Op-Ed: A response to former LFP Council Members concerned about communications

Friday, June 8, 2018

Phillippa Kassover
Phillippa Kassover is a current Council Member for the City of Lake Forest Park

By Phillippa M. Kassover

In response to the three former council members, who served Lake Forest Park with dedication during their terms (1974-79, 1990-97, and 2006-13), and recently wrote a letter (LFP council vs the citizens of LFP) expressing their disappointment in what they perceive as a reduction in communication between the LFP city council and the public, I hear your frustration.

As a brand new council member, I expressed concern about the dissolution of the citizen commissions recommended by the Mayor, as those who sat in on our meetings in early 2016 may remember.

I then chaired the LFP Council Communications Committee, where I learned that our staffing in City Hall has never recovered from the 2008 recession, when the position dedicated to community relations was cut. I also learned how difficult it is for elected officials to engage on social media due to the stringent public records act in Washington State, which is so tough that the state legislators who created the act refuse to be fully covered by it! 

However, the Communications Committee and the city council insisted that robust public engagement be a vital part of the planning for the important parks, culverts, roads, town center and transportation (Big Five) projects in our city.

Since October of 2017, we have held at least eleven open houses and workshops (as well as on-line forums) on these topics, attended by hundreds of residents and members of council. Once we begin to wind down these focused open houses, I look forward to requesting more general town halls that allow the council and public to engage in the two-way conversations our business meetings do not allow. I will also revive my request for re-instituting citizens’ commissions.

I am pleased that the council approved my recent motion to increase the number of members on the new Parks Board from 5 to 7, including a high-school student. I proposed this change because I believe that community input – including from our younger residents, is vitally important to good governance.

When I ran for office in 2015, I visited 2,000 homes in LFP, and engaged in conversations with hundreds of people, many of whom stay in touch with me. I learned much from these conversations that continues to inform my votes and my work on the LFP city council. 

I ran on a platform dedicated to preserving our unique and threatened natural ecosystem, and keeping LFP a vibrant and healthy city for us and for future generations. These goals were supported by the 61% of our citizens who voted for me in my race against a worthy and credible opponent. They are the goals that inspire my work to understand and vote on the difficult issues before us in this time of stunning growth and unprecedented strain on our public infrastructure and economic and natural resources.

I remain committed to these goals, looking for every available strategy to preserve our natural environment and keep LFP a thriving community. I prepare for each meeting thoroughly and vote my conscience.

I have never participated in any parliamentary tricks or maneuvers to undermine the democratic process. It takes 4 votes to pass an ordinance in Lake Forest Park and in cities across the state, as mandated by state law. 

Consequently, the recent Conservation Cluster Housing ordinance supported by just three council members, including me, should not have been declared as passed and I was surprised that this happened. I had expected to lose the vote, even though I believe the conservation easement and cottage strategy is a good option. I wish I had more clearly understood the procedure and state law during that meeting to challenge the “pass” declaration, because that would have been the right thing to do.

I look forward to continued conversations with the community and my council colleagues about how we move forward and write new regulations or provide incentives to developers and property owners to save our beloved and immensely valuable forested ecosystem. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to leave them a livable and healthy planet.

In the meantime, please know that you can contact me at any time at: pkassover@ci.lake-forest-park.wa.us I am committed to answering all emails addressed directly to me.


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