Port Angeles eyes code changes for advisory panels

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council will consider today code revisions that would encourage citizen participation at advisory board and committee meetings.

The proposed ordinance would require one public comment period at each meeting with agendas posted online five days prior to the meeting.

When practical, all meetings would be moved to the City Council chambers at City Hall.

The proposal would create a recruitment and interview policy, change Port Angeles Forward Committee meetings from monthly to quarterly and eliminate the Real Estate Committee.

Matters involving real estate would go directly to the seven-member council.

“What we’re talking about is introducing, in my estimation, a dramatic and significant change to our committee meetings,” Mayor Patrick Downie said during a first reading of the ordinance Aug. 15.

No council member objected to the ordinance when it was discussed last month.

The council will consider adopting the changes when it gathers today.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.

Port Angeles City Council members serve with citizen volunteers on panels such as the Utility Advisory Committee and Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which make recommendations to the full council.

City Council member Brad Collins said the advisory boards and committees have operated in traditional-yet-inconsistent ways that have allowed public comment informally.

No city advisory board or committee has prohibited public comment.

“I think this is a good step forward,” Collins said of the ordinance.

“I don’t think we’ve ever tried to not accommodate public comment, but I think formalizing it makes a huge difference.”

The code changes were championed by City Council member Lee Whetham in a May 23 council work session.

Whetham, who also serves as vice chair of the Utility Advisory Committee, had sought ways to allow for a second public comment period to address non-agenda-related topics that arise during the meetings.

“I think it’s very important that the people are given a chance to address our actions,” Whetham said at the Aug. 15 council meeting.

Council member Sissi Bruch said advisory boards and committees have time constraints and that a second public comment period might interfere with the panels’ ability to conduct business.

Under the proposed code changes, permanent advisory boards and committees would have one public comment period with the same rules that apply at City Council meetings.

The City Council limits public comments to three minutes per person.

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd said public comments can also be made to individual council members by email, phone, letter and text.

“The committee will send their decision to the council,” Kidd added at the Aug. 15 meeting, “so they’ll have another opportunity for communication with the full council.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

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