Updated with additional actions taken at Tuesday meeting
Whether Edmonds should change the way it records the proceedings of its executive sessions — which councilmembers are legally allowed to conduct in private to discuss matters related to personnel, real estate or litigation — was the topic of discussion at the Edmonds City Council meeting Tuesday night.
At issue is whether the proceedings should be recorded in writing, which is the city’s current practice based on a resolution passed in 1996; via audio recording, which some say would be more accurate; or not at all. The issue came to the forefront during the council’s recent retreat; ensuring an accurate documentation of these private proceedings for possible future disclosure is an issue that new Councilmember Joan Bloom has been passionately advocating for. (You can read what she wrote about it here.)
City Council President Strom Peterson said he would prefer that nothing be recorded , noting that executive sessions are an opportunity for the council, mayor and city attorney “to have the ability to have a free flow of ideas on a very limited number of sensitive subjects…that just aren’t meant for the public.”
Bloom disagreed, adding that more thorough documentation “would instill more trust. You can’t expect people to just trust that you are doing everything right. Elected officials don’t always do that in our country,” she said. “Having been a citizen and now being an elected official, I feel it’s really important for us to be able to show our work.”
If the council was challenged on its decision to meet behind closed doors, an audio recording could provide proof that the council complied with the State’s Open Public Meetings Act, Bloom added.
City Attorney Jeff Taraday noted that an audio recording “would give us a lot more information than the notes do,” but added that the City could also go the other direction and discontinue documenting executive sessions altogether. Edmonds is one of very few cities — if not the only city — in the state that requires note-taking in executive sessions, Taraday added.
“What we are doing is highly unusual,” he said.
Noting that the state Legislature is currently discussing possible changes to state law governing the recording of executive sessions, Peterson suggested that council wait to see if the Legislature takes any action before further debating the issue.
In other action, the council:
– Approved an ordinance amending the Edmonds City Code to extend the Economic Development Commission Sunset Date from April 30 of this year to Dec. 31, 2015. The ordinance spells out requirements for commission membership, including the ability to replace any commissioner who fails to attend three consecutive commission meetings and a statement that elected government officials won’t be eligible for appointment to the commission. However, both the City Council and Edmonds Port Commission can appoint one of its members to serve in a non-voting capacity. In addition, after a lengthy debate the council approved an amendment to stagger commission member terms in this way: those on the commission as of Dec. 31, 2011 will have their terms expire Dec. 31, 2012; members appointed during 2012 shall have their terms expire Dec. 31, 2014, and those appointed during 2013 or later shall have their terms expire on Dec. 31, 2015.
– Heard a presentation on the City of Edmonds Municipal Energy Plan prepared by Cascadia Consulting that noted that while the city spends $1.1 million on energy with the biggest chunk — 35 percent — used to operate the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The report, prepared to help city officials determine the best ways to become more energy efficient, noted that municipal energy use has declined 15 percent since 1999 but offered several suggestions aimed at helping Edmonds city government further reduce its energy costs. Among them: outdoor lighting improvements, converting to a more energy-efficient police fleet and use of alternative fuels whenever possible. Edmonds already has a reputation statewide for its sustainability initiatives, the reported added.
– Learned about the city’s new Flower Basket Donation Program, which is described in more detail here.
– Confirmed appointments of Beverly Shaw-Starkovich to the Arts Commission and Marlene Friend and Kay
to the Sister City Commission. An appointment to the Architectural Design Board was delayed to a future meeting.