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Letter To The Editor: City Attorney Goes Too Far With Denigrating Email

Send letters to the editor to jenny.manning@patch.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

The more I read the attached email, the more steamed up I get.  I'm referring to Larry Warren's email to Rich Zwicker.  It points to a culture of indifference, facetiousness and lack of respect which I find shocking in a professional and in my elected representatives.  Please keep in mind that Larry Warren is the same City Attorney who told the City Council they could ignore citizens who had legitimately and legally complied with state law and successfully pursued the initiative process.  

Please note: the email says “down into the valley of COW go the four”.  Why?   Because there at least three voices on our current City Council who speak for residents.  While I have to admit the literary reference is funny, the satirical tone is not.  This is a prime example of how citizens are mocked and regarded as nuisances.  Our input is not wanted or respected.  We are not nuisances, we ARE  the government.  We pay Larry Warren's retainer and Rich Zwicker's salary!  Frankly, I think that we should stop paying Mr. Warren.

I regard this email on the part of the City Attorney to be prejudicial, using city resources in a manner not consistent with public service, denigrating, and a very telling estimation of the total lack of respect and low esteem in which residents who voice their concerns and seek to work with the City are held.  We're nothing more than joke, is that it?

This email gives everyone notice as to just how little residents' opinions are regarded.  It certainly tells us just where we stand with the City - nowhere.  It definitely tells us that our input is not valued and will not be used.  We'll be fobbed off with more of what amount to public "group therapy" sessions with dead end scribble pads.  If anyone has wondered why the 76% of voters has been denied representation on the Library Board, this email lets them know.  Because the mayor, certain council members, City staff, and the City Attorney do not respect you.  They do not regard you as intelligent enough to understand the issues.  How funny we must be to them every Monday!  I imagine they and Larry Warren enjoy a hearty laugh at our expense behind the curtains when council adjourns.

I don't regard myself or any other of the men and women who spent hours in the rain and snow last winter during the petition drive as a joke.  I don't find the belittling tone of the email at all funny, and I don't find our use of the legitimate democratic process guaranteed us in the constitution of the United States funny either.

Sorry if I seem like a stinker, but I'm tired of being pushed aside when I've done more research and know more about the Cedar River Library issue than the mayor and the 4 council members who always vote with him.  I'm not incapable, and I won't be fobbed off as an incompetent.  If Denis and the rest of the council want to mock residents, fine!  Then I'll take my complaints to a higher authority.  If they still want to deny residents a real voice in the Cedar River Library project, then fine!  I'll take my complaint on that to the court of public opinion.  Some may find the email amusing, but I bet those who felt ignored and shoved aside before - that 76% of voters - will not.

I am exceedingly unhappy to see this email.  How daunting it is to be a professional woman, with a degree, someone who has worked as a supervisor in a bank operations center, managed a law library and 24-hour operations for a tax firm, been an award winning rep, is currently a broker's rep handling 60 million dollar accounts, has held down two jobs doing 16-hour days so that my daughter could finish school while I was going to school concurrently, and yet be regarded as a clown.

 —Beth Asher, Renton

Melissa Farmin September 22, 2012 at 04:44 AM
I attended the C.O.W. meeting on 9/17 and I'm wondering what prompted Mr. Zwicker to make this request.
Richard Bray September 22, 2012 at 08:04 AM
Wow! The City Council President needs an attorney at meetings to engage those he works for? This continues a pattern of great disrespect to Renton citizens' rights who want to have a voice in the library's future: 1) He fought against the right for citizens to petition their government. 2) He fought against the King County validated signature collection calling it unconstitutional. It took regional media, including KOMO's Ken Schram's giving a "Schrammie Award" to the Renton Council for its failure to listen to citizens, and local citizen outrage, to allow the vote to save our library. 3) He has refused to support allowing ANY representation from 76% majority voter-backed Citizens for Cedar River Library to be on the Library Advisory Board. 4) He has declined to accept the offer of the all-volunteer group that has offered technical expertise to help monitor costs and suggest cost savings for the design of the library to protect Renton taxpayers' financial well-being. 5) During the library campaign, he failed to speak out against KCLS outrageous estimate that was $3 million over the city's own estimate and would take away our library entrance over the river. Mr. Zwicker, you have the right to disagree with people, but you owe residents respect and a listening ear. So do all city employees! Servant-leadership should seek what is best for our community. And please save taxpayers the unnecessary attorney expense and be more welcoming of citizen input at meetings!
Jeremy Schwartz September 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Forget not that this same City Attorney approved the search warrants for imprisoning a police department employee for creating cartoons, violating free speech, in the Mr Fuddlesticks cyberstalking investigation. Most likely, Renton will continually see the name of Larry Warren pop up over and over again with his attitude and condescending beliefs of how citizens should behave.
Kal Lambert September 22, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Yes, enough already. The City Attorney should be a model of impartiality in all his communications, and has already been criticized for publically taking sides against City voters in the run-up to the balloting on Prop 1. It would also be helpful if the City Attorney would in the future work with other City Staff to prevent apparently prejudicial admissions of a potential contractual breach, like the recent "Guiding Principles", from being endorsed by the City Council. Renegotiating the ILA with KCLS should be done using an outside law firm because the current ILA fails to endorse the voter's choice, puts KCLS in a position to insist on disadvantageous concessions from the City, and generally invites further trouble down the road. We seem to have a City Staff that sees themselves as a Kingdom or an Army (on the defensive) within the City of Renton. They weren't elected and they can't be let go; this may be the root of the real problem facing the City.
Union_Hat September 23, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Thank you for your tireless efforts to ensure that KCLS, the Mayor and a few Council Members did not further damage library services in Renton by closing the Cedar River building. I also appreciate your efforts to keep track of the design of the Cedar River remodel. I think you may be misreading Larry’s email reply to Councilman Zwicker. Here are the original lines that Larry paraphrased. Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them   Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell   Rode the six hundred. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade_(poem) The action that inspired Tennyson to write these lines was gruesome in the extreme. More than 600 soldiers rode into the valley between the Fedyukhin Heights and the Causeway Heights during the Crimean War. Fewer than 200 rode out of the valley unscathed. One sixth of the men were killed. Half of the horses died. It was a military disaster that those who rode into the valley lost decisively. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade Larry’s paraphrase does not seem denigrating or insulting to me. It sounds like he believes he has been ordered to participate as the subject of an unavoidable slaughter. It is gallows humor.
Union_Hat September 23, 2012 at 02:51 AM
I hear talk of Larry retiring in the not too distant future. One of the Council Members has decided not to run for reelection. Note the Council members are not paid. They receive a small stipend to offset some of the costs incurred during their service. Their pay works out to between five and ten bucks an hour. Serving on the council is a tough job. Lately there has been a shortage of fun projects and a surplus of difficult decisions. It does not help that some of Renton’s citizens are making their disagreements personal. We are all going to need to live together after the Library issues are behind us. We do need to be watchful to ensure that the Council does not wander so far outside of the mainstream of public opinion again, but we don’t need to be nasty about it.
Beth Asher September 23, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I agree with you there Union Hat - we do all have to work together. I reacted pretty strongly to this email, although I did recognize the gallows humor, because residents have had an uphill struggle to get the Council to listen when they have legitimate concerns. I would have liked to have seen some confirmation from the council, or the mayor, or even the other attorney copied that although the reference was humorous in a dark way, residents are sincerely coming to the council believing they'll be admitted to the process of government and should not be mocked. I recognize that being on council is not glamorous, or at all well-paid. It's a hard job with more service as its only reward. But, council members do run for office to represent residents. I still think we can all work to create a two-way process that will benefit the Renton community. Renton residents have a lot of talent and expertise that the City could make use of. We'd like to participate in our city government and contribute to making Renton a great place to live. Lately it seemed that council members and the mayor were open to that. I firmly believe that residents are. Let's move forward and work together - residents and the City - to form better communication lines and work jointly on issues.
Bellevue Citizen September 23, 2012 at 09:39 PM
As someone who lives in Bellevue and only works in Renton, all I can say is that I'm glad my City of Bellevue representation is better than Renton's. For the past few years, Renton has become a laughing stock.
Dena Rosko September 30, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Thank you Union Hat for sharing context as an important interpretive practice especially when it comes to parody and poetry. Indeed the whole request and response highlights the distrust and that the city needs to engage residents with more high-trust (see "The Speed of Trust" by Covey http://amzn.to/Vfbj56). The leadership needs to adopt more of a participatory and shared leadership approach that integrates citizens input instead of indicating distrust, or even top-down behaviors. Save the latter for more simple everyday decisions, and the former for more complex, iconic, and affective decisions such as our library. Thank you for reading, Dena Rosko, MA-ComL
Dena Rosko September 30, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Thank you Bellevue Citizen for sharing an outside-looking-in perspective. Certainly our dynamic times call for dynamic leadership that can flex and share decision-making powers on complex and iconic situations that scale to impact many people. To me the library story highlights the imperative for local and decentralized control over democratic institutions such as libraries. Thank you for your comment, and I hope that in the future Renton can invoke laughter, but in a positive way such as through being a hub for fantastic events. Kindly, Dena Rosko

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