by Martin Barrett
It has been a month since the mass resignation from the Planning Commission on June 15. During this time, multiple residents have asked when the applications for replacement commissioners will be available and what the timeline will be. At this point, no plan has been announced, nor are applications being accepted.
Those that have reached out have received the following responses:
“Thank you for your interest in serving on the Planning Commission. The city is currently not recruiting to fill any vacant positions on commissions, committees, or advisory boards. We hope to have a process in place soon so that we can commence a recruitment process. Until then, I encourage you to continue monitoring the city’s website for more information. Also, please feel free to send inquiries periodically to me or Susan McLain, Director of Community Development, who is assigned staff to the Planning Commission.”
“We currently have openings in the following Committee, Commissions, and Advisory Boards: Planning Commission (7), Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (2), Arts Commission (1), and Burien Airport Committee (1).”
“City staff are working internally to identify the best path moving forward. We do not have a timeline at this time for reopening any process for recruiting new candidates for vacancies.”
Why is the city slow-walking this process? It is not a new process. Application forms already exist. The interview process is routine. In the spring, the number of applicants far outnumbered the openings. Therefore we know there are interested residents.
The city has legal boundaries on this commission:
RCW 35.63.040 Commissions—Organization—Meeting—Rules.
“The commission shall elect its own chair and create and fill such other offices as it may determine it requires. The commission shall hold at least one regular meeting each month for not less than nine months in each year. It shall adopt rules for the transaction of business and shall keep a written record of its meetings, resolutions, transactions, findings, and determinations, which record shall be a public record.”
[2009 c 549 § 2115; 1965 c 7 § 35.63.040. Prior: 1935
c 44 § 3; RRS § 9322-3.]
The Planning Commission has met every month this year so far; the last time they met was on June 14, 2023. As posted on their agenda site, the next meeting is supposed to happen on July 12, 2023. Will they have a meeting? If not, they will have two months more to get the applications, screen, and interview to get a Planning Commission in place. Without this commission, there is no reason for Susan McLain, the Community Development Director, to continue with the Shape Your City work, as there will be no citizen oversight. Furthermore, the approval process, which ends with a City Council vote, would be severed.
Given the repetitiveness of the process and the timeline required, one may ask why the “slow walk”? Is there an intent to not have citizen oversight of the planning process? Is there a desire to wait until after the election with a favorable rubber-stamping council? Regardless, the legal requirement is still in effect. The city must start the process now to fill the Planning Commission, to be sworn in by October.