This Monday, Jan. 13, from 4-7 pm there will be a very important Committee of the Whole meeting in either the council conference room or council chambers at City Hall. The city council is asking for input on limiting the number of council meetings, and the public CAN attend the Committee of the Whole, but the council has not publicized the meeting openly or widely.
As it stands now, residents and groups can make 5 minute presentations to the council during the public speaking period, then speak again during the rebuttal time at the end of the session. Residents who have presentations or issues have the ability to have their messages seen on public access TV, since the council sessions are recorded.
If the council goes to one session per month, the ability of residents to have their message presented not only to council but on public access will be cut severely. And, the ability of residents or groups to talk to the entire council at the same time and in one place will be nearly completely cut out. It's very difficult, in fact nearly impossible, to get a meeting set up with the entire council at once. Council sessions are the times when we can approach the entire council. The various committees council members serve on hold meetings that are open public meetings, but they're held during the day, when working people can't attend. Until the city makes adjustments for this the only practical time to approach council members is during our weekly council sessions.
There's NO monetary reason to cut council sessions. Staff who appear at presentations, special sessions, or regular council meetings are not paid for that time, so there's no salary savings. Council members don't get extra money for being there since it's part of their regular job.
Fewer Council Meetings mean less public testimony; equals less public input to Council, which in turn equals less public visibility of and chance for any debate or question on Administration or Council proposed action.
This is an issue that directly affects the public's ability to speak to the Council on major issues for many citizens such as:
• Addressing and modifying the recent up-zone of the South (downtown) Renton Neighborhood,
• Addressing the slow expansion of services promised to newly annexed areas such as South Hill,
• "Redevelopment" of extensive Highlands modest or low-income neighborhoods away from reasonable housing and toward high-market-rate housing.
Please, if at all possible, arrange to personally attend and witness the scheduled Committee of the Whole (C.O.W.) Meeting, beginning next Monday at 4:00 PM. The public cannot speak to the Council until the first portion of the 7:00 PM Council Meeting, but the meeting from 4:00 to 7:00 is the time during which the members may discuss, debate and decide on their formal course of action for the 7:00 PM Meeting. (They cannot formally vote on an issue until the 7:00 PM meeting.) Then, stay for the full Council Meeting at 7:00 and consider expressing your opinion of any proposed action during the Audience Comment period of the second meeting.
If you cannot attend from the beginning of the 4:00 PM time slot:
• Arrive as soon afterward as practical, but prior to the end of the C.O.W. Simply being present and standing witness to Council Members statements and actions (or the lack thereof) in the C.O.W. meeting has been tremendously effective regarding this issue when it came up in the past.
• Prior to Monday email the City Council Members and express your personal view of this proposed action. I'd ask that if you go this route, please consider attaching a read receipt, so that you can be sure your message was opened and read.
Thanks very much,