Rosen answers questions, lays out priorities during Edmonds Civic Roundtable meeting

Mike Rosen answers questions and lays out his approach as Edmonds mayor.

Still enjoying a comfortable lead for Edmonds mayor as mail-in ballots continue to be counted, presumptive Mayor-elect Mike Rosen addressed an estimated 125 attendees who gathered at the Edmonds Waterfront Center Thursday for the regular meeting of the Edmonds Civic Roundtable.

The election results are not yet official. The individual counties will certify their results on November 28; the Washington Secretary of State will certify the final results by Dec. 7. But according to the latest vote count, Rosen held a 55%-to-45% lead over incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson.

Edmonds Civic Roundtable chair Tom Mesaros welcomes attendees.

Edmonds Civic Roundtable (ECR) Chair and former Edmonds City Councilmember Tom Mesaros welcomed attendees, immediately pointing out that Edmonds came in second in vote returns of jurisdictions across Snohomish County at 51.2% – the only municipality with more returned ballots was the Town of Index with 64.6%. Index boasts 130 registered voters compared to Edmonds’ 31,600.

“While it’s great to lead the county in voter participation, I wish it could be higher,” Mesaros added. “And that’s where this organization – the Edmonds Civic Roundtable – comes in. Our goal is to empower our neighbors, voters and government officials to make informed decisions based on accurate, unbiased information. Despite the misconceptions of some, the ECR does not advocate for candidates or political positions. Our sole purpose is to help and encourage our neighbors to make informed decisions and participate in city government by providing solid, useful information on local issues.”

Mesaros was followed by ECR Membership Committee Chair Teresa Simanton, who outlined upcoming  events, then turned the podium back to Mesaros to introduce Mike Rosen.

An estimated 125 people came to hear Rosen speak Thursday night.

“I first want to thank everyone who voted for me – and everyone who didn’t,” Rosen began. “The important thing is not which candidate you chose to support, but that you studied and sifted through the information, made your decision, and then voted. People pay attention here in our community – they’re engaged and they want to make a difference.”

He went on to stress that elected offices in Edmonds – including the mayor – are non-partisan and that he will remain committed to that principle.

“If you see me doing anything that even looks like partisanship, please whack me over the side of the head!” he added.

He next stressed the need to build relationships – with the community, with council, with staff and with Edmonds’ regional partners.

“We’re facing challenges,” Rosen added. “At home we’re in a budget emergency, we need to get our Comprehensive Plan done, our city codes are not in great shape, and we need to address pedestrian safety. Regionally we’re looking at the fentanyl crisis, mental health, food insecurity, homelessness and rising prices to name a few. And to address these we need to build relationships.

Rosen stands on tip toes as he makes a point.

“Our community has faced challenges in the past,” he continued. “We’ve weathered fires that took out most of our downtown, recessions, diseases like flu and polio – and our community always came together with heads, hearts and hands to address these. We work together to fix stuff, and we will do it again.”

After this short introduction, citizens were invited to step up to the microphone to speak about the issues that concern them.

“This is not a question period,” Rosen cautioned. “That will come later. What I want to hear from you now is your take on what I call ‘stop, start, continue.’ That is, what do we need to stop doing, what do we need to do that we’re not doing, and what are we doing that’s working well and should be left alone.”

Suggestions ran the gamut from praise for the Halloween and Fourth of July celebrations to fast-tracking the city code revisions to preserving older housing as an affordable alternative to new construction. Specific suggestions included enhancing pedestrian safety by adding lights to the stop signs around the fountain, using the “expertise and grand mindset” of our citizens and city staff instead of spending money on consultants, and taking positive steps to further involve the Highway 99 community in civic affairs.

Next was the chance to ask questions of Mr. Rosen directly.

The first question referenced the old “It’s an Edmonds Kind of Day” bumper sticker. To the questioner, it meant simply that we’re happy to live in a great place – and he wanted to know what Rosen would do to get back that sense of community and gratitude for where we live.

“We all chose this place, and we share a love for it,” Rosen responded. “When we gather for events like Halloween and July Fourth, we smile at each other and react with respect and empathy as we share the experience. I am concerned that as a nation – and to some degree locally – we have let the fringes sneak in that say it’s OK to be disrespectful of each other. We need to get past that and get back to where we were.”

Mike Rosen listens to a question from an attendee.

The next question was about sidewalks and sidewalk repairs/improvements, asking if there’s a master plan for what will get done when, or it is just being done piecemeal.

Rosen responded, acknowledging that there is no overall plan for sidewalks, like there is for pipe replacement (which is on a 100-year cycle) or street resurfacing.

“I think it would be cool to have sidewalks on a similar plan,” he said. “I’d love to get a group in a room and ask how we should prioritize this – by closeness to schools, number of folks who use it, number of folks who’ve tripped and fallen – but we need a plan, and right now we don’t have one.”

He was then asked about communications, with the questioner noting that of late it has not been particularly good or civil, and how he would improve this.

“We need transparency and we need to share information, good or bad,” Rosen responded. “It’s challenging now because there isn’t any one place where people go for information. People today tend to cluster, and we need to get into these clusters – the faith community, the underwater park divers, the cold water swimmers – and get the information out to them. But we also need to realize and accept that once the information gets out, not all will agree with it and the decisions that grow from it. But it’s vital that — agree or disagree — you know that you were involved and heard.”

The next question concerned the younger generations, who were largely not represented among the mostly retirement-aged attendees in the room.

“There are lots of parents pushing lots kids in strollers around town,” the questioner stated. “We have two new generations here – the parents and their kids. How do we engage them?”

“Many of our parents are in their peak earning years, and between jobs and raising children there’s not a lot of time left over for serving on a commission,” Rosen responded. “We can’t just say ‘OK, you’re on the planning board, here are 200 pages you need to digest before next week’s meeting.’ We need to provide the opportunity to make small asks and engage folks in smaller bites. Can you spare a couple of hours a week, can you help address a single issue or even part of a single issue?”

Edmonds resident Darrol Haug poses a question.

He was then asked about the budget and his process for dealing with it.

“The budget is a huge problem, we have to solve it, it’s priority one,” he responded. “The first thing we need to do is assign each budget item to one of five buckets – what must stay on the table, what we simply cannot do, what we can do differently, what we can do later, and what we can get someone else to do and pay for. Once we do this, we’ll go from there and make the decisions.”

The next question addressed how he plans to build trust with staff, the council and the community.

“It’s a human process,” he began. “I need to sincerely understand and listen to individuals with respect, empathy and dignity. I need to provide an environment that nurtures our staff, recognize and be honest about differing needs and agendas, and work toward a common vision with all concerned.”

Another resident spoke of how citizens are often informed on a Friday about a decision that’s due to be made on Tuesday, and that this leaves no time for stakeholders to consider it and weigh in. The resident requested a planning calendar that lays out what things will be considered in what timeframe so folks will know and can anticipate.

Rosen responded that this would not only help the citizenry but would help the city schedule things better. He added that everyone needs to see the materials in the council packets — including PowerPoints — before they are presented in a council meeting. “This would not only help get things done in a more organized way, but it would get our citizens involved earlier,” he added.

Rosen shares his views.

The next question addressed the various surveys conducted by the city, specifically stating that Edmonds could do a better job designing surveys with non-leading questions.

“I believe in the value of surveys, when they’re done right,” Rosen said. “But we need to decide beforehand what we need to know, who we need it from and the best way to get it. Then we need to ask the right questions that don’t lead to a pre-selected conclusions. And then we need to be careful how we interpret the results.”

The final question ended the event on a high note. It came from Rosen’s wife, Sharon Howard.

“I have just one question,” she said with a laugh. “Are you ever going to be home?”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. “ Despite the misconceptions of some, the ECR does not advocate for candidates or political positions. ”

    Mr. Mesaros, there are several group emails from a couple of years ago, that have been shared online, that say otherwise. Keep quiet, don’t gaslight.

    1. Ms Cox, as ECR was forming during 2020 we came together concerned about many issues and elected officials in our city. But as we became a legal entity we decided to change course and become non-partisan just as we want our city to be non- partisan. ECR was incorporated during April 2021 and the emails you are referring were written during the fall of 2020 when we were in our formative stage. I hope you will understand that we started down one path, but decided early on to change course as an organization toward a different path to better serve Edmonds. I am confident our programming reflects this change.

      1. It would make sense for the public facing portion of the group to be non-partisan so you can leverage the 501c3 benefits, like using the Waterfront center for free. What’s the saying? Don’t hate the player, hate the game? It’s impressive what a bunch of retired, wealthy men can get up to under the guise of “educating the community.”

      2. So Mr. Mesaros, if I read your words correctly, ECR started because those of you who were doing the formation were “concerned” about “elected officials”. Hmmm. Some of those officials had just gotten elected in 2019. So it sounds like those forming ECR possibly didn’t like some who had won in 2019 or before? I mean, the people spoke in 2019 also. And then the formation group changed tack and what? Tossed away their concerns abt duly elected officials & carried on instead for the benefit of all? So ECR started as partisan & now isn’t? Unfortunately, I have heard rumblings abt ECR’s agenda before this. So far, I’m left with concerns that your explanation has not quieted. Time will tell.

  2. Larry, an excellent summary of the event. I walked away from the it feeling upbeat about Mr. Rosens’s administration.
    ECR, Thank you for sponsoring it.

  3. I have a simple solution to the Edmonds “financial crisis”—stop spending so much money!!!!
    Just as you do in your own household budgeting, you set priorities and not everything gets funded.
    One good first step would be to look at whether a consultant is really needed in a particular situation or whether city staff could do the work – they are hired for their expertise in certain areas. In addition, Edmonds has a ton of qualified retired professionals who are interested in doing work on a volunteer basis. I bet you could form a “grants volunteer group” to look at the best places for the city to apply for grants and even help with the application process.

  4. Hmm, the first four issues I heard Mayor-elect Rosen mention were, in order, the budget emergency, the Comprehensive Plan, pedestrian safety, and climate. Maybe in the mind of the reporter climate change and Edmonds’ readiness are included in the Comprehensive Plan? But it is one of the most significant issues Edmonds will face and deserved the mention received. So thank you, Mike Rosen, for including it in your list of Big Issues!

  5. I agree Great Start soon to be Mayor Mike Rosen. What a great Christmas Gift I think you will be for all of Edmonds. I like what I read here, and I know you will do all of you can in every way possible to make Edmonds a better place for all of us. Your enthusiasm it appears is infectious! Way to be, Mike. Thank you ECR for sponsoring this event. I watched the ECR Wednesday night on Zoom and they were very friendly and engaged and considering all kinds of ideas for ALL of Edmonds. I didn’t feel as if I was at a political rally at all. I left that zoom smiling and feeling hopeful. I didn’t get a whiff of anything that could be construed as political. I will zoom or go to every event or meeting they sponsor. They care about all of Edmonds. That was clear to me.

  6. With Democracy hanging by a thread and one of our major parties wanting to install a Dictator, We must know who we are electing for office. All City races are partisan.
    I want to know what party a candidate represents. That way we can choose candidates that reflect our values.
    Non partisan politics do not exist.
    This is a way for unpopular politicians to sneak their way into power. Everyone has an opinion on what’s happening politically. I want to know yours before you are elected. We can’t afford not to with Democracy under attack.
    Also, no more naming people to the city council. You must be voted into office. I keep seeing the same people that lose the election but then get named to the council next opening.
    Disqualify people that lose the previous election from being named to the council if there’s an opening.
    We will lose Democracy if we don’t start practicing it.

    1. I could not disagree more. Having a D or R or I next to your name should not make a difference in small town elections. The two major parties have destroyed local governance. That was their plan. It has been happening for 30+ years, and it has dine little to nothing to advance the cause of healthy cities and healthy citizens. It just allows more national and regional special interests to have power over local decisions. This local election cycle is perhaps one of the best examples of a race that looked beyond party affiliation. Candidates from both sides of support were elected, and that speaks to the importance of considering the candidate, not the party affiliation. The more we erode local politics with the more we cede local power to groups who frankly have zero interest in Edmonds.

    2. Thank you Mr. Tuura! I echo your sentiments. This is a different age we are living and voting in than even that of a few years ago. And this organization (ECR) has stated that they started out in 2019 with “concerns” about officials (and in that generality I can gather they were “concerned” about the then newly elected mayor and some city council persons) in what sounds like a partisan effort and then switched to “non-partisan”. That’s hard to buy. After reading a lot of comments over these months on this forum, there are certainly citizens who appear to be unhappy with democratic officials so they express their values when they vote. I also vote my values, or at least I attempt to after wading through what candidates say about themselves, who endorses them (or doesn’t) and what others say about them and what else I may have learned or gleaned about them. I still do not feel I have a complete picture of exactly what and who ECR is regardless of what is being touted in the article here and in some of the comments.

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