hazard to the persons using the sidewalk or street or crossing the planting strip. Living vegetation exclusive of street trees placed in the planting strip shall be of a height that does not interfere with the lawful and safe use of the public right-of-way and shall be maintained by weeding, fertilizing, watering and trimming. Approval shall be obtained from the city engineer prior to the installation of materials within the planting strip.

        Would the abutting property owner have to pay for the depaving, planting trees and ongoing maintenance? How does all of this work? Seems like many details need to be considered.

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        1. I listened to it again and thought I heard impermeable. But I have been wrong before.

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  8. Anyone know why CMs who reopened the budget process so their amendments could be considered did not vote in favor of some of the amendments they proposed? If you’re not going to support your own amendment, withdraw it.

    Also interesting that even with the new majority, which many celebrated as a victory over CM Paine and CM L Johnson, some of these amendments couldn’t get the votes to pass.

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    1. Kim, I think what the lack of passing shows is exactly what many of us hoped for with this new council: independent, thoughtful review of ideas, proposals, budgets, and amendments instead of blanket acceptance based on a political ideology and/or a “leader’s” wishes.

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  9. The thing is, though, is that amendments that didn’t pass were by and large not ones proposed by the council members who were previously in the majority of 4 and are now the minority. I’m talking about amendments proposed by the people who called for the post-election do-over of the budget and then abandoned their own amendments. I will say that the lack of transparency over who sponsored each amendment was frustrating, but going back and reading through several weeks worth of meeting materials and minutes helped me figure it out.
    Apart from that, I think a mini-Roberts Rules training would help move things along.

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    1. Kim, I know you are talking about those amendments. I guess I’m looking at it a little differently as I see the lack of passing as a good sign that even those who proposed the amendments are taking time to reevaluate what was put forth.

      I agree with you that revisiting Robert’s Rules would be a very good thing, as well as a training on common courtesy (which unfortunately, along with “common” sense, doesn’t seem to be all that common).

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    2. Also, Kim, I believe that seeing Ms. Paine and Ms. L. Johnson as “now the minority” is a large part of the problem. They are seen as “the minority” because it appears they make decisions from a political ideology instead of from a thoughtful stance. It ‘s more “what does the democratic party want” instead of what will help us ALL move forward in our community. From what I’ve heard and read, many on the far left believe that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a “Republican” (code word: Trump Supporter). From my experience (and for me personally), that couldn’t be further from the truth (and I believe that most of the council do not identify as Republican).

      It’s been educational, to observe Twitter (and also extremely disappointing). I won’t go into all the details, but something that struck me was each of the far political sides think that “shinanigans” is “their” word for what the other side is doing at the moment. It made me think of the Maya Angelou quote: “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Something to think about.

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  10. There should never be a “minority” or “majority” in our city government because it is not supposed to be a partisan operation. The mayor (confirmed Democratic Party Supporter) , Susan Paine (acting as mayor’s executive assistant instead of an unbiased Council President), Luke Distilhorst (appointed by the mayor to fill his old job on council) Adrianne Fraley-Monillas, and Laura Johnson made the council partisan by voting in virtual lock-step with the mayor on almost all issues.

    The mayor at first tried to do the right thing regarding appointing Lawless permanent C.O.P. but his left leaning four pals on the council took umbrage on him not being politically correct and he caved to keep his block going and the four happy campers. The four are now down to two and they aren’t happy campers anymore. The question is can they learn anything and adjust to being non-partisan in function. The onus is on them, not us. Edmonds city financial woes are soon going to increase exponentially and we will need all adults in the room to solve them. It’s time to grow up here. Districts aren’t “creative” (people are creative) and Edmonds isn’t a “Kind of Day” (it’s a town with mega problems and more to come). Think, civic park project, the ferry system, the Fire Authority and BNSF RR. to name a few.

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