Friday, October 10, 2014

Donít duck debate

    Bellevue City Council incumbents running for re-election shouldn’t hide behind restrictions on communicating about the controversial Eccles annexation outside of formal hearings in order to duck debate about what they want for Bellevue’s future.
    Legal restraints on what are referred to as ex parte communications apply to discussions of the pros and cons of specific development proposals that are pending before a government body. The restriction also applies to receiving information—not just a chance remark—that is not on the public record and to which the public, on any side of the issue, does not have the opportunity to respond.
    Talking about how long a city should take to rewrite a 12-year-old comprehensive plan is not ex parte communication. Even so, council incumbents said in an election forum this week that they could not respond to a question from a voter about what he perceived to be the insistence by the council that the Planning and Zoning Commission rush a rewrite of the Comprehensive Plan that could include provisions that would overturn 40 years of valley-wide planning and zoning.
    The restriction should not prevent incumbents from discussing the plan or responding to voters who have called for public documents to be given to the public more than a few days before a public hearing on complex or controversial matters like the annexation. It should not prevent them from discussing the timing and manner of the city’s notices to the public, which apply to any matter.
    The restriction should not keep incumbents from talking about what they want their city to be. Hiding behind a murky restriction on communication deprives Bellevue of what should be a vigorous and healthy election-season debate on the city’s future. Bellevue needs a healthy debate and engaged voters to achieve a healthy future.

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