News

New council gets its feet wet

Three new City Councilors took their seats on the 2010 council Wednesday night.

And they got right to work.

Kirsten Hytopoulos, Debbi Lester and Bob Scales joined the council in discussing the development of a Governance Manual to guide council protocol.

Interim Deputy City Manager Stan McNutt led the discussion of the manual, which McNutt and interim City Manager Lee Walton have used in their efforts to implement changes of government and incorporation in other cities (scroll to the bottom of the page to see Spokane Valley's Governance Manual, which McNutt helped develop).

At the study session, McNutt reiterated the importance of having in place an established protocol for meeting structures, public interaction and discussion between council, management and staff.

"We have more can't do's than can do's in the city, and this brings it all together," he said."

The Governance Manual will be a significant part of the all-day training session the council will attend Saturday.

Currently, the council works off three protocol manuals. The Governance Manual would replace the excess guidelines.

The manual is expected to expand public participation beyond the three-minute public comment period, change the form of meetings (half of them may be study sessions, and the other half business meetings), and eliminate all council committees outside of Finance and Personnel.

McNutt said he wants to present a draft of the model for the Governance Manual to the council this month. It will then be up to the body to decide on the policies and meeting structures it wants to incorporate into the document.

Wednesday night's swearing in ceremony and study session was a long time coming for the three new councilors. Scales began his candidacy in February, when he decided to run for mayor. The change of government vote three months later changed that.

Scales then chose to run for the North Ward seat in June opposite incumbent Debbie Vancil.

Hytopoulos and Lester began their journeys in June when they vied for seats vacated by Chris Snow and Kjell Stoknes.

All three councilors said before Wednesday's meeting they are ready to finally get to work.

Each councilor identified two key issues that they're ready to dive in and remedy as soon as possible: finishing the change from strong mayor to council-manager form of government, and rectifying the city's books.

"We need to right-size our government to fit our expected revenues," Hytopoulos said.

Scales concurred.

"We don't want a razor-thin margin of error on all of our economic forecasts so we don't spend the entire year worrying about how we're going to make payroll," he said.

Lester is ready to begin searching for new sources of funds.

"I would first like to work on diversifying the city revenues and create opportunity for home-grown economic growth . . . celebrating what makes Bainbridge Island great," she said.

For Scales, who served on the council for four years previously, this term allows another chance to help the city. But circumstances have changed drastically since he left the council in 2007.

"When I was on the council before, money was not a problem," he said. "Now we have major financial issues we have to deal with right away."

Hytopoulos has been attending meetings for several months to stay in touch with the issues and watch how the council operates. She said the incoming councilors have received the same documents reviewed by the sitting council.

They have gotten similar feedback from the public since being elected, as well.

Hytopoulos said she has received a vote of confidence from the public, and a shared optimism that 2010 will bring positive changes.

"Mostly, when I run into people downtown, it's a combination of appreciation for my willingness to do this, and hope that things are going to be great this year," she said.

And Lester, who has completed three months work on her art magazine to allow herself more time to focus on city issues, said the public is hoping to see a unified local legislature this year. In countless meetings with citizens, Lester said the public has told her that the city must remain attentive to basic services such as infrastructure.

Her colleagues were told the same.

Lester is looking forward to blending her skill set with those colleagues to come up with creative solutions to the city's issues.

"I am absolutely super excited about joining the council," she said. "It has members with diverse backgrounds, ages, and life experiences. It will be key that we bring our unique abilities to the community table."

Three new City Councilors took their seats on the 2010 council Wednesday night.

And they got right to work.

Kirsten Hytopoulos, Debbi Lester and Bob Scales joined the council in discussing the development of a Governance ManualGovernance Manual to guide council protocol.

Interim Deputy City Manager Stan McNutt led the discussion of the manual, which McNutt and interim City Manager Lee Walton have used in their efforts to implement changes of government and incorporation in other cities (scroll to the bottom of the page to see Spokane Valley's Governance Manual, which McNutt helped develop)..

At the study session, McNutt reiterated the importance of having in place an established protocol for meeting structures, public interaction and discussion between council, management and staff.

“We have more can’t do’s than can do’s in the city, and this brings it all together,” he said.”

The Governance Manual will be a significant part of the all-day training session the council will attend Saturday.

Currently, the council works off three protocol manuals. The new manual would replace the excess guidelines.

McNutt said he wants to present a draft of the model for the Governance Manual to the council this month. It will then be up to the body to decide on the policies and meeting structures it wants to incorporate into the document.

Wednesday night’s swearing in ceremony and study session was a long time coming for the three new councilors. Scales began his candidacy in February, when he decided to run for mayor. The change of government vote three months later changed that.

Scales then chose to run for the North Ward seat in June opposite incumbent Debbie Vancil. Hytopoulos and Lester began their journeys in June when they vied for seats vacated by Chris Snow and Kjell Stoknes.

All three councilors said before Wednesday’s meeting they are ready to finally get to work.

Each councilor identified two key issues that they’re ready to dive in and remedy as soon as possible: completing the change from strong mayor to council-manager form of government, and rectifying the city’s finances.

“We need to right-size our government to fit our expected revenues,” Hytopoulos said.

Scales concurred.

“We don’t want a razor-thin margin of error on all of our economic forecasts so we don’t spend the entire year worrying about how we’re going to make payroll,” he said.

Lester is ready to begin searching for new sources of funds.

“I would first like to work on diversifying the city revenues and create opportunity for home-grown economic growth... celebrating what makes Bainbridge Island great,” she said.

For Scales, who served on the council for four years previously, this term allows another chance to help the city. But circumstances have changed drastically since he left the council in 2007.

“When I was on the council before, money was not a problem,” he said. “Now we have major financial issues we have to deal with right away.”

Hytopoulos has been attending meetings for several months to stay in touch with the issues and watch how the council operates. She said the incoming councilors have received the same documents reviewed by the sitting council.

They have gotten similar feedback from the public since being elected, as well.

Hytopoulos said she has received a vote of confidence from the public, and a shared optimism that 2010 will bring positive changes.

“Mostly, when I run into people downtown, it’s a combination of appreciation for my willingness to do this, and hope that things are going to be great this year,” she said.

And Lester, who has completed three months of work on her art magazine to allow herself more time to focus on city issues, said the public is hoping to see a unified local legislature this year. In countless meetings with citizens, Lester said the public has told her that the city must remain attentive to basic services such as infrastructure.

Her colleagues were told the same.

Lester is looking forward to blending her skill set with those colleagues to come up with creative solutions to the city’s issues.

“I am absolutely super excited about joining the council,” she said. “It has members with diverse backgrounds, ages, and life experiences. It will be key that we bring our unique abilities to the community table.”

Spokane Valley Governance Manual

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