Council tables Olson’s proposal regarding resolutions, agrees on qualifications for student rep position

Edmonds City Councilmembers Tuesday night discuss Council President Vivian Olson’s proposal to limit council resolutions to nonpartisan matters.

The Edmonds City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to table a proposal from Council President Vivian Olson that she said was aimed at ensuring that future council resolutions be related to city business and politically nonpartisan.

Olson’s proposal came six weeks after the council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade. The resolution urged Congress to pass a law guaranteeing the right to abortion nationwide and to create a policy that Edmonds police should not cooperate with out-of-state law enforcement to prosecute those who come here for an abortion or other reproductive health services.

Residents testifying during the July 6 council meeting on the abortion resolution had mixed opinions. Some stated that the city council had no business taking a stand on what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled; others stated they were pleased that the council opted to show leadership on the topic.

The proposal introduced by Olson Tuesday night included stated goals of providing elected officials with guidelines for responding to requests for resolutions, with a focus on those items that dealt with city business. It also stated that resolutions would not be issued in areas “expressing an opinion on matters of political or ideological controversy” or those issues “generally identified or known as suppoorted by one political party and/or opposed by a political party.”

Finally, it also gave the city council president “and his or her designee” the authority to process requests for resolutions.

In introducing the proposal Tuesday night, Olson said she hoped it would be a starting point for council dialogue on the topic. Instead, it drew swift and sharp criticism from Councilmembers Susan Paine and Laura Johnson.

“This is not small d democracy,” Paine said. “This is authoritarianism or totalitarianism because this is wanting to control what gets put out there into the public.” Olson’s stated desire to keep council resolutions nonpartisan “is a red herring,” said Paine, who then accused the council president of wanting to “control all the messaging by controlling the framework of what is important in our community.”

Johnson said the proposal “gives unchecked power to interpret and apply guidelines and inhibit council’s ability to respond to the needs and wants of residents of Edmonds and limits the voice of the community.” She also said “it is not feasible to truly legislate in nonpartisan manner, given the views and differing interpretations and/or motives of using the label partisan vs. nonpartisan.” Among the issues identified during an online search that people define as partisan, she added, are “reproductive freedom and rights but also climate change, housing insecurity, LBGTQ rights, racism, gender equality and more, all which some have labeled too controversial and therefore partisan.”

Olson replied that her goal in bringing up the matter was to have the council decide whether it wanted to stick to issues that are specifically related to city government business. “Do we want to focus how we spend our time as a city council? she asked. “I do feel like we get into topics that are in the purview of other levels of government. If we focus on things that are just our level of government, we can do our jobs better.”

Paine responded that spending time on the resolution proposal Tuesday night also delayed discussions about city-focused issues. She then suggested that such a topic would be better discussed during a future council retreat.

Councilmember Neil Tibbott said he would appreciate a better process for developing council resolutions that involves a greater number of citizens. But he agreed that the topic should be part of a future council retreat agenda, and then made a motion to table Olson’s proposal, which passed unanimously.

In other business Tuesday night, the council also spent a significant amount of time debating the language in a proposed new city code chapter that outlines the qualifications for the council’s student representative. Among the issues were whether the position should be limited to those in high school or if college students should also be eligible. Councilmember Johnson argued in favor of including college students, noting that in the past the council has had trouble getting many applicants for the job. In the end, the council settled on language that the position be open to a high school or college student — living in Edmonds — who is age 21 or younger at the time of application.

In addition, the council:

–  Repealed a city ordinance related to grocery worker hazard pay, which the council had approved in April 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

– Heard a second-quarter financial report from Administrative Services Director Dave Turley, who noted the city’s ending fund balance for 2021 was $15.9 million, which indicated Edmonds has “recovered pretty well” from the pandemic. You can see the complete presentation here.

– Received a proclamation regarding Puget Sound Starts Here Month, which is in September.

– Discussed, but didn’t take action on, proposed code changes related to the city attorney. Those will be brought back to the council next week for possible action.

– Postponed until a future meeting an update of the city’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and a related code change related to disaster preparation, emergency coordination and civil emergencies.

– By Teresa Wippel


  1. I support President Olson’s proposal to stick to issues related to city government issues. Council Members are giving their own time to work on the Edmonds city council. Please focus on Edmonds issues, not the State of Washington or the Federal Government. If the Council goes in that direction, in my view it is a waste of everyone’s time.
    Partisan politics in the last decade or so has turned very ugly and we will lose qualified people on our council if we let out city council get mired down with every controversy issue.
    Stick to Edmonds business only!

    1. Agree totally with this. VOTE people all of you. R or D or L or wherever you stand VOTE. It is your one true Freedom in my humble opinion. Be involved even if it means making enemies. I do I have many I am sure. But I figure it this way, my conscience is clear. That is what is important to my state of mind. Don’t be afraid to speak out and hope others will listen to what you are really saying. Don’t worry about whose parties you are invited to etc. That means nothing to me at all. I am much more interested in peace and quiet and reason. Good luck to you and to all here in our small city from the shore to the uphill as it is now referred. Thank you. Deb.

  2. I applaud Councilmember Vivian Olson for attempting to keep the city focussed on city business. The city of Edmonds has enough to keep them busy without taking on things that are outside their purview. Thank you, Councilmember Olson, for your focus and professionalism.

  3. Vivian Olson thank you for trying to keep Edmonds Council NON PARTISAN. Vivian, Neil and Diane bring respect back to our city Council. I am so grateful that voters are paying attention to the positive communication process these three council members follow.

  4. Priorities? The Comprehensive Emergency Management plan was put off until later, something that has happened time and time again. Complex and very necessary but kicked down the road for way too much time spent on what qualifies as a non partisan resolution (CEMP is non partisan) and what the definition of student is.
    Why is the City Attorney doing a presentation about rewriting the code defining his job? Should the presentation and rewrite be done by an independent attorney?
    As to partisan issues, each council member should be able to refrain from getting into those resolutions. They should as a group simply vote them down. Small d democracy at the local level means dealing with issues left to Edmonds like having a functional CEMP and codes that make sense and are written fairly and in an unbiased way. Priorities.

  5. Conducting city business during council meetings. What a wonderful concept- sidewalks, roads, public safety. I applaud and support Ms. Olson’s effort for trying.

  6. I agree with Vivian Olson and respect her focus on local issues. There are many community issues needing attention and further involvement in partisan issues is not productive. Our Council does not need to spend their valuable time on issues that are not resolved at the local level. Resolutions that address state or national issues do not provide any positive result at the City level and based on the recent past resolution cause more division. Thank you Vivian for your effort to focus and narrow the duties of the Council.

  7. I’m light of the discussion on July 6th. I am disappointed not one of the council members represented those citizens who did not agree with the city taking a stand to condemn the supreme court’s decision. More and more it seems if you don’t follow the Edmonds status quo, your voice is not represented.

    1. Well, I think voting is the only way these days to create the change you want regardless of which side you are on of this coin. As a Centrist I see both sides and I consider them carefully. In the end we will see what the results are one way or the other. I think the council actually did a pretty good job on this thing. The one opposed the most did not vote he was not here if I am correct? Please correct me if I am wrong. I believe it did pass right? So why B about the council? Our council in a time of really no Bi partisan behavior at all probably does need to concentrate on streets. sidewalks, our water and sewer systems. But when thrown into these arguments of course you will have differences of opinions. So I don’t understand what you are saying. 2 members were firm another new joined them and two who would seem we think are totally conservative were not in this vote at all. Right. Lets leave this as it is. Lets keep it real here as much as we can huh? I respect your thoughts. I also disagree that the council do not follow the “status Quo” I don’t think that is there job. I do believe totally and always have in the separation of church and state. But these days in our country well people do not observe that it seems. Edmonds is a very divided small city. There is no doubt about that but so is our country and no one can fix that either. SO we just have to be patient and vote your choices. It was very disappointing to me the % of people who voted in midterms. It was so low. 22.6% I think was the highest here. I am not sure its hard to remember every detail off the top of my head. I can’t research everything I would be here all day every day. I won’t do that. BUT vote I never miss a vote.

  8. Three cheers for Ms. Olson and common sense! What a concept that our Edmonds City Council concern itself with city business. Carry on, please.

  9. Well done. It’s not the responsibility of the Edmonds council to try to control or even influence every topic we are faced with. We have an an imperfect system in need of repair that we all need to focus on. The council has no authority on many issues. If citizens want to be heard, they need to reach out to the proper representatives. If you feel you are not being heard, vote differently. If your vote never seems to matter, welcome to my world.

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