It’s time for a shakeup at City Hall

By Jon Boyce | Mar 27, 2013

City Hall Mukilteo is alternative reality.  If you don't think so, take the time to attend a City Council meeting.

There's an old expression, which goes something along the lines, numbers don't lie. Having attended every City Council meeting for the last four months, in a city of about 20,000 people, the usual attendance of Mukilteo residents is about four or five.  They are regularly outnumbered by a full complement of city staff.

You might ask yourself, how can this be?

Simple. Most everything is predetermined ahead of time behind the scenes.  The principal characters who set-up the meeting agenda are: Joe Marine, Joe Hannan, and Randy Lord.  These are the people who pre-coordinate with city staff and compliant councilmembers what actions will be taken at the meeting.

So in the event an ordinary Mukilteo citizen were to attend the council meeting, they might have the opportunity to experience firsthand Mukilteo's medical emergency response team… when they appeared to die of boredom.

On those occasions when some particular special-interest group has some skin in the game, the council chamber can be packed. And most of the time, the packed council meetings are in and of themselves pre-coordinated with the council leadership.

Take, for example, the Gulch group. The next time the council takes up buying Japanese Gulch, the council chambers will be full of rah-rah-rah advocates, with predetermined outcome.  The event will be as spontaneous as a Super Bowl halftime show.

Then there are the very rare occasions, when a grassroots group of citizen activists show up at a council meeting.

It’s at these times, but only these times, ordinary citizens can even attempt to make a difference. And more often than not, their petitions fall on deaf ears – or are effectively shunted to irrelevance.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

What would a shakeup at City Hall look like that would bring genuine signs of life to the mayor’s office, senior city staff, council meetings?  With an election this fall for new mayor and three new councilmembers, here are some winning electioneering ideas that could improve the dynamic of life in Mukilteo.

In no particular order:

Initiate complete transparency: No more secrets.  A big step toward accomplishing complete transparency would be for the council to require the mayor and all senior staff to post their schedules online. That way, there's no more free range chickens running around at public expense.  This idea will be fought tooth and nail because senior city staff would be uncomfortable with accountability and transparency for their time.

Eliminate expensive redundancy: There's no need to have two highly paid Directors of City Development, nor both a highly paid mayor and even more highly paid city administrator.  Eliminate one city planner position, and make the mayor the city administrator. Savings: $250,000 per year.

Outsource Rosehill Community Center Management: salaries and benefits of Rosehill staff are through the roof. Companies such as CH2MHill are in the business of efficient operations, whereas the city of Mukilteo is not.  With the savings, open the community center to the community every Sunday instead of having the doors locked when most working people of Mukilteo have a day off.

Initiate traffic-timing on the Speedway: the very idea that one or two cars can stop 20, 30, or 40 cars during peak hours is absurd. Traffic conditions on the Speedway continue to worsen, yet City Hall turns a blind eye to the ever-increasing congestion resulting from traffic light anarchy, whereby the few rule over the many.

Fire city staff that deliberately mislead the council: the present policy is to ignore it and pretend it didn't happen. Councilmembers have busy lives and expect to rely on the information presented by city staff as accurate and honest. At this point in time, a majority of councilmembers would not approve a resolution requiring city staff to present accurate information to them.

Stop projects that are ineffective: the present plan for the 44th Avenue rain garden actually adds water to a drainage basin that already suffers from significant erosion and road washouts. This is the opposite of what is intended as responsible expenditure of public funds.

Imagining a new Mukilteo reality of civic responsibility, honesty, and genuine citizen interaction is a no-brainer. It's time to take a good hard look at the go along to get along, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, Quid Pro Joes at City Hall.  It’s time for the Mukilteo Spring!

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