by Al Hooper
The Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 at its meeting to strike the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) comment period from the agenda, setting the stage for public comments and the ongoing discussion of the role the CAC will play with the district.
Commissioner David Callon seconded the motion made by Commissioner Don Leggett. Chair Sue Dickson asked Leggett the reason for the motion.
"I don't think we need any input from them at this meeting," he replied.
Callon and Leggett voted for the motion; Dickson voted against. Commissioners Ben May and Jim O'Dell were not present at the meeting.
Clark Snure, the district's attorney, presented a compilation of what some of the other districts around the state are doing with their equivalent citizen groups. The commissioners agreed to table the topic until after reading this package.
Citizens ask if CAC 'has something to hide'
The board's action set the mood for the public comments section of the meeting.
"The CAC doesn't speak for the general public, because they certainly don't speak for me," said Roy Bleikamp.
"I have repeatedly attempted to attend these meetings, and I never find out about them until I've read about them in the Woodinville Weekly after they've happened," he said. "I believe this is unfair to the general public. I think they should be required to give a fair amount of advance notice."
Another speaker, Ed Anderson, said he agreed with Bleikamp.
"If they can't have regularly scheduled meetings, then I think they must be trying to hide something. I also have been able to attend only one meeting, and there didn't seem to be any structure. I would like to see at least a way to elect new officers to run the CAC," he said.
In response to the public comments, Dickson delivered a short speech, summarizing the history of the CAC and its dealings with the board, and reminding everyone that the CAC is a completely separate entity. She outlined a plan to answer the questions posed by the citizens who had spoken earlier and said she would form a committee "to formulate goals for the CAC, and then have that committee sit down with the CAC and the commissioners to discuss those goals."
The CAC's response
In a follow-up interview, Mary Baum, current president of the CAC, rebutted the citizen comments.
"I feel strongly that the CAC has been unfairly subjected to a lot of undeserved criticism in the last five months," Baum said. "In all the time that I've served on the CAC, there have been only five or six steadfast core members. Whenever we went to the public, whether it was via personal networking, the Woodinville Weekly, or whatever, we were greeted with apathy, and in my opinion, an appalling lack of concern about what happens to our Fire District."
Over the years, Baum said, the group realized it didn't need to meet if there was nothing important to discuss, and would hold meetings when they felt the public needed "an avenue of input to the commissioners."
"The only other time to hold any meetings would be when we were asked to do so by the commissioners, such as happened recently with the Station 35 remodeling project," she said.
Baum asked where those with negative comments had been "for the past 12 years," when they were asked to come to meetings.
"It seems mighty strange to me that only since the first of the year, when the new commissioners took office, suddenly the CAC is constantly being attacked for not doing what somebody else thinks it should be doing," Baum said. "Why are they only now showing up, and with such negativity? We don't have any hidden agenda, and if we had more steady members of the CAC, then it would be much harder for anyone to make such accusations."
One commissioner's viewpoint
Commissioner David Callon said that several citizens had expressed "dismay at the way the CAC is run" and offered several examples that were quoted to him, such as "no structure," "can't get the committee members to vote on something," and "leadership seems to be a clique."
Callon said he encourages the CAC wholeheartedly, but it should have some structure.
"It should have an elected set of leaders; it should follow Robert's Rules of Order, or something similar; it should be non-partisan; the commissioners shouldn't be running it; and most of all, every citizen should have fair and equal access so that they can express themselves without fear of being ignored," Callon said.
He reiterated that he has "no personal axe to grind with any one individual," but said he has to answer to the citizens when they come with a complaint. "I believe that we can all work together to resolve any differences and that we'll soon see a stronger bond between the district and the CAC," he said.
Commissioner Leggett chose to make no statement.
The Board of Commissioners of the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District meets in the Headquarters Training Room, 19900 144th Ave. NE, at 6 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month. Call 483-2131 for information.