Emery seeking reelection to council

By Brandon Gustafson | Apr 24, 2019

At least one current Mukilteo City councilmember will be vying to keep his seat this election season, as Councilmember Richard Emery announced he will run to maintain Position 6.

As 2019 concludes, it will be Emery’s 10th year on Mukilteo City Council. While much has happened since he was first appointed in 2008, Emery feels there is still a lot to be done.

“I decided after a long process – and it was a process – that I will run again,” he said. “I find that there are things that are important that I still want to work on.”

Emery has lived in Mukilteo since 2003, and works in the home construction and remodeling business. After finishing the remainder of his appointed term, he was reelected in 2009 and served in Position 2 until 2013, when he lost his race against Bob Champion. Emery ran again in 2015, winning Position 6 handily over John Boyce.

 

Green, safe, and beautiful

One area Emery would like to see Mukilteo continue to improve in is being “more green.”

“I want to see more progress in Mukilteo being a green and environmentally sound city,” Emery said. “I’d like to see more solar panels on buildings where it’s appropriate. It’s a good investment that will save us money in the long run.”

Emery also wants to see more done on gun safety. Last summer, he proposed a gun safety resolution that passed 4-1. Emery crafted the resolution as a “holistic approach to ending gun violence.”

“There are still things to do that we didn’t have money in the budget for last year,” he said. “I would like to see a gun buy-back program implemented in Mukilteo.”

Emery feels Mukilteo is an attractive city, and thinks even more can be done to enhance its beauty.

“Mukilteo is a beautiful city, and that’s due in part to where we’re located. I’d like to work on getting 1 percent (of the budget) to the arts to get more public art in the city.”

Emery said he hopes to see continued growth in Mukilteo as well.

“Mukilteo is a marvelous place to be, and we want to continue that. I think we’re evolving somewhat slowly from a bedroom community to a city, and that’s a wonderful and beautiful thing.”

 

Mukilteo waterfront

Emery said he and his fellow councilmembers will be keeping a close eye on aspects of the new ferry terminal project, but the waterfront issue he’s hoping to address is that of a proposed parking lot on Tulalip-owned land.

Late last year, representatives from the Port of South Whidbey gave a presentation to City Council on its plan to build a parking lot on the waterfront that the Tulalip Tribes would operate. Emery said he opposes the project.

“A lot of us citizens, myself included, are upset with that. I’m prepared to work to maybe finesse that.”

Emery is also interested in funding from Sound Transit. The agency announced recently that it has $40 million to spend on improving access to its stations in Mukilteo and Edmonds.

“Mukilteo, we’d like to see a portion of that to work on replacing the (SR 525) bridge,” Emery said. “That would improve access and help everyone.”

Emery also wants to see more done to help with waterfront parking, saying it’s as much a traffic issue as it is a parking issue.

 

Paine Field

With commercial air service at Paine Field started and ongoing, Emery wants Mukilteo prepared for talk of expanding the amount of flights at the new terminal.

Currently, there is a maximum of 24 total flights – departures and arrivals – out of the two-gate terminal, but a new commission approved by the Washington state Senate could change that.

The commission’s goal is to locate six areas in Washington to either expand a current airport, or build a new one, to alleviate service at Sea-Tac International Airport. When the bill passed the state Senate to create the commission, language in the bill allowed for Paine Field to be considered.

Emery hopes the city can be ready to oppose that.

“We need to be on that early or risk getting run over again.”

Government disputes

One area in the immediate future Emery would like to see resolved is the dispute over severance and separation agreements that Mayor Jennifer Gregerson signed throughout her tenure as mayor.

Some of those agreements differed from the city’s policy, which allows for an employee to receive two months of pay, paid monthly, if they are fired without cause.

In some agreements Gregerson approved, former employees received an extra month’s pay, and were paid in one lump sum. Since those agreements differed from Mukilteo policy, some councilmembers felt the contracts should have come before the council for approval.

Councilmember Scott Whelpley brought the issue before the council last summer after conducting a public records request for past employees, and at that same meeting, the council approved a motion so all severance and separation agreements, along with collective bargaining agreements and memorandums of understanding must be approved by the council.

This soon led to a vote of no confidence in Gregerson’s leadership, and the council voting to spend up to $40,000 on outside legal services to review whether Gregerson violated state law. Emery opposed both motions.

Emery felt the council was rushing at times, and wanted to wait until the state auditors released their 2017 report before spending money on legal fees.

The report came out, which had no findings, but auditors recommended the Mukilteo City Council take further steps to solidify the August motion.

After the report was published, Emery said he was pleased the city had a clean audit and wanted to move forward.

Emery said much of the same on Monday, April 22.

“The history of what the mayor did with employee severance is not over, but it should be,” Emery said. “We need to focus on broader city issues.”

Recently, some councilmembers have proposed altering Mukilteo’s form of government by either making the mayor position part-time, or changing the form of government to a city manager-council form with a “weak mayor” who is appointed by their fellow councilmembers, much like how the City Council elects a council president and vice president.

Emery thinks Mukilteo’s government should stay the same.

“Some of these issues – Paine Field, bridge replacement, parking issues, funding for parks – all of that requires an elected person in Mukilteo advocating for Mukilteo,” Emery said. “If we cut back, especially to a ‘weak mayor,’ there’s no one to do that.”

Emery said a city manager would likely be too busy running the city to go advocate for Mukilteo. Emery said a part-time mayor could potentially do that, but thinks it’s a cheap alternative to what is already in place.

“I believe cutting back (the mayor’s salary and position) is only about one third of 1 percent of our general fund,” Emery said. “It’s almost like a rounding error at that point. It would save every Mukilteo citizen around $2. I think we could get run over again.”

Emery said when the city used to have a part-time mayor, it employed a lobbyist, which cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“We now have a full-time mayor to help offset that.”

Emery acknowledged that some councilmembers could take time to lobby for the city, but that most councilmembers work full-time or have things in their lives that would prevent them from doing so.

“It’s more efficient to keep having a full-time mayor.”

 

 

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