Oak Harbor City Council Squelches Public Comments at City Council Meetings

Author:Cliff Howard

At the last city council meeting Thursday the people’s voice to the council was severely restricted. The council did not move the public comment period to the end of the meeting as proposed but what they did was much more draconian than that.

We now have a public comment period that is severely restricted. Rick Almberg made a motion that was voted in by the council (with the exception of Jim Campbell who abstained) to limit public comments to 3 minutes per person with a limit of 15 minutes for all public comments during the meeting. This means that  the public comments will be limited to 5 people commenting at any one meeting for 3 minutes each. 5 people and that is all the people that our City Council members want to hear from no matter what the issue.

What is this council thinking? This is one of the worst attempts at squelching the public voice that I have ever seen, these council people should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

As this is the only chance that citizens have to interact with the Council this is a clear sign that members of the council do not want to hear from their constituents at all and apparently if given the chance they would not want to allow public comments at all.

PEOPLE…WAKE UP!

These are the people that YOU vote into office to represent you and they will not give you the common decency to speak to them during the council meetings. This action alone should be enough to make you vote every single one of the council members that voted YES on this out of office during their next election.

The Council Members that voted YES to this draconian new rule:

RICK ALMBERG

JOEL SERVATIUS

BOB SEVERNS

TARA HIZON

DANNY PAGGAO

(Beth Munns was included on this list by mistake, she was absent from the meeting)

What a bunch of self serving clowns…

…VOTE THEM ALL OUT!

 

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8 comments

  1. avatar

    I can’t wait for council elections to get here fast enough.

  2. avatar

    are you a-holes ever happy?

    1. avatar

      Hugh,
      Do you have something to add to the conversation?

      Or are you just here to insult?

      If you do not agree with what is stated here why don’t you give us your opinion instead of just making insulting comments?

  3. avatar

    Over on Facebook (likely because I linked to this article on the WNT Facebook forum and posted that link to Facebook), Oak Harbor Councilwoman Tara Hizon posted:

    “Did the author of that blog post watch or attend Thursday night’s meeting? The only things we voted to establish were: a show of hands in addition to a verbal vote, and an adjourn time of nine p.m.

    1) The three-minute per speaker for a total of 15 minutes rule is not “new.” According to the council’s handbook, it has been in effect since at least 2004. We actually expressed concern that 15 minutes for general comments was too restrictive and asked that it be extended when we review our handbook later this summer.

    2) That time limit does not mean there will be a total of 15 minutes of comment (or five speakers) per meeting. It applies to the general public comment as well as the comment period for each agenda item. As always, someone may speak for up to three minutes on each and every subject on the agenda; and the council can always vote to extend that limit if there are many people wishing to be heard.

    3) Speaking at council meetings is not the only chance that the public has to interact with the council. Not only are each of our email addresses available on the city website, but we all have mailboxes at city hall where we receive (and welcome) phone messages, letters and faxes nearly every day.

    4) Those familiar with WA law and the Open Public Meetings Act know that the public has the right to attend meetings, but no statutory right to speak at them – that is granted at the discretion of the council and the terms vary by municipality. The implication that this council would not allow public comment at all if given the chance is not only ridiculous and offensive, it couldn’t be more off base. We *could* abolish the public comment period tomorrow, but I assure you that not a single one of us would ever support such a draconian practice.”

    After I saw that post I looked at the City of Oak Harbor web site to see if I could find where these public comments’ rules may be delineated, but I was unable to find them (i.e the City Council “Handbook”), and it did not come up via either a manual or automatic search there. I have asked Ms. Hizon if she can provide a link to “the council’s handbook”.

    Later the same day (June 10th), Ms. Hizon replied to me via Facebook:

    “I don’t think there is one, which is part of the problem. I’ll try to obtain a digital version for you, but if I can’t, I’ll just type the pertinent section here. The three minute rule is printed at the top of every agenda, but that’s it. One of the things I’m pushing for is to have the procedural and conduct rules posted not only online, but also in council chambers. I’ll have to get back to you.”

    1. avatar

      It is interesting that Ms Hizon claims that she did not vote to create a new rule that silences the public but that she only voted to enforce the existing rules that don’t seem to exist anywhere.

      It seems in their attempt to make it seem like the Mayor is not enforcing the rules that the rule they want the Mayor to enforce is really not a rule or in a “council handbook after all.

      Is this just another attempt of the council to make the Mayor look bad for not enforcing their rules?

      It is time for this council to get on with the people’s business and quit the petty squabbling over rules, headwear and behavior standards for meetings.

      Is there anything that this council has brought forward besides attempts to make the new Mayor look bad or controlling the citizens during council meetings? Have any measure been undertaken by the council to improve the business climate in Oak Harbor? Any progress made on getting Nichols Brothers to locate here? Any progress on anything?

      It seems this council has wasted a whole bunch of time on basically nothing.

      1. avatar

        Over on Facebook, now we’ve got Mike Mcconnachie chiming in saying:

        “There most certainly IS a council handbook. Call MRSC tomorrow and ask them to email you a pdf. I believe it is 85 pages long. Very informative, and should be required reading.”

        So, I am interested to see what “council handbook” Ms. Hizon actually produces now and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out as being THE Oak Harbor City Council Handbook, or not….especially if it’s some “boiler plate” document to which she is alluding, which actually DOES exist electronically but is nothing that has ever actually been officially adopted by the Oak Harbor City Council (or has it?)

        And, if the City of Oak Harbor City Council DOES have something they have had in place, (adopted?) since 2004, as Ms. Hizon suggests, why has that never been posted at the City of Oak Harbor web site so members of the public know what rules the City Council is supposedly using to run City Council meetings?

  4. avatar

    1) While this may not be “new” it has never been enforced, except by this council. Why the change now? Where are these unpublished and until now unenforced “rules” that they go by that are not available to the public?

    2) The public comment period is for speaking about issues that are not on the agenda. How are the citizens supposed to communicate with the whole council? Why is silencing the people now so important to the council?

    3) Many of us HAVE e mailed council members only to have no response or reply. In fact I have e mailed the council many times and have NEVER recieved a reply.This is not communicating with the council, it is a one way dead end street for citizens. It takes 2 people to have an “Interaction”. The only real chance the public has to have their voice heard is at the council meetings.

    4) While the law may give the city the “right” to silence the public at a public meeting that does not mean that it is the “right” thing to do.
    This council has already shown that they are more interested in controlling the public at these meetings with the recent attempt to ban hats and restrict comments than performing the peoples business.

    I also searched the city code before publishing this post and could find no reference to limiting comments at meeting. If this Council has a non codified set of rules they follow it would be in the publics best interest to publish them and codify them into law so they can be addressed by the public.

    Ms Hizon is only obfuscating the facts that the council, since the last election, has wasted valuable time on attacking the new mayor, attempting to regulate meeting goers by regulating headwear, restricting public comment and discussing how much time they have to be available for meetings. This is all about them the council and nothing about the true issues that face our city.

    Ms Hizon may want to read our local paper:
    http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/158247605.html

    Here is what the WNT reported:

    “Almberg gave up on his controversial proposal to move the open public comment period to the end of the meeting. Instead, he made a motion to maintain the current comment period, but to direct the mayor to enforce the rules that limit speakers to three minutes a person and limit the entire comment period to 15 minutes.”

    “In the end, the motion passed with Campbell abstaining.”

    http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/158247605.html

    Did or did not Ms. Hizon vote for this or not? Is the following statement not true?
    “Oak Harbor City Council Squelches Public Comments at City Council Meetings”

    It sure seems like an attempt the squash the public from speaking at these meetings…

    This council needs to go. They have proven that they are more interested in form instead of function. We need a council that works for us the citizens not themselves…

  5. avatar

    The political spin, double talk and opinions have been put aside…

    …Monday June 6, I sent a Public Documents Request to Connie Wheeler, Oak Harbor City Clerk a with copies to Mayor Dudley and Council member Tara Hizon
    I promptly received responses from all Tuesday morning and a total response to my request later the same day from Connie Wheeler, City Clerk

    This is the fastest and most accurate response I ever had to a PDR; Thanks to all involved!

    Following is City Clerk Wheeler’s response:

    “Hello Mr. Strowbridge,
    In response to your email and public records request stating (the complete email message is below this response):
    This correspondence is an official request for access to and copies of any and all information pertaining to the following:
    Council Member Hizon’s statements and Council’s handbook, policies, procedures, and supporting RCWs for these items.
    I’ve attached a… PDF of City Council’s Administration and Personnel Council Rules booklet in 8 1/2 x 11 format. It was last amended March 20, 2012. I am also going to add this to City Council’s documents section on the City’s website. Public Discussion can be found in Rule No. 9. Much of the handbook cites the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and other sources which I hope you will find helpful regarding support for this document.
    Pursuant to RCW 42.56.520, the City must formally respond within five (5) business days of your request’s date either by providing the document(s) requested, a reasonable estimate of when the document(s) will be available if not within five business days, or by denying the request. The attached handbook should complete you request, but please let me know if you need other documentation.
    Connie Wheeler, City Clerk”

    NOTE: The City Council rules booklet is now on line at the Oak Harbor Council area of the City web site. You can find it at:
    http://www.oakharbor.org/documents.cfm?pageId=66.
    Keep in mind that this is being updated

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