Wednesday, April 22, 2009
When I first started covering Sunnyside City Council meetings nearly four years ago, the meetings were usually over within an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
Now a meeting with just three agenda items takes three hours.
The streamlined business model of a few years ago in regular council meetings didn't allow for a public comment period prior to council action.
The meetings were short, but too perfunctory at times. There wasn't a lot of meat and what staff said should happen usually did.
That model short-shrifted the public from commenting and allowed some decisions to be made that probably should have been mulled over a little longer.
Today's model involves council and the public freely questioning and challenging city staff, and that's a good thing. We should ask where the money's going and discuss options other than those crafted with just staff input.
A turning point, I think, came this past Monday when council not only insisted on a different resolution than one suggested by staff for amending the stormwater fund, but actually decided to forgo the whole business and not approve an amendment at all.
The pendulum has swung and the people are winning.
Poorly written legislation is being repealed, like the stormwater fees, and council is showing a willingness to admit what's wrong and start from scratch when necessary.
This is good, it's for the better.
But not only has the pendulum swung from business as usual to a more transparent approach, it's swinging in a disorganized fashion. The mayor struggles with maintaining basic parliamentary procedures. These procedures are in place not just as a formality, but to keep council's actions legal and in good standing in the event of a challenge.
An increase in the amount of public comment is for the better, it's a good thing. But the public needs a reminder from the mayor that comments are by procedure supposed to be directed to mayor and council.
If not, the result is unwieldy meetings that, like Monday's, are on the brink of being out of control and stretch unnecessarily into marathon sessions.
Democracy can be messy.
A republic of, by and for the people means wide-ranging opinions that sometimes differ.
That's part of the fabric of our nation. It's what makes this country great.
Mayor and council, you're moving the pendulum in the right direction. You're doing great.
This is just a call for a more steady hand in moving things forward.