By David Anderson
Lakewood’s Landmarks and Heritage Advisory Board is under investigation.
As are apparently all other volunteer advisory boards in the city.
Former City Councilmember Walter Neary, currently serving on the Lakewood Landmarks and Heritage Advisory Board, references a select subcommittee of city councilmembers as covertly investigating “the city’s advisory boards” because they “have some problems.”
But that is not atypical of Lakewood’s modus operandi, a council of which Neary was once a member.
On August 23, 2010 Neary wrote in his blog, with regards the Camp Murray Gate issue, “everyone knows you can trust Lakewood to advocate for its citizens.” And, in anticipation of Camp Murray’s filing of an official proposal to change their gate location, Neary wrote “assuming they do, the city will react on behalf of its citizens.”
Camp Murray did apply for its permit. The City Council did not advocate for its people.
The transportation advisory board in fact never ever even had this most grievous transportation nightmare on their transportation agenda.
The Planning Advisory Board (PAB) is another example of how pretentious is the exercise of citizen engagement when the citizens themselves are in reality treated as subservient customers instead of the employers that more truthfully they are of council and especially of city staff.
Or, as Neary wrote: “There is something missing in this whole process: the citizens who authorized and pay for this government.”
When the Lakewood City Council – of which Neary was a member – delegated responsibility to the PAB ostensibly to study the impact of gambling; and that committee’s two-year study did not include a discussion of the social consequences of convenience casinos; and the council accepts the committee’s homework as comprehensive and complete; and for lack of a second on a motion to send the issue to the voters the council bypassed any council discussion, avoiding position statements by council members; and this in turn subverted the people’s right to know how their elected representatives in public discussion stood on the issue and vote accordingly – is it any wonder that Lakewood residents were left to the initiative process; and that Neary is now discovering – being on the receiving end – what we knew then?
“I would invite the city council members and city attorney’s office to be open and transparent about their thinking,” Neary now says.
This is now, but what about then?
And is it any wonder that we then and Neary now, “feel ambushed, if not betrayed”?
County Manager David Smith of Maricopa County, Arizona wrote “Trust in government is one of those things that take 15 years to build up and 15 minutes to undermine.”
Now in its 17th year of city-hood we are seeing yet again evidence why – as the article quoting Smith on the Municipal Research Services Center website was entitled – “In Government We Don’t Trust.”
As one pundit said, ‘I don’t mind politics, it’s the people I can’t stand;’ likewise Neary’s statement – “So while this activity began with a noble goal, the execution left out a crucial ingredient: the people.”
And, of course that truism is as the one Neary also wrote, “Being chosen as a city attorney or elected to the City Council does not guarantee infallibility or genius.”
You got that right.
“If you believe that citizen involvement is important, you might want to educate any members of the City Council that you know,” Neary wrote.
Tell me about it.
Walter Neary says
I appreciate David giving a close reading to my letter, but it would be wrong to suggest I am now suddenly adopting his “city government is always wrong and everyone should do what I want” philosophy that sustains his streams of online political commentary.
I would argue, certainly with exceptions, in the early 2000’s, Lakewood government has had a good track record of including the public in discussions. That doesn’t mean every citizen wins in their specific request because that’s simply not possible when the requests are in opposition to each other. If you have even just two citizens who want different things and only one choice is possible, you will inevitably have a winner and a loser. That doesn’t mean the loser did not have a voice. It means they lost on the outcome.
I can’t agree the public was shut out of the gambling discussion; I know the public had a heated voice in the matter because I’ve still got scar tissue on me! That matter was rather something where some people won on the issue and some people lost on the issue. If you’ve read any of David’s previous 14,908 posts here and elsewhere that reference gambling, you know which side he fell on, and I’m sorry he and I can’t agree on the value of the outcome.
One reason one can say with authority that Lakewood gives a loud voice to citizens is exactly because it has the neighborhood associations, which David has utilized so well in Tillicum, and why it has more advisory committees pound per pound than the average city. This history of citizen involvement is why it worries me the council is tinkering with the advisory committees.
But … and it’s a big but … when I look back on my eight years on the council, I consider the Tillicum traffic matter that David refers to as one of the low times. When I let my mind today drift to those eight years, I ponder what happened in that whole saga and start to squirm. The public deserves a better explanation of what happened there and why, and I’ll tackle that when I dust off my old blog this weekend. Too much was left unspoken in that whole matter, so for good or bad I’ll try to add some perspective from a primary source. The good news is that IMHO the situation was a fluke; the bad news, is that it could happen again and we are better off if we try to preclude the conditions that created the fluke. I’ll talk about why and maybe how we avoid it. I’ll share those words later in the week with you all and welcome thoughts and discussion.
John Arbeeny says
Please explain then how a retired city employee responsible for maintaining our public roads became a key member of the transportation advisory board (TAB). Please explain how our roads have been deteriorating beginning during his tenure as that city employee. Please explain why that person, responsible for the Hipkins Road disaster ($750,000 to make crooked a perfectly straight road) is in any advisory position. Please explain why the TAB and city council have not addressed the crucial issue of road maintenance while spending millions (admittedly much of which came from grants) on otherwise lower priorities (just as they did with Hipkins Road). Please explain why now it seems there’s no money in the bank to fix our roads except for a new per vehicle tax which the TAB has been tasked by council to “sell” to the tax paying public. All this after the city has instituted utility taxes and franchise fees on everything in sight. Sorry Walter, but the council still likes “lap-dog” advisory boards who get fed and regurgitate the same pap from city staff as the council does. It seems their common motto should be “Don’t rock the boat: give can’t we all get along?” Where is Lakewood CARES when we need them to challenge this incestuous mutual admiration society?
David Anderson says
That Neary extrapolates my position, and exacerbates the problem, going so far as to place in quotes what I did not say, is on a par with what might be expected from a councilman that through the years has been an example of promoting a pre-determined agenda and hosting the unfortunate and time consuming public comment periods without which the council could, in their mind, far more efficiently get what they want done if they just didn’t have to deal with the citizens they were elected to represent.
The issue here does not concern the matter of public inclusion as much – not nearly so – as the council having actually and honestly responded to and implemented where possible public input.
When Lakewood Assistant City Manager in charge of Community Development Dave Bugher testified, for example, before the Utilities and Transportation Commission on the matter of Amtrak (May 5, 2010), Bugher was asked to “Describe your observations of the community outreach performed by WSDOT in relation to this project.” Bugher responded, and note the emphasis, “Over several years’ time, WSDOT has held numerous regional meetings promoting its planned rail system improvements. Its staff has made presentations before various bodies of elected officials and community organizations. Generally, the tone of these various activities was not one of identifying and addressing issues so much as informing people the project is forthcoming and refuting any concerns. In numerous cases, WSDOT’s response to our various written comments was along the lines of ‘we came and told you why that concern is invalid.’” Ditto Tillicum’s lawsuit against its own City Council regarding the Camp Murray Gate debacle.
“The public,” to quote you Walter, needs less “a better explanation,” as it needs representation.