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June 17, 2019

5/22/2019 7:48:00 PM
Process worth more than property

Maybe the hardest thing for elected officials to hear is that they are wrong. That is especially difficult to take when strong, passionate criticisms are made at council meetings by long time neighbors and friends. Who would enjoy that?
Our council members and mayor go into office to improve their community. They spend long hours in that effort. They make decisions for the long term benefit of the town. They don’t get thanked enough.
Sometimes the best, most correct, decision is reached the wrong way. And great decisions might not be known for even a decade after the fact.
Residents opposing selling the former Kirsch property make a compelling case and cite many chapters and verses that Town Council’s decision to put the property on the market in March was an end around the Town’s codes, policies and procedures. These critics point to those codes, policies and procedures to back them up.
Linda Talman’s citizen’s viewpoint on this page sums some up. Joan Cross’ letter emphasizes the Shoreline Management Plan “the policy guide Town Council should be following as it was developed through a public discussion.’
Other residents have weighed in this week. Please read their words in these pages carefully.
The process leading to listing the property was not open. Mayor Ramon Hayes points to several discussions early in 2018, but agrees the Kirsch property has not been on the Council’s agenda prior to appearing under the Mayor’s Roundtable last week.
Council member Jacques Brunisholz is right that Town decisions are not made by direct democracy: referendums are used sparingly and decisions are not made by majority vote at a mass meeting.
Brunisholz and the Council represent residents, voting for and taking responsibility for policies to move the town forward.
But Council’s votes can neither be made in a vacuum, without citizen input, nor can Council hide behind a decision they make that had not followed the Town’s established codes, policies and procedures.
Making hard decisions is laudable, but the context of the decision making is even more critical.
Town Administrator Scott Thomas may have ensured that the letter of the law has been followed, but that has a tin ring against citizens calling for the spirit of community. Thomas, a lawyer, is the hired professional. Councilmembers, elected, take on the mantle of leadership, or they don’t. They are neither technicians nor bureaucrats but representatives. Their leadership can be born in listening, engaging and fostering participation.
The chronology this year is that the Council voted to put the Kirsch property up for sale following three executive sessions and after stating that the Kirsch property was only tangentially discussed in those sessions.
Defending their actions is one Council choice. Another choice that can still be made is to embrace public discussion by passionate citizens offering their participation while singing from the Town’s municipal code songbook and singing a chorus that repeatedly offers the refrain of shoreline access as the highest priority.
If the purpose of the executive sessions were not to hide, then Council needs to tell more. Better that Council champions open processes and citizen involvement
Embrace these citizens and challenge them to develop a proposal, even if it is a10 year plan, for best public uses for this Town owned shoreline property.
La Conner is full of talented people offering to participate. Council members express doubt that this property will sell anytime soon. All this time can be productively put to use,
In a town that has time on its hands, what is the rush to sell this property?



Related Links:
• Ken Stern





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