Room for improvement

By Kevin Stoltz, Mukilteo City Councilmember | Dec 07, 2011

This month I thought I’d share a sampling of things going on in the city that you probably haven’t heard about.

In part because these things don’t fit within the current political agenda, but in part because Mukilteo government, in my opinion, has risen to its highest level of incompetence and will likely remain there.

I know that sounds harsh, but that’s my opinion.

Although I know the mayor and some councilmembers hate the fact that I write this monthly piece, I have to say, the amount of material they are supplying me has caused me to consider asking the Beacon’s publisher (Paul Archipley) if I should start writing twice a month.

While the electeds are busy patting each other on the back for the smooth passage of the 2012 budget, I’m not so sure we should be proud of a budget with a 3 percent property tax increase on our residents, and which still shows us spending $1.7 million more than we are taking in.

In addition to the $500,000 deficit spending in the REET 1 fund for the community center bond payments, we approved over $400,000 additional deficit spending in this fund.

Even though I’m very pleased the Tails and Trails Mukilteo Dog Park is moving forward, I’m surprised there’s no budgeted money for the dog park while there was over $50,000 allocated (which has been removed) for the removal of a building on property that may be donated to the city in the future.

At a time when residents, local businesses, Snohomish County, and the Japanese Gulch Group have stepped up to make the dog park a reality, I’m not sure why this project doesn’t receive similar financial consideration.

The Japanese Gulch Group provided $12,500 toward a $25,000 contract to have the Cascade Land Conservancy assist in developing a plan to acquire the remaining parcels in Japanese Gulch for public use.

At the same time, the Japanese Gulch Group is charged the standard fees to use the community center for their fundraisers. As a result, I’ve heard this group is considering alternate venues outside of Mukilteo in the future.

I was also surprised to learn that groups, including the Japanese Gulch Group and the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Project, have to obtain a permit from the city and pay the associated fee to have small nature walks in the lower Japanese Gulch Trail and Natural Area that members from both groups helped build and maintain.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised after the Waterfront Wednesdays collaboration had to have a permit and pay the associated fee for a group of dog owners and their best friends to walk from the Art Building to Lighthouse Park and back.

I’m still trying to get the powers-that-be to consider having the community center open more reasonable hours for the community, as well as better support for community groups using available meeting rooms at no charge.

Unfortunately, it’s become clear to me that the administration just doesn’t have what it takes to figure this one out. I’ve provided no-risk suggestions more than once and the reluctance to embrace basic business economics seems to be out of reach.

After all, when the council is encouraged to reconsider policy set back in 2006 for councilmembers to use a room in the community center to meet with the community and the direction that comes back is that the council can use the Rosehill room (like any other member of the public) and, if there’s too many, and an available room, they can move into that. But they have to clean up after themselves.

Really, that’s the policy the council adopted? I’m proud to say I wasn’t at that council meeting, but did scrape my jaw on the ground when I listened to it.  I suppose I’ll test the wisdom of this policy by having my council chats in the Rosehill Room. I normally don’t like to subject people to my (sometimes strong) opinions in a public room used by others, but if it’s council policy, I guess it’s OK.

Finally, no rant would be complete without some mention of the decision by the city to support moving the ferry to the far end of the tank farm. In my opinion, this preference by the city has crossed the line from ignorance to plain and simple stupidity.

Imagine, if you will, walking down the narrow sidewalk on the SR-525 bridge on your way to Lighthouse Park. On the other side of the bridge you’re met by the new signalized intersection.

You cross through the intersection (and the four new lanes of ferry traffic which extends the entire length of Mukilteo’s waterfront) to the current intersection. You still get to cross through that intersection and compete with all the vehicles driving into the park.

The pedestrian underpass that would provide pedestrians a route to Lighthouse Park (now and in the future), which bypasses the intersections, has been deemed not-feasible.

Fortunately, although it was slated to be removed from the comprehensive plan, I was able to convince the council to leave it in so I could pursue it outside of Mukilteo. Just in case…

Left out of the public ferry moving debate is the disposition of the Art Building owned by James Mongrain and the home of the Mongrain Glass Studio (www.mongrainglass.com). It goes away.

James is a world-renowned master glass blower and artist who specializes in the Venetian tradition of goblet making. You may have also heard of James because of his collaboration and work with Dale Chihuly.

Recently I inadvertently had the opportunity to watch Lino Tagliapietra (www.linotagliapietra.com), a master glass blower and artist from Murano Italy. He frequently travels from Murano to Mukilteo to work in the Mongrain Glass Studio because it is one of the premier glass blowing studios in the world; right here in Mukilteo.

Having James Mongrain and his studio in Mukilteo should be an honor. Instead, the city has endorsed yet more actions that destroy the future of our waterfront and our art community by supporting moving the ferry without proper mitigation and consideration of the negative impacts.

Now the city is making the situation even worse by enforcing parking code that has existed for years, not because of any changes Mr. Mongrain has made, but because of the poor parking and public access decisions the city has made.

The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.

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