BurienCC-06012015-101-1 Front page of Monday night’s Burien City Council packet, which runs 404 pages.[/caption] by Jack Mayne The Burien City Council will no longer get copies of letters and e-mail communications from citizens by way of the regular “packet” of information distributed before each meeting, a system that has been in place since Burien became a city in 1993. The Council voted 4 to 3 at their Monday (June 1) meeting to immediately remove the citizen communications – listed in the packet as “Correspondence for the Record” – and then told the city staff to come up with a new way to make it available to Burien citizens. Voting for the immediate removal of the material were Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta and Councilmembers Lauren Berkowitz, Gerald Robison and Steve Armstrong. Opposed were Mayor Lucy Krakowiak and Councilmembers Debi Wagner and Bob Edgar. Takes ‘too much space’ While members said at the Council meeting that such information was important to them, they voted to stop putting copies into the packet because it took up too much space and used too much paper to include each week. The idea to remove the letters and other forms of citizen communications from the packet came from a consultant the city hired to guide the Council in its use of Robert’s Rules of Order, along with other suggestions on its various processes. The regular packet has at times run in the hundreds of pages – this past week’s was over 400 pages, although there were only four citizen communications. Consultant Ann Macfarlane of Jurassic Parliament, Seattle, was to review and offer comments regarding Burien’s meeting guidelines and the Council’s use of rules of order. She previously held sessions with the Council on how to conduct meetings to avoid what her websites asks, “are you tired of painfully long meetings?” and “would you like to eliminate discord but not dissent?” Monday night the Council reviewed her written report that included the suggestion to change the way citizen communications were handled and whether Councilmembers should write on social media websites while the Council was in session. Macfarlane said the regular Council packet should, “in accord with the practice of most jurisdictions . . . be processed and handled separately from the Council meeting packet.” That change, said the consultant, “will reduce the size of the packet and ensure that the focus of those materials is directly the work of the Council at the specific meeting.” Take it out Robison said public correspondence does not need to be in the packet, but “it should be in the records, it should be accessible online,” and later added the change would not be to eliminate the material, but “to streamline our packet … just adding it to the packet doesn’t do anything for the debate, it just goes through – it doesn’t even get talked about” in the meetings. He did suggest finding some system that would get the material out on a timely basis. It is “a little difficult” to go through the material and analyze it “when we get a file on the Friday before the meeting,” he said. Councilmember Armstrong said material did not need to be in the packet and should be available elsewhere. Councilmember Berkowitz said she was in favor of removing public communications from the packet and publishing them separately. She said, again, that “over 1,300 letters” and e-mails sent during the recent debate over about the so-called trespass ordinances were not in the packet. “These letters are important but they can come in a different format,” Berkowitz said. “I lean to not having it printed (in the packet) to “reduce the headache … the system is so flawed we should end it as soon as possible.” Deputy Mayor Tosta, who was not at the meeting but participated by telephone, said she was in favor of not putting the material in the packet, “a different format would be appropriate.” Leave it in Councilmember Wagner disagreed. “For me, having those letters in the packet is probably the most important thing that I have because these are the people who have elected us and their views and anybody that takes the time to write and get a letter in the packet should be listened to and I think (the packet) is the appropriate place” for the material. Councilmember Edgar also wanted to keep the correspondence to be in the packet, especially people sending information about matters that are on the agenda “that would be missed, inadvertently.” Mayor Krakowiak said the material should remain in the meeting packets. “It is timely information that helps me when I am reading the packet considering citizen input. City Manager Kamuron Gurol said he thought the process should not be changed until a new system was devised, but the Council rejected that. He said the city staff will work on a proposal to handle public communications “and bring that back at a future meeting so you can consider that.” Not a good idea, said Berkowitz. “We are sort of making a decision and sort of not. Knowing the history of this Council, we might reopen the underlying decision … I would be in favor of just moving forward.” Tosta, Robison and Armstrong expressed similar sentiments. Mayor Krakowiak, and Councilmembers Wagner and Edgar both wanted a new system in place before stopping the current system of putting the correspondence in the packet. Stop social networking Macfarlane also recommended that members not use social media during meetings. Councilmember Berkowitz and former Planning Commission member Joey Martinez were said to have used online social media while attending official meetings. Macfarlane said the state archivist in the Washington Secretary of State’s office says, “If the posts are made or received in connection with the transaction of the agency’s public business … then they are public records … and need to be retained for their minimum retention periods.” In addition, Macfarlane said the Burien Council members need to keep track of what is happening at the meeting and “texting and posting outside the Council chambers can have a negative effect on the members themselves, making them feel that their every action is subject to publication to the world at large at any moment. This is not a positive atmosphere in which to develop trust and confidence in each other.”]]>