Open Public Meetings

And the Fire District

Ever notice, when the public really is invited to attend and participate, that the public meeting starts at a time convenient to the public? Not the retired, unemployed or otherwise self-serving board members (or maybe their attorney).

Take the Federal Way School board for example. 7:00 in the evening.

Or the Lakehaven Utility District which schedules a 6pm start time.

And the Federal Way City Council meetings which all begin at 7pm.

Now we will review the start times for the Fire Commissioners meetings. Where are you when the regular meeting is called to order at 3:00 pm (changed from 4:00 by a 3-2 vote)?  Can you miss work to go to the 8:00 AM special meeting?

I would think the answer to these are no, you are busy trying to earn a living when the commissioners are meeting to tell you how your taxes are spent.

Scheduling the meetings for any time of day that dissuades public attendance shows nothing less than contempt for the citizens of the district.

Or, you could depend on the minutes, which are always published a month later and never show the entire conversation.

Why talk about this now?

This topic arises because at the February 4th Special Commissioners meeting the SKF&R board members were discussing another way to help ‘keep you informed’ with some more one-way feed of their meetings to you. Ways that include no public input, no timely feedback and no ability to influence decisions of the board.

And that will take more fire-fighting dollars out of an already tight budget.

Suggestions heard are to $tart video recording all board meeting$ and then posting the video on the web-site. Or arrange to have the meeting$ broadcast live.

These ideas will cost the taxpayer money and accomplish zero value for public input. By the time you read about or see the meeting, the votes are in and there is nothing you can do or say to affect it.

Public ‘Comments’

So then again, why bother at all? I have been to every single fire commissioners regular and special board meeting since September (sometimes leaving work and missing wages). And on every agenda there are two opportunities for “Public Comments”.

And that is just what they are. Not Public Input or Public Involvement. Simply a hollow opportunity to make a comment and get ignored. Unless you are in the room to laud the district on their performance in some fashion, anything you say is met by the chair with a tolerating stare, then ignored as the meeting progresses as if you never spoke.

Constructive suggestions to make the meeting more accessible, information more available or proceedings more transparent are summarily dropped in the trash can.

Wait! I have an idea!

And it will cost the taxpayer nothing! And give us a chance to actually be a part of the meeting, not simply an observer!

How about the meeting start at 7 pm so the public can attend and participate?

But then the commissioners might have to actually deal with the public in an official setting.

And we don’t want to inconvenience the $200 an hour attorney who shows up to entertain us with his hat collection, do we?

Contact Your Commissioner

Have a burning issue that you think the commissioner should address? On the issue of being accessible to the public they were elected to serve. How does a citizen go about contacting their commissioner? Talk about one-way communication. Visit their Elected Governance webpage at SKF&R. Read their biography and look at their photos. Now try to send them an email or call them to express a concern or ask a question.

Fugetaboutit. They don’t want to hear from you except at the daytime scheduled meetings. If you want to contact any of these elected officials, you can send an email to the generic catchall address of  info@southkingfire.org and hope it makes it to the intended commissioner.

Are these practices out of line with other elected officials? Compare them to these local offices:

Federal Way City Council website: http://www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?view=82

Lakehaven Utility District website: http://www.lakehaven.org/profiles.htm

Federal Way Public Schools website: http://www.fwps.org/info/board/

Each of these other local districts has easy access to the elected officials. Why do the fire commissioners remain in seclusion?

Walk the Talk

Repeatedly these elected officials show proof they are not really interested in what the public has to say. The scheduling of meetings while you are at work, for example. But they will go to great lengths to make you believe it.

Including at least one commissioner charging the taxpayers for meeting expense to attend the Chili Cook-off, go to a former fire chief’s funeral and sit in on a convicted embezzlers sentencing.  Makes you truly wonder who the commissioner is serving; the public or himself.

Commissioner Guidelines

As a side note, are you aware that the commissioners publish, and update as needed, a set of guidelines for themselves? Are you aware that these are all elected public officials? So why is it that we, the employers of these individuals, are being kept in the dark about the guidelines that the commissioners work under? Unless, of course, you submit a public records request for the document.

How simple, transparent and open it would be if the guidelines posted on the SKF&R Elected Governance website. Is that too much exposure for them?

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