Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

 

Rules and Procedures Public Hearing

October 27, 2003 - 5:30 p.m.

 

The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees believes that the Council’s Rules and Procedures should provide a framework to encourage citizen participation in government.  The current Rules and proposed amendments include:

  1. No requirement that public hearings be held on important public policy issues,
  2. No requirement that the public be provided with electronic copies of the preliminary agendas for council briefings meetings or full council meetings,
  3. No requirement that notice of special council meetings be provided to the public,
  4. No requirement that notice of Committee of the Whole meetings be provided to the public (and the requirement that these meetings be included in Journal of Proceedings has been eliminated),
  5. No requirement that the public be allowed to comment at committee meetings, council briefings meetings or full council meetings; and
  6. No requirement that the Council hold regular town hall meetings to allow public comment on issues of concern to citizens.

 

It is no wonder that citizens are frustrated with city government.  It is difficult for citizens to know what is going on.  And, it is a complicated maze for citizens to access proposed legislation and staff reports to become informed.  We addressed these and other issues in our comments of September 15th on the proposed changes to the Council Rules and Procedures.  We offer the following additional comments.

 

We support Council President Steinbrueck’s proposed amendments to require a public comment period at standing committee, full council and council briefings meetings.  This is a matter of good government.  Allowing citizens to comment at these meetings will reflect the Council’s commitment to a thoughtful legislative process.

 

During the Council’s discussion of these proposed amendments, one councilmember expressed concern that allowing public comment would be too time-consuming.  The City Clerk, however, reported about the experiences of the King County Council where there is a charter requirement that every measure before the Council have a public hearing.  She noted that in only 15-25% of the cases is there anyone present to testify.  Similarly, the Spokane City Council provides a public comment period at all council meetings.  A review of the minutes of their meetings reflects that only a handful of citizens comment at each meeting.

 

            Another councilmember expressed concern that allowing citizens to testify would provide an opportunity for citizens to grandstand on the Seattle Channel.  We find this argument without merit.  We also find that the roundtable approach used by this councilmember as a means to solicit comments on various proposals is no substitute for an open public meeting. 

 

            We also support Council President Steinbrueck’s proposed amendment to require the Council to hold regular town hall meetings to allow additional opportunities for councilmembers to hear public comments from citizens.

 

            In closing, we appreciate the proposed change to the Council Rules and Procedures that will require the council president and the city clerk to conduct an annual review of the rules and procedures.  We suggest that this amendment be modified to include citizen involvement in this process.

 

            There are many ways that the Council Rules and Procedures can promote citizen participation in government and provide for citizen access to information.  We urge you to check out the Spokane City Council website at www.spokanecity.org/council.  In Spokane, council agendas are available at least one week prior to council meetings and remain online, unlike in Seattle.  The agenda packets, including informational reports, are available online.  Comprehensive minutes of council meetings and an official gazette are posted each week summarizing council meetings, committee and other reports and public comment.  Seattle can learn from the Spokane example.

 

            We appreciate the opportunity to comment and hope that you will consider our views.

 

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net