Letter to the editor: Parks plan another example of need for better governance in Edmonds

Editor:

The current effort by the City of Edmonds administration to have the city council approve an inadequate and deficient Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan for city properties (our parks and city-owned open spaces), in spite of significant citizen concerns, is yet another example of the need for better governance in Edmonds.

You may recall the mayor put out a press release in March of 2021 (over a year ago), announcing the city would provide, for public review and city council approval, a restoration plan to address the flooding and salmon recovery problems in the Perrinville Creek watershed. No such “plan” has been made available for public review, but city administration convinced (coerced?) the city council to provide taxpayer funds to begin work on who knows what in Perrinville Creek. Is the city afraid of public input or public accountability that would come with having a plan?

The PROS Plan is a required component of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, so city administration has no choice but to put out a plan on how it is going to maintain and improve city property for the benefit of its citizens. So, is this fear of accountability the reason why this administration had the contractor remove the action items that were a component of past PROS Plans? Is this why the new draft plan avoids addressing the degradation of natural areas in our parks and open spaces?

Good governance means elected officials listening to citizens and obtaining the facts; deliberating on the facts and public input; and developing well thought-out plans that can/will be implemented for the betterment of the people and their environment in Edmonds. Avoiding accountability will only make things worse, not better. Political agendas should not play a role in our local government.

Please join me in commenting to the city council at publiccomments@edmondswa.gov or at their public hearing next Tuesday to ask that they hold off approving the new PROS Plan until a council-appointed citizen committee is convened to recommend action items and revisions to the PROS Plan for council consideration.

My letter to the council is as follows.

Councilmembers;

Please DO NOT approve the current draft of the six-year Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan. Citizens of Edmonds have identified numerous deficiencies that have been ignored or dismissed by the contractor hired by the city to “update” the 2016 PROS Plan. Instead of updating the prior “publicly-approved” PROS Plan and its’ action items for the six-year period up to now, the contractor instead deleted the action items and changed the goals and structure of PROS Plan – – and in so doing, deleted much of what the citizens of this city were expecting to see in the plan.

The 2016 PROS Plan had important concepts that are absent in this revised draft:

  • Capitalize on the unique identity of Edmonds
  • Look forward to the future of Edmonds
  • Steward and activate key community assets

These concepts need to be “reinstalled” in the new PROS Plan.

I’m pleased that the draft plan included the “equity” issue on locations of neighborhood parks, but it should not have taken an outcry by the public (as evidenced by the huge number of written comments) to realize the deficiencies in this restructured draft PROS Plan.

I ask that the council hold off approving the current draft until a council-appointed citizen committee is convened to recommend action items and revisions to the PROS Plan for council consideration in approving the final 2022-2027 PROS Plan.

Thank You

Joe Scordino; 40-plus year resident and father of four kids I was proud to raise in this town.

19 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Parks plan another example of need for better governance in Edmonds”

  1. Thanks for your hard work on this very important issue Joe. Following is a link to a March 2, 2021 article about the Mayor’s Perrinville Creek Watershed Restoration Plan proposal:

    https://myedmondsnews.com/2021/03/mayor-proposes-perrinville-creek-restoration-project-to-address-long-term-flooding-threats-to-fish/

    The related City of Edmonds Media Release dated March 2, 2021 concludes as follows:

    “Once staff have formulated a better idea of the full effort and cost required to pursue a restoration project, they will present it to Edmonds City Council for their review and direction, which will also include an opportunity for public input.”

    On September 26, 2021, you sent a letter to Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson and asked: What’s the status of the Perrinville Creek restoration project?

    https://myedmondsnews.com/2021/09/letter-to-the-editor-whats-the-status-of-perrinville-creek-restoration-project/

    Did Mayor Mike Nelson ever respond to your respectful request for “an email response from you on the status of the “Perrinville Creek Restoration Project” and whether it will be presented to the council and the public for input before your staff start spending/committing any of the $3.5 million”?

    Please let us know if Mayor Nelson provided you that email response.

    The City of Lynnwood’s Surface Water Management 2020 Comprehensive Plan includes the following:
    “The 2015 Perrinville Creek Stormwater Flow Reduction Retrofit study (Perrinville Creek Study) identified retrofit opportunities in the Perrinville Creek drainage basin through hydrologic modeling of that basin. The study was conducted by the City of Edmonds in coordination with the City of Lynnwood. Implementing projects identified in the Perrinville Creek Study may reduce flooding and erosion and improve water quality and habitat.”

    The Perrinville Creek Stormwater Flow Reduction Study (October 2014) identified 12 recommended capital projects to reduce storm flows in the creek.

    Joe – do you know the status of these 12 recommended capital projects? It sounds like even if all 12 capital projects were completed, more work is needed.

    Hopefully such work will “include an opportunity for public input” as previously represented by Edmonds City Government.

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    1. If the Mayor had developed a restoration plan, as promised, it would have by necessity included what capital projects have been successful and unsuccessful (or not undertaken and why not) since the 2015 Report recommendations. The Mayor has not responded to inquiries on status of a restoration plan nor negotiations with the City of Lynnwood on its responsibility to help control the excess stormwater that is causing the problems.

      It appears the Administration’s aversion to developing ‘implementable’ Plans has spilled over into the required update of the City’s PROS Plan which is now in front of City Council for approval with NO action items and thus NO accountability for City Administration. This is not acceptable to the citizens of Edmonds who want the City to commit to the necessary actions to preserve and enhance our Parks and Open Spaces for future generations.

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  2. Accountability in governing is important. The existing 2016 PROS plan had an entire Action Plan Chapter with eleven pages of specific recommended projects and initiatives. I have not heard a discussion of whether any of these were undertaken or completed. Before these action items are deleted there should be a review to determine if any were completed. However, the current update just deleted all of these action items. Plan implementation is just as important as the policy and actions it establishes. Without a review of the existing action plan – there is no accountability. The current PROS plan update needs more work before any adoption.

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  3. Frankly I’m starting to wonder just what our Mayor’s do all day to earn their 125+K annual income? I’d love to see a daily record of appointments, phone calls, meetings etc. to document just what we are getting for our money. As far as I can tell we have no system whatsoever in terms of oversight on just what our executive manager does with his time on a daily basis. Is it really good to have a system of government that pays someone that kind of money with absolutely no accountability as to time and activity beyond what is seen in public? I see our mayors spend some time at grand openings of business’s, hanging out with state elected officials from time to time and running city council meetings. The only real accountability we have on what our mayor does is the election every four years. Is that adequate accountability for someone in that position with all the mandated functions of the office? Our emergency plan isn’t updated since 2017 , no information on the restoration plan that Joe noted was promised, no follow up on promised neighborhood meetings as a campaign pledge while running for office; just to sight a few seeming short comings with our current mayor. On top of that council persons are quashed for getting out of their lane when tough questions are asked and not answered adequately or at all by staff and city attorney.

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    1. I have not decided that we should (or should not) have action items included in the 2022
      PROS Plan as we did in 2016.

      However, it is of note that neither our Parks
      Director (who was a Parks Director in Sammamish before coming here) nor our PROS plan consultant (who has done these for a living for years) has ever encountered action items in a PROS Plan besides the Edmonds PROS Plan in 2016.

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      1. I am pleased to see this open minded comment.

        As far as I know, City plans need not be some kind of Council directive to staff to pursue a particular course of action no matter how meritorious or foolish it may be in the particular circumstances, for six or more years, blindly.

        Long time residents and many former Councilmembers will remember approving plans with flexibility, and staff with enough backbone to recommend Yes on this and No on that. We would put something like “property acquisition” in the plan so we could be opportunistic and take advantage of certain parcels for sale (Marina Beach Park) and associated funding opportunities (grants), and pass up others (yeah, we did pass some up, whether we were right or wrong).

        In the old days the idea was “put it in the plan in case the opportunity arises.” It never meant that either Council or staff had to take a particular action, but that an opportunity would come back to Council, and usually the public, as an option.

        How and why does that flexible approach no longer work? If does still work, please use it.

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      2. Doesn’t any “plan” imply that some sort of action or actions are needed to occur within some specific time frame? Otherwise why have a plan at all? Our “plan” is that someday we will do something about our parks and recreation needs and no one is officially accountable; but we have hired a consultant for the project. Pretty easy to write and implement that “plan.”

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        1. Good point! Thanks.

          I suppose the more flexible approach assumes that we are usually looking at and actively working toward the stated objectives.

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        2. Clinton,
          You make good points. For instance, several years ago we had a Strategic Action Plan that called out a number of key strategies and specific actions to accomplish those strategies. That was a useful tool. The PROS plan, though, is a little different. It is more aspirational in nature and doesn’t call out specifics. It does call out directional strategies we should be working toward, which is a good thing for the city. Once the plan is approved, I do think it would be great to have the mayor and his staff create an action plan showing how they intend to accomplish the goals identified in the PROS plan. That’s the missing piece at this point.

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        3. The Strategic Action Plan is referenced at least 8 times in the 2016 PROS Plan. The Strategic Action Plan is not mentioned once in the 2022 Draft PROS Plan.

          Page 1 of the Draft 2022 PROS plan states that the following under the heading “Plan Purpose”:

          “The Plan identifies parks and recreation goals and establishes a long-range plan for the Edmonds parks and recreation system, including action items and strategies for implementation over the next six to ten years.”

          One of the Action Items included in the 2016 PROS plan was:

          3.A Complete a continuous walkway from Marina Beach to Brackett’s Landing North with access to the public beach continuing north.

          Huge effort and resources were expended on this Action Item in recent years. For example, the 2018 City Attorney Annual Report submitted to City Council on March 5, 2019 indicated Lighthouse Law Group worked 1,430 hours on the Ebb Tide matter.

          I wonder what process was followed to determine the public wanted such a massive effort be made related to this one action item in the 2016 PROS plan.

          The draft PROS Plan for 2022 contains the following virtual comment twice:
          “Complete the “missing link” in front of the Ebbtide!”

          I wonder how much more resources will be spent on this going forward. Will the city consider reimbursing the Ebb Tide for the money expended defending their property rights? I think an ethical city considers doing so.

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      3. There are many plan examples and the Shoreline PROS plan has action items – again it’s all relative as to the expectations and the guidance of the Administration in the selection process (RFQ) and the expectation of the legislative branch in terms of oversight.

        Regardless if we do not have action items for Council to monitor-the environmental and/or watershed aspects are hugely dismissed or left out in this plan.

        We are a coastal town and that is very unique to many cities. So, regardless if the Administration and 1,900 survey members opined to move towards DEI issues on neighborhoods that were left out in the 2016 PROS plan, that fact remains – we have 8.7 miles of shoreline.

        I accept that fact that areas outside the bowl were not highlighted in 2016 – but what about our coastal property-we cannot ignore this very sacred land was ruined by white men and industrialist who piped streams and armored our waterfront. If we have a comprehensive plan for our waterfront properties, the grant funding will come easily and that will allow money for other areas in the City.

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  4. The mayor’s refusal to respond to reasonable citizen requests is a headscratcher. Why would any elected official think it wise to behave this way? Such conduct fuels distrust.

    Adding to this, City Council recently budgeted for a Full Time Public Information Officer (PIO) after the following was argued to Council:

    “Increased Ability to Respond to Media and Public at Large – Media inquiries and questions from the public come in at all hours of the day, including nights and weekends. Adding 20 more hours per week to the (PIO) role allows the City to be much more responsive to people.”

    The last email response I received from a mayor of Edmonds was in March of 2012. I’ve sent hundreds of emails to mayors over the last 10 years. I haven’t found our mayors “responsive to people”.

    The public pays much attention to the plans, laws, and budgets that City Council votes to adopt. I think many people believe our plans, laws, and budgets will be respected and executed after adoption. From experience, I believe the people of Edmonds can’t trust that a Mayor will perform their duties. The failure to execute the Code Rewrite going back to 2006 is one example. Requiring property owners to grant easements to third parties during a street vacation is another example. We need leaders to say enough is enough – there will be accountability. Where are those leaders?

    When mayors don’t perform their duties, government turns into a mess where citizen confidence dives lower and lower.

    Ronald Eber’s following points are spot on:
    “Plan implementation is just as important as the policy and actions it establishes. Without a review of the existing action plan – there is no accountability. The current PROS plan update needs more work before any adoption.”

    Joe is correct – we need better governance in Edmonds.

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  5. Joe Scordino and Ken Reidy bring up excellent points – before launching in to a new plan, we need to know where we ended up on the old one. That should be the absolute carry-over to, and starting point of, the new plan!

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  6. Some interesting comments. The County owns a couple of Parks within the boundaries of Edmonds. They do not seem to be caring for these parks in the same way we do. The SW County Park is also a major part of Perrinville Creek issues. If we want to do what is best for folks who uses these parks we should annex them into Edmonds.

    The comments about action items from the past are also interesting. We have made plans and the citizens deserve to know when we will move forward on those plans. The plan for Sunset Ave is a good example. While we talk about money to acquire new parks it would seem we need to get going on the plans we already have.

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  7. Please have them check out the PROS plan for our neighbor – Shoreline. Each of their Goals includes “Implementing Strategies” (pp. 51-54) and there is an entire section titled “Strategic Action Initiatives” (pp. 117-129). Whether called Action Plan or Strategies, they provide more detailed and concrete actions to be completed.

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  8. We pay taxes and should expect to get things accomplished. Come on government get it done and correct!! We are better than this current situation!!

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  9. Great point Ron. In my studying the different forms of city governments in our state, I discovered that Shoreline uses the Strong Council (voted at large) / Weak Mayor / City Manager form. A built in Part of their system is that they conduct a routine and scientifically valid survey (not survey monkey where you can vote multiple times) of public satisfaction with their city government. The score is generally in the 80% favorable range which is pretty high.

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  10. I see we now need more money to pay our consultant to tell us we need more parks in an area of the city that doesn’t have enough parks and our Parks Director tells us we barely have enough money to maintain what we already have. The County is apparently chomping at the bit to literally give us the giant Meadowdale County Trail and Beach Park they don’t really want to or can’t afford to maintain anymore.

    That way we could have another big park that we probably can’t really afford to maintain or enhance either. That would certainly be an instant infusion of supposedly much needed tree canopy though, so we better go for it to save the environment. It would also give us a place for the police to deposit public space campers and litter bugs that are unwanted in our other less wild and more used area parks.

    What a hot mess, huh? Darrol H., Joe S., Ken R., and other competent concerned citizens we need you folks to save us from ourselves. Our current city government, or lack there of, is really starting to scare me. I think they really need all the citizen help and input they can get, but they think they are doing great and don’t want the help. Joe S. was virtually begging for some honest communication and a chance to help last night. God Bless him.

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