June 29, 1998
City of Woodinville Concerns
One of Roy Rainey's comments a few weeks ago was, "The problem in Woodinville is (that) we don't understand our form of government." He alluded to his feeling that the council and community wanted more to do with the city's day to day operations. And then he said that Woodinville had likely adopted the wrong form of government at incorporation.
As one of the original bunch that put this city together, all I can say is, "Roy, you're right as far as the first two are concerned, but dead wrong about the last."
As anyone who has lived here for awhile can tell you, our little community has a long and fine history of coming completely unscrewed approximately two and one-half minutes prior to the final decision being made by any governmental agency about anything. In the grand old days of King County rule, neighbors and neighborhoods were bound tightly together by a common postal zip code, and the ability to become instantly indignant, enraged, and otherwise whacked out of shape by whatever sinister, sneaky and underhanded ploy the county attempted to foist upon them. The fact that said sneaky and sinister ploys were often preceded by numerous, (and largely unattended), public hearings, open houses, meetings, coffee klatches and the like didn't matter. The county never seemed to understand that in order to get our attention, they should have sent out legions of county employees to grab each and every Woodinville citizen by the lapels, and yell, "Do you know what we're going to DO in YOUR BACK YARD?"
In this community it was the standard form of communicating about any proposed governmental action. You would think that those county people would have caught on. Unfortunately they didn't, and as a result, some of us became SUSPICIOUS. And then came a LACK OF TRUST. And finally, a complete conviction that THOSE COUNTY PEOPLE WERE UP TO NO DARN GOOD.
So obviously the only answer was "LOCAL CONTROL". But when we looked to some of our neighboring cities for examples of what to do, (and what NOT to do), one thing was immediately apparent.
Even when the folks in charge are your neighbors and the most well meaning of folks, they are still amateurs who can make a real mess of things. Strong mayors did not necessarily mean good mayors. Egos with power wasn't a guarantee of a good community. Having folks around that knew the turf and the mechanics of running a city could work to our benefit. So like smart business people, we would hire pros to run the day to day stuff, and let the council and commissions worry about the big picture. Hence, a Council - City Manager form of government.
Now, five years, three city managers, and two major land use lawsuits later, it still seems like the right thing to do. I don't actually know Roy Rainey, but from what I've heard he is a "get the job done" kind of guy. Why the council bounced him, I do not know. I'm still trying to figure out why they bounced Joe Meneghini, who I DID know, and liked a lot. But my real point is this. We've got the right kind of government. We've got the right kind of city. The only REAL problem we've got is that too many of us are quite content to do what we've always done, which is to ignore the whole works and go on about our business, and to only get revved up when our narrow little view of the world gets impinged upon. Unfortunately, it now appears that this leaves us at the mercy of those amateurs I mentioned.
So I propose a new way of looking at what's happened. If YOUR bank took some of YOUR money and did something foolish that caused them to lose YOUR money, you would not be pleased. At the very least, you would undoubtedly wander on down to the bank, and let someone know that you didn't appreciate them throwing YOUR money away by behaving in an unprofessional manner. Well, I've got news for you. This little city is a lot like that bank. In spite of the best intentions of the founders, (who were amateurs), other amateurs are, intentionally or unintentionally, losing your money and gumming up the works. I really think you ought to do something.
On the other hand, maybe you should do nothing, and I'll go down and try to get that city manager job. I hear the severance packages are great.
Mark Jessup, Former City Council member