There is a letter to the Seattle Times from the co-chairs of the Mayor's HALA Committee (on housing which put out a report recently with 65 recommendations). The Committee has not been happy with Seattle Times' columnist, Danny Westneat, who put out some advance news on their recommendations. The Mayor blamed the media for overblowing one recommendation that would change single family neighborhood zoning.
Then, the Committee got really mad when Westneat exposed that all their meetings were held in private. Westneat stated that the Mayor had the legal right to do this but for a committee making such major changes, it seems an odd thing to do. Many, like state Rep Gerry Pollet said this in Westneat's column of July 31, 2015, "Had Murray set this up in a public fashion, it never would have imploded on him like this." "you would have had people watching and commenting throughout." He noted that he thought "... people wouldn't have been totally blindsided by it."
This brought to mind when I served on the Seattle School Board's Closure and Consolidation Committee in 2006 to determine what schools to close because of the high costs of too many underenrolled, low-performing schools.
(Just to note, I have extremely mixed feelings about serving on that particular committee. I thought pretty highly of most of my fellow members and we worked very hard under difficult conditions. But the district, as usual, did NOT give us full and complete information and, as we all know, you are only as good as the data you get.)
HALA said this in their letter in the Times:
The decision to
close the HALA meetings was not Mayor Ed Murray’s decision, but rather
our decision, as co-chairs of the HALA Committee. We felt strongly about
the need to create a safe place for frank, honest discussions about
tough issues. We stand by our decision.
So the Mayor formed a committee that made its own decisions on meeting and who could go to those meetings? Our committee, Closure and Consolidation, never even asked or considered
having closed meetings. We knew that would never work. The Board
didn't offer that as a possibility. I do understand HALA wanting to find consensus among its members but again, it's a public committee, not some co-op board.
Then they said this:
The HALA Committee
is not foolish enough to think we were making law, or even policy.
Rather, we delivered 65 recommendations to the mayor, the Seattle City
Council and the citizens of Seattle.
Wait, so they say they aren't making decisions or policy and yet HALA also said they needed a "safe place" which would imply some deep seriousness to their work (and possible blowback if people could listen in to their discussions).
Maybe they were really more worried that communities might not like the directions they were taking and didn't want to have to listen to those communities.
C&C had no such luxury. We had public meetings of our work and, additional public meetings to talk to various communities. They were tough meetings (I had a couple of people follow me to my car at one of them). But we did that because it was the RIGHT thing to do.
(I will also state that our last two meetings - our deliberations - were closed. We had to ask the Board and Legal counsel for permission and were granted it. We did this because we were having two 8- hour day sessions and worried about people coming and going and stating information out of context if they had not stayed the whole time. We, too, wanted to have frank conversations just like HALA. But we had just two of them, and not the whole process.)
HALA's co-chairs then finished this way:
The City Council’s Select Committee
on Housing Affordability has started to meet, which will provide many
opportunities for public input. We are excited to watch the
conversations move forward.
One, it's going to be a much longer process than it needs to be if the discussion is just starting now.
Two, given these are people who didn't want anyone to listen to their deliberative process, I'm believing that "excited to watch" statement on their part to be suspect.
Watching Mayor Murray move forward in a such a quickly on decisions on a number of issues and now knowing that he isn't as interested in the public being involved in those decisions, I truly worry about what he has planned for Seattle Public Schools. We have seen how the Department of Education and Early Learning are pushing hard for the City's Preschool Program. We also saw how the Families and Education Levy staff had no problem pushing hard on the issue of principal placement and F&E grant.s
I have a separate thread on HALA and what they said about public schools in Seattle coming soon. It's very disquieting.