Saturday, August 7, 2010

Keep downtown trees

Recently, a tree was cut down in a city right of way downtown.  Check out Teresa Wippel's story here.

This isn't the first time that downtown trees have become a controversy.   Last year, the council had a vigorous debate over trees at 5th and Dayton.  Unfortunately, a split council and the mayor decided to remove the trees.  A very disappointed citizen sent the council photos showing the impacts of that decision.  On the left, you see the intersection with the trees, and on the right you see the intersection with the new "stick" trees.

The vote to remove the trees was taken on October 20th, 2009, without any announcement to the public.  Council members Peterson, Wambolt, and Olson voted to remove the trees.  Council members Bernheim, Plunkett, and Orvis (that's me) voted to keep the trees.  D.J. Wilson was absent so the mayor voted to break the tie and take down the trees.

In the future, I hope our new council members will work with Council members Bernheim and Plunkett to save downtown trees.   The impacts of cutting downtown trees are great.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Will the Planning Board vote to shut you out of council appeals?

Tonight, the planning board will once again take up land-use appeals to the council. In the past, they have recommended to shut the public out of the council appeal process. Will they do so again, despite the fact that the city council has made it very clear that this is not going to happen?

I was still on the council when the planning board recommend shutting the public out of council appeals. When I analyzed their reasoning, it was based solely off a recommendation made by the Association of Washington Cities, who claim it's a legal liability. Yet, the planning board could not sight any evidence that the council had ever created a legal liability in its land-use decisions.

Folks who advocate for removing the council and the public from land-use appeals believe a hearing examiner will deliver better legal decisions that will save the city from costly law suites. What they fail to realize is that the hearing examiner has already made many costly legal mistakes.

And I can site examples:

Bauer V. Edmonds: The hearing examiner decided to approve a building which clearly failed to meet roof modulation requirements. The council went along (by only one vote), and the city was sued and the decision was overturned.

Day V. Edmonds: The hearing examiner applied code standards to a change of use when the code wasn't yet passed. The judge quickly overturned this decision.

Petso V. Edmonds: The hearing examiner approved a PRD that failed drainage and open space standards. This costs the city a bundle of cash. Petso is a very aggressive opponent.

If there was a legal liability issue with the council hearing appeals, then we should see cases where a council overturns a hearing examiner, and the judge restores the hearing examiner's decision, but there are no such examples to find.

When confronted with this basic reality, those who want to shut out the council and the public from the land-use process begin to grope for examples. One example is the appeal of an ADB decision regarding Old-Mill town. "Look," they say, "the council had to settle that case. Oh my, the council needs to be out of land-use process."

Actually, the ADB review process worked very well for the public regarding Old-Milltown. Thanks to that process, the council secured changes to the new design of Old-Milltown that the public clearly wanted. The citizens made dynamite arguments during the hearing, arguments that were based on law, not passion.

Most council members who voted to settle did so because it essentially locked in the improvements. The council was going to have to pay money anyway to defend the case, why not use it to get what the public wants?

In short, the Old-Milltown case is an example of why the council needs to be in the process. It is NOT an example for why the council should be out of the process.

And I am not the only one who thinks that: Look at what the Enterprise editorial board stated.

The public and the council need to remain in the land-use process. The planning board needs to look at the evidence and do their own thinking on this issue, because the evidence is more important than the recommendations.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Make room for the historic fire engine

This Tuesday, the council will discuss what to do with the historic fire engine, which can no longer be stored at fire station #1.

The council should tell the city and staff to keep it!

City staff will say " no we can't," and will give all sorts of reasons why...which the council should reject.

Tell staff no excuses, if you can't find room, MAKE room!

This is NOT the time to be giving away historic treasures. We should be finding ways to make them more accessible to the public. Edmonds' economy is highly dependent on its history.

Here are some ideas:

1) Park it under city hall until you can find out what to do with it. You may have to ask some city employees to park their cars elsewhere, but I would rather to do that than loose the fire engine.
2) Take whatever is currently occupying a city garage, put it outside, and put a tarp over it. Then put the fire engine inside until we can build something to put it on display.
3) Build a nice car port in a parking lot outside the public safety building so the public can actually view it. It will make a great attraction.
4) Build a nicer display garage, complete with walls, large glass windows, slab, and temperate control in the open space surrounding the public safety building. Again, it's a great attraction.

The city saved a bunch of cash moving the fire department to fire district 1, why not use a tiny bit of those savings to save the historic fire engine?

The city simply can't afford to loose it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mayor Cooper takes the oath.

Well, maybe this wasn't my best attempt at a clip art...And the humor is rather obvious, but at least I tried.

Mike, I wish you the best. Today, I read that you want to get staff and council working together, and that's a good goal. Just remember, there will still be disagreements, and there will always be folks who will take any little disagreement and make it look like the council and the mayor are at war. Sigh.

Congrats and Good Luck.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Congratulations Mayor Cooper

Way to go Mike! Welcome to Edmonds city government! I am sure you will serve us well.

Now that your're Mayor, I need to get a picture of you, isolate the head, and stick it on top of a screen bean. You will not escape the humiliation of the OrvisBlog! :)

Check back in a couple of days.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mayor or Manager? Let the public decide.

The council is currently deciding on whether the city should have a Strong Mayor or a City Manager to head the executive branch.

Wait, that's wrong.

The council is actually deciding whether to let the public decide on whether the city should have a Strong Mayor or a City Manager to head the executive branch.

The council cannot impose a type of government on the public. The citizens must choose a form of government for themselves.

No matter whether you are for a Mayor or a Manager, most would agree the public should get its way on this issue. Few folks would insist on a mayor if the majority of citizens supported a manager. Likewise, few folks would insist on a manger if the majority of citizens supported a mayor.

The city is now "between" elected mayors. The council will appoint a replacement for Gary Haakenson, but that essentially makes the new mayor a city manager. Now is the time for the public to decide, before a new mayor is elected in 2011.

While I was on the council, I was approached many times by citizens who thought a manager would do a better job than a mayor. I think it's time to let these folks take their arguments to the public and let the folks who like the mayor argue back. The debate will lead to a stronger government, because it will be clear the public supports that form of government.

So I urge the council, let the public decide.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Trading seats?

I was very intrigued by a recent article in the Enterprise (click here) about allegations that D.J. Wilson and Mike Cooper were trading seats. According to the article, Mr. Cooper would get the Mayor seat, and D.J. Wilson would get the council seat.

What's interesting is that neither Cooper or Wilson explicitly denied the allegation.

Mike Cooper doesn't need D.J. Wilson to be a viable candidate for the appointment to Edmonds Mayor. He is the only one with the experience of holding regional office and his ability to win elections is awesome. He could easily remove whoever is appointed for that seat if he wanted too.

D.J. Wilson on the other has his eyes on bigger fish, fish he can't get by being elected. He ran a failed campaign for state legislature and county council. Mr. Wilson has also alienated many council members and is not neccessarily a good friend to have if you want to be appointed to Mayor.

I can believe D.J. Wilson initiated the conversation, I have trouble trouble believing Mike initiated it. And it troubles me that neither will deny it.

Mike, if you do get the mayoral appointment, it won't be because of D.J., it will be on your merits. And you've got lots of merits. My money is on you for getting the appointment, simply based on your qualifications.

I hope you won't lobby to put D.J. on the county council. There are better Democrats to choose from. Just look at our own council, I would rather have Buckshnis, AFM, or Bernheim, who actively fought for the small town charm of Edmonds, over D.J., who takes $3000 from a Seattle Waterfront Developer and votes to eliminate public comment during certain land-use decisions. And don't forget Deanna Dawson, maybe she'll return to take the county council post.

But not D.J., the thought of him sitting in Everett alarms me.