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Jim Smith departs in legislative ‘blaze of glory,’ Sutton’s call for audit passes

LYNNWOOD, Wash., December 13, 2023—In their final meeting of the year, the Lynnwood City Council passed their mid-biennial budget and added new agenda items for the incoming council next year.

The budget passed without any further discussion in a 6-0-1 vote with Councilmember Josh Binda abstaining. 

As was previously reported, since Lynnwood operates on a two-year budget, state law requires the city to review it yearly to make adjustments for unforeseen circumstances.

During their business meeting on November 27, Finance Director Michelle Meyer highlighted four major unanticipated items: a $3 million surplus from sales tax revenue, a $1.5 million expense for contract housing from the delay in construction for the Community Justice Center, a $1 million expense from an increase in the city’s liability and property insurance, and $425,000 for fire marshall services.

The city swore in newly elected council members Nick Coelho and David Parshall and re-elected council members George Hurst and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby. Also sworn in was Judge Valerie Bouffiou for Municipal Court. 

Prior to the swearing in, the city proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants Day. Proclamations on behalf of outgoing Council President Shannon Sessions and Councilmember Jim Smith were also given, with each giving a statement afterward. 

 Van Dinh-Kuno, the Executive Director of Refugee & Immigrant Services Northwest (RISNW), receiving the proclamation for International Migrants Day. SOURCE: Snapshot from Lynnwood City Council live feed of meeting.

Under new business, Councilmember Shirley Sutton moved that city staff bring forward at least three third-party auditing services to audit the city by April 1, 2024. This was a more prepared version of Sutton’s impromptu motion on November 27 during discussions about the city’s property tax levy increase to find areas the city could cut spending. 

Council Vice President Altamirano-Crosby expressed concerns that doing so would take away agency from the incoming members of the council. Councilmember Patrick Decker disagreed.

“As I listen to it, I find it to be fairly innocuous,” Decker said. “The motion is that the administration identify and bring to the council a list of three companies. There is nothing in this motion that says the council or the administration will take action after that. That is a decision that can be made by the incoming council.”

This motion passed 5-2 with Altamirano-Crosby and Session voting no.

jim smith
Councilman Jim Smith at Lynnwood City Council meeting on December 11, 2023. SOURCE: Snapshot from Lynnwood City Council live feed of meeting.

In a similar vein, Smith, who — as mentioned earlier — will not be serving on the incoming council, successfully pushed forward and postponed four new motions for the incoming city council. This effectively gets these items on the agenda for the new council to discuss and take action on.

The first motion brought forward by Councilman Jim Smith tasked city staff to draft a proposal for senior home/housing to bring to council for voting. This postponement passed 4-1-2 with Hurst voting no and Altamirano-Crosby and Binda abstaining. 

The second was to allocate $25,000 in ARPA funds to subsidize rent for the non-profit Lynnwood Alano Club. The motion was postponed like the previous one, in a 6-0-1 vote with Binda abstaining. 

Smith then proposed the elimination of the 6% water/sewer tax that was vetoed by former Mayor Nicola Smith in May of 2020, with this postponement passing 5-1. Hurst voted no and Binda abstained.

The final motion by Smith was for city staff to bring forward an ordinance to eliminate the $40 car tab tax. This postponement passed in a 4-3 vote with Hurst, Binda, and Altamirano-Crosby voting no. The council passed a similar ordinance last year, but were unable to overturn Mayor Christine Frizzell’s veto

These postponements did not sit well with Binda, who, similar to Altamirano-Crosby earlier, argued that it was out-of-line for an outgoing council member to bring forward multiple agenda items for the next council. 

Josh Binda
Councilman Josh Binda at Lynnwood City Council meeting on December 11, 2023. SOURCE: Snapshot from Lynnwood City Council live feed of meeting.

“I just think it is morally wrong, on the last meeting, to push forward your agenda that you’d want to happen for the next council to do,” Binda said. “I think if it’s going to happen, let the next council bring it up and have it be a part of what they want to have happen.”

Decker once again voiced his support for bringing items to an incoming council.

“So in effect, what Councilmember Smith is doing is he is placing items on the agenda for January, which any of us can do — this is correct procedure,” Decker said. “But by not asking for the vote tonight, he’s respecting the incoming council members so they have the opportunity to learn and then take whatever action or whatever vote they would like to on these points.” 

After Smith’s motions, Decker requested support from two other council members for $10,000 in ARPA funds for the non-profit World Youth Orchestra of Lynnwood. Binda, Altamirano-Crosby, and Smith all gave their support, which allows it to be discussed next year.

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