Status quo or change?

Nov. 2 general election could set the tone for Edmonds' political future

 

Last updated 10/21/2021 at 10:25am



As part of The Beacon’s coverage of the upcoming general election, we have put four questions to the six City Council candidates in advance of Nov. 2.

Kristiana Johnson is running to maintain her Position 1 seat, and is being challenged by Alicia Crank.

Newcomers Janelle Cass and Will Chen are vying for a Position 2 seat.

And for Position 3, incumbent Adrienne Fraley-Monillas is being challenged by former Councilmember Neil Tibbott.

Here are the questions:

Is growth in Edmonds inevitable? Should all people who want to live in Edmonds be able to do so?

Kristiana Johnson, Position 1: Let’s talk about growth. Vision 2035 addresses the goals and targets.

Edmonds is on track for meeting those goals with only modest increases in population and housing. Edmonds has a population of 42,565, with a target population of 45,550 for 2035. Eight-hundred units are being built for 1,305 more residents by 2035. Spread over 14 years, population and housing targets will be met by current market conditions without any major land use or zoning changes.


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On the one hand, growth management asks us to provide for a variety of income types – for most this means multifamily housing. On the other hand, Edmonds is highly desirable, with view properties taxed at a higher rate. That means higher costs. As housing affordability is defined, the occupant should pay no more than 30% of gross income for housing costs – including utilities.

Given Edmonds’ reputation as “The Gem of Puget Sound” and as a city with desirable amenities and strong neighborhoods, there will be intense attention when houses are for sale. This explains the pressures to retain existing neighborhoods and other pressures to redevelop existing neighborhoods. This is the paradox.


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Edmonds attracts buyers for new houses who have a higher-than-average income.

Alicia Crank, Position 1: Growth is inevitable, but we can mitigate how much and how soon. Growth isn’t just about “new people” moving in. You need to factor in growing families and generational growth within those families.

Many of these generational families have already expressed how difficult it is for their children and grandchildren who have grown up here to remain here in their adult years. I believe most understand that all people can’t live here in Edmonds.


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That’s an unreasonable goal for any city/town/village. Yet, we can create various entry points and opportunities, based on affordability, to aid some who have the resources to do so.

Janelle Cass, Position 2: Growth in Edmonds may be inevitable, but only to a point. It is important to note that Edmonds is currently seven times denser than Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma, and is considered near capacity. Furthermore, Edmonds has grown in accordance with Growth Management Act goals, so there is no rush to further densify, especially given the added strain on the environment, our infrastructure, and services.

Edmonds is blessed with diverse housing options for those with varying income levels. It goes without saying that not everyone can afford view housing, as is the case throughout the Puget Sound area.

While doorbelling, I met a man who was recently homeless. He described working two or three jobs simultaneously all while studying computer networking. He was so proud that he purchased the second-least expensive house in Edmonds, that he had a sign out front calling it “Baltic Avenue,” referencing the second cheapest property on the Monopoly board.


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This gentleman was able to afford a home in Edmonds because this older, affordable housing stock was available. If duplexes and zero-lot-line townhomes are allowed in the single-family residential zones, prices will become unattainable for many.

Seattle’s increases in density did not lead to affordable housing.

Will Chen, Position 2: Yes, I believe that growth in Edmonds is inevitable. I support creating opportunities for all, including those with limited income.

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Position 3: Driving through abandoned or declining towns demonstrates that population growth or even economic growth is not inevitable anywhere, including Edmonds. Nothing is inevitable in any community. The loss of a community’s economic base is one of the driving forces for decline, whether that economic base is the Puget Sound metro area or a small town on the Olympic Peninsula.


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Edmonds is a great place to live, and this is still a free country where people can live wherever they choose – if they can pay for it and if they can find an available residential dwelling. Unfortunately, the standard of living is not increasing for everyone who lives, or wants to live, in Edmonds. Neither is the supply of affordable housing increasing at a rate to meet the market demand. We are experiencing a failure of the free market to respond to the market.


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What is growing in our society is economic inequality, and that should be an issue of deep concern to all of us.

When the public policy of our governing entities discriminates against the less fortunate by, for example, building high-cost housing that the majority of our population cannot access, there is no justice.

Neil Tibbott, Position 3: I assume you mean population growth. Yes, our population will increase, and as in previous years, it will grow gradually at a relatively slower pace than the rest of the county. 

No, not everyone will be able to live in Edmonds. For some folks, there will be better options for them, even in nearby communities. We must realize that our proximity to the water and beaches means we have limited amounts of buildable land.

What is the most important issue the City is facing in 2022, and what steps will you take to address this issue?

Neil Tibbott, Position 3: The most important issue will be continuing to recover from the pandemic, which includes facing a changing economy, evolving work-from-home options, increasing home prices, as well as many other transitions that come with recovery.


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However, I think it is equally important to have a cohesive vision of what we want to become as a city. We have experienced many influences from outside our borders in previous years without evaluating how they affect us as citizens of Edmonds.


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I will propose that we begin addressing the question of vision with our budgeting process. We have already explored the idea of biannual budgeting as a council, and agreed that it was an option we wanted to implement. 

Prior to that change, however, we need to talk about the big objectives that we will pay for in the coming years – this is called “Budgeting by Objectives.”

Those objectives need to be anchored in our preferred future. Many citizens believe we have taken our eyes off the primary responsibilities of essential services and infrastructure.  We need more citizen input on our spending priorities as an indication of what we all believe our future should look like. 

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Position 3: Developing an equitable governance strategy is extremely important for the City of Edmonds. It is unjust that the revenue generated by our economy is not shared across our city. The greatest source of revenue comes from the portion of Edmonds that includes Highway 99. But over the years it has not received the attention the City Council ought to give it for equitable distribution of City services for parks, as an example.

The “downtown” area of Edmonds is attractive, with a nice tree canopy and the fountain. But it is subsidized by the economic activity of the Highway 99 businesses. We need to continue the work of developing an equitable, inclusive, and fair economic development strategy that includes all of Edmonds.

The purpose of an economic development strategy is to grow the economy so that our businesses can sustainably compete in the domestic and international markets and, and at the same time, raise the standard of living of all our citizens.

Will Chen, Position 2: The most important issue is public safety. We need to make sure our first responders are adequately funded and have the tools needed to keep our residents and business community safe, and ensure our streets and sidewalks are kept in good condition and traffic is calm. I will make it my priority to address each of these challenges.

Janelle Cass, Position 2: One of the issues that the Edmonds residents and businesses continually share with me is that of increased crime creeping towards us from multiple directions.

Policies that are soft on crime embolden transient addicts. They take over our public places and crime rates go up, putting public safety at risk. For example, those living around Mathay Ballinger Park shared alarming stories of finding needles, campsites, and graffiti in the park. They are extremely concerned about having their children and pets encounter these dangers.

This increased crime is also impacting businesses and their patrons along Highway 99.

Some steps I would take as a councilmember to address this issue would be to fully fund and support the Edmonds Police Department; enact a no camping on public property ordinance; work with regional organizations to connect those suffering from addiction or mental illness to the services they need; and support a resolution to rectify the recently passed, ambiguous, confusing state legislation regarding law-enforcement restrictions.

Alicia Crank, Position 1: The overarching issue is rebuilding trust between Edmonds residents and stakeholders with their elected leaders. You can make the best decisions for the city, but if your constituents don’t trust the council, and thus the process, nothing will be achieved.

One major step would be to make stronger efforts to communicate what’s coming down the pipeline in a timelier manner. Singularly, one of the important issues in 2022 would be to create an exit strategy for when the streateries will come to an end. Another would be to address the flooding issues at Perrinville Creek and expedite sidewalk and other neighborhood projects.

Kristiana Johnson, Position 1: A key element of my reelection campaign is to protect single-family neighborhoods. This is the most important issue for 2022. Any changes to land use or zoning will be alarming. There have been pressures to reevaluate and change single family zoning to allow for duplexes, triplexes, and multifamily housing units citywide. I oppose this threat to established single-family neighborhoods.

The Citizens Housing Commission proposes to allow attached dwelling units (ADU) and detached accessory dwelling units (DADU) citywide. This requires a local perspective, which is why I will propose Sub Area Plans in the 2022 budget. We can use the sub areas of the city, as defined by the commission, and work initially on two contiguous areas to examine land use, environment, transportation, and other elements of the comprehensive plan, into a coordinated and comprehensive sub area plan.

As a companion piece, I will recommend a neighborhood enhancement program with a $100,000 budget that is citizen driven to recommend small capital improvement projects to improve their neighborhoods.

This will enhance an area but bring local control of the neighborhoods under consideration for comprehensive analysis coupled with a program to improve the safety and appearance of that neighborhood.

Which of the Housing Commission’s suggestions should be acted on? Please talk about the two you favor most.

Janelle Cass, Position 2: I would support the Housing Commission’s recommendations to establish architectural standards for multifamily housing. This is important both to create a sense of aesthetic cohesiveness with the rest of Edmonds, incorporate valued green space, and prevent unwanted effects such as wind tunneling between large, blocky buildings.

The other concept that bears a closer look is that of cluster cottage designs. The key to this, however, is committing to first auditing and rewriting the city codes. The current city codes are in disarray, which allows for inconsistent treatment and permitting for home builders and contractors.

In speaking with developers who have successfully added cluster cottages in other cities, they explain how the permitting office in Edmonds is undesirable to work with. I believe updated, cleaned-up codes will help our permitting office offer good customer service, attracting more creative options in housing. Once the codes are straightforward, then adding flexible design codes for cluster cottages should be considered.

Will Chen, Position 2: No. 11, Edmonds-HASCO (Housing Authority of Snohomish County) interlocal agreement. HASCO has a good track record of managing affordable housing while maintaining a neighborhood’s character.

No. 13, multifamily design standards. This policy proposal will ensure that our city’s character is maintained for multifamily development allowed in areas where it makes sense.

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Position 3: I agree with the Housing Commission suggestion that we need to build more housing, and I am giving serious consideration to the accessory dwelling projects. But none of the various suggestions will solve the housing shortage issue.

With the increasing economic inequality in our society, we are faced with ever-increasing numbers of our residents who do not have sufficient resources to meet their needs, and who are truly faced with possibly joining the homeless population.

One of their options is to sell their homes to developers and investors, removing additional affordable housing from the market.

It is time we face the failure of the market to provide an adequate response to market demand. Low-income housing tax credit programs build “affordable” housing that is out of reach to the 44% of the workforce earning minimum wage.

Instead of pegging eligibility for subsidized housing to the income earned, this program pegs eligibility for renting this “affordable” housing based on the metropolitan statistical area (Seattle, Bellevue, Snohomish County). LIHTC sets the rent at a percentage of the area median income, which for our area is $115,000, at for example 70%. An individual earning $80,000 would be eligible for this housing.

A worker earning minimum wage in our area earns around $24,000 and is unable to afford these rents. I recommend the government look at forging relationships with low-income developers to serve the people who need it – the one-third of our workforce, plus seniors, veterans, and the disabled.

Neil Tibbott, Position 3: Sub-area planning – I like the concept of developing more amenities closer to our neighborhoods.  With sub-area planning, we have the opportunity to add transportation hubs and commercial enterprises that bring their benefits closer to where people live. Improving our neighborhood business zones also adds to the walkability, safety, and sociability of our neighborhoods. Multifamily design standards – We already have design standards for the downtown business districts. It’s time we extended that approach to other parts of our city.  Using incentives and well-written codes, we can both attract the kind of housing we want to see, as well as new amenities that improve the quality of life for all of Edmonds.

Kristiana Johnson, Position 1: The Housing Commission recommended 15 proposals for City Council consideration. The council held a special meeting to deliberate on the 15 recommendations and to decide which of them to move forward for action. I support two of these recommendations.

The two housing commission recommendations that should be acted upon are the design development standards for multifamily dwelling units and the removal of discriminatory language from the deeds and covenants for housing.

The first has been sent to both the Planning Board and the Architectural Design Board for review. Basic design standards for multifamily housing will help to mitigate design conflicts with adjacent single-family zoning.

The second has been sent to the City attorney for action. This oversight has been a disgrace, and should be remedied as soon as possible. Discriminatory language in deeds and covenants was created during a different historical era and is no longer acceptable.

Today they are illegal. We need to find the discriminatory language and remove it from the legal land records. We have sent this issue to the City attorney to take proper action.

Alicia Crank: I believe moving forward with code to accommodate the building of detached accessory dwelling units, but I don’t believe the conditional-use permit should be eliminated. It serves a purpose that shouldn’t go away (though I’d be open to exploring a sliding scale for the fees associated for those who may have hardships).

This is the one I favor most, in addition to simplifying zoning code language (which is being worked on, thanks to the recent hiring of a code writer) as well as the renter’s-choice security deposit. Especially in this current climate, the amount of security deposits that are required at some places are prohibitive to those working minimum wage jobs.

The Beacon has received many complaints about the lack of civility on the council and the inability to act on important issues. What can be done, if anything, to bring decorum and function back to council?

Will Chen, Position 2: I will use the same strategy that I use every day in my own life: To listen to people, to understand their concerns, and to value the ideas they share. We may come from different backgrounds, but at the end of the day, we all want to preserve Edmonds as the beautiful place it is.

For me, I will focus on gathering as much information as I can on issues before the council. My goal will always be to listen to and address the needs of the community, rather than getting caught up in partisan divide.

Janelle Cass, Position 2: Electing representatives that will focus on what is best for the people, rather than partisan politics, is the first step to restoring a functioning government in Edmonds. The lack of civility comes from shutting out some councilmembers’ concerns. Each has been elected to represent the people. All electeds on council deserve to be respected and to have their legitimate concerns placed on the council meeting’s official agenda.

I would advocate for changing the rules to allow items to be put on the agenda with a vote of fewer than four members. This will promote open and honest dialogue to address the concerns of all, and bring more balance, ideas, and courtesy to the chambers.

I have the proven experience of bringing together people with diverse opinions to work as a team for positive outcomes. I will lead by showing my focus is on the issues, facts, and data, while weighing the consideration of consequences that decisions may have on all the residents of Edmonds.

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Position 3: When elected, we are sworn to uphold the principles of justice and equality. Our democracy is founded upon the belief that informed people can reason together to, first of all, understand the perspective each holds about a policy issue.

Generally, if we want our views to receive a respectful hearing, we must also grant respect to others. This past year has been extremely difficult behind the scenes; some councilmembers unfairly are critical of the administration and co-workers.

Civility requires the respect of others. It does not require that we “like” each other, but that there is at least respect for the position the people elected each of us to fill.

Our society is deeply harmed by the inequality that has several different ideologies we find represented on our City Council. Building a stronger Edmonds requires greater economic equality and overall equity.

At the base of the disagreements on the Edmonds City Council is the struggles around decades of widening economic disparities that threaten prosperity. As lawmakers, we need to dedicate ourselves to crafting policies that seek to provide economic opportunity to our citizens. As lawmakers, we also need to be especially mindful that those policies empower those who have been most harmed by racism and other structural inequalities that fuel the rise in inequality.

Alicia Crank, Position 1: Civility starts with self-accountability. Each person must own their behavior and responses in being civil before pressing others to do the same. Each person must model what they want to see. It’s also important to put into practice that council’s role is to act in the best interest of all residents, though you can’t make everyone happy.

To only act on behalf of a select group creates division. This mindset needs to be put in place before instituting training that has been suggested. There is no magic wand, only a personal decision to either add or take away from civility.

Kristiana Johnson, Position 1: There has been a lack of civility on the council during the past two years. I would like to wipe the slate clean in 2022, and have the council agree that “we serve the people of Edmonds.”

To do so, we will have to put aside the arguments and strife to move forward by treating each other with respect and embracing open and frank discussions. We must set aside the complaints of the past. We should not allow personal attacks. Employing Robert’s Rules of Order keeps us on track.

It is the mayor’s responsibility to rule on points of order. His leadership will steer the council through the choppy waters of discussions and deliberations. He cannot simply allow wide latitude, as he did during the recent censure proceedings of council member Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, but must adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order in a fair and impartial manner.

The mayor cannot allow points of order to be ignored to suit his pleasure.

We all need a refresher course on parliamentary procedure. The council can improve its communication skills by employing rules and procedures. We must endeavor to be on the same page to better serve the people of Edmonds.

The Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds (ACE) has also compiled a list of questions for Edmonds City Council candidates. To see their answers: http://www.bit.ly/3nccpSh.

To see the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County forum: http://www.bit.ly/3n7tn4a.

 

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