City council adopts standing committees

The Oak Harbor City Council approved switching its committee structure last week, opting to employ a system designed to augment the group’s effectiveness by streamlining the division of duties.

City Administrator Paul Schmidt and the council had, at an earlier workshop, discussed the benefits of using a standing committee format rather than the ad hoc system already in place. The former structure adds permanence, while the latter assembles temporary committees or those commissioned only for a special purpose.

“The purpose is to become more efficient and effective in how we divide the work for a municipality of our size,” Schmidt said at the Feb. 5 meeting.

Many jurisdictions already favor standing committees, the city administrator told the council. While the format can be dry, Schmidt said the system was used successfully in Cheney, where he worked before accepting the position in Oak Harbor.

Resident Robin Kolaitis urged the council at the beginning of the meeting to use public input when drafting public policy. City staff are granted unlimited time to address the council. Community members, the constituents, are allowed three minutes, she said.

“We are given no opportunity to defend our point of view after our three minutes, and we have little opportunity to speak with each of you, as opposed to at you,” Kolaitis added.

All committees are required to accept public comment, she continued, imploring the council to seek input and solicit participation.

“Those interested, affected and concerned should be welcomed into the process and their input, knowledge and experience should be included, welcomed and actively sought out,” the Dillard Addition resident concluded.

Schmidt assured Kolaitis and the council that all of the committee meetings are open to the public and that he, in fact, expects community members to attend. He said the standing committee format, at least in his experience, had always stressed inclusiveness and transparency.

“Citizens were encouraged to attend,” he said, adding that the level of public input is determined by the elected official. “But I’ve never seen them deny that.”

The city will now use four specific committees: Public safety, public works and utilities, governmental services, and finance. Council members will serve on two committees apiece, convening to evaluate and discuss the pertinent services and issues that fall under the umbrella of each broader subject area.

“This does not do away with the option of ad hoc committees,” Schmidt clarified, using the Pier Committee as an example of one group that will retain its current format.

Kolaitis requested that standing committee meetings — and all public meetings, including workshops — be video recorded and that no decisions be made behind closed doors.

“There are no decisions made in the workshops or at the standing committee meetings,” Schmidt replied.

The council’s vote to switch committee formats segued into the city staff’s recommendations to defer the combustible issues of fire impact fees and the provision of video and audio services for workshops and public meetings to the newly-formed groups.

Councilman Jim Campbell agreed to postponing any decisions on fire impact fees until the complexities could be studied in-depth.

“It’s not a simple yes or no answer,” he said.

Schmidt concurred, adding that multiple committees assigned to the intricate subject could make more headway.

The city administrator suggested beginning a dialogue on video and audio services in the finance committee, as associated costs have been the most contentious component thus far.

“This could also include review of our cable provider franchise,” Schmidt said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 22
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates