Letter to the editor: Does Edmonds have a public safety problem?

Editor:

Public safety is the number one priority of city government, or at least it should be.  Is Edmonds acting like it?

I view public safety as a closed loop process between the executive branch (mayor and administration – law enforcement), the legislative branch (city council), and the judicial branch (courts). Each branch is equally responsible for our safety. And without visibility into what the facts and data that each branch has as it relates to public safety (because they all have different information), it makes it difficult to make incremental improvement to the entire system.

At the last Edmonds City Council meeting we had a presentation from our municipal court judge that should be setting off alarm bells. Thanks to Councilmember Buckshnis for requesting from the court that some statistics be shared with the public, we were able to quantify a trend that confirms what many of us are feeling. Crime is going unprosecuted. Court cases are almost half of what they were a couple of years ago, yet reported crime is escalating. We have a disconnect. Or, rephrasing a line from the movie Apollo 13: Edmonds, we have a problem.

When you compare the court’s report with those of the prosecutor’s office and public defender in their April reports, it paints a bleak picture of a public safety system running amuck. What I find interesting is that everyone seems to be avoiding even discussing the topic, let alone taking some action. The mayor’s office doesn’t want to talk about it. The city council doesn’t have it on their radar screen. And only with some prodding, the court had been silent as well. No one is stepping up and taking this seriously.

I know that this is only a partial picture of the situation too because felony offenses are not the purview of the municipal court.  If we weave this information into the equation, what would we see?

Everyone seems to be working in silos and there doesn’t seem to be a coordinated effort to bring this all together. An effort to look at the data from the three branches of local government, determine trends, identify common causes or attributes, strategize on corrective action, and then finally enact and enforce said actions. A disciplined problem-solving approach.

While there are three branches of government, we should be looking to our mayor to lead this effort. However, our mayor has been missing in action. He has been either unable or unwilling to lead this and certainly has been uncommunicative.

So where do we go from here? My suggestion is that our City Council Public Safety Committee step up and put forward some legislative ideas for full council consideration. They should be pulling all the data together and developing a strategy based on input from the two other branches of our government. Seeking engagement from the citizens would also be welcome because there are many who are willing to help.

This is fixable. It takes leadership. And we certainly want to recognize and support our police and other first responders who are out in front protecting all of us. We can’t afford to wait to improve public safety until the next election.

Jim Ogonowski
Edmonds

  1. Absolutely it does. Everywhere from 99 to the edge of the water in the Bowl.
    Our police try to keep us informed with their Police Beat which I read faithfully. Our Swedish Hospital isn’t even safe for employees or to me citizens of our area. I am going to Issaquah for testing required to avoid going there. Sad thing that is. But worth the drive for me.
    You are right early on I talked about smoke and mirrors. I talked about lack of transparency. It is alive and well here. I believe our police are doing all they are allowed to do.
    Citizens help with Neighborhood Groups to inform and watch out for each other. We need more of those for every neighborhood I think.
    You are right we don’t have time to wait for elections. This to be honest is local politics and STATE policies. I am a centrist as I have clearly stated. I do not choose sides I watch both.
    Things like saying we have what 15 homeless here HA. That is simply not true. One outreach worker or Two come on… SO Jim what do we do? Courts that won’t prosecute? People arrested and let go all of the time. Its getting worse Jim not better. I will say this it was pretty quiet here in my area last night until about 2 AM when the cars started speeding and revving etc. We do not have enough police to manage the whole area here and it is not their fault.
    The Mayor well I try really hard to understand him and show some respect but it is clear what certain factions want this city of Edmonds to be and that is SEATTLE. And we are getting it too Jim. Seattle works fine apparently for Seattle but we are in Edmonds many Dem many Rep. I believe those groups are divided too. One part of Dem is FAR left, One part of Rep is far right…and the rest of us just wonder how do we fix this mess. People deserve better.

    1. Brian Dreschler, I salute you. I’ve laid down my sword and shield and you have picked them up to fight on. Hope you do better at waking up people around here than I did. Plan on getting called names and being accused of being over represented, whatever that means. It’s a brave new world out there.

  2. Exactly, Ann. It seems to be a particular talent of Jim’s. It’s really quite impressive.
    As much as Jim wishes our city was failing so it could fit his chosen narrative, Edmonds is thriving like never before. We have a diverse, growing police force led by an outstanding Chief, and the support of a mayor who is himself a law enforcement professional.
    If Jim is so devastatingly unhappy here, one wonders why he’s sticking around. I know about a dozen young families who would love to take his place.

    1. Nikki, what an incredibly rude and insensitive thing to say (you too, Anne). If you don’t agree with Jim how about you use your words to “educate” everyone who is concerned about what’s happening in our neighborhoods instead of giving the old “if you don’t agree with me, leave” cop-out.

      1. Where is it in Edmonds that you live, Anne? I guess you haven’t seen an increase in crime where you are like many of the rest of us. Have you been anywhere near highway 99 lately? Are you aware that two young women were held up at gun point in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood? My neighborhood has had an alarming increase in break ins, mail theft, cat converter theft, used needles left in parks, tagging, etc.. We had someone who thought it would be really fun to fire a gun in the middle of the night two nights in a row several weeks ago; a friend of mine found a live round in the middle of the street shortly after that occurred. But I guess to you none of that is a big deal; it’s fine. And anyone who is concerned is “pearl clutching”.

        Your attitude make me sad. You’re welcome.

      2. Not long ago, my friend Jim was the victim of a vicious knife attack in an Edmonds park. I think he’s fully justified in discussing his concerns about crime in Edmonds. Please don’t be taking knocks on someone without knowing their situation and experiences.

      3. I totally agree with you Annon, but our umbrage with the “shut up and leave” people is a waste of time and effort. It’s much easier to just label someone and then tell them to leave than to think and then respond with reason to what someone is saying. This is an opinion-comment venue and it shouldn’t be about calling people names and issuing ultimatums.

    2. Wow. What an immature response. If you don’t like then leave. What about staying and trying to be part of the solution? This is our community.

    3. When I read letters like this, and the comments that follow, written by the same handful of people, I just keep on scrolling. There has always been a faction of people in Edmonds who are constantly complaining about how awful life in Edmonds is but rather than offer meaningful suggestions for change, they take up their pens and bitch and complain. I’ve watched this for years and while the names change, the message remains the same; City government is terrible, City employees are terrible, taxes are terrible, parking is terrible, schools are terrible, any proposed changes are terrible and on and on and on. Just keep scrolling, it will save your sanity.

      1. Some people are always so positive. Murders at a local Asian market, a 7-Eleven, and the community center, no problem. Armed robberies on the local trails, no problem. Constant crime on Highway 99, no problem.
        A Mayor wants to put a connector highway on a local beach, no problem that’s just a meaningful suggestion of change. High-rises on the beach, surely that will make those sissy complainers take up their pens. The mayor wants a chief of police even if the nominee has domestic violence issues, no problem. Hard to believe people bitching and complaining over some of these things . Best to dismiss these people, and repeat, “Thank you sir can I have another.”

  3. Our whole country has a public safety problem so, logically speaking, why would Edmonds or the general Edmonds area be any different? We are probably better off than, say, parts of Seattle and Tacoma, but we aren’t exactly absolutely safe in our homes and on our streets like we would prefer to be.

    Unstable people with all sorts of weapons up to and including rapid fire assault type weaponry are literally everywhere amongst us. Random shootings and violent acts have increased exponentially since I was a young man. My personal opinion is that simple over population and too much group think in terms of politics and religion, and their overlap, are the main culprits causing much of this chaos. Nature takes care of the first problem with wars, pandemics, starvation and drug overdose and related disease mortality especially in regards to alcohol abuse. Only intelligent and reasoning people, with open minds can take care of the second cause.

  4. Oh good some name calling can I join I am pretty good at it. A guy who gets attacked in Edmonds writes a LTE to the local paper about crime only to be attacked again verbally this time by a couple of the mayor’s flunky’s. Nuff said.

  5. Thanks for writing this letter, Jim. The answer to the title is “yes!” I’m glad others have come to your defense. For anyone else who thinks “Edmonds is doing just fine just the way it is,” I suggest you spend some time along 99 and then tell the rest of us that everything is alright… because I can tell you it very much isn’t.

  6. While “Public Safety” is the topic of discussion what is also being said is that this and other govt functions have many interested parties. In this case there are 5. Public, Mayor, Council, Staff (police) and in this case the Court. One hopes they are all working off the same objectives and sharing data in order to do a complete job. If they have different goals, do little data sharing, and in other ways do not work together we waste a lot of taxpayer dollars.

    Take another example, new overlay for a failing street. Staff has studied and know of those streets that are failing or dangerous because of surface damage, Mayor proposes a budget to repair, Council allocates money for projects, and the public benefits with a street improvement. Courts are not involved unless the city is liable for a damage suit for car damage. We would expect all parts working together and we would not have a underground project planned for right after the street is repaved. We would also expect the cost to the taxpayer would be estimated correctly in advance for Council to approve and costs would be tracked, and any cost over/underruns would be known to all in the process.

    We expect our government to do things we want and do them in a way that all parties know how well we are doing on projects. Sometimes that is not the case. Other cities do a really good job of keeping all these issues balanced and likely it is because of good data sharing along the way.

    Edmonds should be among the best-informed public given the publics vast interests in our communities issues.

    So while public safety is the driving issue here, data and information sharing and team actions are also at play.

  7. A problem can’t be solved until one admits there is one. In this case, all I tried to do was to connect a few dots which were publicly presented at a City Council meeting and point out a disturbing trend. It astonishes me how many people will take issue with it without offering other facts or data to refute it. It’s hard enough as it is to make good decisions which affect a community, but to make them with only partial knowledge or information leads to poor and sometimes excessively expensive decisions. This is as much about transparency and information sharing as it is anything else.

    What I tried to do was to outline an approach to improve upon where we are. I suggested that the City Council Public Safety Committee put it on their agenda to discuss options and opportunities. I wish this was picked up and added to in the comments rather than the petty comments many expressed. They don’t advance the discussion at all. We need more problem solvers.

    1. Thanks to all for commenting. Just an FYI that I did remove comments of one person whose real name I wasn’t able to verify — and received no response to an email I sent asking for verification.

  8. Looking at Darrol’s comment, it seems like Edmonds is lacking some sort of independent of the executive and legislative branch economic reporting arm of civic government. Maybe a citizen’s commission appointment of a city comptroller or inspector general of some sort. Why can’t we have online available economic balance sheets of all the economic facts surrounding all of our city projects. What is Civic Park really costing in terms of prior approved funds spent and cost over runs? What was the true cost of our search for a police chief? What was the true savings of giving up our local fire department vs. what we are spending now for our contracted services? Municipal Court fines levied and paid and how much of a percentage of the fines are paying for the actual costs of our court system? What are we spending on staff and social services as opposed to what we are spending on repair and maintenance of infrastructure?

    I suspect honest and accurate public accounting of our tax expenditures would go a long way toward getting better government in general for our town. We need to somehow get past this business of the Council having to beg for even minimal answers from our mayor and staff all the time; or worse yet the Council just hearing what the mayor and staff want them to hear in order to make decisions that impact all of us, whether positively or negatively.

  9. Jim’s point about connecting the dots is important to remember in the context of problem solving. This applies to all sorts of issues and requires some sort of “vision” for Edmonds. When we as a community have an agreed upon vision then the legislative, executive, and judicial roles should work in concert to implementing that vision.

    Several years ago, we created a Strategic Action Plan. More than 2500 inputs were gathered, Council, the Planning Board, and the Economic Development Commission worked frequently and in open public meetings along with several sessions designed to gather input directly from the citizens. Council approved it and a couple of years later made a few updates and approved it again. All the while, the executive function, with its city workers worked hard to move many of the 90 items forward. Many have been implemented or updated but a few important ones are still waiting for implementation.

    We have embarked on an update to our Comprehensive Plan which is one of the most important plans for the city. Gathering citizen input to help create a vision would go a long way to setting the stage for a successful and agreed upon update of the CP.

    This is yet another example of connecting the dots that Jim outlines. Citizens should be engaged in this process and the time is now. From Public Safety to Roads, to Budgets, and many more, we the citizens should seek to be a part of the process.

  10. You’d think that achieving public safety could be a common goal. The constant drone of partisanship lurking in EVERY aspect of life in Edmonds and oozing from City Hall is not only a joy-killer, but it’s really getting in the way of running a charming, safe, neighborly, gem of a coastal town. Common sense…let’s make it an Edmonds kind of thing.

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