Mayor's Corner | The art of compromise

By Dave Earling | Oct 28, 2016

One of the most compelling features of our community is the great community interest and involvement when we have important issues before us.

This is a strength many cities wish they had more of – an engaged community. I suppose one downside arises when there are opposing views on an issue, with many folks on each side becoming entrenched in their opinions without allowing for consideration of the other side's viewpoint.

On some issues, we find a way to quick success, others we struggle with for longer periods. Some even longer than longer. Perhaps a few examples would be helpful.

An example of easy success, with both sides reaching a quick compromise, recently came about between the city and Snohomish County PUD. About two weeks ago, PUD was set to begin installing new, brighter streetlights in much of the city.

The new lights would provide much better illumination.

However, an adviser from the American Medical Association (AMA) indicated the new lights (at 4,000 degrees Kelvin) could create some concerning health issues. Several citizens contacted the city with those concerns.

We, in turn, contacted PUD and set up a meeting in which we both agreed to keep the lights to no more than 3,000 degrees Kelvin, which does not create the same health concerns.

A win for all.

Anyone remember the tussle we had over the Five Corners roundabout? Endless letters to the editor in the Beacon, personal attacks on councilmembers and staff, nasty emails and online posts? Not one of our finer moments.

And yet, after completion, most people see the benefits of the roundabout. In fact, I have had many citizens come up to me and apologize for their attitude during the process. By the way, the Washington state Department of Transportation will be at our next Council meeting to present a statewide award for the community project.

Again, a win for all.

In the next couple of months, we will have two issues which will draw the community's attention, and in some cases may become contentious: the master plan for the future of Civic Field and the Shoreline Master Program.

So far, we have had a fabulous public process to envision the future of our Civic Field. The key challenge has been too many good ideas for the eight-acre site. Our Parks Director, Carrie Hite, and consultants have been clear from the beginning that we would try to accommodate as many ideas as possible.

The outstanding draft plan was presented last week at a public meeting, and a few people/groups were not satisfied. I understand disappointment and welcome constructive criticism, but we need to keep in mind the art of compromise and objective, civil discourse when expressing our viewpoints.

Only in that way will we be able to appreciate each group's viewpoints and reach a truly representative compromise for this great new public place for all of Edmonds.

The Shoreline Master program provides a bit more of a challenge, inasmuch as we have several players involved. Besides the City Council, we have individuals and interest groups, as well as the Port of Edmonds, who have all attempted to find a mutually acceptable solution.

While it's the state Department of Ecology that makes the final decision, I still hope that all three principal players can engage in artful compromise before Ecology's verdict.

At this point, the Department of Ecology has received preferences for the marsh setbacks and buffers from the city and the Port. The Port's position is the current setback of 25 feet from the marsh is sufficient; the city is asking for a combined setback and buffer of 125 feet. Ecology is now reviewing its own original recommendation of 65 combined feet.

Once again, strong emotions are beginning to emerge on this issue, which is understandable. The one important fact we all need to keep in mind is that we all share the same goal: to protect, improve and enrich the quality of the marsh.

That is the goal – artfully crafting the right compromise solution, not which side wins over the other.



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