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Sequim Speaks resolution exposes ongoing divisions

The city council got its first look at a resolution establishing the "Sequim Speaks" advisory committee at its Nov. 17 meeting.

The ensuing discussion once again highlighted the division created by the election of four new city councilors last year.

Councilor Paul McHugh reiterated his opposition to the committee, saying it would create a perception that the opinions of others in the community would not be valued as highly as the opinions of those serving on the committee.

The council authorized the "Sequim Area Citizens Advisory Committee" by a 5-1 vote at its June 23 meeting to assist the Sequim Speaks group in getting started. McHugh voted "no." Councilor Susan Lorenzen was absent.

The resolution presented last week by acting city manager Craig Ritchie spelled out the committee's duties and responsibilities and authorized its access to city staff.

It was the "first touch" by the council, which often reviews proposals three times before voting on them.

Sequim Speaks would be comprised of 15 to 22 members who would apply to the city. Its boundaries would be those of the Sequim School District, which would be divided into four quadrants by Sequim Avenue/Sequim-Dungeness Way and Washington Street.

Each quadrant would have at least three representatives and the majority of the committee must be Sequim residents. The committee also would have one representative each from the city of Sequim, Clallam County and the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal Council.

The committee is intended to gather and present to the council the public's concerns regarding city issues although it won't be allowed to accept public comment on quasi-judicial matters or those requiring a public hearing.

It can invite developers to explain their proposed projects to the public and answer questions though.

"Developers are strongly encouraged to utilize this forum to explain proposals and respond to citizen concerns and the committee may invite developers to such meetings," the resolution reads.

The committee will be introduced to the public at a future "town hall meeting."

Ritchie introduced the resolution and said it was the final version except for establishing the times for the committee's quarterly meetings.

Schubert began by saying, "I guess my question would be, to the four new council members, is this what you want? I voted for it before because that's what you wanted. If it's what you want, I'm willing to go along with it as long it doesn't affect our planning commission," he said.

Mayor Laura Dubois responded, "It states right in here that it does not. I think city attorney Rit-chie was very careful to make sure it did not and I wish you would quit saying 'the four of us.'"

City Councilor Ken Hays said the committee was a campaign promise he brought to the council and thought there was consensus on the concept of a citizen advisory committee.

"I really feel that it truly has been up to this point, a citizens-generated effort," he said, adding it appears to be what the group wants.

Hays said the committee could serve both as a conduit for the city to get information to the public and for the public to give feedback to the city.

McHugh reiterated his opposition to the idea.

"My concern still remains that we are creating a super citizens committee that I think the public is going to perceive has a special pipeline or a special influence over the city council because of or by virtue of membership on this committee," he said.

"I don't think it has a role being officially financed and sanctioned by the city of Sequim and I remain opposed to it for that reason," McHugh said.

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