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San Soucie says courtesy should rule on non-city related business

It took two work sessions and a few hours of discussion to get there, but the Beaverton City Council decided Tuesday night to continue its informal practice of placing ceremonial or symbolic topics on future agendas as they are brought to the mayor’s or councilors’ attention.

In the second of two work sessions on whether the council should “filter” resolution requests from citizens, the council appeared to reject the idea of a formal policy to regulate what topics unrelated to city business would make it to agenda level.

“In the end, we kept things as they have been,” said Councilor Betty Bode said on Wednesday morning. “A city councilor can still bring something up and put it on the council agenda. Also, a visitor can come up and ask us for a ceremonial resolution.”

Bode argued during last night’s session as well as an earlier one on Jan. 29 that a formal policy was unnecessary to curtail organizations — such as those opposing coal-bearing trains through the area or citizens against corporations having legal status as “people” — from introducing topics to councilors for agenda placement.

“We’re keeping things the same, and we’ll check back in a few months and see if it should be looked at again,” Bode said. “What I don’t want to do is curtail the ability of citizens to come up and share their concerns.”

On the counsel of City Attorney Bill Kirby, the council rejected a proposal to require four of five councilors to agree before a ceremonial resolution was placed on a council agenda. The practice of making a decision before a meeting, he explained, could compromise public meetings laws.

“I am concerned that a court would view the process as off-the-record, collective decision making,” he said last night. “That’s the thing I want to avoid.”

The visitor comments period, in which citizens have free reign to share what’s on their mind, would not have been affected by the proposed changes.

Councilor Ian King championed the issue after what he felt were too many symbolic topics coming to the council before city-related topics that he felt deserved priority. He cited an example from last night’s meeting, on reimbursing neighborhood association committees appealing Land Use and Traffic Commission decisions, as a topic delayed for months.

“I’ve seen a lot of city business and resources diverted elsewhere,” he said on Wednesday, noting the NACC appeal-reimbursement topic has languished since last summer. “I was told (earlier) there was time or resources to work on it. Then the week before the last (2012) council meeting, we did have time to put on ceremonial resolution about Congressional fiscal policy. We don’t have time for local issues, but we do address these national resolutions.”

Moving forward, however, King will advance citizen requests for topics to the agenda, a privilege of the council and the mayor that last night’s consensus kept in place.

“I’m not going to put myself in the position as a filter,” he said. “I’ll just pass it along and say ‘Here’s another request for a resolution.’ “

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