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TOWN’S COUNCIL GOES ON DEFENSIVE ABOUT PUBLIC PROCESS


Yelm Public Safety Building & City Council Chambers

The Yelm City Council held a public hearing on the adoption of the updated Water System Plan (WSP) on Tuesday, July 27, 2010, at 7:00 PM, which was posted to their website on July 15, 2010.

However, the city’s website links to the documents were corrupted and unavailable for public review, so I requested the public hearing should be postponed. Outside of the Table of Contents and the Response to Health Comments, none of the Chapters of the WSP were available online for public access until I wrote the city Monday morning, when upon receiving my letter, they rectified the website issue.

I also wrote the Mayor and City Council:
“Posting the WSP on July 15 and having a Public Hearing 12 days later does not afford citizens the opportunity to read and understand over 900 pages of documents to be able to make comments, even if the website was working.

If I (or any other citizen) would have come in to City Hall and requested 900 pages of WSP documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) given your website had the WSP unavailable to the public until the day prior to the Public Hearing, you would have called the Nisqually Valley News (city’s newspaper of record) to have them write a front-page story on how I took up so much valuable staff time requesting those documents. [Ed. Note: which the NVN will assuredly write later this year anyway! And since Ed Wiltsie has passed, I will be the focus of THAT story.]

So, I can only humbly ask you that while you hold contempt & disdain for me personally, that you somehow put that aside for a moment so I may appeal to something that you say you hold dear – and that is your own word.
You each took an Oath of Office to uphold the interests of the citizens and the public process.
Is allowing the public one day to review 900 pages of documents on a Water System Plan on a working website that will affect the wallets of city property owners for 6-20 years upholding the public’s interests & the public process?
[Is 11 days enough time to review 900 pages of documents?]”

Council member Mike McGowan painstakingly asked City of Yelm Project and Program Manager Stephanie Ray if the city fulfilled the requirements to notify the public. He stated copies of the WSP were located at City Hall & the Library for public review, regardless that the city’s website accessing the WSP was corrupted for the entire time until Monday, July 26, when I finally wrote them.
[Ed. Note: So two WSP copies at City Hall & one at the Library are to cover the entire area Yelm population, and only available within City Hall & Library business hours? So much for upholding the interests of the public first and foremost. HMMM!].
Mayor Harding pointed out the website was provided as a convenience only and some other cites did not have a website, implying the public should not use the city’s non-working website status to say the documents were not accessible. Ms. Ray pointed-out that the Executive Summary report highlighted all of the changes to the WSP from the Draft WSP and one could access that online to see everything, even with corrupt web links. Ray added that the 900 pages were unchanged from the Draft Water System Plan except as outlined in the Executive Summary & the public could have accessed that.

The only person to address the Council in the Public Hearing on the Final Water System Plan was Bill Hashim. He mentioned the intent of the city was really not to consider the public at all because a resolution for ordinance adoption of the WSP was scheduled to be held directly after the Public Hearing. He said this was “disingenuous” since there was no discussion time after hearing the public’s comments scheduled in a Study Session or subsequent Council meeting, allowing time to pause and consider the public point of view.
Hashim also noted the disconnect between the City Council and the public in that no one attends City Council meetings besides the media & staff. That there is such lack of participation here by citizens in their government is sad. The city does little to foster the public’s involvement in local government, & as a matter of fact, works to discourage such interest.

As per usual in Yelm’s Council, that was the case last night – slam dunk, no discussion, except for a bristling remark by Mayor Pro-tem Isom in response to Mr. Hashim! The WSP was unanimously adopted.

Look folks, let’s be real here –
The City Council & Staff KNOW that no one from the City of Yelm residing public and/or property owners come to the majority of Council meetings nor get involved to comment on important issues that will affect them in the future, except for a mild kerfuffle over the first of the water rate increases in 2009. The Mayor knows who he labels the “anti growth groups” will be the ONLY people who take interest, turn up at Council meetings & comment. Some of these people are proactive, informed and articulate.
ALL of the comments from people in these so-called “anti growth groups” will be ignored and basically negated, unless the city needs to fix their website or citizen comments go to DOH or DOE, whom the city must answer.

So, ordinance adoptions are always scheduled here to immediately follow Public Hearings, as “anti growth groups” comments in those hearings will be on the record as the minimum required by the state and then the Council will ignore them.

This is exactly the same reason there has been NO Town Hall meeting ever held by Mayor Harding since he took office 5 1/2 years ago and will not hold one as long as he is Mayor. He is too fearful of what he considers “anti-growth groups” would do in a public forum. Were it not for citizens going to county & state officials and to state agencies who enforce the public’s interest, the City of Yelm would have run roughshod over state rules designed to protect the public!

AND, the same disingenuous city removed the WSP from their website’s homepage already!
WHY SO SOON?
The only way to find it now is under Utilities & Streets, which many citizens would not know how to locate.
Or, the public can go to the Library to access, but only during business hours, when most have jobs.
How public friendly!

Posted by Steve on July 28, 2010 at 5:48 am | Permalink

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