MLT City Council plans to ask voters for third time to approve Civic Center bond measure

MLT City Manager John Caulfield speaks to the City Council Saturday morning.

Story and photo by Doug Petrowski

Mountlake Terrace voters will be asked for a third time in less than 30 months to vote for a property tax bond measure to fund construction of a new Civic Center.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council decided to work toward placing the issue on the April 23, 2013 ballot following discussion at a special council meeting on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Council consensus is to make no changes to the size or scope of the $25-million bond measure that received a 57-percent yes vote last month (60-percent approval is required for passage). A $37.5-million Civic Center plan was nixed by voters in November 2010.

Last month’s Proposition 1, if it had been approved, would have authorized the city to raise $25 million in municipal bonds to pay for a new city hall, new community/senior center, a remodeled and expanded police station, roof and furnishing improvements to the library and outdoor amenities to the civic campus.

With all five council members in attendance already supportive of bringing the bond issue before voters again, discussion centered on picking which election date in 2013 the council would pursue for the measure and how to achieve reaching the necessary 60-percent yes vote needed for passage.

Choosing an election date

The council has the options of Feb. 12, Apr. 23, Aug. 6 or Nov. 5 as dates to put the bond measure before voters in 2013.

City Manager John Caulfield reported to the council that the project may end up costing more if there are significant delays. “We still feel comfortable with the $25-million option if you go is February or April,” Caulfield said. “But if you’re looking at August or certainly November, we’re going to have to come back to that cost estimate.” Caulfield estimated passage of a bond measure later in 2013 moves construction dates to 2015 or 2016, resulting in likely higher construction costs.

Other reasons cited by council members for picking the April ballot are taking advantage of any momentum gained from last month’s election, the intact YES Committee that is already in place, and avoiding any campaign overload from the more crowded ballots expected in August and November. The February option was discarded due to the belief that preliminary campaign work would have to be done in December.

“I think the clear advantage, when I am mapping it out and scoping out the dates and the months, is the April 23 date,” said Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore.

“I still like February but I would settle for April,” said Mayor Jerry Smith. “I just don’t want to lose our momentum.”

“I do think April would have less (campaign) sign distractions because, coming up on Aug. 6 and Nov. 5, we will have signs up for members of our council and any opposing (candidates),” said Councilmember Rick Ryan. Five of the current nine council positions will be up for election in 2013.

“February would be tough because we would be educating everyone during the holidays,” said Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto Wright. “I can see we only have one choice and that would be April.”

Achieving voter approval

City officials believe reaching a 60-percent yes vote on the Civic Denter bond measure is reachable. “The community fell a little bit short in the August election for a new city campus,” said City Manager John Caulfield. “The final tally, according to the county, was 124 votes.”

Alison Peters, a market research and message development consultant hired by the city to report on the Proposition 1 failure and to strategize plans for another ballot attempt, told the council that there is enough support in Mountlake Terrace for the measure.

“There were over 3,000 yes voters in November 2010 election,” Peters said. “We only had 2,200 yes voters this time. So I know there are 800 more yes voters out there.”

Peters advised the council, and the half-dozen members of the citizen’s Proposition Yes committee watching in the audience, that finding those who had voted yes on the Civic Center bond issue in 2010 but failed to cast a vote for it last month would be the key to winning in April 2013.

“Turnout is the name of the game,” Peters said. She advised proponents to concentrate on campaigning in the areas of town that have shown support for the Civic Center. “About spending time in precincts where there were a higher percentage of no voters, don’t do that.” Peters said. “Spend time in the precincts where you had the highest percentage of yes voters and find more of them.”

“The challenge is not turning no voters into yes voters; it’s finding more yes voters,” she said, adding that it is much more difficult to change a voter’s mind from no to yes on the issue.

According to Snohomish County election records, Proposition 1 received more that 60-percent approval in seven of the 19 Mountlake Terrace precincts in the last election; more than 73.5 percent of the voters in Precinct 16 voted for the proposal.  You can see the map of the voter turnout by precinct here.

“I like concentrating on people who are the yes voters,” said Councilmember Ryan.

What’s next?

To place the Civic Center bond issue on the April 23, 2013 ballot, the city council will have to pass a formal proposal by Mar. 8, but the action will more likely take place in January.

City Manager Caulfield reported that the city will continue to provide “community outreach” concerning the Civic Center plans through city publications and social media. “You can expect that not to stop, but to continue,” he said.

  1. Good. And I’ll vote yes again. For those who keep choosing to vote no, show up at the meetings to express what it would take for you to vote “yes”. Please don’t say “We just need what Brier has” which is nothing. MLT has much more potential and opportunity to include amenities for all age groups, whether you’ll use them or not. 

    I also agree that the key is in vote turnout. I’ll do my best to encourage my neighbors to get out next April and vote yes.

    1. How interesting that you support spending your neighbors’ tax moneys on amenities that are unlikely to be used by them.  You must be a very generous person (at least, with your neighbors’ money).

    2. Just like animals that we now charge more for. Go tell the girl who can barely afford anything to now beg her mom for more money to buy a cat and save a life. Thats the money you ask for. Raising your property tax right now is like taking a portion of your check and putting it in the pockets of the council who reside in edmonds. Taking money from the community and knowingly using it to benefit is a shame. Same with putting business owners out so someone rich guy who could own 6 houses in mountlake terrace has a nice apartment view of the sound. Hmm sounds like Edmonds from Mountlake Terrace. That person doesn’t pay any more in property tax than the lower income people (who actually live here). I would rather see the council rent a building for 50 years than to see them pocket 10million and do some quick scheme.

  2. If every voter in town could take the time to listen to  the “City Councils Special Meeting” on Sept. 8th  regarding the “Civic Center” whether for or against the measure, I think they would be interested in knowing how they are treated like statistics rather than middle class taxpayers with real interests. 

  3. How arrogant of the City to think that the key is to ignore the “no” voters and campaign where the “yes” voters live.  Has it considered that the reason that the number of “yes” voters has gone down is because they have reconsidered their previous support?  Why, then, does it make any sense to bring the same measure to ballot again with no change?  The voters have spoken.

    The attitude being displayed is the opposite of what it should be in a democracy.  The City doesn’t get to pick which residents it represents, the residents are the ones who get to choose their representatives.  With arrogance and mismanagement like this, I predict incumbent losses in future local elections.

  4. “I like concentrating on people who are the yes voters,” said Councilmember Ryan.

    This sound very disgustingly similar to the ” i only care about the other non 47% of voters”.   Stop manipulating the voter stats,  get busy making a plan that make sense and stop looking for ways to force the issue on your favor.      You lost twice because the plan is not good,  make one that covers the needs of the citizens,  not the wants of your posse.     

  5. This is a joke along with every other councilmember decision. Elect someone who doesn’t care about benefiting financially but someone who actually thinks logically and cares about the community. Elect someone who actually resides in Mountlake Terrace. Not somebody Who gets elected and spends $120,000 dollars on an electric sportscar. That’s who you elected before. Moneygrubbers

  6. I don’t understand the behavior of putting a bond up for vote over and over until it goes the way of the minority. If the conditions are as dire as you are stating, wouldn’t time be better spent coming up with a scaled down Plan B? I believe your 3rd attempt at passing the bond will backfire. You will end up with fewer votes than prior tallies. The City Council is basically saying to the citizens that their voice is not heard and their votes do not matter. You have lost my yes vote. 

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