Congratulations to the Kids Klub Class of 2011

Today, the Lynnwood City Council Chambers was once again the focal point of activity for the Kids Klub Preschool, but the occasion was not a council meeting.  Today, the Lynnwood Kids Klub class of 2011   graduated from preschool. 

Congratulations to all the graduates!

It’s Official

If you’re a Kids Klub parent on the email list, this will look familiar.  The following message was sent out this morning.

___Begin Copied Message___

Dear Kids Klub Preschool Parents,

Great news!  Your continued support of the preschool program through letters, emails, blog post and attendance at Council Meetings has paid off.

Fortunately, the City’s Budget did include funding for the Kids Klub Preschool.  So, we will continue to provide preschool programs to you and your family.

Please know that there will be a staffing change.  Krista Vaabene will no longer be working in the program.  Her last day in the program will be Friday, December 17.  Teacher Jamie and Teacher/Director Sandra will be remaining with the program.  Please be sure to discuss the change with your child over the Holidays.

We look forward to serving you after the Winter Break on Monday, January 3rd.  Thank you for your continued support and patronage.

Sandra Lamb, M.ED.
Youth Programs Coordinator
City of Lynnwood Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department
Ph: 425-670-5386 l Fax: 425-771-1363 l slamb@ci.lynnwood.wa.us  

My regular office hours are 7:30-4:30 W-F.

Check out the PRESCHOOL website @ www.ci.lynnwood.wa.us/Preschool

___End Copied Message___

It is needless to say that our joy at successfully saving Kids Klub must be tempered with sadness that it is at the cost of Teacher Krista and everything that she brings to the program.  If you have an opportunity, please make sure that you thank her for being a part of your child’s life and for the valuable work she’s done. And of course, wish her well in her future endeavors.

For the record,  I do believe that our efforts made a difference, if only to generate enough attention and pressure that the Mayor asked Director Sordel to find a way to save the program. While I don’t believe that anyone wanted to cut the program, I don’t think the city council and the administration would have paid it the attention they did without our efforts.  I think it’s likely that Kids Klub would have been lost in the shuffle, not out of any malice by our elected officials, but simply because of the magnitude of the other fiscal problems they had to contend with.

Please take a moment to thank the City Council, Mayor Gough, Director Sordel and his staff.  We can argue about how we got here, or if Kids Klub needed to be on the cut list at all, but the fact remains that once it was cut, these people had to work to restore it, and they are deserving of our thanks.   I also want to reitterate that, whatever you may think of Mayor Gough’s veto of the tax provisions, that veto did not pose a direct threat to Kids Klub and should not be interpreted as such. 

I would encourage each and every person who got involved in this effort to stay involved in civic matters.  I know it’s hard for parents of small children, but it is critically important for us to make our voices heard when it comes to the actions of our government, and those voices can and do make a difference. If we take nothing else from this journey, let us take that.  Despite what Tea Partiers on the right,  and disillusioned liberals on the left say, it is still our government and it will continue to be so unless we allow otherwise. 

So thank you to everyone who stood up to save Kids Klub, and have a very happy holiday season, whatever you choose to celebrate.

Sincerely,

Andrew Viertel

P.S.  If you happen to like my writing and analysis, I do have my own blog that’s been somewhat neglected.  It’s about life, family, politics, poetry  and other strangeness.  It’s been a bit inconsistent lately, (I’m still working on getting our September vacation documented) ,and will probably continue to be that way until after tax season in April, but I’d certainly love for you to pop over and check it out at http://bluedrew.wordpress.com

 This concludes my shameless plug.

LYNNWOOD CITY COUNCIL PASSES BUDGET BY VETO-PROOF MARGIN

During a lengthy city coucil meeting, the last regular one of the year, the Lynnwood City Council took four critical votes.

First, by voice vote, they authorized the city to enter into an agreement to sell some property to Edmonds Community College.  This vote was important because the budget committee’s recommendations were predicated on using the proceeds from this sale to rebuild the city’s reserves. 

Second, by a vote of 5-2, the Council overrode the Mayor’s veto of the increase in the untility tax.

Third, by the same margin, they overrode the Mayor’s veto of the property tax increase.

These taxes were part of a package of tax and fee increases that the council used to close 40% of the budget shortfall.  The remainder was closed with cuts.  In both cases, council members dos Remedios, Cole, Lonergan-Dreke, Mark Smith, and Simmonds voted for the override.  Council members Jim Smith and Hikel voted against.

Last, they passed the full budget by a vote of 5-2.  The role call was the same as the overrides, but Jim Smith stated that, should the mayor veto the budget, he would vote to override. 

Kids Klub has been “safe” for a while now, but as I mentioned in my last post, a protracted budget struggle could delay the implementation of the budget, and frankly, anything can happen until the votes are cast and the budget is signed.  As it is, Mayor Gough’s support of this budget has been rendered unnecessary.  Should he exercise his veto power (he has 10 days to do so), he would be met with a 6-1 vote to override.  5-2 is the required margin.

What all this boils down to is, very simply, that Kids Klub has been saved at long last.  Congratulations everyone, and thanks for stepping up and speaking out.

Mayor Vetoes Tax Hikes

Lynnwood Today and KOMO News are both reporting that Mayor Gough has vetoed increases inUtility and Property taxes that were passed by the City Council last week to eliminate the city’s budget deficit.  The tax increases passed by 6-1 votes, but it is my understanding that Lynnwood has no veto-override provision.  If I’m wrong on that, I’d be happy to be corrected.

Update:  I’ve been corrected.  The Utility Tax increase passed 4-3 and the Property Tax increase passed 5-2.  A supermajority of 5 votes is sufficient to override a veto, but it would have to be taken on each item.

As far as Kids Klub goes, I don’t think this veto poses a direct threat to Kids Klub because the Mayor’s proposed budget did make it budget neutral and restored it.  My bigger concern is that a budget impasse would delay the final passage of the budget and interfere with City operations.  More simply put, if a budget impasse were to continue into January, I don’t think any program would be able to operate, even if it’s not on the chopping block.

I’m going to see what I can find out, but it might be a good idea to mark Monday December 13 on your calendars.  That’s the next council meeting. I’ll report anything I learn over the weekend.

The Week Ahead: November 15

Hi Everyone!  I hope you all had a nice weekend.  This will be a very brief update.  There are two council meetings this week.  Both are work sessions, and neither will invite public commnet.  They take place on Monday 11/15 and Wednesday 11/17, and both start at 7 PM.  In speaking with Council President Mark Smith at the Town Hall last week, he indicated to me that the meeting to attend would be the one on the 17th at which the Council will discuss the report of the Budget Task Force.  This should give us a pretty good idea about what we can expect as the budget process moves toward completion. So that’s the meeting that I (Andrew) am prioritizing.

The Week Ahead: November 8

On Friday, while she was picking Harry up from preschool, Alissa was asked by another mom whether we have successfully saved Kids Klub.  Well, we’re winning, but we have not won yet.  At this point, it would be akin to carrying a comfortable lead into the 8th or 9th inning of a baseball game.  (I know…wrong season, but I’m a baseball guy.)

As you know by now, Mayor Gough restored Kids Klub into the budget that he submitted to the City Council last week.  That budget is now in the hands of the Council which has taken the unusual step of creating a budget tax force. I believe that this is a function of both the severity of the budget crisis and disagreements between the Mayor and the Council.  Fortunately, we don’t have to choose up sides, as both the Mayor and the Council favor saving Kids Klub.  I had the opportunity to speak with Mark Smith, the City Council President and a member of the budget committee.  He told me that the current working plan saves Kids Klub through the 2011-2012 academic year.  This was done by cutting the summer program, staff hours, and staff benefits to make Kids Klub budget neutral. 

Now, a lot can happen in the budget process, so it would be unwise for us to take our eyes off the ball and disappear completely, but I think we can step back a little.  There is another City Council meeting tomorrow (Monday) at which the public is invited to address the Council.  I don’t think we need to put anyone on the speaker list, but it would not hurt to have Kids Klub supporters present to speak up should anyone advocate pulling it back out of the budget.

In speaking with Councilman Smith, I confirmed that the budget tax force will deliver its report to the full council on Wednesday 11/10.  That report will be taken up for discussion at the work session on Wednesday, 11/17.  That’s the next meeting that I plan to attend.

So that’s where we stand heading into the week of November 8.  We’re in about the strongest position possible for Kids Klub to be saved.  We just need to keep vigilant throughout the rest of the budget process to secure the victory. 

One question that remains is this.  If the plan I described above works out, Kids Klub will finish this year and stay in place for one more school year, but then it would close.  Is that acceptable to us?  I’m biased because my daughter, Annie would enter her pre-K year in the fall of 2012, after the closure.  I talked with some other folks at Saturday’s town hall meeting, and there are lots of ways that Kids Klub could be saved.  As I see it, the plan under consideration gives Kids Klub supporters 15 months to find a solution that would keep the preschool open for future years.  Is anyone else interested in pursuing discussions with that aim after the budget is finalized?

KIDS KLUB RESTORED IN MAYOR’S BUDGET

Mayor Gough presented his budget to the City Council tonight, and Kids Klub has been restored.   The preschool has been made budget neutral by cutting the summer program and staff hours, and by raising tuition. The program was restored for the school year and possibly into the future.  I would have like to have heard something more specific, but that is the extent to which Kids Klub was addressed in the presentation. 

I stuck around to see what more I could learn.  I also spoke with Parks Director Lynn Sordel, and I asked him what kind of tuition increases we were facing.  He believes that the increase will be $15 for residents and $20 for non-residents.  

The budget now goes to the City Council, and it is quite apparent that they were not happy with the budget, but I think this works in our favor.  I spoke  briefly with Councilman Ed dos Remedios and asked if he thought that the Mayor’s proposal for Kids Klub was the worst case scenario, or close to the final outcome.  He indicated to me that we didn’t have anything to worry about and we could sit back and relax.  He is part of the school of thought that thinks that proposed cuts to programs like Kids Klub are a waste of time and a distraction from much larger budget problems. Two one degree or another, I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by Council Members Lonergan-Dreke and M. Smith, the two members of dos Remedios’ budget task force as well as one other member. 

So what happens now?  Well, I have no reason to disbelieve Councilmember dos Remedios, but as much as I’d like to sit back and relax, I think that would be unwise.  In the face of large public safety cuts, we can’t afford to take anything but a signed budget as a final victory.  Still, I think we can ease off for a bit. Some official details of the Mayor’s proposal should be transmitted to parents soon. 

This meeting was going to tell us where we stand.  Well, we’re in a pretty decent position, and there’s room for improvement.  So here’s what I think should happen next.

Writing to the Mayor and Director Sordel to thank them for restoring Kids Klub would be good. 

Watch the media coverage and comment.

The next meeting is the Town Hall on Saturday.  If you can go, please do so and show your support.

The next important event on the legislative front is on November 10 when the Budget Task Force will present their report to the council.  The 10th is the day the report is to be delivered.  I would assume that the next Council meeting and work session is where that report will be discussed.  Those would be good meetings to attend.

So we had another good night, and we’re in a good position.  We can’t plan the victory party yet, but we’re getting there.  Keep up the good work.