Liias chose to postpone funds for Japanese Gulch

City unaware Peace Park funds would take away from daylighting project
By Brandon Gustafson | Mar 14, 2018
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo

At last week’s Mukilteo City Council meeting, councilmembers were surprised to discover the state granted $400,000 to Mukilteo for the proposed Peace Park, but the city would no longer receive $721,000 that was set in the initial state budget in January for the Japanese Gulch Daylighting project.

At the meeting, Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said Sen. Marko Liias helped the city receive the state funds for the Peace Park.

Some councilmembers wondered why there was a request for the Peace Park in the first place, and asked who put the request in and when.

Councilmember Bob Champion voiced his displeasure over the loss of funds for the Japanese Gulch project, and said he would be writing to representatives of the 21st Legislative District.

Subsequently, in his email to Sen. Liias, Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self and Rep. Strom Peterson, Champion said he was disappointed with the removal of funds.

The $721,000 that initially was allotted for the Japanese Gulch project was split into two projects in the 21st District: the Peace Park in Mukilteo, which will receive $400,000, and the Mariner Sno-Isle Library in Everett, which will receive the remaining $321,000.

According to an email from Sen. Liias to Champion, Liias said he requested the delay of the Japanese Gulch funding.

“I asked to postpone the funding for the Japanese Gulch restoration project because there are two more pressing projects that have emerged as urgent needs in the 21st District, and as you well know, the Japanese Gulch project does not yet have a pathway to full funding and implementation,” Liias wrote to Champion.

“The task of the Legislature is to balance a number of community priorities, so while I appreciate the council’s established priorities, as a lawmaker my task is to consider the various priorities throughout our whole district.”

Ortiz-Self told The Beacon that she is not on the budget committees, but the funds for the Peace Park would have been requested by the city.

Gregerson sent The Beacon a string of emails between herself, Patricia Love, Mukilteo’s community development director, Jeff Price, the city’s recreation and cultural services director, and Curt Kohlwes, an assistant for Liias. In the emails, it shows the city requested state funds for the Peace Park on Jan. 26.

Gregerson forwarded the email string to Champion on March 6, saying she’d meant for Mukilteo’s Management Services Director Steve Edin to send the emails to Champion at an earlier date.

During budget talks last November and December, the City Council had discussed removing funds for the Peace Park, which were originally set at $50,000.

In Gregerson’s email to Champion, she said she and the city’s staff pursued other funding for the Peace Park as a result of the council’s reluctance to spend money on the park.

“My understanding from the Peace Park discussion during the budget was that council was reluctant to fund the $50k and encouraged staff to pursue other contributions, such as the private donation that Jeff (Price) mentioned last night,” Gregerson’s email said. “When Marko mentioned the capital budget opportunity, it seemed like it fit what I understood from council as their reluctance to approve the funding.”

Gregerson also said she believed the cut of the Japanese Gulch funding occurred on Feb. 21, and on Feb. 22, the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the amendment to add the funds for the Peace Park and library.

“I think I became aware of all that within a day or two as I was finalizing my approval of the Peace Park agenda bill,” Gregerson said. “No other legislators that I have ever met with during the session discussed the cut of the Gulch daylighting, and we continued to discuss the importance of the project to the city at all of our meetings, using the documentation that Steve (Edin) sent you.”

In an email to The Beacon, Gregerson said the city requested $400,000 because, “Sometimes when grant requests are made, it makes sense to ask for a little extra in hopes of getting at least some of it.”

Originally, the Peace Park was a two-phase plan with the first phase costing around $78,000, and the second phase costing between $200,000 and $250,000 according to Price.

Gregerson reiterated that she wasn’t told the Japanese Gulch funding would be removed in favor of the Peace Park.

She also said councilmembers were surprised at last week’s meeting because, “No councilmembers chose to attend the Association of WA Cities conference where we had appointments with our representatives in January.”




Comments (1)
Posted by: Charlie Pancerzewski | Mar 15, 2018 01:34

Of course it remains that the Mayor did not discuss her request for $400,000 for the Peace Park with the Council. It is hard to believe Liias and the Mayor did not talk about how the $721,000 would not longer be left in the Budget to be reallocated between the Peace Park and other non Mukilteo projects. She and Liias are "joined at the hip" for many years and she hired him to, in effect, be her assistant at City Hall which he was until December when his job was eliminated by the Council. Both she and he were outraged at the Council action. This sounds like pay back to the Council by Liias and perhaps the Mayor as well.

But why does the Mayor from the outset propose a Peace Park with no discussion with the Council and then ask for $400,000 for it with no discussion with the Council. She and Liias are not that unlikely to discuss what she wants for Mukilteo and what he wants.

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