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Mukilteo CC selects final four vacancy candidates and talks Outreach and Grants

MUKILTEO, Wash., January 19, 2022 – During the Mukilteo City Council January 18th Special Meeting, council members discussed its Community Outreach Engagement Plan, selected four vacancy candidates to move on to the next step in filling the vacant city council seat, and discussed at length the Community Grant Proposal dispute that was made during its January 3rd Regular Business Meeting.

ARPA Funding: Community Engagement Outreach Plan

The council’s first agenda item was to review a proposal by PRR, Inc, whose closest office is located in Seattle, on a community engagement plan for input on prioritizing how to spend American Rescue Plan Act funds. 

The council had initially allocated a $20,000 budget for community engagement, which would provide the following services from the PRR team: Draft an online community survey and produce promotional materials for the survey. 

With a vote to increase the base $20,000 budget, the council can grant PRR, Inc to do the following additional scope of work for a fee:

  • $10,000 – Comprehensive survey, data analysis, and recommendation report
  • $13,479.80 – Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean translation services
  • $30,735.99 – City-wide mailing
  • $15,315.42 – Develop content for promotional materials (flyer, poster), and the city assumes the cost of printing
  • $6,692.29 – Virtual community meeting(s)
  • $5,952.98 – In-person pop-up events (such as tabling at a library or community center)
  • $25,428.80 – Multi-lingual outreach

Mukilteo’s City Administrator, Steve Powers, opened the discussion of the current community outreach proposal and stressed the importance of outreach in general. He recounted how the city’s on-call community outreach team put the plan together and mentioned the additional services available such as translations and city-wide mailing. 

Councilman Louis Harris began the discussion by thanking PRR for providing the proposal but then said that he was “having a bit of a hard time with this proposal” and voiced concern that the price points may not be worth the value of the services. 

This sentiment was shared by other council members, including Council President Steve Schmalz, and Councilmen Richard Emery, and Tom Jordal. Emery estimated that PRR’s complete community outreach package would cost nearly $140,000. He reiterated that the council needs to know what exactly they’re looking for and whether or not using PRR’s service would provide it.

Vice President Elisabeth Crawford clarified with Powers that the city isn’t contractually obligated to utilize PRR’s services and could go through a different organization. However, Powers did express that, with the consultant agreement, the city is buying time, explaining how PRR will take care of the many tasks involved in the community outreach plan. 

Regarding costs, Powers also explained that only a certain amount of the ARPA funds had been approved by the council and that, with the council’s consent, more are available for approval if necessary. 

In addition to questions regarding the price points, council members also deciphered how much input and control they would have in the process if they went through PRR. For example, Schmalz asked if they would be able to preview survey questions before they were sent out.

Powers said it may be possible, but a review process may take up even more time. 

Crawford also spoke to the value of the council having more input in the questions for an outreach survey. She suggested moving the topic to a work session for some more fine-tuning before spending the funds.

Harris said he’d like to see a competitive proposal process for the outreach endeavor. Acknowledging that such a process would take more time still, he said it’ll be worth it to “really leverage these ARPA funds to benefit the community in the broadest way possible.”

Ultimately, the council decided to move the discussion of the outreach process to the next Work Session.

Council vacancy candidate statements and short-list selection

Moving on to the next item, the council heard statements from 8 applicants for its vacant 7th position—as Joleen Sims and Sharon Swann formally withdrew from consideration. Applicants were given 5 minutes each to issue their statements. 

After hearing from the candidates, the council members voiced their top four choices in no particular order. 

  • Crawford selected Carolyn Carlson, Alex Crocco, Jason Moon, Don Saul
  • Jordal selected Jason Moon, Alex Crocco, Ashvin Sanghvi, and Ted Wheeler
  • Schmalz selected Kevin Stoltz, Alex Crocco, Carolyn Carlson, and Jason Moon
  • Emery selected Carolyn Carlson, Jason Moon, Don Saul, and Alex Crocco
  • Harris selected Alex Crocco, Jason Moon, Don Saul, and Kevin Stoltz
  • Khan selected Kevin Stoltz, Don Saul, Jason Moon, and Carolyn Carlson

Candidates Moon, Crocco, Carlson, and Saul made the Council’s short-list and will proceed to the second round of interviews, which will take place during the council’s January 31st session.

Concerns surrounding candidate’s statements

One point of concern that was overwhelmingly addressed by public comment was an anecdote Ashvin Sanghvi had shared at the end of his statement. After making a case for his candidacy, Sanghvi said, “When I was considering applying for this role, I met with a couple of Mukilteo council members […] I was appalled at how strongly they wanted me to declare my party affiliation, which is confusing because this is a non-partisan position.”

“And as I held my ground,” he continued, “the tone of the conversation changed from kind of help and advice to letting me gently know that maybe I’m not political enough for the role.” Sanghvi’s statements ended there as he ran out of time. 

The experience he relayed to the council alarmed many who made public comments following the candidates’ presentations. One even questioned the legality of the matter and asked, “what other backdoor discussions transpired?” Multiple individuals requested that those council members involved identify and recuse themselves. 

Some public comments also asserted that Jason Moon made mention of having a similar meeting. Moon did say that he had met council members previously but did not indicate the context thereof or that political affiliations were a discussion topic. Moon is the current Chair of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Commission for Mukilteo. “I had the pleasure of meeting many members of this council and thank you so much for your perspective valuable insights into the government of Mukilteo,” Moon said during his 5-minute statement.

No city councilmember during the meeting shared which candidate(s) they met with privately regarding the vacant council position during the application process. The Lynnwood Times is looking into the matter.

Motion to remove previously approved Community Support Grant from the Lynnwood Times

The next agenda item was discussing the reconsideration of Community Support Grant Awards. At the January 3, 2022 meeting, Crawford motioned to reconsider the grant awards, specifically citing the award to the Lynnwood Times. The motion was seconded by Harris and passed by a vote of 5-1.

Snapshot from the 10-page Community Support Grant presentation on November 17, 2021, to council members.

The reimbursement grant in question awarded the Lynnwood Times $1,000 to be paid directly to Kamiak High School interns. According to the bill, which passed during the council’s first session in early Dec 2021, the grant would “provide an internship for a student journalist who will report and contribute articles to the Lynnwood Times of high school events, activities, appreciation/recognition, achievements, and sports to be published on their website, social media accounts, and print newspaper.”

“I felt it didn’t rise to the level of the community support grants because it goes to a private business,” Harris began, explaining how even though the grant would provide valuable experience to Kamiak High School students, “it benefits a private business.” 

Harris also argued that it doesn’t have a “broader community impact” in the way the other grant recipients do, and suggested reallocating that money from the Lynnwood Times to a different recipient like the Mukilteo Community Garden.

Crawford, who reconsidered her vote, questioned the criteria and how the Lynnwood Time’s proposal was graded according to that criteria. She also challenged whether or not the grant would impact the broader community, though she said, “it’s a great sentiment for the high schoolers.”

Council members Jordal and Khan did not challenge the revisiting of the Community Support Grant criteria but felt it would be unfair or otherwise bad practice to go back on something that the council had already passed six weeks earlier. 

After the council’s lengthy discussion which involved legal counsel and passionate comments from the public which were overwhelming in support of the grant to benefit Kamiak high school students, Crawford moved forward with a motion of an amendment to remove the $1,000 grant awarded to the Lynnwood Times. With no council member seconding the motion, it died.

If you or know of a Kamiak student who enjoys writing and would like a paid internship to gain valuable on-the-job experience that will enhance their analytical decision-making skills, contact the Lynnwood Times at editorial@lynnwoodtimes.com.

To view this City Council session in its entirety, click here

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