What happened Monday at the City Council meeting?
We know about half of the story.
Woe unto thee for 2021 when it comes to the Everett City Council trying to have a successful meeting, as technical issues bombarded the board once again and they plowed on without the public being fully able to observe the meeting.
Technical issues have been a hallmark of the Everett Council like no other board or Council anywhere else since COVID-19 started, and though it seemed they had gotten to the other side of the troubles, Monday night’s meeting suddenly fizzled out again as it had previously many times last summer and fall.
The meeting was going quite well on Monday, with Council President Wayne Matewsky handling business on the agenda smoothly. Then, about one hour into the meeting, technical issues arose – particularly on the ECTV online feed through the City’s website.
Communications Director Deanna Devaney said the problem came from a third party that works with the City’s provider. That third provider, and their partner, had issues that cropped up and crunched the meeting around 8:05 p.m. She said the broadcast was down for 26 minutes. Once restored, however, a technical error at City Hall kept the sound muted until the end of the meeting around 9 p.m.
Despite the issues at hand, the Council did proceed with their online meeting, and it wasn’t readily apparent to the public what transpired during that lost hour.
Councilor Gerly Adrien said she did get communications from the public about the meeting being off-line and argued to postpone the proceedings until things were fixed. However, her argument apparently did not win over the rest of the Council. She said on Tuesday the issues needed to be fixed once and for all.
“The number of technical issues with the City should be reviewed by the Mayor’s office for a quick remediation,” she said. “I am wondering why they do not want the public to know what is going on during the meetings. We should have different avenues for people to watch the meetings instead of limiting it. Clearly, it is not working.”
•LINKAGE FEES GO TO COMMITTEE OF WHOLE
The City has had a long battle to try to get Linkage Fees for affordable housing codified into law, and Monday was no different as the final step in the process got waylaid due to a number of concerns from the construction community.
Linkage Fees are a set fee per square foot paid to the City and put in a fund that helps to provide subsidies for affordable housing projects. The current proposal had been voted out of Committee on Nov. 30 and got a positive enrollment at the Council recently. It was to be ordained into law Monday, but last minute changes by Mayor Carlo DeMaria at the behest of the development community gave the Council pause. Instead, it was voted by a 7-4 vote to go to a Committee of the Whole (which irritated Matewsky and Councilor Rosa DiFlorio to no end, which is a whole other story).
“It is applaudable for the Administration to try to provide affordable housing,” said Councilor Anthony DiPierro. “That’s the goal of everyone here. However, the people I talked to over the weekend think this will cause some problems. I have concerns it could affect growth. We have to face reality, people who build buildings do it to make money and not out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria pushed hard for the effort, and said the City has been trying to get Linkage Fees passed for five years. In that time, he said, they have lost millions in fees that would have been paid into the fund by developers over the years. Right now, he said, there are a lot of developers about ready to take building permits – which would disqualify them from having to pay any fees enacted.
“We have a lot of developments that have been in the process for years,” he said. “They’re coming up to getting their building permits. We could lose out on a lot of money to provide affordable units.”
Some of the changes he made, which were not properly forwarded to the Council by the time of the meeting, were to reduce the fees paid and to give them a 10-year window to make the payments.
It was originally slated to go to the Legislative Affairs Committee, but that failed by a 5-6 vote.
“I strongly believe linkage is a positive addition to our community if and only when done correctly,” said Councilor Michael McLaughlin. “Seeing that this item had come from the Legislative Affairs Committee to send it back to the very committee I didn’t see being productive. I believe a matter of such importance belongs at a Committee of the Whole, so that we as a full body including Mayor DeMaria and all interested and supporting parties can be involved in the discussion is the correct measure. I thank my colleagues who supported my request for such action. I believe this item is extremely time sensitive and I put a request out to Council President Matewsky and Clerk of Committee’s Mr. Burley to call this committee meeting immediately.”
•MCLAUGHLIN ASSIGNED TO SCHOOL FINANCE TASK FORCE
With so much online meetings going on, Councilor John Hanlon opted to no longer serve on the School Finance Task Force, as the meetings are all online. That left a vacancy on the Task Force, which works with the Everett Public Schools (EPS) to analyze budget items and expenditures.
Taking his place will be Councilor McLaughlin, who will join the Task Force after Hanlon having served for three years.
Additionally, Councilor Jimmy Tri Le has decided he does not want to serve on a Committee, and declined his appointment to the Ways & Means Committee. Instead, McLaughlin will be on that Committee in his place.
“I want to thank Council President Matewsky for his willingness to place me Monday night on both the Ways and Means Committee and the School Finance Review Commission,” he said. “I look forward to being a positive addition to both bodies.”