No consensus yet on what to do about City Council work sessions

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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.

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding the hiring of a Conflict Coucil, I believe that stems directly from a PRR I did regarding the damage to my trees. Once again the City Administration has decided to expose the City to large liability exposure by not enforcing its Development Code. In my case, the City Development Department is working with the Developer that has callously caused 3 of my perfectly healthy (as determined by the developers arborist, mine and the cities) Douglas Firs (100′, 150′ and 160′) to become hazardous or pose a significant hazard. In turn they are offering to “assist with coordinating the removal” of the trees and $200 per tree to replant. What a absolute joke. Issuing a permit to damage my trees, and trespass and we the taxpayer will have to pay.

  2. I wish all citizens would note Mr. Blomenkamp’s ordeal. I believe the City counts on other citizens quickly losing interest or choosing to not pay attention in the first place. I believe these types of situations deserve attention. Any citizen can wake up one day and find themselves exposed to this type of ordeal. It helps when fellow citizens care and get involved.

  3. As a citizen, I am highly concerned with Council Member Kristiana Johnson’s allegations of improper behavior and disrupting the discussion. I reviewed the committee meeting minutes from her first year and there were very few meetings that were attended by citizens-a total of 5 I believe. Per my review of those minutes, I see no documentation of improper behavior.

    I attended 3 of those 5 meetings and recall nothing improper whatsoever. For example, I was one of 5 citizens who attended the June 12, 2012 Committee meeting. I witnessed no improper behavior or disruption of any discussion.

    Citizens were allowed to attend Committee Meetings and the related agenda included an opportunity for public comment. The five citizens who attended that June 12, 2012 meeting did not behave improperly in any fashion. To the contrary, the discussion was very respectful and solid information and opinions were provided. The citizens were invited to join the discussion at the table. Council Member Bloom was the chair of that committee. Ms. Johnson was there and the minutes do not reflect any objection to citizens participating in the discussion. Furthermore, Councilmember Fraley-Monillas was not a member of that Committee and she later joined the committee meeting and participated in the discussion.

    There may be a gross double standard in Edmonds. An elected official accuses citizens of improper behavior three years after the fact during a June, 2015 Council meeting. During that same Council meeting – the City Council refuses to address a huge point – that the City Council has been violating ECC 1.02.031 and ECC 1.04.010 since last September. The Edmonds City Code requires “Committee meetings of the council shall be held in conjunction with work meetings of the council at such times and in accordance with such procedures as the council and its respective committees shall establish.”

    Despite this, the Council has failed to hold the required Committee Meetings since last September – a direct clear violation of the Code. That is what I consider improper behavior.

    I am not the one who originally pointed this out to the City Council. The August 26, 2014 City Council meeting minutes clearly document that Shane Hope told the City Council the following:

    “Although the exact details do not have to be included in the code, if the Council chooses this format, some minor amendments to the code will be necessary. If the Council is interested in this format, she suggested providing direction to the City Attorney to craft an ordinance for consideration at a future meeting.”

    The required Ordinance was never prepared or considered.

    We don’t elect public officials to grant them the right to willfully exercise some type of double standard. This concept that elected officials don’t have to follow the code and can turn around and accuse well behaved citizens of improper conduct is simply too much. If I am correct, I hope Council Member Kristiana Johnson makes a public apology promptly.

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