The recent disagreement among Olympia City Council members about the use of city resources is not much more than a tempest in a teapot and, for that matter, easily remedied.
Councilwoman Karen Rogers drew criticism from four of the seven council members for asking city officials to attend community forums she hosts every two or three months. The majority also took her to task for posting materials on the city website to publicize the town hall meetings and other issues.
First, for the record: Rogers should be commended for her efforts to reach out to the community, making herself accessible to her constituents.
It appears her reliance on city staff to support her community meetings and website “update page” are minimal.
However, the city employees don’t work directly for Rogers, especially outside their regular work hours.
If the public asks questions about specific city issues and topics that Rogers can’t answer at her community meetings, she can take them back to city officials during regular business hours, get an answer, then report back what she learns.
Which brings up the second issue about individual City Council member use of the city website.
It seems perfectly appropriate for the public to be able to contact individual council members through the website. At the very least, it should be a place where the public can find a council member’s phone number, Facebook page or e-mail address for further communication.
The main thing Rogers needs to do in her contacts with the public is make it clear that she doesn’t speak for the entire council on issues that have not been decided. The same holds true for other council members.
Transparent, open government comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. The council members should not attempt to restrain each other from sharing information with the public.