Edmonds Council candidates air views on city issues – Part 2: Johnson vs. Hayden

Oct 10, 2013

For the second week, the Beacon is publishing City Council candidates’ responses to a series of questions on how they would work on some of the major issues facing the City of Edmonds.

Today, we’re running the responses from incumbent Kristiana Johnson and challenger Randy Hayden, who are running for Position #1.

Last week, we ran the responses from the two candidates who are running for Position #2, incumbent Strom Peterson and challenger Alvin Rutledge. Their responses may still be read at edmondsbeacon.com.

On Oct. 17, we’ll run the responses from incumbent Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and challenger Ron Wambolt, who are running for Position #3.

Ballots are scheduled to be mailed on Oct. 17.

Our questions:

1) The issue of height limits, as one person put it, is "the third rail" in Edmonds politics. As we saw with the recent Harbor Square redevelopment discussions, it's a difficult issue. Please explain your position on building heights, and why.

2) As you know, the city finance director recently reported that revenues are up. At the same time, the city has made major cuts in expenditures. With the likelihood that the city will have an improved revenue stream in 2014, and whether or not you are already on the council, what would be your budget priorities for the coming year?

3) Since the nation's economic and political future could remain cloudy indefinitely, what is your long-term vision for helping move Edmonds forward boldly but safely?

Kristiana Johnson

1) The issue of building heights in Edmonds is a complex issue.  Many residents may not realize that the current code allows multiple building heights. For example, single family homes are limited to 25 feet; however, some areas of Highway 99 permit up to 75 feet.

Edmonds has a pattern of low rise development that maintains the historic charm of our downtown and neighboring residences.  Most of the city is zoned single family residential with a maximum building height of 25 feet.  I am dedicated to maintaining that 25-foot height limit to allow the orderly development of homes in the city.

Examples of poorly designed or poorly situated business development have galvanized public opinion about heights. In one case, after the five-story EBB Tide apartment complex was built on the waterfront, the City Council made a significant change.  Most recently the Compass development on Edmonds Way was reviewed, and the City Council voted to reduce future building heights for that zone.

A discussion of building heights can be misunderstood. For example, in response to a landmark State Supreme Court case, the City of Edmonds changed the development code for downtown Edmonds from building design “guidelines” to building “standards.”  This change was recommended by the Planning Board, and the record shows that there was no increase in building height.  Although some feared that a change was made, in fact, the allowable height has remained the same.

2)  The Mayor will present his 2014 budget recommendation to the City Council on Oct. 1.  The budget will include revenue projections, detailed expenditures, and a set of decision packages for the council’s consideration.  There may be some one-time expenditures for consideration, such as completing the City’s fiber optic system.

My budget priorities will be to maintain essential public services while continuing to look for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency.  I also want to set aside sufficient funds to protect the city in the future. The city should live within its means and set aside money for a rainy day.

I will be an advocate for public safety and transportation.  These are essential public services that are important to the citizens that I represent. If funding is available, I would like the City to restore positions in the Police Department for the Street Crimes Unit and Crime Prevention.

Our transportation system is very important to me.  The streets and sidewalks, used by everyone, account for nearly 20 percent of our total land use.   We have roads in disrepair because of years of deferred maintenance.  I understand that we cannot fix all of the city’s transportation problems in 2014, and it is an expensive public investment.

However, we do need a reliable stream of revenue to maintain the existing street system, a local responsibility. At the same time we need to plan for future growth and development.  The best solutions will provide a balanced multi-modal transportation system for our community.

3)  The long-term vision for Edmonds is not a personal vision, but is the result of a coordinated vision that involves many levels of government. The Washington State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act in 1990 to help the urbanized areas, like Edmonds, plan for the future.  The state required planning at a multiple levels, coordinated with adjacent jurisdictions.

The Puget Sound Regional Council oversees the multi-county policies contained within 20-year plans adopted by the Puget Sound Regional Council for land use, transportation and economic development.  These documents are named Vision 2040, Transportation 2040 and Prosperity Partners.

The Countywide Planning Policies for Edmonds are overseen by Snohomish County Tomorrow, a framework from which the County and Cities local Comprehensive Plans are developed.

The City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan is required to be updated every six years to provide direction for land use, housing, capital facilities, utilities, and transportation.  Shoreline Master Program policies are also an element of local Comprehensive Plans. Together these provide a 20-year long-range vision for the City of Edmonds.

The City recently completed a Strategic Plan that will provide additional direction for short-term implementation.  This plan was developed with extensive community involvement to identify community priorities.  It will serve as a roadmap for both city government and non-governmental organizations.

The final step in implementing a long-term vision for Edmonds is through the City’s budget.  Budgeting by Priorities is a concept to ensure that the City funds essential and optional services, as determined by the City’s Strategic Plan. Budgeting by Priorities will help the City Council adopt a balanced budget based upon what the community desires.

Randy Hayden

1) I’m against raising the building height in downtown Edmonds. The waterfront has a relaxing small-town feel that draws folks to our shops and restaurants. Once the tall buildings go up, we can never go back.

The proposed Harbor Square development may bring in $360,000 annually, but it would take 5 projects such as this to come close to balancing our budget. We need to look elsewhere for solutions to our budget problems.  Once we allow 55-foot buildings at Harbor Square, would this open the door for 55-foot buildings through the rest of the waterfront corridor? Only a judge can answer that question, and do we want our future to be determined by one person.

I’m also against the Westgate development project. Do we really want to build out to Edmonds Way without widening the road?  This would choke Edmonds traffic in the future. There is no provision for a bike lane or right hand turn lanes. We need to look further down the road than 10 or 20 years.

How much tourism revenue will be lost by such changes? There are those in Edmonds that believe that the cure all for our financial shortfalls is to allow over building, but this is not the solution. Let’s continue with what has been working.

The cultural arts center brings in $2.4 million to the city. We are currently working on the 4th Avenue corridor that will allow for more commercial space and more arts, but will preserve the character of the neighborhood.

2) Public safety is the core purpose of city government and my top priority. We hire the city to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Police officers have been laid off due to budget shortfalls, and we have used money for less important items while the crime rate steadily climbs.

Child abductions, home burglaries, violent robberies, and bank robberies threaten us. We need to rehire police officers that have been laid off. Each line item of the budget needs to be prioritized and weighed against our safety.

When elected, I will keep my own private health insurance because your safety is more important to me than taking your money for my healthcare. I will lead by example and ask the other council members to do the same.

Next, our city needs more reserves for difficult times. The city budget is no different than an individual or family budget, but just on a bigger scale. As the owner of two businesses, I know how foolish it is to spend money before it’s in the bank.

We currently have about $215,000 in reserves, not enough to cover shortages like what we have experienced in the past. We need to be prepared for the future whatever it may be.

3) I believe that Edmonds has a very bright future. We need to stay focused on the things that have made this the great place that it is, people, our fine arts, and park systems. The Taste of Edmonds, the car show, the numerous art shows and theater, all these bring people to our great community.

I see the future of Edmonds with a nice, quaint downtown that brings in visitors. I would like to see more bed & breakfasts open, by giving a tax break to stimulate the interest of these new businesses. We have the Sounder Rail that’s an excellent way to get visitors to Edmonds; I think we need to partner with the cruise ship industry to get some of those people up to Edmonds for the day.

Only 1 out of every 6 dollars of tax revenue comes from the downtown corridor; the rest comes from the Hwy. 99 corridor. We need to focus on bringing new businesses there. My opponent helped to pass the new park tax on new businesses. This tax will discourage new business growth into Edmonds. Edmonds needs to grow, but only in a responsible manner.

I moved to Edmonds for a reason, not Lynnwood, Shoreline, or Mountlake Terrace. Edmonds is a quiet, relaxing, and slow-paced city, do we want to lose all this for more tax revenue?

As your City Councilman, I will do my best to keep Edmonds from losing what has made this a great little city. Do we want our quality of life to suffer for tax revenue? We are at a crossroads that will determine not just how we live but also our kids and their kids. That’s why I ask for your vote.


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