When I covered the city of Bremerton and watched the council ask
for public comment before consent agenda items, I thought it was a
good-will gesture. Turns out I was wrong, not that it wasn’t
something councils did not have to do, but in thinking councils had
to do that any time. They don’t. They can make whatever decision
they want and don’t have to bother with the two or three minutes
time they give you to testify.
The only exceptions are items dubbed “public hearings,” which
happen mostly for land use issues, according to Roger Lubovich,
Bremerton city attorney.
House Bill 1197 would change
that by adding the following language:
Before taking final action on any ordinance, resolution,
rule, regulation, order, or directive, a governing body of a public
agency must allow for public comment regarding that ordinance,
resolution, rule, regulation, order, or directive. The public
comment may be taken at the beginning of a meeting at which final
action is scheduled, or at a prior meeting for which notice of the
comment period on proposed action has been provided.
The bill in the Washington State Legislature, sponsored by state
Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, would require local governments to
allow for public comment before making any decision.
The legislation would also require that documents related to the
agenda item be made available at least by the time the meeting
begins. It was sent to the Government Operations & Elections
Committee. No one from the Kitsap Caucus has signed on as a
That local governments do offer time for public comment falls
under the categories of smart political moves and good customer
service. And more than once I have seen a governing body swayed by
something said by a constituent.
UPDATE: I had placed a call to Tim Ford,
the state’s Open Government Ombudsman in the Attorney General’s
office. He told me, and provided the link to the state law, that
council-manager city governments are required to provide public
comment opportunities. No other local government is. Again, HB 1197
would change that.