Public discussion key to town hall meeting

POULSBO — Taking a line from Sheryl Crow’s song “A Change Would Do You Good,” Mayor Kathryn Quade envisions an interactive discussion between council members and the public during the April 19 town hall meeting on the municipal campus.

Quade announced the format change at the April 5 city council meeting when she expressed her opinions on the municipal campus issue for the first time as mayor.

In the months leading up to the Nov. 19, 2005 decision to proceed with the 10th Avenue location for the city’s long-awaited municipal campus, public input was gathered at open houses and city council meetings.

“First, there will be a regular council meeting, then I anticipate we will open the town hall meeting,” Quade told the city council April 5, when she announced the town hall meeting.

The session will not be an open house, where people walk around, nor will it be a PowerPoint presentation with public comments following, she said. Instead, there will be a 15-minute presentation from city staff about the process leading up to the decision to move ahead with the 10th Avenue site, and then groups opposed to the location will have 15 minutes to present their alternatives.

“Then I want to take questions and have discussion,” Quade said. “It’s an opportunity for citizens to ask questions and for us to think on our feet about how we got to this point.”

Questions will be limited to two minutes and Quade said she will not hesitate to take control of the meeting if necessary.

“It’s not going to be a beat-up session — it’s going to be a discussion,” she said.

Finance Director Nanci Lien and City Engineer Andrzej Kasiniak, along with either Planning Director Barry Berezowsky or Senior Planner Linda Mueller, will be on hand to help council members in responding to questions from the public, Quade said.

However, Councilman Jeff McGinty’s request that former Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln attend the meeting drew a sharp response from the mayor.

“I don’t know that we need to have him there,” Quade said last week. “We have enough staff knowledgeable who can answer questions.”

McGinty countered that the council didn’t know what to expect at the meeting and pointed out that Lincoln is responsible for much of the work done on the municipal campus project.

Even so, Mueller will be able to respond to questions about the site as she is on the municipal campus planning committee and is also the city’s representative during the permitting process, Quade said.

Councilman Ed Stern said he wants to see a two-sided discussion on the municipal campus issue at the April 19 meeting, adding that council members need to respond to questions on a personal level and from a personal perspective on the pros and cons of the project.

“I would like to see it as a people-to-people interaction rather than a technical presentation and a technical response,” Stern said.

Bill Austin, who has long opposed the 10th Avenue site, said the April 19 meeting is something he has hoped would happen for some time.

With more than 700 signatures on petitions against the 10th Avenue site, Austin said he is hoping at least 500 people will attend the meeting.

“Everybody who signed is in favor of another site,” Austin said. “I’m hoping we will put the city hall plan back on the table and look at other options.”

Community watchdog Muriel Williams, who has been a part of the project since it was announced in July, said there have been numerous opportunities for people to comment on the municipal campus project.

“Mayor Bruce invited them. Mayor Quade invited them. But the same group showed up to the open houses,” Williams said.

Even though she is an advocate of the 10th Avenue site, Williams said she hopes the April 19 meeting will settle the discussion on the project as it moves forward.

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