A proposal with merit

Published 9:07 pm Friday, August 24, 2012

Washington City Council member William Pitt’s suggestion that the council conduct some of its meetings at places other than City Hall has merit.
Pitt intends to bring the matter up for discussion during the council’s meeting Monday. The issue deserves council’s consideration.
Pitt would limit such “off-site” meetings to the council’s “committee of the whole” meetings, which are held the fourth Monday of each month. Those meetings, usually informational meetings rather than action meetings for the council, tend to be shorter than the regular council meetings held the second Monday of each month. Pitt predicted the “off-site” meetings would do more to open city government to the public.
Pitt said many people don’t attend council meetings because they are intimidating — elected officials in suits sitting on a raised platform.
“The public doesn’t come to our meetings. … It’s not interesting to them, but it’s not supposed to be interesting. It’s supposed to be dry, it’s supposed to be informative. Every citizen should have an involvement in it, but they won’t come to us,” Pitt said in an interview earlier this week.
Pitt said “off-site” meetings would provide opportunities for the public to put faces to city officials and for city officials to put faces to the public.
There are some concerns about “off-site” meetings. First, would the facility hosting such a meeting have the equipment — sound system, audio-visual amenities — and enough space to accommodate those who attend the meeting? Second, would the city have to spend money to provide such equipment? Third, would “off-site” locations be able to accommodate the media so it can properly and adequately report what happens at such meetings?
Those are concerns that should be addressed during discussion of the issue Monday.
If “off-site” meetings would make it easier for the public to participate in local government and know more about what’s happening with city government, it’s hard to argue against that.
Council member Pitt should be commended for being willing to broach the issue.