The first Everett City Council I attended was exactly 8 minutes long. I had come onto the Everett beat in 2009 after covering cities in the east part of the county, where a short meeting might be an hour — maybe two. So imagine my surprise when Everett’s leaders zipped through a dozen items in under 10 minutes.
There was no discussion of issues or explanation of what city leaders were voting in those first meetings I attended. That’s because, I quickly learned, Everett leaders did the hard work and had most of the difficult conversations in committees that were largely out of the public eye. Some of those committees met in places, such as the mayor’s conference room, that didn’t make it easy for the average person to stroll in and listen.
City leaders changed that format last year. They got rid of the committees and are supposed to do that work at city council meetings. Last night councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher brought up two problems this new way of doing business has created. Too often, she said, it seems that proposals from city staff come embedded with policy matters that elected officials ought to weigh in on earlier. Also, she worried that elected officials have lost the ability to oversee city business, an essential check and balance.
As an example, Councilman Drew Nielsen pointed to a decision somebody made to ask the state for money for cameras to be placed in city parks. (I put that in bold because I didn’t want you to miss it.)
Here’s a link where you can watch the discussion. And, yes, I’ll be asking about those cameras.