EDMONDS — After little progress at a City Council meeting Tuesday, Edmonds council members passed a 2022 budget the next evening over public requests to wait for a new council member to be sworn in next week.
Council members agreed on a $121 million budget that includes nine new electric and hybrid city vehicles, a new solar panel grant program and 57 body cameras for the police department.
Seeking a vote this week proved controversial, despite what City Council President Susan Paine considered a “straightforward” budget.
Edmonds residents, including councilmember-elect Will Chen, asked to table the budget to December. Chen is to be sworn this month — earlier than other new council members — because he ran for appointee Luke Distelhorst’s seat. He’ll replace one of the more progressive voices on the council.
“And here we have more shenanigans,” Edmonds resident Carolyn Strong said during public comment Tuesday, opposing another night of budget talks this week.
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas pointed out past budget decisions have required an extra meeting on Wednesdays. Yet several residents and a council member argued it was a political ploy.
“It’s for one reason — you want to have Luke Distelhorst’s vote on this budget,” Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said Tuesday.
Two of Edmonds’ more prominent progressives lost their campaigns to stay on the council. Distelhorst fell in the primary, and Fraley-Monillas lost to former Edmonds councilmember Neil Tibbott in the general election by over 25%.
Budget talks resumed Wednesday. Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson had proposed dozens of budget amendments but were not present Wednesday. Finance Director Dave Turley read proposal after proposal, and all but one present council member reacted with silence, not making a motion to approve.
Those suggestions included removing the police department’s community engagement program, building maintenance and removing all $600,000 budgeted for the Human Services Division.
“My issue is Council has not vetted the budget at all,” Buckshnis said in a tweet. “I was able to … ask only four questions.”
Within the first few minutes of Wednesday’s meeting, Edmonds City Councilmember Vivian Olson asked City Attorney Jeff Taraday to explain whether the followup meeting was legal on a night when council meetings aren’t typically held.
In short, he replied, it was.
Some of the biggest priority changes were driven by the new Edmonds police chief.
Chief Michelle Bennett has “her vision in place and it’s very reflected in the budget,” Paine said.
That includes $73,500 for engagement programs: an academy for residents to learn about the job of police and a revamped youth explorer program. It also earmarked about $430,000 for the police video system, including new body cameras, 19 car cams and the digital program to store footage.
Another highlight is hiring the city’s first race, equity, diversity and inclusion manager, “to help us develop education and review the procedures and the internal policies,” Paine told The Daily Herald after the meeting.
Kristiana Johnson proposed eliminating this position, as My Edmonds News first reported. One resident similarly argued there are other means of meeting the city’s equity goals.
The vote affirming the new position comes over a year after a vandal defaced “I Can’t Breathe” artwork on a fence at downtown Edmonds’ Civic Field; months after swastikas were found painted on trees in Southwest County Park; and just a couple weeks after councilmember-elect Will Chen made a Facebook post sharing a racist comment during his campaign.
The largest investments, totaling roughly $50 million, are in roads, utilities and parks. That includes maintenance of 230 acres of park land and the next stages of Highway 99 revitalization. The highway will get a raised center median and new pedestrian crossings. Then work will begin to widen sidewalks and add lighting.