Council approves Edmonds Diversity Commission name change, OKs process for minor code amendments

Edmonds Diversity Commissioner Jessie Owen, right, speaks to the Edmonds City Council about the commission’s proposed name change. Commission Chair Elaine Helm is at left.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night approved a proposal from the Edmonds Diversity Commission to change both the commission’s name and its purpose to reflect the group’s expanded focus on equity, inclusion and accessibility.

The nine-member commission will now be named the Edmonds Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Commission, or DEIA for short.

“The city has made genuine and authentic commitments to diversity,” said committee member Jessie Owen. “But…just being diverse isn’t enough any more. We need to push to have a more equitable city and a more equitable outcome for everyone.” By broadening the commission’s scope to include equity, inclusion and accessibility, “we can better prioritize and focus on the systems that make our city more equitable.”

Edmonds was at the forefront of establishing a diversity commission, Owen added, “and we love that we’re pioneers. And we want to continue being pioneers and an example to the rest of our state and country.”

The Edmonds City Council voted in April 2015 to establish the Edmonds Diversity Commission, in part prompted by citizen concerns after an Edmonds man and his family were subjected to racial slurs and death threats while visiting Sunset Avenue in 2014.

After the incident, city councilmembers and state legislators joined residents in a Walk Against Racism at Brackett’s Landing. During the event, then-City Council President Strom Peterson noted that the verbal attack prompted the city council to speed up efforts to create a diversity commission.

The city code change approved by the council Tuesday night not only changes the commission’s name; it also expands the group’s powers and duties to encompass diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility issues. These include advising and making recommendations to the mayor and city council and other boards and commissions related to faciliating understanding of DEIA “and to celebrate and respect individual differences.”

Prior to the name change discussion, Commission Chair Elaine Helm reported on the group’s accomplishments for the past year and also future priorities. The group’s goals for 2023 include increased engagement with the city council and more communications with residents to let them know about commission resources.

In other business Tuesday night, the council heard the annual report from the Edmonds Tree Board, which encourages the planting, protection and maintenance of trees for the long-term benefit of the community. Chair Janelle Cass went over the group’s accomplishments for 2022, which included co-sponsoring the city’s Earth Day event — which included tree planting at Yost Park and ivy pulling at Pine Ridge Park. The tree board also helped the city celebrate Arbor Day Oct. 8, which included a tree giveaway at the Edmonds Museum Summer Market.

The council also:

– Received a presentation from Administrative Services Director Dave Turley regarding the possibility of shifting the city to a biennial budget. Turley said he was raising the issue now because the city is preparing to purchase new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and it will need to be configured for an annual or biennial budget. In making his case for having the city to move from annual to biennial budgeting, Turley noted that many of Edmonds’ neighbors — including Lynnwood, Shoreline and Mountlake Terrace — are on a biennial budget cycle. Operating with a biennial budget would give both staff and councilmembers more time for planning during the off years, Turley added, and it would also reduce the politics involved in budgeting, since the budgets would be prepared during non-election years. Council President Neil Tibbott reminded councilmembers that there would be further discussion on biennial budgeting as part of the council’s budget retreat in April.

– Had a lengthy discussion regarding a city planning and development staff proposal to create a new process for making minor amendments to the city’s development code. Staff proposed a streamlined process for “frequent minor code amendments,” with the idea of presenting them to the council on a quarterly basis for review. Councilmember Jenna Nand and Dave Teitzel each attempted to make an amendment to the proposal — Nand proposed soliciting citizen board/commission/committee input during the process and Teitzel wanted staff to track so-called “scrivener’s errors” — but both of them failed on 2-4 votes. (Councilmember Diane Buckshnis was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.) In the end, the council voted 5-1 (Nand opposed) to approve the new process.

– Unanimously approved a plan by a council subcommittee evaluating Edmonds’ current city attorney services to contact representatives of nine identified “comparator cities” regarding how they manage their city attorney work.

– Approved by a 5-1 vote (Councilmember Will Chen voting against) a list of 31 projects carried forward from the previous year’s budget.

— By Teresa Wippel



  1. The city used 2-year budgets , probably 10 or 15 years ago. Before returning to them I suggest they review why they had a short lifespan.

  2. It seems to me like there needs to be some concrete definitions as to what makes an amendment “minor” vs. “major.” To me there is a big difference between a spelling error needing to be corrected and something that reaches the level of an “amendment” (even minor) needing to be made. My point is that this is a strange way and place to use the word “amendment.” This very word implies that some sort of actual policy change is being made which would require debate and the chance for some public input. Great credit to Dave and Jenna for pushing back on this point a little bit but in the end it was just the usual, go along to get along with the Mayor and staff, on the part of most of our Council. The Mayor was both sarcastic toward the Council and deferential to his staff at what is supposed to be the Council’s meeting. I watched the entire meeting as well as reading this article.

  3. So, the newly christened DEIA wants to “make our city more equitable.” The definition of equity is ” freedom from bias or favoritism.” That is a noble goal but, too often it is misapplied to impose rules or laws that try to assure a more favorable outcome for one group of people over another. Equity does not mean equality; nor should it. Equitable rules and laws should give everyone the same treatment from their government and businesses that is free from bias or favoritism. Individual efforts and talents of people following equitable laws and rules should dictate outcomes of success or failure. Laws and rules should not be used to try and dictate equal outcomes.
    I hope the DEIA will first articulate where our city is not free of bias and favoritism before they suggest remedies to be imposed by new city rules or laws. In medical terms: diagnose the disease before you apply the medicine to cure it .

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