A new effort to form a coalition of South Snohomish County cities isn’t targeting any particular issue, according to Edmonds City Council President Richard Marin.
“We’re not here to do battle with anybody, but there is strength in numbers,” Marin said during his welcoming remarks at the so-far unnamed group’s first meeting July 28. “This is an old idea.”
Regardless, there was no shortage issues on the table.
Elected officials from Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, and Woodway met at Edmonds City Hall to talk about whether a united voice would carry more weight in addressing common concerns. No currently elected official from Brier attended, but former mayor Wayne Kaske was there as an observer.
The first order of business was to elect a chair, with Edmonds Council member Peggy Pritchard Olson the unanimous pick.
Olson and fellow Council member Mauri Moore threw out the first item for consideration: State Initiative 912 and the impact the measure that would repeal the newly enacted gas tax would have on city budgets.
“Do you all know what you stand to lose if 912 passes? asked Moore, who said she won’t be a regular participant at subsequent meetings.
Olson added: “I don’t know if your roads are as bad as Edmonds’ … we’re now on a 65-year (re-paving) cycle.
“I’d like to go on record supporting the gas tax.”
Pritchard offered that each of the city representatives could go to their councils and hopefully gain consensus.
The potential for lost revenue struck a cord with Mukilteo Council member Kathy Reese.
“Ever since (Initiative) 695 passed, we’ve been faced with declining revenue,” Reese said. “I feel like we have to apologize because Tim Eyman lives in our city.”
Mountlake Terrace City Council member Doug Wittinger said he liked the idea of a joint resolution by the group on an issue such as taxes.
“… it will take the edge off for those of us running for office (this fall),” Wittinger said.
Lynnwood City Council member Loren Simmonds asked if others felt such resolutions would have to be unanimous.
It would, Pritchard Olson said, “… be nice if all seven agreed, but that’s why we’re here tonight.”
Simmonds said: “Right now on my council, it’s a crapshoot. I don’t know if I can get four votes.”
Mill Creek Mayor Terry Ryan threw out an issue he said he’d been working on for years.
Every legislative session, Ryan said, he goes shopping for a state lawmaker who will sponsor a bill that would loosen restrictions on how cities can spend revenue from real estate excise taxes. The taxes, Ryan said, can be used for such things as buying park land but not maintaining the park once it is in place.
“This is not a new tax, just a reallocation,” he said.
Reese said the issue seemed like a “no-brainer.”
Ryan said that while it seems that way to city officials looking for budget help, some state officials see it otherwise.
“The real estate industry is afraid if you loosen it up, the money won’t get used for infrastructure,” Ryan said.
Ryan offered to draft a proposal and send it by e-mail to the rest of the group for review.
“If this idea finds support with the alliance or coalition or whatever we are, we should meet with our legislators,” Simmonds said.
Moore said that given the geography and population represented by the group, she doubted it would be a problem getting the attention of local state lawmakers. All told, the members represent about 136,375 county residents and around $2.6 billion in taxable, annual retail sales, according to Marin.
An item that drew emotional responses from the group is the cities’ interaction with Snohomish County on growth and annexation issues.
“The county and the three stooges at (Fire District 1’s Board of Commissioners) screwed up our annexation,” Ryan said, referring to an effort to add land on the northeast corner of Mill Creek. “Apologies to the Three Stooges.”
Simmonds pointed to Lynnwood’s northern boundary and housing that is springing up just outside the city.
Simmonds said Lynnwood and the county signed an agreement that involve the city and use its planning documents for the area.
“They plunked down all this housing and we haven’t heard from them since,” he said. “We’re ticked.”
Other issues raised by Simmonds included expansion of air service at Paine Field and permits of cellular phone service towers. “We’ve just had an explosion (of cell towers)” he said.
Other items brought up but left for the next meeting include just what the group wants to call itself and whether it needs a budget. The one item that seemed to not require a vote is that all involved see the need and value of further discussion, which will occur at 7 p.m., Aug. 25, at Edmonds City Hall.