A wide range of opinions were expressed but no consensus was reached at Tuesday night’s Edmonds City Council meeting about the future of the council’s study session format, which in 2014 replaced the former council practice of holding separate committee meetings to study issues.
At one end of the spectrum was Councilmember Joan Bloom, who said it was time to return to the practice of meeting in committees assigned to focus on specific topics, such as finance and personnel. “I feel that this is an experiment that ran its course,” Bloom said of the study session format, during which councilmembers discuss all city business but generally don’t take action. The committee structure, Bloom said, offered “an opportunity to have conversations with citizens,” which doesn’t occur during the more formal study session structure, she added.
Speaking from a different point of view was Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, who noted that citizen involvement during the previous committee meeting structure at times went too far, resulting in “improper behavior” including citizens acting as though they should be included as part of the council discussion. “I was very uncomfortable,” Johnson said.
Councilmember Tom Mesaros, who spoke in support of returning to committees, acknowledged Johnson’s concerns, but added that her experiences weren’t the result of the committee format itself but the fact that rules weren’t in place to govern conduct.
One of the main complaints shared about the past committee format was the perceived lack of transparency when councilmembers are divided into three different rooms to meet in separate committees on the same night. Unlike the current study session, committee meetings weren’t broadcast live or recorded, meaning that citizens didn’t have an opportunity to watch the proceedings. But there is also an ongoing concern with the quality of study session meeting broadcasts, as wireless microphones used during sessions — which are held around tables on the council floor rather than the dais — often fail, meaning it’s hard for viewers at home as well as attendees in person to hear the proceedings.Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said that the council will have an opportunity to further discuss the issue — and perhaps make a decision on whether to go back to the committee structure, during its next business meeting July 7. The council will not meet next Tuesday, June 30 because it’s the fifth Tuesday of the month.The council also:
– had a lengthy discussion regarding progress being made on the proposed 2015 Comprehensive Plan Update and the Development and Critical Area Codes.
– approved for the July 7 consent agenda a professional services agreement with BHC for the 2016-2017 Sanitary Sewer Replacement Projects and acceptance of the 2014 Watermain Replacement Project.
– received an update on planning for possible future Highway 99 improvements.
In addition, after an hour-long executive session the council voted 5-0 (Councilmembers Buckshnis and Bloom were not present for this vote) to authorize Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling to hire Mark Bucklin of Keating, Bucklin & McCormack as “conflict counsel.” City of Edmonds attorney Jeff Taraday said the council’s decision to hire Bucklin stems from a public records request that involves Taraday, making it a conflict for him to address the matter himself.