City Hall is Third World

By
• Topics: Bellingham, Open Government,
2:14pm —

A tempest in a teapot, indeed.  Yet it is indicative of how our city hall is run these days.  One staff person takes a few days off and there is no system in place for keeping the administration of city business running.  

The graphic above this article from today, Tuesday afternoon, tells it all.  Normally there is a “Summary” posted late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.  And the full video is posted Tuesday morning.  Checking this web page several times today shows no postings.  This afternoon I phoned city hall to learn why and when they would appear.  Actually the first four calls ran into voicemails.  Then a receptionist in the mayor's office took a call I made to the public information person.  She transfered me to another department and that person transferred me to yet another department. 

There I was told that the person who normally posts meeting summaries and meeting videos was taking a few days off.  I asked when the updates would be posted and the answer was that they would be happy to email me a copy of the summary.  Well, I said no and that the public needed this information and it should be posted. 

Minor issue. Yes.  But for those of us who try to communicate with city hall - virtually any department - this is just typical.   I expect that after my call - they know I write to this website - and surely after this article appears then the missing files will all be uploaded. And we can find out what happened at last night's city council meeting. 

And maybe post the Planning Commission videos going back almost three weeks.

It should not need such prodding.  

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About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Jul 14, 2021

I note that as  of the writing of my comment here (9:45 am), the videos of the one committee meeting (Committee of the Whole) and the evening regular council meeting have been posted.  The Committee of the Whole was an all day affair with a break for lunch.  It was like someone had cleaned out another’s inbox and decided to play catch up.  A summary of the evening council meeting has also been posted (and I note that only 5 council members were present with Vargas and Hammill excused). 

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Gene Knutson

Jul 14, 2021

Dick and John, I am also frustrated, 4 council members are keeping us in Zoom until at least August 30th which i find very frustrating. It is time for us all to get back to work in the real world. I have been meeting people one on one since my second shot last March. The mayors office has now opened and it is high time for the whole building to reopen. Just look around the whole state and country has also opened up. Zoom is not a very freindly way to conduct meetings yes it was the only way when this all started but to keep doing it now is wrong. It has felt to me for a long time now that i already feel what it is going to be like after i am not on council anymore, since being out of chambers for 16 months enough is enough. If they want all people to go back to work it has to start at City Hall. 

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 15, 2021

Gene,

You and I certainly agree about the deficiencies of Zoom.  As you remember, I wrote an article about that in February after then almost a year of torture for all of us in front of our monitors.  You can wax nostalgic by reading it again, The Reality Of Zoom And Citizen Participation.  Some actions were taken at the time to ameliorate the problems but the changes were not sufficient and often were not made to Zoom meetings across the board a city hall.  Frustration, as you say, remains likely the most used word in the US since March 2020.  From what I saw of the discussion of this topic at the committee of the whole meeting last Monday, opening up is going to be a very rough row to hoe.  I am leaning toward opening but I am vaccinated while  a lot are not and I don’t want even a mild case of this virus. 

The president of France just announced that he is asking the French Assembly to prohibit entry into bars, restaurants, malls, supermarkets, etc unless the person has proof of vaccination.  This has set off a storm of controversy with some fights breaking out in the streets in the rush to get vaccinated.  That could happen here on a small scale at city council were proof of vaccination demanded at the door.  Macron: Vaccine Passports Will Be Mandatory for Restaurants, Bars, Transport in France

I do not envy the task of council on this decision.

 

 

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Liz Marshall

Jul 16, 2021

John, I am glad you posted this. It is important that more people realize how much communication efficiency and customer service could do with improvement at City Hall. I agree with “But for those of us who try to communicate with city hall - virtually any department - this is just typical.” and “It should not need such prodding.” I never lacked for substantive responses from staff and elected officials at Cities of Federal Way, Kent, Mount Vernon, and at King County. The new Director of Human Resources at Bellingham City Hall should evaluate potential employees, for every position across the board, for their pride and history in providing impartial, meaningful customer service. Incidentally I predict the idea of rotating interim Planning Directors will result in more inefficiency.

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