Council meetings – when?

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Paul Greenlee

The Washougal City Council is considering a major change to the schedule of meetings and workshops.

Presently, council meetings (formal public hearings, actions and votes) are held at 6 p.m., on the first and third Monday. Workshops (staff reports, information and discussion, but no votes) are also at 6 p.m., on the second and fourth Mondays. If Monday is a national holiday the meeting is postponed until Tuesday.

Both meetings and workshops are public meetings; the public is invited to comment. Meetings are more formal. Workshops are where most of the work happens — understanding the issues, discussing and drafting legislation.

One proposal would replace that schedule with workshops from 5 to 6:45 p.m., followed by the formal meeting at 7, but only on the second and fourth Monday. Council would no longer meet on the first and third Monday.

Stated advantages include more time for personal interests (family!) for council and staff, and the ability to attend Camas City Council meetings (Camas follows a similar schedule for first and third Mondays). A few members of the public who regularly attend our meetings say it would also be more convenient for them.

Stated disadvantages include the loss of a predictable (6 p.m. Monday) public meeting of council. A 5 p.m. start time for the all-important workshops might limit public attendance. A two-hour workshop followed by a several hour meeting leaves council members too tired to think clearly. Limited time for workshop limits the time available for council discussion.

One of the ironies of the Open Public Meetings Act is that council members can’t talk city business with each other (OPMA is actually a bit more complicated than this). We can talk to anyone else, but we can’t talk to each other, the six people most interested and informed, about city business, except in a proper public meeting, namely a workshop. Given the importance of those discussions, over the next week, we are re-configuring the audio and video system in chambers to allow council and staff to sit around one big table, together, to encourage a more free flowing discussion, and still provide for the public to see and hear, adequately, both in-person, and on public access television.

We want public meetings; we want the public to attend, and be informed.

What do you want?

• Every Monday at 6 p.m. (except holidays and fifth Mondays?)

• Every Monday at 7 p.m.?

• Workshop at 5 p.m., followed by Meeting at 7 p.m. on second and fourth Mondays?

• Another suggestion?

Letters, email, phone calls, showing up, all work. Please, please, let us know.

Washougal City Councilman Paul Greenlee can be reached at 210-5209 or pgreenlee@ci.washougal.wa.us.