Council debates draft vision statement, considers city attorney contract

Edmonds Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin speaks to the city council about the draft vision statement.

Last summer, the City of Edmonds unveiled a draft vision statement as a starting point for work on the city’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. On Wednesday night, the Edmonds City Council gave community members a chance to express their opinions about that statement. Councilmembers also heard more from Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin about the months of work by city staff to collect comments and other feedback that shaped the drafting of the 41-word visioning effort.

To recap, the Comprehensive Plan is a document that guides the city’s decisions over a 20-year time period, serving as a blueprint for development. It is also meant to reflect the vision and priorities of the city and residents, while meeting the requirements of state and federal law.

During Wednesday’s public hearing, comments included criticism that the statement was too general, that it didn’t capture some important aspects of the city and that city staff didn’t appear to be open to revising it. Others said that critics were expecting too much from the vision statement, adding that such energy should be put into work on the Comprehensive Plan update itself.

While the vision statement may not be perfect, “I think it’s pretty good,” Edmonds resident Marjie Fields said during the hearing. “It only sets the stage for an action plan, and that action plan will make a difference.”

Resident Joe Scordino had a different view, commenting that the statement “misses the mark” by failing to acknowledge Edmonds as a waterfront town with a ferry, fishing and a marina. “It needs to be totally revamped,” Scordino said.

In reaching out to community members in myriad ways to prepare the vision statement, McLaughlin said that “we talked, we listened and we documented.” The result is this:

Edmonds is a welcoming city offering outstanding quality of life for all. We value environmental stewardship, vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, safe and healthy streets, and a thriving arts scene. We are engaged residents who take pride in shaping our resilient future.

“I recognize…that maybe some folks would have used different words or said something in a different way,” McLaughlin said. “What we did was tried to be very true to people’s direct comments to us.”

She added she was confident that the words chosen for the statement “are really reflective of the community as a whole.”

Another focus of the work was to ensure the terms used “translated positively into other languages,” McLaughlin said. “We wanted to make sure that the statement itself made sense in Korean, made sense in Spanish, made sense in simple Chinese.”

The public hearing was followed by a robust discussion among councilmembers about possible changes to the statement, as well as next steps. Council President Neil Tibbott explained that the council wouldn’t be making any decisions Wednesday night on the matter.

McLaughlin said that the city is kicking off a month-long “Ask Us” campaign that will inform the city’s scoping of the Environmental Impact Statement that will be prepared as part of the Comprehensive Plan effort. The scoping process will identify significant environmental issues that deserve the most study.

To do this, city officials will be attending community events and visiting parks throughout the summer.

While such a campaign may sound similar to what the city did last summer, McLaughliln said it “will be starting to drill into the topics that we’re going to be studying in the Environmental Impact Statement. We are going to be asking what are our alternatives to meeting our growth targets (for housing). Where will we put the density?”

McLaughlin’s presentation — shown on the screen in council chambers — lists community outreach planned as part of the city’s “Ask Us” campaign.

Also on Wednesday night, the council discussed a proposed five-year contract with the Lighthouse Law Group for city attorney services, which would be effective in 2024.

The contract calls for an hourly rate for attorney services, ranging from $336 an hour for lead attorney Jeff Taraday to $253 an hour for most of the firm’s other attorneys. The contract also specifies that hourly rates in future years will be calculated based on a three-year rolling average of the Seattle-Tacoma-Belleveue Consumer Price Index.

In the past, Lighthouse worked for a flat-rate monthly fee but that arrangement shifted to an hourly rate this year when the council decided to research the possibility of other options for city attorney services, including hiring an in-house attorney. The council voted April 25 to continue contracting with Lighthouse.

Several amendments were proposed during the council discussion about the contract. One — by Councilmember Diane Buckshnis — would have reduced the contract term from five years to three years. When it became clear that other councilmembers weren’t supportive of the idea, Buckshnis withdrew her motion.

Edmonds City Councilmember Jenna Nand

Councilmember Jenna Nand moved to remove a section of the contract that required Lighthouse to initiate an annual review of its own performance, to make it clear that the council would be reviewing the law firm’s performance. However, language was retained — under a later amendment by Councilmember Dave Teitzel — that requires Lighthouse to present an annual report to the city council.

At the end of the contract discussion, Councilmember Vivian Olson requested that the revised document be placed on the next council consent agenda so that the council could review the final contract before approving it.

The council also heard more about a proposal initiated by Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson aimed at addrssing lost, stolen or abandoned shopping carts in Edmonds.

Lighthouse attorney Patricia Taraday — who drafted the measure at the mayor’s request — explained that the ordinance would require retailers to implement one of two security measures to prevent the loss of shopping carts: electronically activated self-braking wheels or mounting poles to the carts.

The ordinance would also require retailers with shopping carts to add signage to indicate who owned the carts.

To help offset the cost of implementing these security measures, the ordinance would establish a cost-sharing program through which the city would pay a percentage (not yet determined) of the cost of implementing new security measures, not to exceed a specific dollar amount (also not yet determined).

The measure would exempt small retail establishments based on their square footage size.

The ordinance also would authorizes the city — either on its own or by contracting through a third-party — to collect, return and dispose of any lost, stolen, or abandoned carts. To cover the associated costs, a fee would be charged to the cart owner for each cart returned or disposed of.

Councilmembers had many comments and questions about the proposal.

Councilmember Nand pointed out that the businesses that have their carts stolen are crime victims and shouldn’t be penalized by having to pay a fee for their return. In addition, both Councilmembers Teitzel and Olson said the city should engage with retailers to develop the ordinance — something that hasn’t yet been done.

Teitzel also said there are different models for shopping cart management now being used by other cities that should be investigated.

In the end, councilmembers agreed to bring the matter back to a council committee meeting for further discussion.

Finally, the council Wednesday night spent a fair amount of time working on language tweaks to minor code amendments, some of which will come back to the council at a later date.

— By Teresa Wippel


  1. Another option for these carts is a system where the user would pay money to use the cart. Once returned to the rack money is returned automatically. I know people at groceriers run out the door with full carts without paying. This might also minimize this problem.

    1. I like this but I think it should be cash not a computer chip in a phone for payment or for reimbursement. Too many people are being hacked with this computer for everything and I don’t plan to use my phone when people lurk to steal info and our money. It happens it is a problem so let’s just keep it simple. I don’t know what the CC has planned but I am interested in finding out about this. Our CC is trying very hard I believe.

  2. Ohhhh. And here I thought the grocery carts along the 104 in the Gateway area were a part of an Uptown Art installation…

    I’m glad the city council is trying to is do something about this issue. It has been a total eyesore and a sad way to welcome people to our city. Kudos to WSDOT on the recent ‘sweep and trim’ of this corridor. Looks much better (for now)!

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