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Another blow to transparency | IN OUR OPINION

September 27, 2013 · 3:17 PM
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Open government took one on the chin again last week at Bainbridge Island City Hall.

This week, the council appointed two new members to the Planning Commission.

The two new commissioners may be outstanding choices, and the best of the bunch that applied for the vacancies.

Sadly, the public has no way of knowing.

Unlike past appointments, where the names of all candidates seeking appointment were made public — and not just the finalists — under the guise of a new process, the council kept the names secret of the candidates until the council actually voted to put them on the advisory body.

Indeed, the stench of secrecy was thick and overpowering this week. Not only did the city fail to provide the names and application materials for the commission candidates, the city kept the appointment of the two individuals off the agenda completely.

Then, as this week’s council meeting neared 11 p.m. — surprise, surprise — Mayor Steve Bonkowski unveiled the selections that he wanted put forward.

In July, the council approved changes to the way it would select commissioners for the city’s most important and powerful advisory body.

This week, some on the dais expressed confusion about how the process for picking new planning commissioners had played out.

We suggest a do-over is needed on this new process. The recently approved process would allow council members to interview the candidates in private, before taking a public vote on the appointees.

As with appointees to the city council after a resignation, we believe the council should conduct its planning commissioner interviews in public, and retreat to a private closed-door session to discuss the qualifications of the individuals, and then return to public session for a vote.

As it stands now, the public is being left out. How does a planning commissioner candidate view private rights? Or the protection of quality of life aspects and the environment when new zoning or regulations are proposed? How would they balance economic development with the harmful impacts of excessive development? These are questions that should be asked and answered in public, not behind the council’s closed doors.

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