Charter committee wraps up with no major changes; encourages look at transit

EVERETT — Everett’s Charter Review Committee wrapped up its work last week without making any more significant changes.

The 15-person committee’s task was to review the city’s governing document and recommend to the city council any changes.

The council, if it approved the revisions, would have until Aug. 2 to put them on the general election ballot in November.

By May 12, the review committee had settled on three minor changes to the charter, but a proposal to elect city council members by district was not among them, despite several public comments in support.

Last Thursday’s meeting was the final opportunity to make any changes to the committee’s final report, including reconsideration of any previous votes.

Under the rules of the committee, measures could be brought back for reconsideration only by someone from the prevailing side of the initial vote, or by those who were absent when the vote was taken.

The vote April 14 was 11-3 against including the districts’ measure, meaning any of the 11 members opposed could have brought it back for reconsideration.

No one did, however, and the issue died without comment.

The three measures that the committee is recommending to the city council would remove the requirement that the city council meet weekly; recommends that appointments to city boards and commissions reflect the diversity of the city’s population and geography; and allow the city clerk to make changes to the charter to fix errors, gender references or other outdated language.

The committee’s final report also will include a comment asking the council to consider establishing a citizens advisory committee dedicated to Everett Transit.

The impetus for that came from J.T. Dray, a longtime city resident who sits on the Transportation Advisory Committee, or TAC, which provides input on traffic, traffic safety, transportation planning and service.

Dray told the committee that the TAC often has only 15 minutes per monthly meeting to discuss public transit. That’s not enough for a system that Dray said has experienced many problems and isn’t responsive to the public.

“I feel that we as citizens and riders of the bus should have the option to bring these issues up with Everett Transit,” Dray told the committee.

“This isn’t going to change the world, it’s only going to give people who use the system a genuine opportunity — and I emphasize ‘genuine’ — to make their views part of the public record,” he said.

Tom Hingson, Everett’s Transportation Services director, insisted the agency operated in a transparent manner, and told the committee he didn’t think another committee was necessary.

“I am not opposed to having a second committee, but I believe our participation in the TAC committee provides that monthly opportunity for conversation,” Hingson said.

The charter review committee decided it wasn’t appropriate to mandate the creation of a new committee in the city charter because the city council already had the power to create and disband committees as they were needed.

Instead, the committee agreed to include text in its report encouraging the City Council to consider forming such a committee.

“I do agree with Mr. Dray as far as the TAC being a committee overwhelmed with the need of obtaining funding for transportation of all kinds,” said committee member Clair Olivers. “That’s why there’s so little time to talk about riders’ concerns.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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