City Council receives post legislative report from lobbyists

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Josh Weiss, a lobbyist at Gordon Thomas Honeywell (GTHGA), gave the Chelan City Council a post legislative report on the 105 day session of the Washington State Legislature. “The city’s priorities feel short,” Weiss said. “We did not fare very well. There is a lot of work to be done in 2020,” he added.

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John Weiss – City of Chelan Lobbyist

The legislature spent $52.4 billion with a significant portion going to mental health issues. The State’s Capital Budget is $49 billion. “There is less money to be spent on transportation projects.”

Weiss did remark that the proposed new gasoline tax did not make it, but that tax collection continues to be a major source of revenue for the state. “There is definitely momentum around (passing) a new gas tax in the next two to three years. Your entire delegation was in support of this.”

With regards to the City’s request for more transportation funding for its Pedestrian Safety project fell on deaf ears because they felt Chelan had done pretty well with funding for the Woodin Avenue Bridge. Weiss feels that the City should continue work with the 12 Legislative District to keep take Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons alive in 2020.

Weiss said that Affordable Housing will continue to be a hot topic. The City had requested that the legislature allow larger City’s to participate in an affordable housing cap of $15,000. “There is opportunity there,” said Weiss.

Funding for The Chelan Butte Conservation project had mixed reviews amongst the legislators.” If you want to go forward you need to strategize.”

Mayor Cooney stated that the City needs to make sure the council is behind the Butte Project. Erin McCardle added that they need a conceptual plan. Tim Hollingsworth said, “The Legislature would like to see grassroots interest n this. I know there is a grassroots move against development up there.”

The City sought funding to move forward with the Lakeside Park project, but Weiss stated the other projects for this funding ranked higher.

In the end, Weiss said, “We do really appreciate representing you. We are developing an interim plan (to go forward) with Mike Jackson.”

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Councilwoman Erin McCardle wants to focus on transportation issues and outdoor recreation issues with the Washington State Legislature next session.

McCardle said the City needs to be really focused on short requests including transportation and outdoor recreation. Councilman Ray Dobbs asked, “Were we surprised we fell so short?” Weiss replied that he wasn’t surprised. Mayor Cooney stated that the City has tried to get funding without a lobbyist. “You an access the floor,” said Cooney. But getting the legislators attention is hard.

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Councilman Ray Dobbs asked if the City was surprised the Lobbying effort fell so short in the last session.

Weiss said that GTHGA would meet with 12 the District legislators to discuss priorities, and identify possible legislative winners.

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Past Mayor Bob Goedde is now attending Council meetings and will be running for a third term as the Mayor of Chelan.

The first part of the meeting concerned the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) with City Attorney Quentin Batjer and attorney Krystal Frost. Absent from this workshop were Kelly Allen – traveling in Europe, Wendy Isenhart and Ty Witt.

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City Attorney Quentin Batjer presented information required by law for all Council people to understand about the Open Public Meetings Act.

“The public deserves to know what it’s government is doing, said Batjer. The purpose of OPMA is to allow the public to view the decision making process. “Any final action (by a public board) must be taken in public,” stated Batjer. Executive sessions is the exception.” Each public meeting must have minutes that are promptly recorded and available for public scrutiny. Executive sessions must be limited to a specific purpose.

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Attorney Crystal Frost went over the City’s requirments
under the Public Records Act .

Crystal Frost went over The Public Records Act where government records are presumed open to the public. “It’s always a good idea to reduce a verbal request to writing,” said Frost.

Batjer said that agencies should work with requesters. “Sometimes a requester doesn’t know what they want… Narrow it down.”

City Clerk Peri Gallucci stated that the City always over produces public records. “We go over the legal limits,” she said. Time to respond to a public request depends on a lot of factors like how big it is. They also document every search.

Councilman Ray Dobbs said that each council member needs to secure their cell phones and to not use. Their personal computers for City business. Batjer added, “Don’t write anything you don’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper or on Facebook.”

Writing includes: handwriting, typewriting, printing, photo stating, photographing, and every other means of recording any form of communication or representation including but not limited to letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols.

Gallucci says that she can spend up to 20 hours a week on public records requests.

Agencies have five business days to respond to a public records request. The agency can also ask for clarification of a request if it is not reasonably clear, or does not request “identifiable records.”

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