ILWACO — Ilwaco City Council members questioned whether council rules are strong enough for the community to make informed decisions.
During a Nov. 9 meeting, Councilman Fred Marshall said he was tired of feeling out of the loop. He proposed an amendment that would require the mayor, city staff and council members to present an overview of any proposed legislation before the topic was open for a hearing.
“The crux of this issue is, do we as a council want to see more information provided at the meeting … for us and the public,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the current rules and procedures, which call for a presentation of background information of new proposals, are not consistently followed. Council members are often handed proposals without an overview of their implication, he said.
Marshall said he wanted the rules to reflect clear expectations, such as why the proposal was formed, how much it would cost and how long it would last.
Mayor Mike Cassinelli said public hearings have always made the required announcements. Legal notices are posted online and in Ilwaco’s city hall, library and post office.
“We’re not running this thing different since we have in 2009 when we put this together,” Cassinelli said, referring to the current rules and procedures.
Marshall said he knew the city wasn’t breaking laws in how information is given, but the system needs to improve.
Marshall used the budget as an example for how council members could better communicate.
The City of Ilwaco’s general fund is $15,000 away from reaching a $31,000 goal to save for future expenses. The city aimed to hold the money in a reserve fund for short-lived assets such as machinery, according to the Treasurer’s office.
He said if the community was asked to give suggestions for the budget in a public hearing, people wouldn’t have enough information.
“I would want to start out saying, ‘Folks, council, we have a $15,000 problem in the general fund, as of today,’ because that’s the truth,” Marshall said. Background information is vital to any public hearing, he said.
“It’s a good time to ask the public how we could save $15,000 or generate $15,000 in revenue,” he said.
Councilwoman Vinessa Karnofski said there are often quiet public hearings because people have trouble participating unless they closely follow the council’s decisions.
Karnofski said while she liked the increased organization, she worried Marshall’s proposal wasn’t detailed enough, missing information such as when presentations would be required before a hearing.
Councilman Jon Chambreau said providing people with basic information before it was time for them to give input in a public hearing was common sense, as well as common courtesy.
Some members were worried adding more rules would be overkill to the legislation and could limit last-minute proposals.
Councilman Gary Forner helped close the debate.
“How about we just try getting the information out and see how that goes before we get into rewriting stuff,” Forner said.
The council agreed to pause Marshall’s proposal and use the next few weeks to evaluate how information is given.
The commissioners also discussed establishing the city’s pay rates for 2016. Cassinelli suggested city employee’s pay remain the same. The council moved the topic to the next meeting on Nov. 23.