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Open meetings club | Editorial
During Tuesday’s City of Port Orchard Finance Committee meeting there was no official beginning and there was no official ending. The unorganized public meeting was conducted around a table for six in a corner at Moon Dogs Too, as advertised. An “old boys club.”
As the city leaders held discussions, sometimes multiple conversations at separate ends of the table, and made decisions regarding tax dollars, they did so muffled under the loud din of a commercial kitchen, two TVs, a radio and a few other diners. There was no room for the public to witness.
At that table, over hearty breakfast portions which were paid for with tax dollars, the finance committee spent more time deliberating ways to fix up a job for a city employee through prematurely ending a cleaning contract to help pay for a new janitorial position he would fill than they did addressing the documented need for a single police position and joining forces with the Bremerton Police Special Operations Group to do what Port Orchard Police patrolmen cannot, take down the known drug houses that police believe are behind 80 percent of property crimes and theft in the city today.
Twice during the crime funding discussion, the chairman of the finance committee was distracted by a TV above the police chief’s head and in the end he preferred to put off funding a response to the increases in felonious crimes for a year. In doing so he and the committee pushed the costs of crime onto individual households defeating the very nature of a municipality.
We believe the meeting location is, and has long been, inappropriate for the public’s ability to witness the goings on of their government according to the public meetings laws. It is the primary cause of low public attendance. Considering the financial struggles that are built into the committee’s purview, it is in poor taste that the city spend $800 a year to conduct what amounts to catered and closed committee meetings.
It is true they may meet anywhere as long as the public is invited and accommodated for. But, it is in accommodating the public that the committee fails with its choice of location. At least two members of the committee took exception to a complaint the the public cannot hear what is being said during the meeting. Revealing a certain distain for public perturbing, they felt a person’s ability to hear them as they speak and deliberate was not their concern.
The publics’ right to witness the committee and its actions remain whether the public exercise the right or not and whether the committee likes it or not.