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City failed to address residents' concerns about ferry traffic | Guest View


Last updated 6/25/2020 at 4:39pm

This month I'm adding the political impact to our ongoing discussion of Mukilteo's waterfront area to help explain some of the decisions made by local government officials.

The information that follows is based on my experience as a Mukilteo City Councilmember from 2006-2013, along with recent discussions with former City Councilmember Steve Schmalz (2012-2019).

As before, my intent is to provide a pragmatic fact-based analysis of the topic in a rapid-fire format and then examine the significant components of the topic in more detail in the current or future issues.

Mukilteo has a mayor-council form of government. The mayor and seven councilmembers are elected positions. The council makes policy and the mayor implements that policy. City staff works for the mayor.

Agendas for council meetings (held the first and third Mondays of each month) and work sessions (held the second and fourth Mondays) are planned by the mayor and council president. Although not required by law, council meetings typically have multiple opportunities for the public to address the council for three minutes. Work sessions typically have no opportunity for public comment.

Currently, many resident-initiated concerns are discussed in detail in work sessions where public comment isn't accepted. Instead, the information is presented to the council by city staff where an implicit bias based on the mayor's position on a topic is often inherent in the recommendations by city staff. Unfortunately, this can make for a "perfect storm" of misinformation which usually influences the council to make a less than fully informed decision.

That is what has happened over the past three years regarding the new ferry terminal design area encouraging additional traffic on Mukilteo Lane and thus adversely impacting the surrounding neighborhoods and pedestrians who frequently use Mukilteo Lane.

Three years ago when the City Council was approving the mitigation agreement for the new ferry terminal area, City staff failed to address the concerns raised by residents and the Mukilteo FAC (Ferry Advisory Committee) and instead only presented the argument that Mukilteo Lane is able to support the additional traffic.

More recently, last year in a work session requested by the Council based on input from residents, staff presented flawed information that resulted in the Council making the decision to "wait and see." The information presented to Council included statements that the road width was three feet wider than it actually is. In addition, the traffic data presented to the Council was two years old and wasn't acquired in the actual problem areas. Resident pedestrian safety concerns were not presented to the Council. The next Mukilteo Lane discussion will be at the July 20 Council meeting.

Steve Schmalz recently alerted me to a reincarnation of the RFA (Regional Fire Authority) discussion, an issue that falls in my "Budget Shell Game" category. If Mukilteo joins the RFA (to be discussed at the June 29 council meeting), the money that currently comes from the General Fund to pay for Mukilteo fire services could be used for other purposes. However, with the RFA providing fire services to Mukilteo instead of our having our own fire department, we'd be paying a new and significantly higher RFA tax than we're currently paying, the City would have less say in Mukilteo fire services and we'd likely see the fire station in Old Town replaced with one centrally located up the hill. Yet another erosion of services at Mukilteo's waterfront.

Speaking of the "Budget Shell Game" category, the paid parking at Mukiteo's waterfront is the same game where, contrary to what many of us were hoping, didn't result in additional money being spent on waterfront improvements by the City. Instead, the new parking revenue was used to replace the money previously supplied by the General Fund.

Finally, I wanted to share something I hope will help Councilmembers in their efforts to get things done for Mukilteo. As a Councilmember you have access to attorneys at MRSC (Municipal Research and Services Center). Do your homework. Especially if you have something to propose on behalf of the residents you represent — talk with an attorney to understand your rights to represent Mukilteo residents. Then at Council meetings when you have other City officials making things up as to why something can't be done, ask the City attorney (who should be at every Council meeting). The City attorney rarely interjects unless asked. Just sayin'.

So, that's it for now. Moving forward I'll be incorporating more political commentary where it helps clarify why things happen the way they do. I welcome feedback from City officials if you think I've gotten something wrong or if you have information to add.

Drop me a note at [email protected] if you have information to share or ideas for future columns.


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