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Pullman needs a communications officer
The city is having trouble informing citizens of canceled council meetings
January 29, 2020
Since Nov. 26, Pullman City Council meetings have been cancelled five times. Many of these meetings, which are scheduled to occur on a weekly basis, have been cited as being cancelled by the “order of the Mayor of Pullman.” Yet there is no official information listed as to the reasoning of the cancellation.
Pullman city council member Brandon Chapman said the city council doesn’t always need meetings every single Tuesday, even if the city code dictates that meetings occur weekly.
These meetings revolve around the council addressing issues or items brought up by Pullman residents. These could include anything from zone changes and building permits to emergency budget amendments.
For an issue to be brought up it must first go through a planning commission made up of city officials and eventually is formatted correctly for a council meeting and is then moved to council. Therefore, unless an item is properly submitted to a planning commission, it will not be brought up at a city council meeting.
Unless a time-sensitive or important issue needs to be addressed by the city council, then there is often a meeting cancellation as well. City council weekly meetings involve bringing together multiple city officials and leaders, such as the department heads of planning and public works, as well as the city clerk and attorney, in order to properly address items presented.
The logistical process of bringing together all these different officials, coupled with an intermittent lack of time-sensitive items to be addressed, is a primary cause of city council meeting cancellations.
Just because these weekly meetings fail to occur does not necessarily mean the city council is failing to accomplish its duties to the Pullman community. Chapman himself makes sure to set aside time during each Tuesday in order to complete work related to various issues to be addressed in the Pullman community if a meeting does not occur.
“The idea of having a meeting every week sounds great, but in reality, a good council member should be doing that work anyways,” Chapman said.
During the most recent Tuesday where the weekly meeting was cancelled, Chapman instead used the time to study for a street completion and communicate with some residents about current issues affecting the community.
The fact the city council meetings were cancelled alone is not an important issue. Rather, what raises concern is the fact that there was very little information given directly to the public that explained why the meetings were cancelled. This lack of communication could become a problem if the Pullman City Council wishes to remain transparent with residents.
One potential solution that has been proposed is the idea of a city communications officer, who would serve as a direct link between residents and the city government.
“The city doesn’t have one, but it needs one,” Chapman said.
Chapman also noted that proper, efficient communication had been a problem recently, particularly with the weekly city council meetings. The city had been putting out information about current items, but this information often was not released in a timely fashion. As a result, most residents were only first hearing about items as they were being addressed in the meetings.
Transparency and direct communication from the local government is important, as improper communication itself is easily noticeable and hurts public opinion. Even students agree that proper and transparent communication are critical to keeping a good government running strong.
“I believe that residents should be very well informed of all things happening within the community and what’s going on, and both parties should be on the same page for anything to get done,” Joshua Vandehey, WSU sophomore marketing and German major, said.
Overall, the Pullman City Council was more than open to communicate exactly why city council meetings had been cancelled. Yet a more efficient and modern solution to concerns over council meetings would involve a city communications officer, an ideal solution in the eyes of the city council.
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