Letter: Too many citizen committees leads to bad government


I listened to the audio recording of the Langley City Council meeting held Sept. 5, which can be found on the Langley website. I recommend listening. I think you’ll be surprised and perhaps concerned.

The beginning of this meeting had a discussion led by two council members, Thomas Gill and Harolynne Bobis. They have been working on recommendations for consistency and rules for all city commissions. I agree that things are not consistent, and believe the more transparency to the public in all city work is critical.

In 2022, the Washington State Open Public Meetings Act was improved – and made stronger – for the benefit of the public. There are very few legal reasons for any governmental entity, nor its committees, to not be transparent. Zoom style meetings and audio recordings do help.

But with the myriad of public meetings happening in tiny lil’ Langley, who really has time to listen to all those meetings? And even if you did have time, some of the committees don’t record their meetings.

Yes, I’m being humorous – tiny lil’ Langley now has 12 citizen committees. At one count, there are more than 58 members (not all reside inside Langley).

I think that is far too many unelected people having monthly or bi-monthly meetings discussing things they want the city to do. Voters elect one mayor and five city council members, not 58 internal advisors. While the public can listen, and even comment in those committee meetings, without the meetings being held in person, I do not see the robust, friendly discussions that Langley public meetings enjoyed over the years.

Do any of you have time to listen to 12 to 20 meetings a month, in person or on audio? I didn’t think so. What about the city staff? They are overstretched, yet they serve many committees too. What a huge burden.

The discussion from the Sept. 5 council meeting suggested that all public meetings for city council and city committees should be required to have a quorum present in person at the city hall offices during the meeting. I favor that idea.

The state OPMA law states that there has to be a place for the public to come to hear the meetings if they are broadcast via Zoom or a similar internet service and that someone be present to greet the public and ensure the system is working. That someone is usually a staff member, not a committee member, and not an elected city council member. Don’t you think that’s kind of … lax?

Councilmember Craig Cyr was opposed to having a quorum of committee members in person at city hall … because why? Because he feels the committee people might not like that.

Well, here I say – they work for the public. So does the city council. A quorum is a majority of a committee, not the full committee. Requiring a quorum of council or a quorum of all committees to be present at city hall for public meetings is not a hardship – it’s simply the right thing to do as a professional public service.

People I know tell me they don’t like Zoom or that they don’t know the people who serve on these committees. They also say they are not interested in Langley like they used to. That’s a disconnect that is not healthy for any city.

Retirees in Langley tell me they are hard of hearing and have difficulty understanding the Zoom audios because of their hearing problems. Hearing issues are not imaginary and deserve respect.

In this tiny lil’ town of fewer than 1,200 residents, it’s very strange to have so many members of the community that do not know “in person” who is serving on committees or serving as council members.

I’m concerned.

Leanne Finlay