Letter to the editor: The working relationship between city council and the administration

Please note that I am neutral in the mayor’s race and have not made any comments about either candidate. I chose not to endorse a candidate for mayor in the primary or the general election because, on Jan. 1, I am ready to work with whomever is sitting in the mayor’s chair.
I call on each mayoral candidate to describe his plan to establish a working relationship between city council and the mayor’s office for the 2024-2028 term. This is an important issue that has been largely unaddressed in the race, and I find it concerning as a councilmember.
I would like specifics on each mayoral candidate’s plans for communication between councilmembers, the mayor, and members of his administration. For example, will city councilmembers be allowed to email city staff? What constraints will there be on communications between council, staff and the mayor himself?
Communications are vital to our ability to carry out our role of providing government oversight and accountability to our constituents and taxpayers. We must be able to carry out our legislative role as a check and balance to the executive branch. This is the basic premise of our democracy.
I think that the voters of Edmonds deserve daylight on this issue. The ball is in your court as to whether to acknowledge my request, Mayor Nelson and Mr. Rosen. But, as your existing and potentially future colleague, I would appreciate a response.
Jenna Nand
Edmonds City Councilmember, Position 7
  1. Jenna I think you have a good idea of how it is now, maybe you could give us a idea of how it has been during your time. I hear there is a poor relationship between mayor and council and that there is unrest amongst some staff also. If true I see no improvement should Nelson be reelected. I would say this mayor has burned a lot of bridges and built none especially with the citizens who he is supposed to represent.

    1. Thank you for your response to my letter, Jim, I’m limited in what I can disclose about my experience due to decorum, but I am raising this issue publicly because it is a concern of mine.

  2. Regarding the Highway 99 Landmark Site, I just finished taking the public survey concerning preferred use(s) for this property. Unfortunately, or perhaps intentionally, the survey failed to ask the most fundamental question: should the City of Edmonds acquire the land? My answer is no. The City doesn’t have the money. Perhaps at another time when our finances are in better shape it might make sense, but not today.

  3. Jenna:
    Perhaps you are not aware that communications have only become an issue under Mayor Nelson. This issue did not exist under Gary Haakenson and Dave Earling, the two mayors that I had first-hand experiences with. Unlike Mike Nelson, Mike Rosen was a senior manager in the business world. Rosen would not have risen to that level if he didn’t have good communication skills.

      1. Jenna:
        It’s disappointing to learn that you were appointed to city council while having paid little or no prior attention to city business. It’s apparent you were a partisan selection. Hopefully the right candidates will win in this next election and that will bring an end to the city’s partisan politics.

        1. Ron although the appointment may have been motivated by a agenda. I find her to be competent engaged and reasonable. Regardless of how she got there. I’ll put it this way the mayor made a mistake by prompting her to council. She is much more Edmonds than our current mayor.

  4. Jenna,

    I applaud your commitment “to carry out our legislative role as a check and balance to the executive branch.” However, this LTE will not result in answers to the questions you pose, such as:

    “will city councilmembers be allowed to email city staff? What constraints will there be on communications between council, staff and the mayor himself?”

    You challenge Mayor Nelson and Candidate Rosen, saying “the ball is your court” yet where’s the “court?” Myedmondsnews? The Edmonds Beacon? Each candidate’s website?

    My suggestions:
    Answer your questions, above, regarding Mayor Nelson, based on your experience as a Council member working with the Mayor and his staff. Speak with Nelson privately about additional questions.

    Schedule a conversation with Candidate Rosen and ask him those two questions, and any additional questions regarding how he would facilitate communication between Council and the administration.

    In other words, the ball is in your court.

    1. Ms. Nand, I am not sure what this letter means. I agree with Ms. Bloom that this is up to you. I know I was able to email Gary Haakenson and Dave Earling and receive a response. I was also able to make an appointment to see each directly and did. The current Mayor never answers email or requests for appointments. I was able to make an appointment for coffee with candidate Rosen to ask him his communication style now and in office and he answered those questions. Hope this helps, perhaps you could do the same.

      1. Hello Mr. Murdock,

        I am glad that Mr. Rosen has chosen to respond to my challenge to produce a communications policy for the 2024–2028 mayoral administration, and I hope that Mayor Nelson does the same.



    2. Hi Joan,

      I’m glad that Mr. Rosen responded to my inquiry, and I hope Mayor Nelson does, too. This matter is very important to for the upcoming 2024-2028 term.



  5. Congratulations. Jenna, you have figured out our system was never designed to be functional. Citizens are supposed to be at the top of the organization chart, contacting you with what they need and want for a functional city. Then you make the policies that get the job done and the Mayor sees that it happens – all happily and very collaboratively. The reality is that people who fancy themselves as big time movers and shakers become Mayor and tell the citizens (including you as the citizens’ representative) what they should want and why they should want it. The only really big difference between Mayors’ Haakenson and Earling, from Nelson, is they were just better at playing the game and were able to cater to a much narrower power constituency. You and people like you in your Neighborhood wised up and broadened the political power base in Edmonds. As a citizen and a Council Person you have to keep demanding your place at the table and asking tough questions when administrations can’t or won’t respond; or respond with things that just don’t add up or smack of self serving or special interest serving rhetoric. My recommendation is to model yourself after Diane Buckshnis. She is the best ever; and over control types fear her.

    1. Jenna, I neglected to say that you also have an obligation to make policy for all the town’s citizens equally; since we are not represented by district; not just to the one’s in the neighborhood in which you reside, which makes the job you have taken on even more difficult and requires you to be realistic in your expectations about what a town administration should or shouldn’t do, or can or can’t do. I just went to a city sponsored event run by city employees and city hired consultants that was biased and contrived and a waste of our precious financial resources. Should a city government be in the land development business and should tax payers have to foot the bill for what amounts to a campaign event? It’s on you to decide that sort of thing and I don’t envy you; but I also don’t feel sorry for you in having to do it.

  6. Thank you Clinton. You just said it all perfectly.
    We missed our golden opportunity to elect Diane Buckshnis but we citizens who are at the top of the organizational chart can and must take our place at the table – and you, our council members must as well.
    Rosen, has no municipal finance experience, no elected office experience. A good step would have been for him to run for city council. Earling, Haakenson and the ECR who have led his campaign will be our mayor if he is elected. So it’s even more important that citizens throughout Edmonds step up and do our part.

    1. Theresa: a couple of folks here have used the term “ECR”. Apologies but what do those initials stand for?

      1. Hi Pamela – it is Edmonds Civic Roundtable. It is a reconfiguration of the former group Edmonds Good Governance and is operating as a non-partisan 501(c)3 but is heavily involved in developing and putting forth candidates of their choice.

        1. Thank you Heather – I also thanked Theresa, who also replied to my question about the initials. My next question (not to start trouble, just because I am curious & one question and answer sometimes seems to lead to another), since ECR is developing & putting forth candidates of their choice (as you stated), will their endorsements show up anywhere? As I ask this, I haven’t looked at the Voters Pamphlet yet (I am a bit of a procrastinator) so if their endorsements show up, perhaps I’ll see them there or on the candidates website. Of course, one can’t help but wonder the agenda of any such organization, but be that as it may, will I have to email each candidate I’m considering voting for & asking of they are sponsored by or vetted by, or put forth by, ECR? And if so, then I guess I’d have to ask the candidate why. Makes my head tired. See what I mean about my questions – one follows another, follows another. Thanks again Heather!

        2. Hi Pamela! I do not think there is an open endorsement situation because that would be an obvious violation of the 501(c)3 status. However, I have seen emails where the candidates they’re going after are discussed and where they form a subcommittee whose job it was to find and develop candidates to go against the folks they want out.
          All this to say, much of this is obviously done behind closed doors and maybe without the knowledge of the entire organization.

      2. Pamela, It means people who work there, play there, enjoy being there, grew up there, moved there, – sort of just people who are there, I guess. In retrospect I can see how that could have come across as some sort of racist or pointed statement, but that is absolutely the last thing I would ever want to do or come across as doing. I’m never talking about ethnicity in any of my comments unless it’s in a favorable way. Thanks again for bringing that out, because good communication is important. For the record, my view is that there’s only a human race and the concept of “race” is man made by evil people who want to abuse or control other people. For example, Jewish is not a race, it’s a religion. Black, Red, White, etc. are not races, they are skin pigmentation based on where people’s ancestors lived. That’s my honest viewpoint. This has very little to do with good or bad city government.

    2. Hi Theresa,

      I’m glad that Mr. Rosen has responded and committed to meeting with each council person to try to establish a good working relationship. I am hopeful that mayor Nelson will also respond to my challenge to lay out his communications policy for the 2024–2028 term. This is a very important issue that I don’t think has received enough attention from the electorate in this election cycle.



    3. There is no more reason to expect the past Mayors to do Mike Rosen’s job as Mayor than there was for them to perform his other roles: as Planning Board Chair, his work saving the chamber during the pandemic, his board work for the ECA, his work at PRR, and his award winning documentary films. I do expect Rosen to seek what he needs to know from whomever has the insights (staff, our past mayors, current mayors in other cities, experts among our residents, current and past councilmembers). To the benefit of all of us in Edmonds. I encourage anyone concerned about Mike Rosen’s ability to lead and facilitate to read the minutes from the Edmonds Planning Board 2020-2022. He did amazing work for our city in that role and likewise he will be an amazing mayor.

  7. Theresa,

    I was also upset, and more than a little angry, that Councilmember Buckshnis lost in the primary, and that Mike Rosen’s candidacy contributed to her loss. I was concerned about the support Rosen has from former Mayors and ECR. So I scheduled a conversation with Candidate Rosen. Mike Rosen listened closely to my point of view on many issues facing Edmonds, for over an hour. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with him. No one agrees on every issue, but we identified points of disagreement amiably. Despite the seriousness of the topics, Rosen’s engaging, thoughtful, collaborative manner put me at ease, and I know I was heard.

    I assure you that Mike Rosen is nobody’s puppet. He is facing the challenges ahead open to working with everyone who is open to working with him.

  8. My very early advice to Mike R. was to do just that, do a term on the Council to get a handle on the policy and finance end of things then take a crack at being Mayor; with better inside information at his disposal (as I’m fairly sure Diane would not have wanted to do more than four years, but I’ve never discussed that with her). That said, I believe in our election system and the need for everyone to respect that system, because I’ve worked inside our Sno. Co. system and it is squeaky clean. Mike R. now has a clear good shot at being our next Mayor and making a system somewhat designed to fail, actually work as it is supposed to. I wish him good luck and some sincere good help from good citizens from every neighborhood, if he wins, which he likely will. Someone who actually listens and answers emails and phone calls would at least be a healthy start down a better road.

  9. Joan,
    Why should I believe anything Rosen would say to garner my vote when he exaggerated, deceived Edmonds in the Voters Pamphlet with his qualifications and accomplishments? He took the accomplishments of an Asian American woman – who founded PRR (the firm he claims to be CEO of) as his own to make himself appear what he isn’t. Further, it is unfortunate that we can’t vet Rosen because he has a Non Disclosure Agreement with PRR, the firm he claims he was Owner/CEO of. So, no, I don’t have confidence in or believe anything he promises to do for Edmonds.
    He blamed the “misinformation” on others advising him to state such. Where is simply taking responsibility for your/his actions?
    He’s trying to garner votes. Does one think he is going to say anything to dissuade you from voting for him? His campaign team came to me 18 months ago and asked me to join the team. There are good reasons I declined and joined Diane Buckshnis team instead.

  10. Pamela, my apologies. ECR stands for Edmonds Civic Roundtable. I joined this group at its inception- about 6 years ago because I was lead to believe it promoted “good, qualified, nonpartisan candidates”. I no longer believe this. I believe now they are driven by self interests, want to control Edmonds, and in some cases to the detriment of Edmonds. I’m mainly speaking of the leadership- not all members.

    1. Thanks Theresa (and also Heather). You should have seen me going through all the various initial groups in Edmonds, trying to figure it out. I went to one ECR event–it was the initial candidates’ forum a couple of months ago at EWC (Edmonds Waterfront Center). I picked up the brochure about ECR (which I had heard about in a discussion group prior to that) and it seemed very interesting. Not having any knowledge other than the one forum they sponsored, and their brochure, I am at a loss in regard to what you are saying about it. And I won’t even comment further as I (a) have no knowledge and (b) do not want to open up another whole can of worms which seems to be easily done. Thank you again for clarifying.

  11. Jenna, when is the last time you got any response from our current mayor Nelson about anything? He somewhat proudly touts his unwillingness to repond to the public and his disdain for email. I am told by other current council members he only addresses them with complaints of his or when he wants something. He does not otherwise engage with the council. This needs to end. We need a collaberative effort by the Council and Mayor to move Edmonds forward in a way responsive to the public. I have found Mike Rosen willing to engage with any interested citizen including myself. We don’t agree on everything but, at least he listens and considers facts before reaching a conclusion. The time for sour grapes is over. Nelson needs to go away.

    1. Hello Mark,

      I am committed to remaining neutral in the mayor’s race. I’m not going to criticize either candidate. However, this issue is very important to me, so I wanted to give each candidate the chance to explain his plans for enabling effective communication for the 2024–2028 term.



  12. Councilmember Nand, I share your frustration. In EVERY conversation I have had with residents, I have expressed my deep concern that communication between the mayor, council, staff and the community is dysfunctional. This compromises the ability to make sound decisions and is a major contributor to lost trust in government, and among each of these groups. Government can only move at the speed of trust. Trust is very low, and can only be earned.

    I believe council must have good information to make good decisions that are in the best interest of the community, which the council and the mayor are elected to serve. Some of that information is provided by staff. My plan is to meet individually with each council person, regardless of any of support, or lack of support they might have expressed for me. I want to understand their personal working styles, frustrations they have experienced in the past and get a sense of what they believe would be an ideal system in the future. I will have the same conversation with staff.

    We need to operate in an environment of no surprises. If at any time a council member were to say to me “I was surprised by that,” I would consider that a personal failure.

    I will also never communicate to council through a press release or a press conference.

  13. Thank you for your thoughtful and comprehensive response to my challenge, Mr. Rosen. I am grateful that you are committed to meeting with each council member and establishing a working relationship, regardless of whether we supported you in this race or not. I think that political preferences need to stop at the door of the council chamber. We owe it to our constituents and community to have professional and effective relationships with each other as elected officials.

    While I am limited in what I can say as a city council member due to decorum, I will say that I am placing a high priority on effective communication between city council, the mayor, and city staff for the upcoming 2024-2028 term. Every single person in the council chambers is there to work for the people, and that has to remain the paramount priority in our relations to each other.

    Mayor Nelson, I eagerly await your response, as well. I am not only a voter, I am your colleague. I am committed to keeping an open mind, and allowing each mayoral candidate to put his best foot forward to the community.

    Mayor is a very hard job and I respect everyone who steps forward to serve the Edmonds community in this manner, regardless of whether we align politically or not.

  14. I always say that actions speak louder than words. I saw with my own eyes Mike Rosen slide into a pair of hip boots and go pull a bunch of noxious weeds in the Marsh helping Joe Scordino and his Stream Team work to rehabilitate one of our most important city treasures. He didn’t just pop in for the picture; he got down and dirty with the crew. My last view of Mr. Nelson was him running a cheesy contrived sales pitch by slick staff members and paid consultants to impress potential voters and waste more of our precious resources on something that could easily happen from the grass roots and without all the hype. Like I said, I’m choosing the guy who actually knows how to interact with people and bring in funds, regardless of whatever his other faults may or may not be, because that is what we are going to need a lot more of and real soon.

  15. Jenna,

    Thank you for reaching out to both Mayor Nelson and Mike Rosen on this very important matter. I’m impressed with Mike Rosen’s response.

    It shouldn’t have come to this that even a City Council member needs to try to use a very public forum to get a response from a sitting mayor. Like you, I too am anxiously awaiting his response. I hope you have better luck than I have in the past because he has never responded to any question, either publicly or privately.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Thank you, I’m glad that Mr. Rosen chose to respond to my challenge to explain his internal communications strategy for the 2024-2028 term. I remain hopeful that Mayor Nelson will also choose to respond to my prompt, explaining his perspective policies on internal communications for the next four year term.

      I am trying to keep an open mind with both candidates, because being in politics is extremely difficult. I often feel that I get unfairly criticized and targeted by people’s anger when they don’t understand the full story. I would like to pay my present and potentially future colleagues the same courtesies that I would like them to extend towards me, if and when we are working together.



  16. Pamela, my definition of, ” there” is the neighborhood around where the 10 acre parcel our current Mayor wants the city to buy is located. I’m all for whatever the neighborhood residents really want for any nearby property that affects their lives. I just don’t think broad based land development ventures and studies should be financed in any way by city taxpayers. If the city can define exactly what it really needs and wants in order to buy a specific amount of property for a specific use, that is a different story.

    1. So Clint, was your earlier comment indicating that Ms. Nand lives in that “Neighborhood”? If so, why? Never mind how you equate her with that particular parcel. And further, what does it have to do with her letter. You leave me scratching my head time & time again. Sorry if I seem dense.

      1. Hi Pamela,

        I live by Highway 99 in Southeast Edmonds. My parents still live in the house close to Lake Ballinger where I grew up. I moved away for our college and work in my 20s and early 30s, but came back because of rising rent costs in Seattle. I love Edmonds and know this neighborhood, like the back of my hand.



        1. Thanks Jenna – earlier in comments I asked what the meaning by one commenter said “you and people like you in your Neighborhood” because it really stuck out to me and not necessarily in a good way–the commenter has since explained – it was especially the words “you and people like you” which could be taken in a negative way even if no negative was intended. In addition, the commenter, as you saw, went on to explain that the “Neighborhood” meant that one in which you are located. I’m not as tuned in as others on here to some of these things. I know of your name of course, and I came to your “cupcakes” event a couple of weeks ago. I just didn’t quite get where the commenter was coming from with those remarks, which have since been explained. And also by your reaching out. Thank you again!

  17. Well, Pamela, I guess it’s because Jenna has stated that she lives in that neighborhood; that she grew up in that neighborhood; that she feels that neighborhood has been under served in the past in terms of city resources ; and that she has interest in the Landmark property being used for more amenities in that neighborhood. You don’t seem dense at all. You are just like all the rest of us in town; trying to figure out what makes sense and what doesn’t. Fact is, I admire Jenna very much both for being a kind human being in relation to animals and recognizing that the relationship between Mayors, Staffs and Council Persons should be collaborative and generally pleasant, not combative, which is the low point we are at now. I’m also trying to get Jenna to see that going a different way than the Mayor and administration wants, might be the smarter approach on the Burlington property and it’s future development.

  18. I am very impressed with this letter. In fact, I have been very impressed with Jenna since she has been on the council, even though I am sure we do not agree on everything. She is a strong advocate for the city, good governance, and cares and understands about some of the unique challenges of our neighborhood. So thank you for that. I will be more impressed however if after receiving a response(s), she takes an actual stand on who she thinks would be the better person to mend the relationship with the council and administration. As someone who knows the inner workings of this relationship, voters look to those most experienced to help us make that determination. And a piece of advice also to CM Nand would be that some residents would feel appreciated and more connected if you took as much time as you do here to respond to people directly via email or phone (or at least, acknowledge). I would have appreciated, as a CM and neighbor in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood, if CM Nand responded to multiple opportunities when dealing with safety issues in the neighborhood. That was a bit of a disappointment, and am taking the opportunity to both provide praise of the above and some advice that might serve you well as you continue making an impact.

    1. Tom I agree I don’t often message council but I don’t think I have ever got a response from jenna. That said my point is jenna needs to make a living and there is no way she can do it on a council salary that means she can’t devote all her attention to her job with the us, so she is spread thin. Not defending because there are 24 hours in a day. But I don’t want our decision makers to have to make compromises. That said our current mayor probably has thousands of unanswered emails and it is basically his job description to be the communicator for the city and he is paid well as far as I am concerned. Can’t expect much if we don’t value their time and I know accolades are enough for the well healed and I can appreciate their desire to make a difference but with how they are compensated we are really limited in leaders who want to be involved and also open ourselves up to activist that are bought and paid for.

      1. Hi Jim,

        Thank you for your kind words. As I noted in my response to Tom, all seven council members share the council@edmondswa.gov email address, so if I see that another council member has already made substantially the same response to someone writing into our shared email address that I would make, I don’t bother to send a duplicative response because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. However, I do read all of the emails and I don’t want to leave our constituents with the impression that their emails are not being read by me just because I have nothing to add to the email threads that have already been created in response to the initial email. So I will be sending an acknowledgement from now on so that the people can contact us know that their email has been read and considered by me.



    2. Hi Tom,

      Thank you for that feedback. As Jim noted below, I do work full-time. So while I read all of the email that I get in my council email inbox, if I see that another council member has already substantively addressed the issue which the community member has emailed us about, I won’t send an additional response if I feel like my response will be duplicative of what the other council member said.

      I did not realize that this was creating the impression that I had not read your email, so I will be sure to send at least an acknowledgement from now on so that you know that I read your email, even if I don’t have anything substantive to add to the responses that you have already received from other council members. Frankly, we have a number of retired people on our council who don’t have to work at a day job anymore, and they usually get to these emails sooner than I can, after I’m done working for the day at 4 PM or later.

      But yes, I do read and digest all of the email!



  19. Jenna,

    Any update on a response from Mayor Nelson? I think a lot of citizens are interested in knowing.

    Thank you again for posting this LTE and outreach to each mayoral candidate.

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