Does the Seattle City Council really care about us citizens [make that voters]?
You would think that with all the missteps they have made and continue to make, like the head tax fiasco, putting head in the sand on drug epidemic, one size fits all citywide MHA, lobbying with State Legislature for an even more aggressive housing policy that they are seeking locally, ad nauseam; and with this year being a local election year, that they would at least be feigning interest in what their constituents have to say.
Read below Q13 News award-winning correspondent Brandi Kruse’s account of Seattle City Council ignoring public testimony:
“SEATTLE , March 21, 2019– When Richard Schwartz went before the Seattle City Council to offer public testimony earlier this month, he was greeted with disinterest.As he approached the microphone, Schwartz noticed that some of the City Council members weren’t paying attention. He wanted them to look up before he started his testimony – which would be limited to two minutes due to council rules.“It’s really discouraging to come up here and see all the heads down,” he said.
Councilwoman Debora Juarez interrupted: “Sir, you’re on a two-minute timer here – so let’s go.”
After an awkward pause, Schwartz asked for the time to be reset.
“No,” Juarez said. “No. We’re not going to. Just go ahead.”
By then, a chunk of Schwartz’s time had already ticked away. But the brief comments he made with his 90 remaining seconds have hit home with many who say the city’s elected leaders are disconnected from the public.
Q13 reached out to council members who were present for testimony for comment. No one on the council has responded.” [Note: Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena Gonzalez later commented; however, neither of them is up for reelection this year.]
Was Mr. Schwartz singled out by Council? Absolutely NOT! From our experience, Mr. Schwartz’s observations of City Council behavior during the public comment period are fairly routine. Kudos to him for calling them out on TV.
First of all, the City Council comment period is conducted up front at a meeting. Comments are limited to 1 or 2 minutes, depending on the number of persons signing up. When the public testimony period begins, the chair is often the only member of Council present. During the comment period, other members trickle in (and sometimes out) sporadically. When present, Council members are often observed looking down at their phones, computers, sending and receiving texts and emails, and otherwise acting bored with the entire process. In too many cases an aide comes in and calls out a member “as if” it is an emergency.
It’s as if they are saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up.”
I don’t know if Mr. Schwartz’s issue that day was compelling or not. That’s not important. What’s important is that public comment is generally met with indifference, as if decisions have already been made in the “back room”, where we are not invited, and public testimony is tolerated as a necessary evil. As Ms. Kruse said, “We deserve better.”
The treatment of residents is no different in the Design Review process. Public comment is up-front, limited in time and with no opportunity to participate in the real discussion of the issues after the Applicant’s presentation, no opportunity to point out errors, no opportunity to participate in the “back-room” discussions with the Applicant. It’s just a “we’ll let you know what we decide”, and you can take legal action if you don’t like it. “We’re just following code established by City Council.”
From the vibes I’m getting right now from voters all over town, right now our minds are made up, too. Unless there is a drastic turnaround in attitude and performance, all seven Council members up for reelection need to be replaced [by retirement or vote].
We are sick and tired of being used and abused by a City Council that doesn’t care.