As a regular observer of the Walla Walla City Council, it seems to me that over the past six months Council decisions increasingly disregard staff recommendations. I think this trend is bad for staff moral.
The Rose Street decision highlights the problems that occur when the Council makes a decision without consideration for staff input or the concerns of constituents on both sides of the issue. It is clear that pressure from one side encouraged the Council to reverse position without any effort to consider additional input.
To me it was done on the spur of the moment, which many times leads to a bad decision.
At the last Council meeting, the other side showed up — a little late, but I believe it represented a fairly large segment of Walla Walla. These people wanted to make the case that the original decision to make it a three-lane road was the correct decision.
Frankly, I was surprised by the response from Mayor Jim Barrow regarding who had the right to have their opinions heard. Further, Council member Chris Plucker did not seem to understand that Rose Street was not a test case for a change to three lanes, but a real need to reconfigure this street for safety issues. I am not sure what his reference to Isaacs Avenue had to do with Rose Street.
I think this decision should be based primarily on the traffic engineers’ input. Both citizen groups failed to be present when the original presentation was given. That was the time to bring up objections and ask questions in an open forum with all stakeholders present.
But the more troubling decision was the one regarding getting a consultant to do a search for a human resources manager. To me, City Manager Nabiel Shawa gave a reasoned presentation regarding the need for such an expanded search.
I was surprised that Council members Mary Lou Jenkins and Mr. Plucker did not understand the implications of seeming to limit the search to local talent. As in other cases, the continuing issue of disregarding staff recommendations seemed to be driven by ideology or a lack of understanding of the key issues rather than making a decision based on the facts.
In the case of Ms. Jenkins, I think she has an obligation to state why she voted against staff recommendations so we have a clear understanding of her position.
I hope future Council decisions will be based on the facts provided by both the staff and interested constituents.
Mary Lou Yocum