LETTER: Resident want to place Tukwila Pool under an elected commission


[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tukwila Blog nor its staff:]

Unfortunately, there never came a discussion of why Tukwila citizens, after buying themselves a swimming pool, can’t define the policies to regulate it. Apparently, there is distrust of citizens to be able to conduct their own business.

At the most recent meeting of the Metropolitan Park District (pool), the issue of publicly elected Commissioners to replace Ex-officio Tukwila Council members was brought up. After much outcry from Commissioners describing unexplained fear about turning over control to an elected Commission, I waited to hear what the horrors they embrace are, and how the public may help to resolve the Commissioners’ issues. Particularly, since the Tukwila Council had rejected the pool when the opportunity arose for them to step up and make room in the City budget to pay for it. Subsequently, the people created a separate Public Municipal Corporation named the Metropolitan Park District (MPD) and agreed to tax themselves to pay for their pool. Mind you, they legislated an MPD equivalent to Tukwila, a Public Municipal Corporation. In addition, the people appointed Tukwila Councilmembers as ex-officio commissioners to stand in while the people prepared to establish a structure of elected officials to govern their pool. The last step, transferring the Commission for public policy and direction to Commissioners the people elect, awaits the ex officio stand-ins to overcome their fears – whatever the fears may be?

I did hear Councilmember Duffy declare he hasn’t heard from the public yet. He wants to hear from the public – after four years? The thought occurred to me the public cannot help them without hearing the fears Councilmembers exhibit toward having their public voice included in the decision.

Think about this: As you know, our system of government is that elected officials are to deliberate public business in the presence of the people at designated official forums such as Council meetings. Behind the curtain, or retreat outings, or private telephone calls is out of bounds ethically and by the laws defining public business.

To assist Councilmember Duffy with his lament, let me kick off the public discussion about placing the MPD (pool) under an elected commission.

Let’s begin by having each ex-officio Commissioner declare their fears about the change so we may discuss it publicly. Moreover, it has been four years; let us declare that forthwith we want all of our business deliberated before the public in open sessions. It is a matter of conscience and law.

Yours truly,
P. Willoughby

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Comments

5 Responses to “LETTER: Resident want to place Tukwila Pool under an elected commission”
  1. p. Willoughby says:

    Following is my dialogue with Councilmember Hougardy in a public discussion leading to the resolution of electing Pool Commissioners at an election by the people.
    We would like as much public input as we can get.

    Greetings Councilmember Hougardy’

    Thank you for your prompt response. First let me thank you for your service to the community. You have a rich resume of current and past work on our behalf.
    I read your attachment (Attachment follows) very carefully – several times. My final thoughts are I see the dance but foot shuffling leads nowhere. Your exposition is historical and free associates casual thoughts. When I reach out, there is nothing there that I could set a foundation upon that we can build anything. We can’t plan using a manager or group of citizens to begin work, or a solid base for us to work toward a goal. For me, your position paper is a safe stance without commitment. Four years is much too long to be adrift from settlement of the Public Municipal Corporation named Metropolitan Park District.

    For example, as a leader and reading from your statement, “In the interest of open government, the TPMPD should inform the community of the possible intent to change governance so that they can weigh in on the issue, if desired, instead of just assuming that our residents will be fine with the conversion”. As I read your words, I was looking for your initiative to resolve rather than a casual remark about the circumstances.

    As it concerns, your speculation about elected Commissioners and setting in place some positions that are set aside for special interests such as the Council and School Board. Here are my thoughts. Don’t stack the deck against good government. Leave all seats open with an equal opportunity for any citizen to compete fairly at election by the people. For example, there is no reason for council members to be given a favored seat denied to an ordinary citizen. Bear in mind that the people themselves passed the legislation to create the Public Municipal Corporation with powers to tax independently and need no approval from the Tukwila City Counsel to set policy. If you want to allow an ex officio member to sit without the power to vote, that would work out I suppose.

    Oh, before I go on, I wanted to ask you: In the first couple of paragraphs you refer to Council deliberations at a retreat, and other venues. Are there public records, meeting minutes, and other records of your deliberations? If so, please have the Council clerk email me the specific documents or links to those official records.

    In closing, please make known, in media and especially the official newspaper designated by law, everything you know about the state of MPD completion including references to all pertinent documents, private notes, official emails that refer to the work finished.

    Let us have this community discussion Councilmember Duffy has asked for with everything on the table.

    May I depend upon you to take the lead bringing about organizing and moving of the public’s work to conclusion rather than “plan how to address the issue…“?

    P. Willoughby

    NOTE: Councilmember Hougardy’s public statement follows:

    Fellow Commissioners, March 26, 2015
    At our Board retreat last May, we agreed to first address pool governance, and then work on the issue of management of the pool. We also set some timelines to look into each of those topics. Shortly after that meeting our city administration announced they wanted to turn over the management of the pool to another entity. This necessitated reversing the order and working on a pool management plan first.
    Fast forward to today. We have a pool that is self-managed, and have hired a pool manager. After nearly three months, things are beginning to settle in. We are still trying to determine what our administrative team should consist of, so that it will serve the best interests of the pool. We aren’t done yet, but we are getting there.
    I recommend that we begin researching the issue of pool governance at this time. Here are some of my thoughts:
    • The Sustain Tukwila Pool Committee has asked that the Commissioners change the governance at this meeting and allow for the election of five commissioners on the November 2015 general election ballot. While I agree that now is the time for us to consider the change of governance, their request would require a vote tonight on the subject. I believe that we need to be diligent and spend some time in formal consideration and discussion of the change. The position of Commissioner carries a major fiduciary responsibility, and to formally tee up this major issue and vote on it at the same meeting is not the way that we should conduct business.
    • Resolution 1738 of the City of Tukwila states that “the Tukwila City Council is hereby designated to serve in an ex officio capacity as the board of commissioners for the Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District.” In 2011, the public was able to give their input on this form of pool governance and ultimately affirmed it by their vote at the November election. In the interest of open government, the TPMPD should inform the community of the possible intent to change governance so that they can weigh in on the issue, if desired, instead of just assuming that our residents will be fine with the conversion. Again, especially because the commissioners have the authority to tax, I believe we should proceed methodically and with input from the community. The added benefit will be that it will raise public awareness that opportunities to serve as a board member could be coming up in the future.
    • We need to look at the composition of the TPMPD board. Some of the ideas to be vetted are the number of board members; if we want to retain an ex officio member from the council or the school board; staggering the terms; and the length of term.
    • Finally, I think we should identify some timeline considerations as we consider what is next for the board. Specifically, we need to research the deadlines for various public election dates, and the related costs. I don’t want to rush this, but I don’t want it to drag it on either.
    As I stated in the beginning of this letter, my recommendation is that we begin to plan how to address the issue of governance, and consider the items that I have mentioned above.
    Thank you,
    Kathy

  2. Vanessa Zaputil says:

    Dear People of Tukwila,

    I have been involved in the Tukwila Pool MPD (TPMPD) journey from its inception, when it was announced publicly in June of 2010, that the City of Tukwila made the choice to no longer fund the Pool. This journey continued by joining together with other concerned citizens who felt, as I did, that this was a facility that serves the community and was important to save. In 2011, when the citizens ran a grass roots campaign to “Save The Pool” there was involvement, reaction and interest from our community, and the result was the formation of the Tukwila Pool MPD. It has been almost 4 years since the formation of the district, and I have spent hundreds of hours in community outreach regarding the Tukwila Pool talking to residents. both those who use the pool and those who do not. This outreach includes chatting over the fence with neighbors, at the pool, at TPMPD meetings, at council meetings and council chats, at workshops, at community events such as Backyard Wildlife Festival, Touch a Truck, Kids Festival, Night Out Against Crime, Water/Sewer District BBQ, and the Fall Carnival, at school board meetings, at other community groups such as Sustain Tukwila Pool (STP), and Tukwila International Boulevard Action Committee (TIBAC), with Global 2 Local, at Tukwila Pantry events such as the Rotary Club’s Bowl-a-thon, Spring Tea and Fall Fundraiser. I feel very fortunate by this outreach, to listen to and receive much public comment in regards to the Tukwila Pool. It is clear to me that the vast majority continue to support this facility, and many have been appreciative of the recent improvements and upgrades such as the Luau and the Egg Hunt.

    During these past several years, although the City Council was designated to govern in an “ex-officio” capacity, it has been our diverse community of citizens that have continued to show up, participate and continue the conversation surrounding the TPMPD – a healthy component of good government. What is obvious to me is there is interest by our community that our pool succeeds. How is that best done is the question. Is it accomplished by empowering the community in leadership roles? Is it accomplished by allowing governance to thrive with the people who have the time and most importantly the desire to spend on the District’s affairs? Is it accomplished by allowing a truly democratic process whereby our community chooses who is best qualified specifically for a Park District Commissioner? I believe the answer to all these questions is quite simply yes. The answer is a five person independently elected Board of Commissioners for the TPMPD. A model that is the “norm” for Metropolitan Park Districts. As one who has invested thousands of hours into this District, I do not take this recommendation lightly. It is paramount to me that this District not only maintains, but flourishes. I know there is sufficient interest and talents within our diverse community to carry the torch the City Councilmembers currently hold and march strongly on, not “some time in the future”, but now. It is the Council’s responsibility to have trust in our community that the torch will burn on brighter and stronger by empowering citizens in leadership roles: a 5 person independently elected commission.

    Sincerely.
    Vanessa Zaputil

  3. p willoughby says:

    Incredible!

    Not one intrepid inhabitant of Tukwila is curious enough to venture a question or comment about the operation and management of the Tukwila pool they voted to tax themselves for.

    If you recall, in August of 2011 “Proposition 1” was put before the voters asking them vote yes to create a new Municipal Corporation that had taxing power to buy the Swimming pool formerly owned by the City of Tukwila.

    Merely twenty-nine percent of registered voters bothered to vote at all. Of that group eighteen percent voted yes. Therefore, eighteen percent of the citizens of Tukwila created a new tax imposed on the body politic living in Tukwila.

    Four years later, some citizens asked the ex-officio Commissioners (Tukwila Council Members) to step aside and agree to relinquish control to an elected citizens’ board of Commissioners. That is why we need a public discussion.

    During the time I have lived here, I haven’t seen a dynamic lather of voter participation in electing their officials and overseeing our daily business. It feels like partial casual residents live here in transit to some other place in the future. The consequences of neglect are many elected positions fall to professional politicians by default. We have precipitously lost control of our city to politicians backed by public employee unions, the bureaucracy, and City Hall habitués that have a vested interest in governmental largesse that isn’t necessarily wholesome for ordinary citizens.

    A healthy City is a contentious city with everyone vying to offer their contribution before the public aiming for the better good. Laying back and allowing the triumvirate to conduct their work away from the public forum rushes us to self-destruction.

    • p willoughby says:

      Mystery solved. A minor glitch caused comments to not be posted.

      You may resubmit your responses to have them posted.

  4. p willoughby says:

    Council-Member Hougardy has been helpful in our public discussion by furnishing the following link to the complete MPD database.Any specific questions about the election of Commissioners you have should be directled to her. I am sure she will have an answer for you

    MPD link follows:

    “Thank you for your e-mail response and comments. Regarding your request for information, fortunately the MPD records have been online for public access from its inception. You will find public notices, agendas, minutes, resolutions, contracts, audio from the meetings, etc. that reflect our deliberations. The following link will take you to the MPD section of the website where you can review, print or save the records to your system.

    http://records.tukwilawa.gov/WebLink8/1/fol/30682/Row1.aspx

    I hope this helps, and again, thank you for your involvement. I value citizen input as the MPD works through various issues. My focus is always on gathering public input and making the best decisions for our whole community.

    Kind regards,

    Kathy Hougardy”

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