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Annexation to go on Nov. ballot for everyone

 

Last updated 8/5/2009 at Noon



A round of applause erupted Monday night from residents both inside and outside Mukilteos current footprint when the City Council voted unanimously to put annexation on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Not only will those in the potential annexation area get to vote whether or not theyd like to become part of Mukilteo, but current city residents are finally getting a voice in the matter, albeit in the form of an advisory vote. State law prohibits those living in city boundaries from formally voting whether or not those in the target annexation area get to come in, but does allow for a less formal advisory vote.

The council debated at length Monday night, considering a number of options including two different special elections in February and March of next year. The catch-22 is the issue of time the more time spent before putting the issue on the ballot, the less time after the vote to ramp up the necessary staff to accommodate the 50 percent increase in population should the measure pass.

To me, the questions we have wont make or break (the decision to annex); they are more the logistics of how to this happen, councilmember Jennifer Gregerson said. Well have an entire year to work out the details.

If annexation clears all three hurdles county residents, Mukilteans and the final council yea or nay it would be effective Jan. 1, 2011.

Not only will the Nov. 3 ballot allow more time for police and fire to hire and train the needed additional personnel, but not having one or even two special elections saves the city about $20,000 to $25,000 for each. (There is a cost to be on the November ballot, but its shared between all of the municipalities rather than the city having to shoulder the entire expense itself.)

Some councilmembers were hesitant about allowing the advisory vote, saying that the results could be confusing, as they say the Rosehill issue was.

People called into question what information the voters had, Gregerson said, referring to factors such as the absence of a gymnasium in the current community center plans.

Gregerson said she thinks no one will be happy with the outcome of an advisory vote.

I just dont think we should govern by polling every week and trying to guess which way the wind is blowing, she said. Certainly we should do outreach, talk to residents, hold public hearings and open houses.

But if the council simply wants a survey, thats what it should do, and not on the ballot, she said.

This is the toughest decision Ive had to make in my four years on the council, president Randy Lord said of whether to move forward with annexation. Ive talked to people both for and against, and some who werent even aware of whats going on.

Lord agrees with Gregerson that an advisory vote is a poor way of conducting a survey.

The advantage to bringing it to voters in an election is that its an opportunity for both sides to marshall significant numbers to the polls to vote the way they want, councilmember Tony Tinsley said. While I agree some advisory votes have been completely misinterpreted, this is the only thing proposed that gives Mukilteo residents a say in the process.

Win, lose or draw, this is the best approach, Tinsley said.

The annexation areas formal vote also comes with a caveat: should they vote down the measure, its over regardless of what Mukilteo residents and councilmembers want. However, if they approve annexing, the council still has the final say in whether to go forward.

While Mondays testimony was considerably less emotionally charged than previous meetings input, the dividing line was still the present city border, with current residents asking for a delay and those in the target area urging the council to move forward.

This time around, however, the two sides focused their arguments on annexations impacts in areas such as public safety, development and zoning.

 

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