Council honors Greg Urban, delays consideration of reproductive freedom resolution

Most of the Edmonds City Council meeting was devoted to routine city business Tuesday night — from moving forward with a rezone of property in the Westgate neighborhood and a new event permitting process, to accepting a generous donation to support the city’s flower basket program. But a proposed resolution supporting reproductive freedom served as a bookend for both the start and end of the proccedings.

Appearing via Zoom, Greg Urban — with daughter Ehle — is recognized by the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night.

The meeting began with recognition of Edmonds Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Urban — appearing remotely via Zoom with his 6-year-old daughter Ehle — for his many contributions overseeing chamber operations since 2014, including keeping the chamber afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to live and work in this community and it’s going to be greatly missed but not forgotten,” said Urban, who is moving out of the area next month to be closer to family in the Midwest.

The meeting continued with an annual report from the Edmonds Tree Board, led by chair Janelle Cass.

Then, Councilmember Laura Johnson made a motion to add the reproductive freedom resolution to the council agenda for consideration Tuesday (see related letter to the editor here). She argued that passage was urgent, since she has heard from many people in community who are “terrified” following the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe vs. Wade.

City councilmembers discuss the reproductive freedom resolution Tuesday.

While she had the support of Councilmembers Susan Paine and Will Chen, other councilmembers said they wanted to instead have the resolution introduced during the next meeting, on Tuesday, July 5 — giving both the council and the public more time to review the resolution’s language and make comments. As a result, Laura Johnson’s motion failed on a 3-4 vote, with Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson, Vivian Olson and Neil Tibbott voting no.

Following that, a good portion of the meeting was devoted to a closed record review of an Edmonds Planning Board recommendation to rezone two parcels of property — located at 9516 and 9530 Edmonds Way — from multiple residential (RM 1.5) to multiple residential Edmonds Way (RM-EW). Staff explained that the rezone would allow for an increased maximum height — from 30 feet to 35 feet — but only if the property developers agreed to include — under city code — two of the following three elements as part of their design: sustainability, low-impact development and/or affordable housing. A maximum number of 30 units could be built on the two parcels.

Project developers answering council questions via Zoom noted that the increased building height would not increase the buildings’ residential density, but would instead allow for extra space between the floors so the design wasn’t so compressed

A map showing the parcels to be rezoned. (Courtesy City of Edmonds)

Stating that the Edmonds Way location was a good spot for multifamily housing, Councilmember Paine moved that the city attorney prepare a resolution approving a rezone of the two parcels, to appear on a future council consent agenda. It passed by a vote of 6-1 with Kristiana Johnson voting no, stating she didn’t see a need for the zoning change.

In other business, the council agreed to approve a resolution accepting a nearly $2.9 million donation from the estate of an Edmonds couple — Jack and Pat Goffette — with specific instructions that it be used “for hanging baskets, street corner flower planting and maintenance.” Referring to a statement from the attorney handling the estate, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Angie Feser said the couple — who founded Northwood Homes –” both loved Edmonds. They built many homes in the Emerald Hills area in the 1970s and because of their success with Northwood Homes they considered Edmonds the place where their business began and therefore wanted to give back to the city.”

While the donation accepted by the council Tuesday night was for $2,884,615.38, Feser noted the city has learned that additional “considerable” donations to the city are likely as estate assets are sold.

And the council agreed to place on next week’s consent agenda — after several amendments — a staff proposal updating its procedure for permitting special event permits. It also includes new fees to process those permits, “consistent with the policy of recovering costs associated with reviewing and issuing city permits,” City Clerk Scott Passey said. The approved fees are $50 for small events of fewer than 100 people and $125 for large events with more than 100 attendees. However, the council unanimously agreed to amend that proposal to provide a 50% discount for Edmonds-based nonprofits.

As part of the permitting update, the council also approved by a 5-2 vote (Councilmembers Paine and Laura Johnson voting no) an amendment from Council President Olson that council approval is required for all special events that involve right-of-way closures that are recurring or five days in length.

When it came time for mayor and council comments at the end of the meeting, the topic turned again to the reproductive freedom resolution. Mayor Mike Nelson began by calling the council’s decision to delay consideration “a missed opportunity. A constitutional right for every woman in our nation has been abolished. I don’t know what’s more urgent than that,” the mayor added, reiterating his support for “reproductive freedom, reproductive rights for women.”

Nelson was followed in his comments by Laura Johnson and Susan Paine, who urged approval of the resolution during next week’s meeting, and who read portions of the resolution into the record for emphasis.

Laura Johnson also said that statements that abortion will remain legal in Washington despite the Supreme Court’s decision are not accurate, adding that a referendum approved in 1970 by the state’s voters could be overturned by the state Legislature in the future.

Olson said during her comments that she is committed to placing the resolution on next week’s agenda for consideration. She also added that she was “personally shocked, dismayed and outraged” over the Supreme Court’s decision. “However, on the subject of a (council) resolution and what we say on behalf of our city, I’m choosing to be thoughtful and I’m not apologetic about that,” Olson said. “I think that’s my duty and responsibility when I’m speaking on behalf of the entire community.”

Speaking next, Buckshnis said she found the court’s decision “catastrophically shocking,” adding that she participated in abortion rights rallies and sit-ins in high school.

Chen said he believes the council has “a responsibility to protect our mothers, my wife, our daughters, the woman’s health is at stake here.” He added that while he usually tries to be a peacemaker and find middle ground, “for this issue, there is no middle ground. Personally I am standing with women’s rights and human rights and I hope you will stand up with me.”

Kristiana Johnson was the only councilmember who didn’t address the resolution during her comments.

Speaking last was Neil Tibbott, who appeared remotely while on a visit with his wife’s family in Mexico. “From my perspective, the resolution is lacking in a number of different areas,” Tibbott said. He suggested it should have a whereas clause “stating that the unborn also have rights. I also think it’s important to recognize that the number of aborted fetuses over the last 50 years would be in the hundreds of millions. That’s just part of the context for the resolution.” It’s also important to note, Tibbott said, “that there are many people, including pro-abortion advocates, who appreciate the recognition that unborn life matters.” However, due to his trip, Tibbott said he would be in transit during the next council meeting “and unable to participate” during further discussions on the resolution.

As Tibbott was speaking, Laura Johnson left the dais and the meeting. In a followup email, she said that her departure was not “part of some grand protest statement. After channeling my emotions this weekend into the resolution, they started to flow while I was sitting at the dais. I left because I did not feel the need to stay and let everyone watch me ugly cry on camera, sharing in my personal, emotional reaction.

“I’ve already been told by someone that I should learn to control my emotions,” Johnson continued. “Maybe he is right, or, just maybe, there is room for understanding.”

— By Teresa Wippel





  1. I understand that many feel strongly about the issue but why is this a Council resolution? Modify the resolution into an online petition and post that link on My Edmonds News. Everyone that agrees with the petition can sign it. I don’t want City Council attempting to represent my viewpoint on state or federal issues.

    1. ? Is it really the Edmonds city councils job to follow up on Supreme Court decisions? Let’s stick to the regional issues and try to actually accomplish something!! If city council wants to waste time on a complex issue as abortion lets all toss the hat in and cover the rest of it as well . I need safe streets , sidewalks ,good schools ,etc etc . Council is not even close to any level in politics for such a complicated issue as demonstrated by one council member being so upset they left the meeting …….Stick to the things you have been placed in office for I don’t want you opinions on matters way out of your ability’s to change .This incudes the Mayor as well , run the city business or leave your positions.

      1. Thank you Mark! I’ve made this point to the council at least a dozen times in the last two years through their various squabbles including this morning. They are not even functioning enough addressing basic needs of our citizens to be taking up anything more complicated.

  2. Once again Laura Johnson has lied. Washington state has a very clear abortion law which is not affected by Roe vs Wade. Nothing has changed for Washington state residents. For Johnson to say everyone should be afraid that our state legislators could change the law in the future, well they can change any state law in the future. Oh my goodness everyone start screaming hysterically since our state legislature can change laws, who would have thought.
    Stop the virtual signaling and hysterics, get the facts right.
    Washington State recognizes that all people have the right to choose or refuse to have an abortion and requires state-regulated health plans that cover maternity services to cover abortion services. In Washington, people of any age have the right to independently consent for their own abortion care.

    Washington State-regulated health plans that cover maternity care must also cover abortion care. Since individual health plans sold in this state are required to provide maternity care, they are also required to provide abortion care.

    In Washington public hospitals that provide maternity benefits, services, or information must provide substantially equivalent abortion benefits, services, and information. We’ve summarized maternity and abortion services in Reproductive Services Provided at Washington Hospitals (Excel).

  3. Good for the council to be focused on city functional business, instead of partisan resolutions. There is no merit anything has changed with the status quo in this state towards women’s health, or evidence of pending change. Fears otherwise acted it out in a public governmental meeting, might more appropriately find a forum in a therapist office.

    Interesting the limitations agreed on by Council that Council approval is required for all special events that involve right-of-way closures that are recurring or five days in length. This should put a good check on the re-imagined streets nonsense. Of course, mayoral subordinates L Johnson and Paine voted against this protection, at least they consistently know who is their boss.

  4. Vivian pointed out, Laura had her voice but refused to listen to her fellow Councilman Neil Tibbot. No excuses are acceptable. Laura has used her voice along with Susan to try to bash anyone that does not hold their views. Neil showed great respect last night even though he did not share the view of his fellow council.
    I didn’t get to finish my words last night. The public response is only three times minutes. The morning after pill is available and should be more available. Laura and Susan instead of rallying for abortion shouldn’t you have included at some time, ways to stop the need for abortion to end the need to abort/kill the baby.

    The words terminate, abort is so much easier than what actual happens during an abortion. I find it disgusting that even though new science has shown the child begins to feel pain earlier in the womb is disgusting that this is not talked about. As a friend pointed out maybe the ruling can open the dialogue.

  5. I want to thank the estate of Jack & Pat Goffette for there generous donation. Perhaps the city can expand the flower program to other areas of the city

  6. The Council needs to stay out of this. Any resolution is meaningless and only creates a public divide with zero policy influence. I could care less about the individual positions of each council member on this issue. I do care about their positions on what they were elected for and resolutions like this have zero policy affect other than to further fuel division within the community. While some may want the division the keep themselves relevant I will judge the Council members on their actions as it relates to what they were elected for. Nothing in Washington state has changed and there is no emergency. Maybe those that want action should focus on their Senator up for election this year that has been in office for 30 years many of which congress and the President were of the same party (like now). Same for a 22 year Senator not up for election this year. Same for a 20 year incumbent House member redistricted to our district. These people have had a lot more influence than our City Council ever has or will have with this issue. Of course that would mean crossing your party leaders and holding them accountable rather than just blindly voting them in every election. This a a divisive issue and I hope the Council stays away from it as it has zero policy implications. There are plenty of divisive issues that they already deal with without picking at the scab of one that they have no influence over.

  7. Best for that city government stay out of federal and state politics. Focus on city issues. Like pot holes.

  8. Will Chen experienced first hand life under a repressive and dictatorial government, one where individual rights are of little concern. So when he bravely says “for this issue there is no middle ground,” it’s a powerful and necessary statement.
    City, County and State governments are all connected. Edmonds is not an island in the middle of some ocean, though there are those who would like it to be so, but it’s part of the ecology of our goverment. Our leaders serve on boards and committees that involve the whole region and the state. They all talk to each other. That’s why it’s critical to take the stand for freedom for women, so that state representatives and senators know they have the support to maintain and expand the right of women to choose what happens to their own bodies.

    1. God gave us our rights as human beings (his creation). We put checks in place so government doesn’t mess with those God given rights. It’s that simple.

  9. Federal law has nothing to do with our City. I understand that there are powerful feeling on both sides and we will never see eye to eye on this issue. If the city council is to discuss abortion laws, Since Prayer is now legal in 2022 I feel we should pray recognizing all religions in the United States before every council meeting. We believers should address prayer rights to the Council.

    I invite all followers and people of prayer to the council meeting next week to discuss how this is important to you. I think it’s appropriate if we are taking on federal issues at our council meetings. Maybe someone can lead us all in prayer before the meeting starts. Let’s consider holding a vigil at the veterans plaza after the meeting and be led in song. Thank you Council for opening this door.

  10. I have a lot of respect for Tibbot, but suspect that he is being disingenuous. Even if the language about respecting unborn rights was added, I doubt that he would sign the resolution in honoring the lives of women that will be lost as a result of the decision in abortion from the Supreme Court.

    The abortion restriction movement is about transferring deaths from unborn cells to living people. When the life of the mother is at risk, there are States that are ready to make sure that those women die a pointless and preventable death in front of their loved ones and family. Those responsible for these preventable deaths should take responsibility for these deaths. Especially since it is spelled out as an intentional part of their plans.

    Backward barbarism like that could also be possible in our State if the Democrats lose the majority. That is why resolutions in our city affirming the rights of women in this State are critical.

    1. If folks are so worried that the majority is going to flip in this state, perhaps they should take a long hard look at why that is the case and what policies have been promoted in the last few years that have made people consider shaking up the status quo that have absolutely nothing to do with abortion. A resolution like this will not unwind all of what I am referencing.

  11. Wow. I just read all of the comments. Edmonds is not like Seattle and is divided in its politics and its religious beliefs. Some are mainstream some are evangical sp. SO I am going to say this. Yes I do support Roe vs Wade and I did find it very unusual to reverse it. I do know WA state does accept abortion rights and always will.
    However I also think the council is no place for speeches about these issues as I believe in separation of church and state. SO I am saying I don’t know that we need anything passed here that isn’t already legal here.
    But I will also say this. We have very few police officers and just the mention of using police as escorts to clinics is totally unacceptable with the crime we have in this city. So I suggest Planned Parenthood in Lynnwood either hires a guard as it is a large nation wide association. Or Lynnwood uses its police if they have enough there? THAT did annoy me. Are we ever going to try harder to come to a center here? Are we ever going to quit hating others for their opinions? I do not know. I sure hope so. But I truly do not believe speeches on either end of this spectrum should be the focus of a city council meeting. SO there ya have it. Good Luck.

    1. Really? Up to now, all PP, an organization that actively promotes abortion, and founded by that racist nightmare, Margaret Sanger, experienced were people praying in front of it. Meanwhile, Next Step Pregnancy Services was damaged last month for its position of helping pregnant women. So who’s in more danger?

      1. Closing this comment thread as the points being made are becoming repetitive of past threads on the topic.

  12. Vivian Olsen did try to stop this right at the beginning of the meeting. . I did see that. AND also a big thanks to the family who left the very large donation for flowers for the entire city of Edmonds. I believe that is what Jeff said. So I expect those to be all over Edmonds of course. Edmonds is a large community the majority by far is not in the Bowl. So that seems like a gimme to me. Very nice of them though.
    I often wonder why the billionaires here many who I believe are Dems or whatever don’t make donations while they are alive? I believe we need shelters for homeless youngers and olders regardless of their point of usage of drugs etc. SO to me we should be building shelter here and not fighting about something already settled on a state level. So I guess I just look at things a big differently sometimes. I am not angry at any of our council members. I believe they just go carried away. An emotional thing for all for different reasons. I also do not care what the council does as far as doing something here but what would it be and why do they think some it would superceed sp STATE LAW? I don’t know if the Fed government can stop anything it wants but I hope not for everyones sake. One more thing some religions do require or ask for sure for their parishiners to witness. I believe that is what Neil Tibbott was doing. His heart and his belief obligated him to do so. I like Neil. So give him a break. Do not judge. It is not our place to Judge. For those who believe I am a moderate in this but I will not condemn anyone for their beliefs and expect the same from them in return. Thank you for running this MEN. Deb

  13. I agree with those that believe this issue is not part of the duties/responsibilities of the Council and encourage the Council to bypass this resolution entirely. Let’s just keep moving to address the business of the City.

    This resolution will create more division between people and accomplish nothing.
    Please gang of 3…please stop the party-line virtue signaling and attempting to push your feelings on others to no positive end.

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