Mayor won’t reappoint two Edmonds Planning Board members — one of them an election rival

At a moment when the Edmonds Planning Board faces issues critical to the city’s future, the board has lost half its members.

There should be eight members, including one alternate. Two resigned earlier this year. Now, also gone are the Planning Board’s 2022 Chair Roger Pence, and Board Member Mike Rosen; Rosen earlier this month announced he will run against Mayor Mike Nelson next year.

The terms of both Pence and Rosen expire the end of this year. Nelson sent each a brief letter last week thanking them and stating that neither would be reappointed.

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson

Nelson has pledged to replace them and two others who resigned from the planning board in 2022 – Alicia Crank and Matt Cheung — both cited business reasons for leaving. In a statement to My Edmonds News, Nelson wrote, “I think it is important to allow new people the opportunity to serve on our boards and commissions.”

Nelson said he has interviewed four new candidates who now must be confirmed by the Edmonds City Council. He has not released the names of his candidates. He anticipates the city council will confirm them next month. We emailed Mayor Nelson, asking about other issues involving the planning board; his statement was his only reply.

Pence told us he was not surprised that he’s out. “I would have been surprised if he had reappointed me,” Pence said. “I’m not on the mayor’s team, he knows that, and I know.”

The four vacancies come at a crucial time for the planning board. Under city code, “The board shall advise on all amendments to the comprehensive plan. This includes reviewing all elements of the plan on a periodic basis and reporting to the mayor and city council on the need for changes in the plan.” It is also charged with holding public hearings and “making recommendations to the mayor and city council” on the Comprehensive Plan which, under state law, must be amended by 2024.

Departing Board Chair Pence told My Edmonds News it has been difficult this year to get feedback from city staff; “when a subject is ripe and we get briefed on it, once that is over, it’s radio silence… we can’t get in the loop and stay in the loop” to find out how the issue is progressing. An example, said Pence, is the update on the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan. “The city came out with draft vision statement (on the Comp Plan), but I can’t get any information on what the road ahead is… when it is coming back to planning board” for further consideration.

Pence said Comprehensive Plan amendments must go through the Edmonds Planning Board before they go to the city council.  The “other heavy lift,” he added, “is the (zoning) code rewrite… how many times (the city) has tried to do that and failed.”

Outgoing Planning Board Member Mike Rosen isn’t surprised that Nelson did not reappoint him, since Rosen is the first announced candidate to challenge the mayor next year. Rosen, who has attended 109 meetings as a board member, worries the board will “be gutted” by the end of the year.

Final Edmonds Planning Board meeting of 2022 – Pence on the left, Rosen on the right. Other planning board members pictured are Beth Tragus-Campbell, next to Pence, and Judi Gladstone, vice chair, next to Rosen. Senior Planner Mike Clugston, who staffs the board, is in the center.

At the board’s last meeting of the year Dec. 14, Rosen wished the two remaining members “greater collaboration” in the future. One of those remaining members, Judi Gladstone, said the board faces challenges;  “we don’t know enough about the (Highway 99) community renewal program” the city is proposing; that the multi-family design process “has fallen off the agenda” for planning board consideration, and that the planning board’s sense of the city’s zoning code rewrite “is not on there (the agenda).”

Pence called the postponed vacancies “troubling,” adding that Alicia Crank’s seat has been vacant for three and a half months. In a scheduled November meeting, the board could not conduct any business; not enough members were there to make a quorum.

And during the last meeting of the year, the city’s planning staff said that the board could not select a chair and vice chair for 2023, since this was a special meeting combined with the Edmonds Tree Board and the agenda could not be changed to select officers; that will have to wait until February at the earliest.

The mayor says his four candidates are “ready to join” the board. Pence says he hopes so; that the planning board “has been one of, if not the most important (boards) in the city. It used to be important.”

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. I would be interested to know if Mike Nelson’s imperative to vacate board positions to allow other citizens a chance to serve stretches back in his term, or if this is a more recent consideration. If this is not his typical modus operandi, it would suggest he’s retaliating against a political opponent and that would be very problematic in our political body. Nothing about his screams “great leadership”. We deserve better.

  2. Disappointing yet not surprising at this point. Nelson has consistently demonstrated throughout his term he is incapable of leading the city of Edmonds. He only wants “his team” in city roles and has shown a total disdain for transparent communication with citizens, commissions and the council. I know I’m not the only former supporter with buyer’s remorse. The time is ripe for a change at the top – in this sense, November seems too far away.

    1. Same commentators over and over.
      Same point of view most of the time.
      Why is that?
      You will likely not print this,

  3. What we have are two very dedicated, knowledgeable and anxious to serve men (without political bias) on what is probably our most important citizen input board being cashiered out of service for political reasons. This totally stinks. The planning board should consist of any citizen of Edmonds who wants to serve being appointed automatically by date of application submitted until all positions are filled. They should be allowed to serve until they don’t want to or can’t serve anymore and the first person to submit an application should be the next appointee. Otherwise this board is just another pretense that the citizen comes first in Edmonds.

    Nobody will listen to me, but this is just another example of how hopelessly broken our system of city government is, and how much it is totally designed to cater to an all too powerful mayor and staff. Good government shouldn’t depend totally on the crap shoot chance of electing a good person mayor, and that’s exactly what we have now. The only real between election accountability here is public outrage and demonstration when bad decisions and bias reach the breaking point.

  4. When do we call for this Mayor to step down. How is this not oversight? The only thing this Mayor does right is divide. I hope the council has some input on this please!

    1. For the umpteenth time, NO the City Council has no control or authority over the Mayor or how he performs his duties under our current system of city government other than the budget. For a period of four years any Edmonds Mayor can run things totally as he/she wants with virtually no oversight except public opinion. He/She doesn’t have to listen to anyone. I’ve been suggesting a change to Weak Mayor/Strong Council/City Manager system for years here and everyone says I’m wrong and people come out of the woodwork to tell me I’m wrong. Well folks, what you see here is what you get; unless we change it. End of story.

  5. There’s a bigger story here. A proposal for an 18 unit apartment building on Dayton is being marshaled thru review by the planning department. The developer is GBH who proposed the 24 unit at 6th and Main. This proposal is not in compliance with the recent BD ordinance passed by city council with the support of the ADB, EDC, planning board and the community. Seems the planning department is facilitating the proposal and slipping it thru public comment during the holiday week. The planning department is city staff working under the direction of the mayor.

  6. Guess what. The current Mayor and his Pal’s plan is to slowly but surely close off the core downtown roads and make them this area into a European style walking mall with hundreds of people living right in the area with no need for nasty polluting automobiles coming and going constantly. This is why every time the current Development Director opens her mouth, she talks about repurposing the use of our streets. This is called propaganda and driving the discourse. I refer to my previous comment as the only real way to change any of this.

  7. Whether it be the police chief, department heads, or members of public advisory boards, the City Council has the responsibility to confirm the mayor’s nominees based on what is best for the community. If members of the City Council think that their job is to regardlessly just to rubber stamp the mayor’s decisions, then it’s council being negligent to the community.

    1. Our City Council members don’t really have to answer to anybody either, except at election time. If we chose the C.C. members out of districts and required weekly in district meetings as well as over all weekly city council meetings there would be constant pressure on the Council people to do the people’s business efficiently and on time. If the Council had the ability to remove a Manager anytime for not doing his job or engaging in rank favoritism; there would be some sort of on going accountability. The people would have the opportunity to speak longer than three minutes and ignoring people’s comments and emails would no longer be as easy or comfortable. This would probably require a full time council and cost more money; so I’m sure most everyone will want to continue city government on the cheap with never ending complaining, hand wringing, and wasting money; with kick the can down the road non-actions on important items of business like the code re-write and a fair and competitive system of obtaining good legal advice.

    2. Brian,

      I agree with you. The Council has more authority than they leverage. Granted, they are part time and doing the best they can, but we’ve seen this play out many times before. The administration proposes something with little time for the Council to do their due diligence before time expires. Then we get what we get, or should I say the mayor gets what he wants. This is as much about the Council as it is the mayor.

  8. I’d like to thank Roger for his expertise, emotional intelligence and willingness to collaborate – his Planning Board liaison presence on our EDC has been an important one, and a welcome start to citizen commission collaboration to help address complex issues that face all of us in Edmonds – in a nonpartisan, open and consensus-building way. Roger, I hope you take the opportunity to re-engage and continue to serve Edmonds in some capacity – we need you!

  9. Thank you to Mr. Pence and Mr. Rosen for your service. It’s important now that we allow new voices and certainly they should both understand they’ve had ample time on this board. If you look closely, there are a small amount of people who seem to be hyper involved in many areas of this city – both on boards and commissions for the city, but also other groups – Edmonds Civic Roundtable (fka Edmonds Good Governance), ACE, and many other boards around the Edmonds. Perhaps we should gatekeep less and allow more people to get involved, learn and gain experience. How else can we keep Edmonds moving forward?

    1. Heather, please believe me, I’m all for new people serving on Planning Board (and other boards and commissions). We tried to make that happen!

      Planning Board has had vacancies going back to the first of September. We reminded Mayor Nelson several times about the lingering vacancies, why they needed to be filled with new voices, but we received no response and no action. New members were needed to help assure quorums necessary for the Board to do business.

      Instead the mayor chose to leave those positions unfilled until January. No mayor has ever left a Planning Board position vacant for four months. This has been a disservice to Planning Board and to the people of Edmonds whom we are trying to serve.

      -Roger Pence-
      Chair, Edmonds Planning Board (until 12-31-22)

  10. As totally predictable we go right back to personality bashing instead of talking about systemic change to get, and more importantly keep over time, the good city government we want. If we keep this current system; Edmonds will always be a personality and special interest driven entity. Roger and Mike, I say this as your friend, which I am. You need to quit licking your wounds and lead the fight for a meaningful systemic change. If Mike (R) is for this, I’m all in with him for Mayor. If not I’ll just do the usual, and vote for what looks like the least harm for the next four years because that’s the best we will ever get as things currently stand.

  11. Hello Clinton,
    We looked into changing this during Mayor Mike Cooper’s term and there is a lot of literature out there regarding how the change has to occur. I haven’t known of any “she” Mayors that didn’t listen to the citizens.

    We DO have control over the Mayor and controlling the budget is HUGE along with the budgetary documents of the Capital Facilities Plan, the Capital Improvement Plan and completion of complementary documents.

    So, let’s be realistic of the facts that occurred during the years of ’20-22 as if you recall, the simple majority had control over three of us as our voices, concerns, ideas or resolutions we were ignored. Had we had a City Manager with that simple majority and their power of vote, their same administrative direction would have occurred. Example, the Council President was solely responsibility along with her simple majority to change the Administrative Budget schedule to totally exclude myself, Kristiana Johnson and newly elected Will Chen from any Budgetary actions, when KJ and I had the most 2022 budget amendments!

    So, the biggest danger is an autocratic CP’s not representing all CMs and allowing that “simple majority” to legislate.

    1. Diane,

      Stating that the legislative branch (council) has “control over” the executive branch (mayor) is not accurate. Like the federal government, the municipal government’s power is divided between three branches, each with separate roles and responsibilities.

      You were not “totally excluded” from “any budgetary actions”. A key Council responsibility is to pass a budget. You CHOSE not to attend several budgetary meetings. Instead, you scheduled TWO vacations during the budget season, though, even on vacation you still could have attended, given that meetings were held on Zoom. Public records of your email correspondence, combined with your personal tweets, detail your purposeful and calculated avoidance of attending key budgetary meetings.

      A majority is a majority regardless of number, and a CP can neither allow nor disallow the majority from legislating. State law and basic democratic process enable the majority to legislate.

      1. It’s been refreshing this year to watch City Council make decisions based on the merits of the issue, breaking from the previous pattern with the Bloc of 4 voting in lockstep on every matter.

  12. Diane, thanks for this thoughtful comment about what I’ve said and advocated. I particularly salute you for your budget diligence, town halls and attempt to have good communication with all your constituents.

    I certainly hear what you are saying about the four CM cabal that tried to control virtually everything during the time period referenced. Basically these people were all staunch Democrats taking care of their Democrat Mayor and his vision for the future development of the town and favored business interests. I question a little bit, how much they could have pulled this off if they were dealing with a politically neutral City Manager, just trying to run the city efficiently, vs. a highly politically affiliated Mayor they shared a party with. I totally enjoy watching your work and interaction on the Council and salute all your volunteer efforts. You certainly put me to shame on that score.

    Before anyone accuses me of being a Republican, I assure you I tend to vote Democrat in almost all elections, but I don’t appreciate party politics being injected into our city government.

    1. Clinton I don’t think you have much fear of being a Republican, reasonable most of the time yes. One of my concerns is the influence of the administrative state where the administration aligned with one party ignores all other’s. How are you to find a neutral city manager in such a state of one party rule?Speaking as a Republican and a minority group in this city/state. My only hope of reasonable is thru my elected leaders.. I would say merry Christmas but apparently that is not politically incorrect anymore.. such is the state of our union.

      1. Jim, you seem to be saying Republicans are generally reasonable people and Democrats aren’t. I would say some individuals tend to be reasonable and some tend not to be; regardless of their political views. Personally I like people who think in terms of what might work and what might not work and are willing to try new ideas; not doing the same things over and over expecting different results every time. The older I get the more I don’t want to belong to anything that smacks of group think or having to tow a party or religious line of some sort. I see that viewpoint as true freedom. I have no problem saying Merry Christmas to you because I believe in the golden rule as a good way of life.

  13. Meetings have been held and surveys done to discuss housing changes with citizens who expressed their desires, for no changes in zoning of residential neighborhoods. The Mayors “New Four” will try to continue his re envisioning of your neighborhood. Thankfully Council does have the ability to protect our Neighborhoods from zone changes.

    As we start to look for a new Mayor, let’s keep in mind, that we need someone who has the people’s ear and not his political parties. Let us hope the new Mayor will bring people together through good faith and management of our City. Additionally, let’s hope our next mayor will support our Officers and not create committees to cast blame on them, when he was the one who failed our Police Department. Vote carefully and donate to the campaigns you support.

  14. The PB is the most important Board in the City. Its works on land use issues and other issues assigned to it by Council and staff. The link below shows just some of the issues the PB will be working on in the months ahead. Look at pg 28 and beyond. The tree code is important to all of Edmonds, note how complex these decisions will be.
    Agenda – Wednesday, December 14, 2022 (iqm2.com)
    The mayor suggests the importance of having new people on boards, but in the case of the PB the application process was not available to anyone for the time leading up to these appointments.

    The council should discuss how the PB should be structured and how appointments are made to better serve the varied interests of our community. Some ideas to consider would be to expand the board to say 9 members plus an alternate. That would allow each council member to make an appointment and the mayor would have 2 appointments and possibly appoint an alternate as well. That would clearly provide a greater opportunity for citizens to serve and bring varied viewpoints to the board.

  15. I don’t understand why these positions need to be filled by elected politicians. Why not put all applicants names in the hat and draw until positions are filled.? Do this annually or bianually for turnover. The citizens are supposed to top the org. Chart.

  16. Edmonds is trying to do right by all of our neighborhoods. Equity and all that stuff. We created 7 zones that were used to select citizens to serve on the Housing Commission. Council members were assigned to a zone, interviewed and selected reps to the HC. It seems we could do that again but this time for a restructured Planning Board. Planning Board work would over time further sort out the needs and wishes of the folks in each of the zones.

    Along with using the zones for PB appointments, each council member could be asked to meet quarterly with folks in “their” zone and report what they have learned back to full council just as they do for other committee assignments. While they are not elected from that zone, they would have a duty to “represent” the zone.

    CM could rotate every 6 to 9 months to another zone so that over the course of their 48-month term, they could “represent” each section of Edmonds, just like they say they will when running for election.

    Council could start this process with a change in the ord. We lost our bowling alley, but we need to lose our “Bowlers”

    1. Wonderful! Regulate and restrict the people, willing to serve their community. Then wonder why no one steps up to serve.

    2. Thanks Darrol. These are the sort of comments that are worthwhile. Offering some constructive ideas rather than just complaining might get us to a desired outcome. The Council has it within their authority to enact legislation which affects how our city functions. For whatever reason, they have yet to take any proactive action. Maybe they don’t have any ideas of their own, so forums like this can help. It’s been almost like watching a deer in the headlights – frozen stiff.

      As we enter a new year, maybe we can all wish for new ideas for a different and better direction.

    3. Great points to ponder. Right now we have two districts, practically speaking. The Bowl and not the Bowl and there is a lot of talk about being more fair to not the Bowl. In Darrol’s example of Housing Commission zones the Council President put herself in the leadership position for the Bowl area while she was living in and advocating for the Hwy 99 area. Looked like a conflict of interest to me. Just have seven zones and elect Council out of those. Instant real representation and easy ability to conduct neighborhood town halls and fair citizen input from all areas.

  17. Jim and Clint, the whole idea of doing some work that is “zone” oriented can be done even if council makes no changes to the Planning Board appointment process. It is very unlikely council will act in any significant way for PB appointments. It will take too much time to sort out “if, how, and when” we would ever go to elections by zones. We can essentially launch representation by zones without changing how we elect CMs.

    The idea of doing some formalized work to increase “representation” or “zone issues” or whatever we want to call it can go a long way to the whole idea of All Edmonds. Many CMs have reached out in one way or another to various zones but the concept presented above would formalized the process and would go a long way to moving forward. Like it says on the buttons and banners presented by staff. “Everyone’s Edmonds … Voices . Vision . Plan”. This would just enhance the process by using zones as the starting points.

    While it would be nice to see council change appointment process for the PB, they can implement the zone ideas by a simple agreement among themselves.

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