When the City Council met last week to elect a mayor and deputy mayor, Councilmember James Evans began with a caution to his fellow council members.
"Fervent debate is necessary, and I appreciate that. But I really hope that my fellow council members will join me in being exceptionally positive as we move forward," Evans said. "... I’d like to see this as a body of seven people, all with distinct consciences, all elected, who, again, take their personal opinion about people, their personal experience about individual people, and don’t think that ensures some sort of future voting bloc, some sort of future record or anything else like that."
The voting process was quick and without discussion or argument. In Woodinville, citizens elect seven City Council members, and every two years, the council elects members to serve as mayor and deputy mayor.
The mayor presides over council meetings and formally represents the city; the deputy mayor serves in the mayor’s absence.
Bernie Talmas was elected mayor, and James Evans was elected deputy mayor.
After electing the mayor and deputy mayor, the council discussed whether or not to renovate the old Woodinville schoolhouse.
A phone survey conducted by an independent consultant found that Woodinville citizens ranked renovating the schoolhouse a low priority, and support was weak for a bond to renovate the schoolhouse and a levy to support operations.
The survey, conducted by EMC Research in December, included interviews with 242 registered voters in Woodinville.
When asked to rate priorities for the city on a scale of 1 (very low priority) to 7 (very high priority), respondents gave "preventing crime and protecting the community" the highest priority rating. "Improving infrastructure like roads and sidewalks" and "managing growth to protect creeks and streams and reduce the risk of flooding" were also high priorities.
"Renovating the old Woodinville schoolhouse" received the lowest priority rating.
A narrow majority (54 percent) support a bond measure to pay for renovating the schoolhouse, but a plurality (48 percent) of respondents oppose a levy to pay for maintaining and operating the schoolhouse.
When the interviewers said the bond and levy combined would cost the average Woodinville homeowner $132 a year, 52 percent of respondents said they oppose the measures.
A majority (57 percent) also oppose adding $1.8 million to the total cost of about $12 million to build a covered parking structure.
When interviewers asked about using the city’s general fund to pay for part of the schoolhouse renovation — which would mean the bond would cost less, but there would be less money available for other city services — a strong majority (62 percent) said they oppose using the general fund.
Councilmember Liz Aspen said she was disappointed with the wording of that question.
"There’s two ways to look at something. And you say, on the one, should we take the money out of the city general fund to fund the parking, which would take it away from from other projects — well, everyone’s going to say no," she said. "But there’s other ways to word stuff like that ... How about saying we have almost a $20 million surplus and would like to spend it on something for the city. Would you support it in light of that we have this extra money?"
Another question asked what the city should do with the schoolhouse if it doesn’t renovate it.
A plurality (44 percent) of respondents would like to see a public-private partnership where the city shares renovation costs with a private developer.
Selling to the schoolhouse to private developers, leaving it as is and demolishing it to build open space were less popular.
The council will continue to discuss whether or not to but a bond measure to fund the schoolhouse renovation on the ballot in April.