Sunday, July 31, 2011
The candidate debate sponsored by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and recorded by the U-B for viewing on its website was very enjoyable. Besides having my opinions and ideas examined, I was happy to hear the opinions of the other primary candidates for the city and Port positions.
One fact was made clear to me by some of the attendees later. A remark I made and which appears in my candidate flier needs clarification. I remarked the City Council does not make policy. This is plainly incorrect. What I meant, and didn't state clearly, was that policy made by the Council is not simply made by the Council in a vacuum. It does its work much like a board of directors.
Generally, a policy begins to take shape by having a problem brought to the Council's attention. Sometimes, a suggested policy to deal with the situation is also offered to the Council.
In any case, the Council needs to ensure the problem is clearly stated and understood. Then, it is usually the case that the Council seeks a variety of input on the impacts of the problem as well as the failure to address it. Usually, experts, private and public, are asked to help with understanding the problem. A variety of solutions can be solicited, through the hiring of consultants, studies conducted by city staff, etc.
The economic impacts and requirements are studied, tradeoffs are considered; public input is solicited, legal questions are addressed. This all leads to the formulation of a draft policy that is again subject to local discussion.
Legal and financial analysis are provided. Finally, a public policy is announced. If it involves revenue, then there may need to be a vote where the public is asked to reassign funds, provide new funds or otherwise accept the status quo and its consequences.
What I meant and failed to communicate was that the Council does not make policy by itself - it asks for and requires a great deal of public and other input and advice. This is why the residents of Walla Walla must take an interest in the Council and why the Council must ensure that what it is doing is clearly explained via the various media.
Clarity, transparency and resident involvement is and must be part of every policy decision.