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JUNE 23, 1997

Opinion

The public's right to know

right to know As a result of the disastrous June 9 City Council meeting and subsequent Woodinville Weekly article of June 16, there are some comments that need to be made to the community I represent.
   Seven people were elected to serve as City Council representatives for nearly 10,000 people. This is a trust relationship; people in the community need and deserve to know what is going on in our city in order to have a voice in our city's direction. In order to participate, they must have reasonable notice of issues that will result in a vote at City Council meetings. Thus, the upcoming agendas are published in the newspaper and are posted at city hall, the post office, and the library.
   These issues are discussed at Study Sessions held the first and third Monday nights each month. Regular meetings where final action/voting take place are held the second and fourth Monday nights. Study Sessions are understood to be just that: work sessions. Four of our City Councilmembers now want to take final action at a Study Session, even if it's not on the agenda. This is viewed as a clever sidestep of public input.
   This right of participation is hollow if the public has no opportunity to know what is happening. (In the case of rare emergencies which might necessitate an immediate action, we have an escape clause so that a majority can vote to dispense with the proposed "No final action can be taken at a Study Session" rule--but for that item only.) However, this "No final action" motion which we on the minority recently introduced is to assure that the business of this community is done in public.
   We City Council members are here to act on the behalf of the community we represent, not as private individuals with their own agendas. That is why all our surrounding neighbors (Kirkland, Bothell, Duvall, Redmond, Mercer Island) have the same or similar language in their Council Proceedures, language which prevents taking final action at Study Sessions.
   The amendments which Councilmember DeYoung attached to kill the minority's motion denied the right of councilmembers to speak for less than three minutes on any topic at the end of the hearing. She later commented to the press that the time was "wasted." When her amendmemts failed because of the lost main motion, DeYoung abruptly moved to adjourn the meeting without public or council opportunity to speak--a right and time reserved on every agenda.
   I was elected to the interim City Council before incorporation and have continued to work to earn the public trust since. In four years, I have seen an incredible lack of respect shown to fellow councilmembers, to staff, to consultants, and to the citizens of Woodinville by certain members of our City Council. Whether or not you as the reader agree with the direction of Woodinville is taking isn't the issue. The issue is how long will you, the citizens, tolerate your interests being dismissed as a "waste of time" and your voice silenced as irrelevant?

Marsha Engel, Woodinville City Councilmember