By Harry Gatjens
The second day of the Edmonds City Council retreat Friday featured a presentation on responsibilities and communication between councilmembers. A team of former councilmembers from another city gave several examples of both positive and negative decision and communication scenarios.
On the decision front, it was pointed out that councilmembers should not feel pressured to make quick decisions until they have been presented all the facts and consider all the possibilities. They need to be careful to not to make snap judgments when presented with emotional appeals. Thorough research is always the preferred course of action.
One of the major concerns expressed by the council is how can they appropriately discuss issues as a large group without dragging out council meetings with excessive detail. The difficulty is that the only chance they have to meet outside of their regular council meetings is during committee meeting night and sometimes it would be better to have a larger group together than can be allowed during those meetings. A larger meeting creates potential for violation of the Public Meetings Act, if they make decisions at of the meeting without informing the public of such a meeting.
A compromise was proposed that regular council meetings will now be held on the first and third Tuesday of the month. The second Tuesday will remain Committee meeting night as in the past, but with the possibility of convening a “workgroup” session of the entire council if the need arose. But decisions would not be made unless an emergency came up.
The fourth meeting of each month then would be a workgroup session — a non-decision-making meeting but with the opportunity f0r the entire council to investigate issues without presentations being made before multiple committees if the issue involved, say, both finance and public safety or other multi-committee issues. Again, decisions would be wake up delayed until the next regular council meeting unless there was an emergency.
The problem is to not let these workgroup sessions become decision-making sessions without giving the ublic proper notice. It requires a lot of self-restraint by Council members.
Another issue raised was the possibility of starting meetings at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. so the meetings don’t go so late. This is, of course, offset by added difficulty for the public and participants to get there by 6 p.m. No decision was made, but be aware that the issue is being discussed.
After a quick break for lunch, the council heard a presentation from the Edmonds Center for the Arts. The presentation covered the history of the building, the history of its transformation into the ECA, a report on current operations and, finally, of the financial obstacles facing the organization. While the presentation was interesting, no one on the Council asked any hard questions or pushed for solutions on the economic perils. Perhaps those ideas are to come later.
The most heated presentation of the day followed with a discussion of the 17-member Economic Development Commission. There is strong disagreement on what the purpose of the EDC is. Councilmembers Plunkett and Buckshnis want to
limit the commission’s focus to those things that spur a growing economy and don’t want to hear any suggestion that would involve new taxes or fees on existing residences or businesses. Others wanted to EDC to have the freedom to look at any issue that they feel is beneficial to the financial health of the city. Newly-elected councilmember Joan Bloom asked what the issue was, what had the EDC proposed that was causing such a ruckus? No councilmember responded and Edmonds Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton pointed out that the EDC makes no decisions but can only send recommendations to the council, which still has final say.
No final agreement was made but Council President Strom Peterson said that he felt the EDC was still valuable and will propose a compromise on its mission at an upcoming council meeting.