Don’t mention it. At least not at Lakewood City Hall.
What do you think ranks – and reeks – among the most offensive things you can say during the public comment period at Lakewood City Council regular public sessions with the result that your microphone will be turned off?
Perhaps an over-the-top display of nastiness? Petty, rude and inflammatory character assignation? Pointed, vicious and mean-spirited downright meanness and slander?
Apparently Paul Wagemann, bidding to represent the 28th District as a Republican in Olympia not to mention his repeat service as Clover Park School Board member, when he mentioned his candidacy at the podium this past Monday evening during the public comment period before the Lakewood City Council, he had just mentioned the unmentionable.
Lakewood City Attorney Heidi Wachter in essence turned off his microphone basically mid-sentence.
And yet at Lakewood City Council meetings, during your allotted three minutes at the microphone during the public comment period, you can show a video of flooding in North Dakota; a video of a disaster in North Dakota; a video on Governor Nikki Haley’s 2014 State of the State message in South Carolina; and that same Governor Nikki Haley “holding colleges accountable” in that far distant state a long, long ways from Lakewood.
But if you happen to mention you’ve thrown your hat in the ring in the hope of representing local citizens in the local legislature in our very own local state you will be asked to cease and desist.
While awaiting a response from Wachter and city council members from whom a copy has been requested of the rules governing what is allowed – or not – during public comment period in Lakewood, here’s what other cities permit, if not in fact encourage.
In DuPont “members of the audience may comment on items relating to any matter.”
Poulsbo citizens “may address any item they wish to discuss with the Mayor and Council.”
Bellingham, which bills itself as a first class city and although much, much larger than tiny Poulsbo, has nonetheless a likewise similar if not expansive view of what it encourages its people to say: “you may talk on any item and/or concern not scheduled for a public hearing.”
Tacoma’s City Council on the other hand, limits public comments to items on the agenda and “speakers are asked to identify the specific agenda items they wish to address.”
Videos on flooding and disasters in North Dakota, or video goings-on in Gov. Haley’s South Carolina, probably would not meet the criteria Bonney Lake has established in setting aside time “for citizen comments on city business.”
However, Haley’s happenings, or Haley’s comments – what somebody, even though a governor, somewhere in some remote part of the country thinks and says – can be both seen, albeit remotely, and heard in Lakewood during the time set aside for public comment.
Just don’t be from here; or have knocked on 40,000 doors here; or have labored long to ensure kids get a good education here while mentioning, commenting, referencing anything that could remotely or suggestively – much less overtly – be a ‘oh-by-the-way I care enough about this community – here – to run for office.’
Chances are you won’t even make the minutes of the meeting if you do.
The Municipal Research Council, “a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to effective local government, advises city officials,” that public comments are a “natural part of the democratic decision-making process.’’
Sure there is the occasional odd-duck and lame-duck and quack and hack whose wacky opinions at the podium makes the allotted three minutes seem an eternity.
But what a democratic public needs in order to make informed decisions; what a voter-involved public, a republic facing real problems requiring real solutions needs – if they need anything at all – is to hear that somebody has enough gumption to mention that he or she wants to help solve them.
And that’s why a lot of us including myself don’t go to these meetings. If that happened while I was listening to a person saying a quality speech and Heidi Wachter or anybody else turned off his microphone in mid sentence, I would probably go to jail. I’m a taxpaying citizen in Lakewood and would not stand for this type of nonsense.
David Anderson says
A follow-up piece will be forthcoming but for now a summary:
As a result of this article, given feedback from the Lakewood City Council by way of the legal folks at the state level as cited in the MRSC source above, turns out there’s actually an RCW (42.17A.555) statute that evidently applies to folks running for office. They are legally prohibited from speaking during a council meeting in announcing their candidacy and describing their qualifications.
Also now underway I am told is a rework and update of the public comment rules in Lakewood to that end.
That being said, there is more to be said. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) needs to be revised. It’s not like abandoned shopping carts aren’t important, or that there’s an uptick in panhandling that citizens say the council needs to be addressed, or that smoking in parks will lead to increased picnicking for that purpose.
While all such matters are important and 180-seconds are allowed to say why, you would think that the powers-that-be, evidently at the state level, would rethink and revise something as significant as allowing a candidate for state legislative office to announce his intentions.
It’s not like he’s wanting your vote to be dog catcher.
After all, if a person has the wherewithal to knock on 40,000 doors – which Wagemann has done – you would think three minutes at the microphone would be acceptable.
But they are not.
And yet from paperclips to three-minute clips the rules controlling what a candidate can say and where he can say it require almost that wherever he should go he best have an attorney in tow.