Wednesday, November 2, 2011

City of Bellevue let citizens down


A Bellevue town hall meeting (also referred to as a "public hearing") was held May 9 to "gather information from the citizens as to their wishes concerning the Bellevue Fire Department." Upon conclusion of the meeting, the mayor and City Council said the city would "host another Town Hall in the near future when additional information is available." (Minutes Bellevue Common Council, May 9, 2011, p. J of l) This subsequent hearing was never held.

I attended a City Council regular meeting on Sept. 29. I asked the council why another town hall meeting was never held as mentioned at the May 9 hearing. I was told, "the issue had been on our agenda almost every week and there was plenty of opportunity for the public to learn about it." I rephrased the question for council candidates at the Pizza & Politics night on Oct. 20. I asked them if they believed the citizens of Bellevue had been given enough information on the proposed fire bond to be able to make an informed decision on how to vote. I received the same answer from two of the candidates: "This issue has been on our agenda almost every week and there was plenty of opportunity for the public to learn about it."

At each of these meetings, the council members ignored the difference between a line item on an agenda and a public hearing.

Regular council meetings offer an opportunity for the council to discuss various issues openly, but the council is not obligated to take public input. I have noted on some occasions that the Council cuts people off short when it does not want to engage the public.

A public hearing is an invitation to the public to make comments on a specific issue and to allow the council to provide taxpayers with in-depth information about the issue so citizens can be informed and make a decision.

I fully appreciate the Bellevue Fire Department and volunteers. They have been inadequately funded for more than 30 years. However, without additional information I had hoped to receive at another town hall meeting on the subject, I am not able to make an informed decision. Therefore, I will vote "no."

Dorothy Schinella

Bellevue




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