Posted Thursday, April 23, 11:25 pm
This last Wednesday I reported my observations of the Monday, April 20 joint Port-City Council meeting. I expressed my concern that some council members reported they had not received the proposed planning framework (map) and planning assumptions until shortly before the meeting (see my post below). After receiving comments that I might not have all the facts, I decided to pull the post while I checked out some new information and reviewed the audio (thank you, City, for the on-line recording).
One correction I wish to make: the City Council and Port Commission voted to adopt the proposed planning framework and planning assumptions so that the next planning activities can move forward. In the previous post, I had mistakenly called that approval “the latest waterfront accord.” Other than that correction, I stand by my observations of the meeting.
What is new and was not known to me at the April 20 meeting is that City Council members and other officials had received information briefings on the planning framework/map and verbal descriptions of the planning assumptions from City staff. These briefings started in late March. Some Council members feel satisfied with these, others do not. Individual Council members have to make and express their own judgments about the adequacy of those briefings and materials of course, but the meetings did occur.
As was noted in the April 20 meeting by several Port, City and Council officials, this is a very large, complex and lengthy process and development effort. While establishing and following intricate processes can sometimes appear to be blocking progress, following mutually acceptable processes is essential to keeping the public informed, involved and supportive. It is my opinion that the City Council and Port need to work on developing and improving protocols for how they will work together. For example, these protocols would benefit from having criteria for submission timelines and packet contents to assure adequate review of materials prior to votes and other actions. Additionally, standard and accepted project management practices would help avoid confusion about where a particular meeting or action is in the overall process, as happened on Monday.
In short, all the stakeholders, including the public, need to know we are in the same auditorium if not on the same sheet of music.
Below Posted Wednesday, April 22, 10:45am
That should have been the headline from Monday’s joint session of the City Council and the Port Commission. Over the concerns and objections of City Council members Jack Weiss and Barbara Ryan, the Port Commission and majority of the City Council approved the latest waterfront accord. This, even though some Council Members had received the proposed accord only hours earlier. Additionally, the Bellingham Historic Preservation Commission called an emergency session last Friday over concerns about the impact of the new street grid being proposed in the accord on some of the candidate historic structures, according to Ryan.
The nub of the situation is that a significant vote was taken with no time for Council Members to review the proposal, or collect public comment or question and debate the proposal, and over the concerns of an official Bellingham Commission. Assurances were made that the public would be able to comment on the accord in future meetings. The problem is that those will only be comments which can be easily accepted or rejected. Those comments will not have the weight of the healthy and open debate that we expect from our City Council prior to major decisions being made. Also note that there was no public comment period at the Monday meeting even though the meeting hard a large number of citizens attending. I would have expected the Port Commissioners and City Council members to have discussed a way to resolve the concerns expressed.
Staff and Mayor Pike highlighted a real sense of urgency for action, reportedly to assure that Bellingham doesn’t lose the opportunity for some federal funding. It can be noted that the urgency has been created by the too long and adversarial process between the Port and the City over the last year and a half, and not by a reluctance of the community to contribute ideas and express and resolve concerns. Do we want to subvert and possibly corrupt open and transparent public processes? Do we want to stifle debate and deliberation by our policy making elected bodies? In my opinion, the answer is we do not.
What is important? The success of the waterfront redevelopment ultimately will depend on the support of our community. To a large extent, the future of the men, women and children of our community is on the line. Can we afford to lose their trust and support by undermining careful and due deliberation. I think not.
Posted Thursday, April 23, 11:25 pm