To record or not committee meetings; chronic nuisances before SeaTac Council

By Jack Mayne

Whether or not to audio record committee meetings was debated at the SeaTac City Council during Tuesday’s session, along with setting meeting dates and times for those committees, then the decision was delayed to its next meeting.

Mayor Michael Siefkes wanted the schedule and the requirement to record each meeting so the public could hear them on the city website was one of a variety of items at the Tuesday (Oct. 11) study session and official Council meeting.

Eventually, the city staff suggested the recording and the meeting dates should be in two resolutions – not one – and will be considered at a later date.

Mayor ‘not a fan’ of recording
“I am not really a fan of the recording because it limits our ability to ask stupid things … because a year down the road you can pull up the recording and say ‘here you sound like an idiot when you asked this question” do I don’t agree with the recording part personally, at all,” said Mayor Michael Siefkes.

But Councilmember Rick Forschler said recording was a good idea.

“People can come and record a meeting at any time, they can take it out of context, they can do anything they want with it. We have no control over what somebody does with a recording,” Forschler said. “If we record the meeting then we can show what occurred in context. …”

“People are going to do what they are going to do so I just want to go to meetings and do my job and, if you don’t trust me, then you don’t trust me,” said Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald. “I just want to do my job and if you want to record them, record them.”

Mark Johnsen, senior assistant city attorney, said staff would prepare two resolutions, one for the committee meeting schedule and another one for recording meetings so the council could make decisions on each separately at a future Council meeting.

Chronic nuisances
Assistant City Attorney Julia Yoon presented a proposal for city legislation to hold people “responsible when chronic nuisance activities occur on their property.” There are laws already for public nuisance but this proposal would cover private property problems, and other South King County cities already have such ordinances, Yoon said.

The legislation’s purpose is needed, her proposal said, is “despite repeated and continued police efforts, some property owners and/or persons in charge of the property continue to allow their properties to be a nuisance to the community. They fail to take any affirmative actions to stop or prevent the repeated criminal activities occurring on their property.”

Councilmember Peter Kwon said much of the need for the ordinance is to stem continual public safety problems.

The proposed ordinance would provide the city with administrative and judicial remedies to clamp down on the problems. The maximum fine that could be imposed by a court is $25,000.

The Council will consider final adoption of the ordinance at the next Council session.

Later the Council was told that Yoon was leaving the city legal staff after 12 years.

The Council gave preliminary approval of a $33,600 contract for governmental affairs and State lobbying services with Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell, the firm that employs Briahna Murray, a vice president in the firm, and who works with SeaTac’s interests at the Washington Legislature and state government.

Firs Mobile Home Park seeks closure
Acting City Manager Joe Scorcio told the Council there is a request to close the fire-ravaged Firs Mobile Home Park located in the 20400 block of International Boulevard. The blaze destroyed five homes and sent a thick plume of smoke over SeaTac in July.

Scorcio said the park has complied with city requirements to close, but there is a state law requirement prior to closure of a mobile home park. When the city sends a letter approving the closure, state law requires an appeal process of a year before the facility can be closed. The city cannot interfere with the closure if the state approved the move.

Appointments and Additions
The Council confirmed re-appointment by Mayor Michael J. Siefkes of Roxie Chapin and Tom Dantzler to the Planning Commission, Alice Belenski and Victoria Lockwood to the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, and Wendy Morgan and Roger McCracken to the Hotel/Motel Tax Advisory

Scorcio introduced newly promoted Recreation Supervisor Nicole Jones, who has been with the city for 14 years, and Public Works Inspector Chris Anderson. Plans Examiner/Inspector Bill Buterbaugh has returned to employment with the city.


6 Responses to “To record or not committee meetings; chronic nuisances before SeaTac Council”
  1. Vicki Lockwood says:

    I agree with the mayor on the recording of the committee meetings. In my opinion the relaxed atmosphere of a committee meeting is an integral part of drilling down to the details of whatever the subject matter may be. Our staff and elected officials should not have to be guarded when they are exchanging information at this level. These meetings are open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend … it’s not as if anything secret is going on as these meetings unfold, but it is productive to have a relaxed atmosphere during these sessions. An audio or video recording of committee meetings does not enhance the results. This is NOT a transparency issue and should not be masked with that adjective – minutes are taken and a written record is sufficient for these sessions.

    • Melissa says:

      I agree, not a transparency issue. All committee meetings are open to the public.

    • Jack Mayne says:

      As the only news reporter to cover SeaTac, I agree that recording the committee meetings could just lead to misadventure by malevolent miscreants!

  2. Melissa says:

    I think recording would be a bit of a problem. I’m on the Human Services committee and we talk about things that don’t necessarily need to be broadcast everywhere.The topics can be sensitive. Though they are open to the public. Maybe committee meetings could be recorded just for the council to listen to?

  3. SeaTac Resident says:

    The recordings would be good for people who cannot attend the meetings. People cannot always attend because they work and have other responsibilities but would still like to stay informed. Thank you for discussing this important issue.

  4. Earl Gipson says:

    It makes no difference to me whether the Council Committee meetings are recorded or not as long as the recording/s are made available on the website without having to do a Public Records Request to obtain/listen to them (as well as the Planning Commission). There is no sense recording them if they are not easily accessible.

    The problem started quite a while ago when a previous Planning Director (Steve Butler) lied to the Council about a fake consensus of the Planning Commission on Tree Retention. He told the Council the opposite of what the Planning Commission recommended but the Council (at the time) did not attend Planning Commission meetings and the Planning Commissioners rarely attended the Council Meetings.

    He almost got away with it had I not attended both, knew it for a lie, and informed both the Commission and the Council. The recordings proved that. This also kicked off the “tree wars” of 2008 in which the Citizens prevailed against Mr. Butler and lot of once held trust was destroyed.

    To make matters worse, in 2011 the Council Majority led by “the City did nothing wrong” Mayor (at the time) Tony Anderson abolished Council Committees, instituted Study Sessions with no public comment, and made himself chair of everything to shut everyone up.

    Now we have re-established Council Committees and shared chairing responsibilities amongst the Council Members. The public may find the audio recordings of the Council Committees informative. The Council and staff are far more relaxed, candid (make better jokes), and better presentations in the non-formal atmosphere. We don’t want to lose that so perhaps lets try it (making sure the Public can access the audio recordings) and then re-evaluate after a month or so. If it is too cumbersome or everyone is just too darn uncomfortable speaking their mind, kill it.

    The Planning Commission meetings are and always have been audio recorded yet those recordings are still unavailable without a Public Records Request. This needs to be corrected first. The Commissioners over the years have proven quite relaxed/candid regardless of knowing they are being recorded.

    I can only ask the Council to give some things a try but don’t be afraid to change your mind if it doesn’t work out. You will not lose my respect or the respect of others by doing so.