[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff.]
I am concerned by the meeting rule changes proposed at the January 22nd City Council meeting. I believe some of the changes being discussed will make it more difficult for people to have their voices heard and to share their concerns.
- Among the proposals is one to change the meeting time from 7 pm to 5 pm. Throughout the years, the 7 p.m. meeting time has allowed working people to get home and participate. A 5 p.m. start time would prevent many folks from participating. I thought we wanted to encourage participation.
- Another proposal would discourage non-residents and non-Burien businesses from participating. There are plenty of non-residents who work in Burien or own property in Burien but not a Burien business. These people have legitimate interests in Burien and should be allowed to continue to speak.
- Still another proposal would limit public comment sign-ups to individuals who have arrived early to the meeting or knew how to sign up online. It’s yet another way the Council is seeking to limit public engagement. Currently, if there is time remaining for comments, those who haven’t signed up to speak may do so. This proposal certainly doesn’t match council members’ pledge to ‘listen’.
- Perhaps the most alarming proposal comes from Councilmember Akey to limit comments to agenda items only. No more bringing up issues that are not on the official agenda. This proposal would be a great blow to the opportunity to air grievances in public or even to say good things about the city. Yes, people could email the council, but issues brought up by email will not be public unless someone is constantly doing public information requests now that the e-mails are no longer included in the agenda packet, meaning that others will not know and issues will be easier to “bury”. This proposal is seriously flawed and detrimental to free speech.
These proposed changes add up to restricted TIME to speak, restricting WHO can speak, and restricting WHAT we can speak. They’re not only anti-democratic, but they’re also against what these folks all just campaigned on (i.e. hearing from all of Burien).
Please attend the 7 p.m. council meeting on January 29 and tell the council you want more opportunities for public input, not less. You can also email the council at [email protected].
– Stephen Lamphear
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