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Fire board, citizens disagree over CAC

Citizens' Advisory Committee by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--The spokesperson for the fire district's citizen group said that the recent effort by the fire board to make the Citizens' Advisory Committee (CAC) "better" will rob them of their autonomy, and both sides charge the other with a lack of accountability.
   Two weeks ago, Fire Commissioner Don Eddy and Citizen Advisory Committee spokesperson Mary Baum both presented outlines to the Woodinville Fire Board showing the shape the citizen group should take in the future.
   The outline Baum presented limits membership to the "informal working committee" made up of the six core members--Mary Baum, Jim McNerney, Bob Vogt, Bob Wright, Elizabeth Dixon, and Kevin Coughlin--giving them voting privileges to allow for "effective" and "expeditious" decision making.
   Baum's proposal calls for meetings to be held quarterly and as the need arises, the attendance of the liaison fire commisioner at the meetings, and encourages public involvement and open dialogue.
   Fire Commissioner Don Eddy, recently appointed to the board to fill the vacancy created by Jim O'Dell's resignation, is the board's liaison charged with the task of reinventing the citizen group. His proposal changes the name, membership, and defines five initial purposes for the organization.
   The proposed name is the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety Citizen Advisory Council, with nine active members including four at-large district members, two from the City of Woodinville, one member from the medical community and the business community, and one member either from Puget Power, Washington Natural Gas, Northshore School District, the Red Cross, or any other local professional deemed necessary by the board.
   Under this proposal, all members must live in the district and would serve two-year terms. The nine would have voting privileges with a quorum of five members.
   Ex-officio members under the proposal would include two Fire Board members, the fire chief, and one Woodinville city councilperson. A president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer of the "council" would be elected by the "council" at their first meeting of the year.
   Regular meetings would occur specifically on the third Thursday of January, April, July, and September, and when the need arises. Each meeting should be open to the public and announced in the Woodinville Weekly and the Bellevue Journal American at least one week before the meeting.

Disagreement over design, agenda
   Eddy said he didn't think the CAC's proposal was very broad-based, and that his proposal begins broadly and can become more focused depending on various projects, admitting that he doesn't know what could happen a year from now or what shape the group could take then.
   "I want to be all-inclusive on this," he said, "because it's important to have somebody from the business community there. We're trying to involve the whole community ... and it's very important to me to have as broad of a base as we can."
   Baum charges that the commission's "strong-arm tactics" would take away the group's autonomy, though Eddy says his proposal won't do that. She said she believes the membership should be open and not selected by the commissioners or the administration.
   "They already had this one in the bag," said Mary Baum, spokesperson for the Citizens Advisory Committee, who said the commissioners didn't look at their proposal at the board's Aug. 5 meeting. "I think they want a bunch of puppets. I don't think a true CAC should be made up of handpicked players by (the board)."
   Baum says the message they're sending is that the board is not accountable to anyone. "We've never acted as an arm of the fire department," Baum said. "It bothers me a lot and it should bother the people a lot. These are elected officials saying they don't want any input."
   Eddy says he doesn't have any agenda except "to have the very best fire department."
   "At face value, I think mine looks better," Eddy said. "What (Baum) wants is no responsibility to anybody; they didn't keep minutes or anything. I happen to believe mine is better, but it is different, and no one likes change, and this is change. Only time will tell if this is good change or bad change."