Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

                                                                            

April 22, 2008

 Councilmember Sally Clark, Chair

Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee and

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Committee Member

600 Fourth Avenue

P.O. Box 43025

Seattle, Washington  98124-4025

 

RE:      April 21 Briefings Meeting -- Amendment to Resolution 31002 and Memorandum of Agreement with Children’s re Filling Vacancies on the Children’s Citizens Advisory Committee

 

Dear Councilmembers Clark and Rasmussen:

 

            At yesterday’s Council Briefings meeting, an overview was provided of issues related to filling the vacancies on the Children’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).  As we listened, we identified significant problems in how the issue of filling vacancies on the CAC was defined and in the guidance provided to Councilmembers regarding the quasi-judicial rules.  We are bringing these procedural problems to your attention now since, if left unaddressed, they could result in a remand to the CAC, which would be in no one’s interest.

 

            The basic issue in filling vacancies on the CAC is whether the “balance of interests” has been substantially altered and the role of the Council in addressing this issue.  At the Briefings meeting, uncertainty was expressed as to the meaning of “substantially alter.”  There might be contexts in which this could be hard to determine.  However, that is not the case here.  The governing Council resolution gave Laurelhurst a majority of votes on the CAC—and for good reason, because Laurelhurst is ground zero for the proposal.  It is beyond debate that a substantial change occurs when the primary stakeholder in the process—Laurelhurst—goes from a majority vote on the committee to a minority—from nine representatives to six.  As elected officials, you especially know what a substantial change means in terms of representation on a body that can vote.

 

            As the record reflects, Laurelhurst has lost five reps and alternates on the CAC—three were forced to resign by the City's Ethics Office due to actual financial conflicts of interest as Children's has offered them a premium on property that is the subject of the major institution boundaries (note: it is not the case that the property has already been sold; Laurelhurst is concerned that the Council has somehow been given the impression that it had); one who resigned on his own early in the process due to an appearance of a conflict because his architecture firm represents Children's on other matters; and a fifth who lived on Children's boundary with Laurelhurst and sold her house to the hospital and moved to Cedar Park (although she is still on the CAC). 

 

Should the Council now let slide this substantial alteration in the balance on the CAC, it would be untrue to the process which it established and in which Laurelhurst has worked conscientiously.  It would be a signal to others, in other communities, that the Council will not stand by earlier commitments made after full input from all stakeholders.  And, as mentioned above, it would force Laurelhurst to demand at every juncture a remand of the CAC’s ultimate product due to inconsistency with the Council’s own directives for CAC composition, which remain on the books.              

 

            It was also stated in Briefings comments that the Council has delegated selection of CAC representatives and alternates to the Department of Neighborhoods (DON).  This bears some clarification.  The DON has been given an important role and does provide its recommendations to the Council.  However, the Major Institutions Code charges the Council—not DON—with the final authority in setting the number and composition of the CAC.  In the current situation, the Memorandum of Agreement allows the DON Director to fill vacancies without Council confirmation.  However, that must be done within the context of the Council’s prior mandate and direction.  That requires maintaining the balance of interests originally established by the Council for the CAC.  If elevation of particular alternates will not defeat that, then DON may choose them.   But, it may not elevate alternates without regard for the required balance.  And, again, there can be no question here that the elevation of alternates proposed by DON would substantially alter the balance since it would plainly change the balance of voting power on the CAC.  If this were, for example, the County Council, no one would question that a “substantial alteration” was in the works. 

 

            In addition to the issues noted above, the elevation of alternate Theresa Doherty to become a voting member of the CAC is by itself a major shift and contributes to substantial alteration of the balance of interests on the CAC.  Ms. Doherty is the citywide representative alternate.  The Major Institutions Code calls for ONE citywide representative on the CAC, not TWO.  Ms. Doherty is an Assistant Vice President for Regional Affairs at University of Washington.  It is a matter of public record that Children’s Hospital is a home to a significant portion of the UW’s Department of Pediatrics, arising from an intertwined relationship that these institutions have themselves publicized.  This relationship makes it impossible for the UW’s Ms. Doherty to function without conflict as a citywide representative on the CAC when evaluating a proposal for expansion of facilities for the UW’s own Department of Pediatrics.  This is an important matter to consider even apart from the loss of voting representation to Laurelhurst. 

 

            Finally, at the Briefings meeting, Councilmembers were advised to avoid ALL communications with constituents about the Citizens Advisory Committee as a precaution and to adhere to the quasi-judicial rules.  This is over the top.  There is no bar on communications with Councilmembers concerning process matters.  Such communication is inevitable in light of the Council’s role under the Code in addressing the composition of the CAC. 

 

            LCC would very much like to work with the Council to correct the inconsistencies regarding the filling of CAC vacancies which have arisen because of DON’s application of the Memorandum of Agreement in a manner that is not in compliance with the Council resolution.  This is the Council’s decision—not the Mayor’s or the Department of Neighborhoods.  A remand from the hearing examiner or a court or board due to the failure to maintain the required balance of interests on the CAC is in no one’s interest—it could result in a delay of a year or more in addressing the Children’s master plan.  We believe everyone would like to move forward in a fair and balanced process consistent with what the Council approved in July 2007.

 

            Thank you for considering our views.  We look forward to hearing back from you on this.

 

Sincerely,

                                                  

Liz Ogden, Vice President                                         Jeannie Hale, President

5005 48th Avenue NE                                                             3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105                                        Seattle, Washington  98105

206-517-5862                                                              206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

wizzet@comcast.net                                                   jeannieh@serv.net