Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

October 1, 2007

   

Steve Sheppard

Department of Neighborhoods

P.O. Box 94649

Seattle, WA 98124-4649

 

Dr. Tom Hansen

President and Chief Executive Officer

Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center

P.O. Box 5371

Seattle, WA 98105-0371

 

RE:  Open Public Meetings Law

 

Dear Steve and Tom,

 

            The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees is concerned about the apparent violation of the Open Public Meetings Act and the Major Institutions Code at the September 26th Citizens Advisory Committee meeting.  The Open Public Meetings Act, RCW 42.30, requires that all meetings be open and public and all persons shall be permitted to attend.  Seattle’s Major Institutions Code, SMC 23.69.032D2, also requires the advisory committee to hold open meetings.  Due to poor planning, Children’s Hospital refused entrance to approximately 30 neighbors at the September 26th meeting. 

 

            The Open Public Meetings Act, passed by the Legislature in 1971, was part of a nationwide effort to make government affairs more accessible and responsive to the people.  All public commissions, boards, councils, committees and other bodies are subject to the law.  The legislative intent states in pertinent part:

 

“The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”  RCW 42.30.010.

 

            The excuse provided to our neighbors was that the room was full or allowing more to enter would have violated the fire code.  While these may be legitimate excuses, the bottom line is that sufficient space should have been provided to comply with the law.  Both the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) and Children’s Hospital knew that the meeting would draw substantial interest from the community.  Neighbors have said that DON told them not to attend the meeting because seating would be limited.  This does not set well with the Community Club as we have gone to considerable lengths to get our neighbors involved in the Children’s master planning process. 

 

The Community Club was told that if an overflow crowd attended the September 26th meeting, the meeting could be moved to the hospital’s cafeteria.   LCC subsequently learned that the day before the meeting, Children’s told DON that the cafeteria would not be available.  The script disseminated via email by Children’s to its staff nearly two hours prior to the meeting states that they expected only 15-25 people from the public to attend, whereas about 100 people were allowed into the meeting.   LCC learned that fire officials were on hand to limit entrance into the meeting room and that Children’s security was called to deal with irate neighbors and to keep them from entering the room.  Many who arrived at the meeting early were not even allowed to enter the meeting room.  This is not the way the process is supposed to work.

 

The clear implication is that Children’s is seeking to limit public participation in the master planning process.  The Community Club has learned that Children’s asked DON that Citizens Advisory Committee meetings be held throughout the city in areas that would not be impacted by the proposed expansion.  Wisely, DON rejected this request.  LCC has requested that Children’s model of its proposed development be on display at the Laurelhurst Community Center to educate neighbors about the proposed plan.  Instead, Children’s has selected two dates and it is doubtful whether the timing will allow notice to neighbors.  Instead of honoring the LCC request to have the model available for our neighbors without restriction, Children’s plans to have the model in communities far removed from the impacts of proposed development.  Children’s has not responded to LCC’s request to know if Rainier Valley, Rainier Beach, West Seattle, Beacon Hill and other neighborhoods have even requested that the model be available for their neighbors. 

 

Now, Children’s has rejected LCC’s request that future Citizens Advisory Committee meetings be held at either the Laurelhurst Community Center or the Laurelhurst Elementary School cafeteria.  Instead, as stated in the script disseminated by Children’s staff prior to the September 26th meeting, future meetings would be held on its main campus or at its View Ridge office building.  Meetings in View Ridge would discourage Laurelhurst neighbors from attending as most neighbors walk.  We believe actions by Children’s to have meetings in View Ridge are intended to discourage participation by Laurelhurst neighbors—the major stakeholders in the process.  

 

            Aside from Children’s seemingly intent to limit participation by Laurelhurst neighbors in the master planning process, at minimum there must be compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act and the Major Institutions Code.  We urge you to comply with these laws to maintain the integrity of the process.

 

                                                                                    Sincerely,

 

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net

 

cc:  Mayor Greg Nickels, Seattle City Councilmembers, Suzanne Petersen, Ruth Benfield, Desiree Leigh, Children’s Hospital; Scott Ringgold, Department of Planning and Development