Why you can’t vote for Port commissioners | Editor's Note

By Brian Soergel | Nov 03, 2017

If you read the Beacon, in print or online, you may have picked up on the fact that the race for three commissioner seats for the Port of Edmonds has taken over the Letters to the Editor section the past few weeks.

You may have read some of the letters. You may have skipped some. I, of course, must read them all. I mention this because I was looking forward to casting my own commissioner votes for this year’s general election.

Alas, I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

I live in Edmonds proper, in a super-nice slice of the 98026 area code (not 98020, but still city limits) just east of Yost Park. If I lived a few yards west, I’d have been able to vote for the incumbents – Bruce Faires, Fred Gouge and Steve Johnston – or the challengers – Angela Harris, Susan Paine and Lora Petso.

It turns out I wasn’t paying close enough attention to what I’d written a few times: The district includes the city of Edmonds west of 92nd Avenue West – roughly from Olympic View Drive in the north to the county line in the south and the town of Woodway.

Sorry, most of Westgate, Perrinville and parts north. You can’t vote either. Firdale Village, you’re good to go. Woodway’s residents aren’t part of Edmonds. But they can vote.

I asked Port of Edmonds Executive Director Bob McChesney to explain.

“The simple answer is the Port district boundaries were established when the Port was created in 1948 and the city of Edmonds was much smaller,” he said. “Since then, the city has grown through annexations while the Port district has not. Thus, the Port and city are not contiguous. You have to live inside the Port district to vote for Port commissioners.”

Any thought of extending the boundaries?

“Many ports in Washington state, of which there are over 70, are countywide,” McChesney said. “But there are quite a number of smaller ports that aren’t, such as the Port of Edmonds and the Port of Everett.

“It would be difficult to expand the Port district boundaries simply because to do so we would be asking citizens and voters to be annexed into a junior taxing district without a defined benefit or value proposition that would persuade them to pay more taxes.

“It would be a ballot measure. We couldn’t do it without a vote. It’s counterintuitive to expect non-Port residents to vote themselves into the Port district and pay more taxes. It has never been done.”

And what are those taxes?

McCheney said the Port of Edmonds’ tax levy is $400,000 a year. It’s been the same for 10 years, without an increase, he added.

“The maximum amount we could levy is approximately $568,000. The amount each property owner living in the Port district pays depends on their assessed valuation and based on a levy rate of $.074 per thousand dollars of assessed value."

There you have it. If you can vote, vote. If not for the Port, then for City Council and other races. Our letter writers thank you.


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