At its work session Sept. 5, the Lynnwood City Council had a discussion and scheduled a decision for Lynnwood’s Public Facilities District board appointments, addressed the recent shooting at Lynndale Park and heard a funding request from the Lynnwood’s Parks and Recreation Department, among other items.
During the upcoming weeks, the council must decide whether it will reappoint Board Chair Mike Miller and member Vivian Dong, whose terms expire in October 2023.
In April, the council appointed Dong to a temporary position on the PFD board. A few months later, during a July 11 meeting, the PFD held a vote of no confidence in Dong. It was unclear whether the vote of no confidence by the PFD board was a binding removal, as there was no precedent or guidelines for it. While members are appointed by the city council, the PFD is not part of the City of Lynnwood, and its purpose is to act in the best interests of its associated local businesses and tenants.
Dong has stated on social media that the action taken against her was racist and that she was being retaliated against because she supported a June protest involving transgender issues.
The PFD board has said that Dong willingly disregarded the financial interests of its tenants –causing fiscal losses to the PFD and its constituents – and went against the wishes of the business she claimed to support.
Dong and Miller have both confirmed that they would like to be reappointed to the board for additional terms.
Councilmember Patrick Decker motioned that the council discuss the matter during its Oct. 9 business meeting . The motion drew concerns from both Council President Shannon Sessions and Councilmember George Hurst.
Sessions asked why the discussion had to occur during a business meeting instead of the work session that the council generally uses to discuss appointments. “Historically, our council does not like to vote on something we’re just hearing about, and this is going to supposedly be some new information that you have,” she said.
Decker responded that the Oct. 9 date would allow the council to collect more information and give the public the opportunity to comment on the situation.
Hurst referenced a 2010 resolution that outlines the recruiting/appointing agreement that Lynnwood has with the PFD:
“On or before July 20, approximately 90 days prior to the expiration of a LPFD appointment… the City Council will discuss this matter at the earliest possible Work Session. The City Council may then schedule the reappointment for action at the next Regular Meeting. If
the City Council does not schedule the reappointment for action, staff will proceed with the recruitment process”.
Hurst said that the council was already late on this appointment decision and that by postponing it, they were not taking the action to reappoint. As a result, the council was instructing city staff to proceed with the recruitment process, Hurst added.
Sessions asked City Attorney Lisa Marshall what would occur if the council did not act on the matter. According to Marshall, there would be no repercussions for Lynnwood or the council. The board positions would become empty, however, so the PFD board might struggle to find a quorum and be unable to take executive action.
Hurst restated his concern that Decker’s motion would not adhere to procedure. “What’s in the resolution, you’re advising us not to follow,” he said to Marshall.
“I think what I advised you is, the ‘what you do’ is important and the ‘when you do it’ is somewhat within your control,” Marshall replied. “And I don’t think anybody’s going to run into superior court with an injunction if you wait another two weeks or another three weeks for your scheduled decision. [I] don’t think anybody is going to interpret the council’s inability to make a decision as a complete failure of the process to work as though the resolution is requiring it.”
Decker suggested that the council also schedule the decision for Oct. 9. to more closely adhere to procedure. He added that if the information and public comment they heard was as revealing as he anticipated it would be, the council could also reschedule the decision in light of that.
The vote to discuss PFD appointments on Oct. 9 passed by a 5-2 vote, with Councilmembers Josh Binda and Hurst voting against.
Binda motioned that the votes for PFD positions two and three be separated as only Dong’s reappointment had been contested. This would allow the PFD to more easily retain a quorum and continue operations. The motion did not receive a second.
The council then took a vote to decide on PFD appointments Oct. 9, which passed by a 5-1 vote, with Binda abstaining and Hurst voting against.
In closing, Sessions said that she was mortified for all parties involved in the dispute and sympathized with the struggles they were experiencing.
During her comments, Mayor Christine Frizzell acknowledged the recent shooting at Lynndale Park that killed one 18-year-old and hospitalized two other teenagers. Frizzell asked that community members share their ideas for making Lynnwood safer. Other councilmembers also expressed their condolences and acknowledged the tragedy. During council comment, councilmember Josh Binda said that considering recent events, he was disappointed in the council’s stance on gun violence.
In April, Councilmember Hurst made a motion to symbolically support the state Legislature’s ban on assault weapons. The proposal failed by a 3-4 vote, with Councilmembers Shirley Sutton, Binda and Hurst in favor and Patrick Decker, Jim Smith, Council President Shannon Sessions and Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby against.
Disapprovingly shaking his head throughout Binda’s statement, Decker followed by stating that “the death was not political” and that it should not be used that way. Binda replied by saying that he was simply expressing his opinion, not making a political statement.
Later, the council heard an update from the Parks and Recreation Department on the funding it received in February. A total of $388,432 was allocated from Lynnwood’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to hire two temporary employees and improve security measures. The two employees would primarily focus on the quick removal of graffiti around city parks to combat growing levels of vandalism.
Parks Director Lynn Sordel described the addition of the two team members as “a godsend.” “These two individuals have become so skilled at doing this and really great at responding that it has allowed our full-time team to do the other work that we need in our parks.” According to Sordel’s report, the current response time to graffiti in parks is within 12 hours, depending on the weather. Additionally, the workers have assisted with the cleanup of over 40 homeless camps while the full-time team has worked on items such as installing ADA compliant drinking fountains, irrigation repairs and large cleaning operations.
The hiring of these two positions took a few months, meaning that the Parks Department will not spend its entire allocation. Sordel requested that the council consider allocating $50,000 toward the creation of a disc golf course at Gold Park. Early estimates for the project have estimated a total costs of approximately $75,000, of which the department could use the $25,000 it has left over from the graffiti initiative. Most of the costs can be attributed to the price of fencing that would surround the park.
In his pitch, Sordel said that the idea behind the recreational course would be to attract positive activities in the park, which would naturally deter bad ones. The implementation of a disc golf course would not require the removal of any trees.
Braeden Swan, a Boy Scout from Troop 312, has volunteered to assist in the design of a nine-hole Frisbee Disc Golf Course and is seeking donations from local businesses to offset the costs of the course as part of an Eagle Scout award. Local disc golf enthusiasts have donated their time to design the nine-hole course while parks staff have already completed a comprehensive assessment of the safety needs for the new course and the park.
Sordel’s proposal faces heavy competition from local nonprofit organizations. Most recently, the council disbursed $643,155 to eight requestors, leaving them approximately $144,000 remaining. Other requests for ARPA funds already total over $350,000, so the council will not be able to fund every proposal.
In other business, the council heard a response to their questions about possible fee increases from Lynnwood’s Department of Business and Development Services (DBS), which oversees
building permitting and licensing, code enforcement, safety inspections, tree removal and other activities. The fees were last increased in 2020, by 6.3% based on a cost-of-living adjustment. In June 2021, Lynnwood contracted with local consultant the FCS Group to review the fees to ensure the city was recouping the costs of providing these services.
DBS now achieves 92% cost recovery, which is above average compared to nearby cities, FCS Project Director Martin Chaw told the council. Lynnwood spends $3.7 million to provide DBS services and recoups $3.4 million in fees.
Councilmembers also discussed clarifications on their travel policy. Hurst, chair of the city’s finance committee, said that the current policy had some gray areas. Main points of discussion focus on the wording of a policy that allocates funding $5,000 biannually while councilmembers and administrative staff have been operating under the understanding that the funding is $2,500 per year, which has caused misunderstandings. Other items for consideration included the transfer of vacation funding from one councilmember to another and the procedures and responsibilities for travel allotments and whether councilmembers should accrue absences while traveling. In addition, there was consideration of whether those absences can be overridden if a majority of councilmembers are attending a specific event together.
Nothing binding occurred during the discussion, so staff will consider the comments made at the meeting and present their suggestions at a future meeting.
The council will meet next on Monday, Sept. 11, when it is scheduled to consider granting its remaining ARPA funding. Councilmembers are also expected to learn about and vote on amendments to Lynnwood’s interlocal agreement with Snohomish County. It is also scheduled to read proclamations in honor of Patriots Day, Hispanic Heritage Month and Alfredo Arreguin Day. Finally, it is scheduled to vote on whether it will authorize the mayor to submit a funding application to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation office, which could pay for $100,000 in park improvements.
The Sept. 11 meeting will be in Lynnwood City Hall Council Chambers, 19100 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Visit lynnwoodwa.gov/Government/City-Council/City-Council-Meetings for information on streaming or joining the meeting live. You can see the complete agenda for the meeting here.
–By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis