City Council thanks Wiitala for service

  • Written by David B. Clark

The Woodinville City Council met for the first time this month on Tuesday, July 10. After the typical Roll Call and Flag Salute, Mayor James Evans led a Special Presentation to recognize former Planning Commissioner, Mark Wiitala. Mayor Evans said, “Mark’s mantra was always, ‘What can we do to improve the city?’ We sincerely want to thank Mark for his voluntary service on the Planning Commission.” Mayor Evans then put down the script and went on to earnestly thank Wiitala stating that he knew that there is a large amount of work that goes into a job that does not typically receive much thanks. “It’s a great service to the community,” concluded Mayor Evans.

Wiitala then said, “It’s been a great honor to serve on the Planning Commission and I’d encourage anyone interested to get involved; maybe run for City Council.” Wiitala went on to mention the coincidence that July 10 was his and his wife’s eighth wedding anniversary. Smiles all around, he received a plaque and took a photo with the councilmembers.

During Public Comments, Woodinville Repertory Theatre Artistic Director, Hjalmer Anderson approached council and urged them to consider moving forward with the discussion of the Public Spaces Commission Concept which was the final Business Item on the day’s agenda. The expansion would include the Parks and Recreation board to include the elements of trees and public art back into the commission. Anderson said, “The Arts have been part of my life for 50 years and I’ve had the privilege to teach our children for 41 years. To see we have the chance to move forward in that direction is an incredible opportunity to enhance Woodinville…”

During Business Items, Chief of Police Katie Larson approached council and outlined why they should pass the first reading of Ordinance No.663. Ordinance No. 663 will bring Woodinville into compliance regarding the city’s bail or fines structure for traffic related infractions such as speeding. Additionally, the ordinance would allow the ability to enforce the use of bicycle helmets using the Woodinville Municipal Code as opposed to King County’s Code. “All revenues from parking infractions go to the city,” said Chief Larson. Because the city has not been operating under its own code it has been unable to get those revenues.

Chief Larson then spoke on Ordinance No. 665 which details fire lanes. The prior code was confusingly worded. This revamp allows for a clearer understanding for everyone involved.

Elaine Cooke asked a question concerning how often King County and Woodinville officers pull over drivers who are driving while texting. Chief Larson stated that she believed that the deputies give a fair number of warnings but if the behavior was habitual the driver would be fined.

Chief Larson said that she does not believe in quotas. It is the officers’ discretion if they are going to be giving a citation. “What I love about being the Chief in Woodinville… is that I take my direction of how I police from you and the city… They’re [Woodinville officers] about enforcing the law and making the city safer,” stated Chief Larson. She continued when she stated that she hand-selects every officer that comes to Woodinville. She stated that she would rather have a vacancy than have someone who was not a good fit.

Ordinances No. 663 and No. 665 were both passed unanimously.

Assistant to the City Manager, Kellye Mazzoli presented to Council the discussion for Public Spaces Commission Concept which was positively commented on by Anderson in Public Comment. Mazzoli explained why it would be beneficial to establish a Public Spaces Commission for both natural and artistic elements for the community. Mazzoli said that the commission would give more consideration to the environment, attract more citizens to engage, and interrelate projects, establishing a new way to think about bigger city goals. Mazzoli cited her research of the American Planning Association which gives out awards for cities that have done good planning. Their definition of what makes a great public space is, “…designed to support community quality of life by creating a space in which all elements of the built environment work together for the benefit of community members.” Mazzoli said, “In other words, you’re creating public spaces people actually want to be in because they’re inviting and interesting.” Mazzoli shared that a good example of how Woodinville is already doing some of these things is by example of the developments at DeYoung Park. Mazzoli went on to stress community interest in parks and public arts referencing the Gateway Mural Project in addition to the Civic Campus Project.

Councilmembers showed great interest but had many questions for Mazzoli. Mazzoli stated that if staff were interested with moving forward then she could bring back “a menu of options” from them to choose. The next steps for this will be for the city to gather feedback from the Tree Board, the Parks Commission, and other staff.

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