Saturday, March 23, 2013
Citizens of Walla Walla, you missed a show at the last City Council meeting.
Shane Laib was back in Walla Walla from Olympia with a lot a righteous indignation. The nerve of one or more of his colleagues, making a big deal about his failure to attend scheduled meetings and work sessions over an extended period.
He even had an ardent constituent attest to how well he was doing his job. But poor Mr. Laib, he complained that this issue was causing a divide on the Council.
Interestingly, he was the only one who seems to be focused on a “divided Council.” From his point of view, this sudden interest in attendance was all about him. I think Mr. Laib missed the point that he was not the only member of the City Council who had an attendance problem. Council member Cavazo also has had a significant attendance problem, although due to family issues rather than work-related.
On the night this issue first came up, three members were absent. Council member Cummins was on vacation (perfectly acceptable), but because the two other Council members were also gone, it diminished the effectiveness of the Council discussions and votes. With two Council members consistently absent, it puts added pressure on the rest of the Council.
Bottom line for me: I want Council members to be present and active in overseeing the business of the city of Walla Walla. That is the commitment that they make when they decide to run for a position on the City Council.
One or two absences in a row, due to family emergencies or vacations, are perfectly acceptable.
Keep in mind, the Council only meets twice a month, so two absences in a row computes to one month of meetings. Three unexcused absences work out to a minimum of six weeks.
It is not just Council meetings that will be missed during an extended absence. It is work sessions, committee meetings and potential constituent meetings.
These are difficult times and we need Council members who are engaged in the business of the city.
In my opinion, it is not possible to be an effective Council member from a distance, even with tools like email or Skype. If you can’t meet your commitments then you have an ethical obligation to resign.
Mary Lou Yocum