Online meetings could be cause for alarm

Record Editorial

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 2:50am
  • Opinion

I appreciate the fact that Snoqualmie was first in having an official online meeting with regards to making a decision in a timely manner. I also have full faith that Snoqualmie’s elected representatives will adhere to the offical process of notification and having attendees monitor the meeting. They have even gone so far as to say they think they will only have five or six a year on timely issues of minimal significance.

That’s all well and good, and the current council is likely to adhere to those guidelines, but allowing any kind of council meeting to happen without constituents getting the full-read on attendees makes me a bit nervous. I believe that true democracy happens face-to-face.

The cause for the recent meeting was due to timeliness on a sewer that was failing and seeping into a nearby wetland. Yep, that’s a pretty urgent thing to address and the need to address a potential connection to the city’s sewer made sense. But if a broken sewer line seems urgent, what about all the other urgent issues the city will face in the future? Everything is urgent, it seems, these days. It needed to be done yesterday and now isn’t quick enough. With one meeting under its belt, I hope the Snoqualmie council doesn’t use this noninvasive method for much more than authorizing items on an occasional consent agenda.

As elected leaders, it is imperative to make decisions with your constituents watching your actions. Body language and inflection in voice are just as important as the actual words. Immediate feedback from constituents, even if just an occasional sigh, is a good thing. That is what democracy is all about.

Feeling the heat when making a controversial decision is extremely important, although I do believe the current Snoqualmie City Council is fully aware of the need to keep things open. But what happens if there is a more secretive majority on the council? Or the mayor decides to not be as open as mandated by law? It could become an issue in the future if new officials are elected. Past council members and mayors have sometimes leaned toward a mentality of “the good ol’ boys.” Now they can do it without having to face their constituents. That is what makes me nervous.

I also understand that some issues may not warrant a full-blown meeting. Heck, those types of meetings are sparseley attended at best. But even one attendee watching the action allows that extra set of eyeballs to make sure the process is working the way it should.

I applaud the city for exploring and using the online method for meetings. But for our sake and your sake, please use it only in extreme circumstances.




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