Tooting my own horn | Council Corner
This month marks the end of my second four-year term as a Mukilteo city councilmember and, accordingly, this will be the last column I write as a councilmember.
It also marks the 30th anniversary of my moving to Mukilteo, where roughly the last 15 years I’ve been involved in Mukilteo politics in one way or the other.
It has truly been an honor to serve the people of Mukilteo, and I’ve worked hard to keep the best interests of our Mukilteo community in mind in every decision I was a part of.
I’ve always valued and appreciated those of you who came to me and/or the council with your ideas and concerns.
In recent years, I’ve watched council apathy flourish and our decision making process devolve based on either informational bias presented to the council or a misrepresentation of the information presented by some councilmembers.
Even now we’re having to play games in the council vacancy appointment process because the choice most responsive to the voters based on the recent election (Terry Preshaw who lost by a mere 26 votes), is being trumped by a power play by the defeated mayor and his council cronies in an effort to appoint him to the vacant council seat.
I believe the election of Jennifer Gregerson as our next mayor will have a huge positive impact on what Mukilteo government is able to accomplish on behalf of its citizens.
Recent council actions are a cause for great concern however, and I hope Mukilteo voters take note of what’s going on here and remember at the next election.
My plan for this last column as a councilmember is to highlight some of the things I’ve accomplished or had a significant part in getting started.
Everything I’ve been able to accomplish as a councilmember has been with a lot of help from others, but the list that follows is going to sound like it’s all about me; and this time it is all about me and specifically some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish on behalf of Mukilteo citizens.
I won’t be talking about the big projects we accomplished while I was on the council like building City Hall, renovating Lighthouse Park, building a new community center or acquiring property in Japanese Gulch – but rather the smaller things on which a single councilmember can have a positive and effective influence.
City attorney at meetings
One of the first budget proposals I made was to have the city attorney attend all council meetings. Once elected, we have access to Municipal Research and Services Center attorneys and can ask for their legal opinion on any variety of municipal issues.
However, we were making decisions based on legal opinions from staff (and sometimes even other councilmembers) who weren’t qualified to be giving the advice.
Having the city attorney attend all council meetings added the necessary professionalism to the meeting and resulted in better council decisions.
Council use of Rosehill rooms
When I was first elected, we had informal “Chime-In” meetings where up to three councilmembers (so we didn’t have a quorum) would be available to meet with our residents.
These later evolved into council “office hours” and then most recently into the “Council Chat” sessions that Councilmember Steve Schmalz and I hosted.
Using an available room in the Rosehill Community Center was off-limits for some reason to councilmembers. Back in 2006, I initiated the effort to allow councilmembers to have meetings in available rooms at the community center.
A couple of years ago, the administration asked the Park and Arts Commission for their (administration influenced) opinion, and that permission was later repealed by the council.
I proposed establishing council rules for Mukilteo that would describe how the council handled the people’s business. A council committee was formed and the council adopted its rules.
Although we’ve recently not done a very good job of following or enforcing the council rules we adopted, it’s still important to work toward that goal.
After the council approved money in the budget for a trail between 5th Street and Mukilteo Lane on city owned property in Japanese Gulch, and after the realization that it probably wasn’t going to happen unless someone spearheaded the effort, I decided this would be a great project for a city-sponsored volunteer group to take on.
So, after taking a class in Washington, D.C. on “building a municipal volunteer program” and talking with the city attorney, I led a wonderful group of volunteers who built the trail, which included six bridges and a wetland mitigation native plant restoration effort.
Our initial planning efforts were made possible by the ability to use a room in the Rosehill Community Center, thanks to the council decision made in 2006 (and later repealed by the current council).
Working with two other councilmembers and several community organizations, I initiated the Waterfront Wednesdays concept which (officially) ran over two summers on Wednesdays and included an organized effort to promote Mukilteo’s waterfront activities and businesses.
We helped promote the Farmer’s Market and Open Mic at the Red Cup. We initiated the movies at Lighthouse Park and the Pet Parades, glass blowing demonstrations, and studio tours at the Art Building, guest brewers at the Diamond Knot and more.
We initiated the shuttle between Rosehill, the Farmer’s Market at Lighthouse Park and the Art Building with the help of our good friend James Brice of the Mukilteo Seniors who drove the shuttle. (With much sadness, I learned while writing this that Jim passed away Sunday.)
Public safety mitigation
When the plans to demolish the Buzz Inn, apartments in the back and paid parking area to expand the ferry holding lanes was presented to council without any public safety mitigation whatsoever, I made a stink and the council agreed.
At the time, we decided to reinstate the marked walking area in front of the holding area and provide pedestrian access around the holding area and toward the Sounder Station (which was later changed to be the construction of a right-hand turn).
This is also around the time when I initially proposed the pedestrian underpass to allow pedestrians to get to Lighthouse Park without passing through the ferry dock intersection.
The pedestrian underpass project was initially approved by the council, but due to a series of unfortunate ignorance, didn’t move forward. Now, several years later, Washington State Ferries has the project in their plans for when the ferry is moved.
I initiated several items to improve pedestrian safety at the ferry dock intersection.
In the Waterfront Wednesday days, if the pedestrian underpass didn’t work out, the backup plan was to fund a police officer at the intersection at times of high vehicle/pedestrian traffic (like the Farmer’s Market).
That was implemented and continues, although, I’m not sure it’s entirely clear of the intended purpose based on my latest observations this past summer.
I was also a stickler about the use of the off-loading stop light for ferry traffic and opening up the safer crosswalk area on the water side of the intersection.
WSF and their WSDOT counterparts created a crosswalk/ferry stoplight solution that was nearly perfect and actually exceeded my expectations (I’m sure there are a number of Mukilteo officials who can attest to how rarely this occurs).
Finally, after one of my waterfront field trips where the WSDOT engineering manager witnessed a pedestrian trip and almost fall into the street as the result of the newly installed ADA crosswalk/curb combination, WSDOT and WSF fixed the problem that local officials said couldn’t be done.
Goat Trail Park
After learning of a plan the administration slipped into the budget that included selling off parcels for development, including Goat Trail Park, I made a stink that resulted in saving Goat Trail Park, again.
While attending my son’s graduation in Southern California, the council took a vote on red-light cameras, including a vote to put school zone speed cameras on SR-525 at Olympic View Middle School (not previously revealed to or discussed by council).
The council vote was a 3-3 tie, and the mayor broke the tie clearing the way for red-light cameras in Mukilteo. Had I been there, my vote would have been against the cameras, and upon returning, I asked that the decision be reconsidered.
A motion for reconsideration can only be made by someone voting with the majority, and if one is absent, you don’t have that ability according to our council rules (I’ve tried to get this changed several times).
So, when approached by Tim Eyman to bring this discussion to the public in the form of a local initiative (which was modeled on Mukilteo Initiative No. 1 that I sponsored prior to being elected to the council), I was more than happy to help.
To make a long (and convoluted) story short, 70 percent of Mukilteo voters were opposed to red-light cameras in Mukilteo, and the decision was reversed.
Radar speed indicators
After much research and observation, while on the council Transportation Committee, I introduced the idea of permanent radar speed indicators in Mukilteo.
It was known to be a problem that drivers weren’t slowing down from 35 to 25 mph on 5th Street.
The council decided to fund one on 5th Street heading westbound (across from where the dog park is now). Staff recommended putting the other one southbound on SR-525, just past 6th Street.
For the record, I was opposed to this location considering it’s heading up a hill, close to a signalized intersection (5th Street), and near a transition where the speed limit is already increasing (from 25 to 35 mph) but it was sold to the council and remains today.
After the red-light camera fiasco, we put radar speed indicators on SR-525 northbound and southbound at the boarders of the Olympic View school zone.
Radar speed indicators are much more effective at getting drivers’ attentions and reminding them of their speed (they flash a red SLOW DOWN if you’re too far over the speed limit).
Although there has been much opportunity to make Rosehill more available for our residents and to dedicate a room to the Mukilteo Seniors and as a community meeting room, I’ve really only had two successes; one of which I doubt anyone would give me credit for.
You may recall there was a lot of camping going on at Rosehill by people wanting to be first in line to make their wedding/reception reservation one year in advance for any specific day.
On a Wednesday in September, I saw a single tent set up and upon talking with the young lady camping out learned she was there after having knee surgery, to get the spot for a year from Saturday for her wedding.
She was the only person in line and would end up spending three nights there. I made a stink about it and sent a couple of emails to the electeds over the next couple of days asking that we not require her to camp out – because she’s the first and only person in line, why not just give her the reservation? Nobody did anything.
Later, we went to a lottery system, thereby eliminating the need to camp out and more importantly, eliminated the potential liability to the city if something bad were to happen.
Only the city attorney thanked me for my effort in getting this “policy” changed because of the concern over liability.
The other recent success was getting the public hours extended on Friday and Saturday evenings and open hours on Sunday.
A few years ago, a small group of dog park advocates came to the council with the hopes of creating a dog park in Mukilteo.
The administration formed a committee and invited a single councilmember to join them, and they set out to find possible locations.
For whatever reason that process failed to yield results, and after six months had gone by with no activity, I approached the remaining dog park advocate (Sally Osborn) from the original group with an idea that I was quite sure would reignite the process and result in a Mukilteo dog park.
The current location of the Tails and Trails Mukilteo Dog Park was ruled out by the original committee, but with what Sally and I knew, we thought it was actually a feasible location.
So, my plan was to not rely on the city and instead ask for the same agreement already given by the administration to another local group which was “we’ll take care of everything” (Sally already had many of the resources necessary lined up) if we can use the property for a public purpose.
Naturally, this kind of backs them into a corner because the city can’t legally discriminate between groups. But the administration hates it when they drop the ball and I’m able to pick it up and run with it, so almost miraculously the city embarked on a master plan process to include a dog park in this area of city owned property, which cleared the way for an incredible amount of support, and the dog park became a reality.
And while it took a tremendous amount of effort and support from many others to make it a reality, I’m proud that I came up with a strategy that reignited the process that led to a wildly successful dog park in Mukilteo.
Although the idea of a Mukilteo park-and-ride has been discussed for years (actually since the late ‘90s that I’m aware of), nothing materialized until I wrote and submitted a grant application to the state.
Sponsored by Snohomish County, and with the help of two other Mukilteo councilmembers and state representatives, a $1 million grant was awarded to start the process.
I’m looking forward to Mayor Jennifer Gregerson and Councilmember Steve Schmalz, in particular, to move the park-and-ride forward.
So, there you have it. The last monthly column from me as a councilmember and the first where I truly tooted my own horn.
Even now, I’m thinking someone needs to expose the council appointment process fiasco currently underway, but considering I’ve already used three times the allotted space, I’m already greatly “pushing it,” Maybe a future “encore” article?
I have to thank Paul Archipley along with the entire team at The Beacon. I know that Paul has taken some heat, especially from some Mukilteo officials, for allowing me to present my perspective as a councilmember the past eight years.
Mukilteo is lucky to have a local newspaper like The Beacon and truth be told, I would have never gotten involved in Mukilteo government if it weren’t for what I learned in The Beacon. So, thanks Paul! (I think.)
Finally, I want to thank the many readers over the years and for the positive and constructive feedback I’ve received from many of you.
Even those who claim to not like me seem to read what I write, so I guess all I can say is, “Made you look!”
This is Kevin Stoltz’s last column for The Beacon as a councilmember.