The Bremerton City Council’s Ad Hoc Parking Committee will hold its last meeting Feb. 27.
While the group’s name may portend such a thing, the reality is that, in practice, the “ad hoc” group has essentially become a standing committee in recent years.
But City Council President Greg Wheeler said that disbanding the committee is more of a procedural change than anything else.
“The only change intended was for it no longer to be a ‘council’ committee because the subject matters proposed for discussion by this group are more ‘administrative’ in nature,” Wheeler wrote to constituents concerned about the change. “The Mayor must decide to address this. If any policy issues are eventually determined, presentations can always be brought to the council by the mayor or her staff.”
Mayor Patty Lent, though, seems to have some concerns.
“First of all, parking has always been under the council,” Lent said. “The reason is that parking is a policy issue. Law, or policy, goes through the council. I sign it and see that it’s carried out.”
Lent said that figuring out a way to address parking issues will be a “perfect topic” at an upcoming council retreat in which department directors, staffers and council members can determine the best way to get public input.
“I’d rather have a discussion before disbanding it and saying it’s in (my) pocket because it is a change from how it’s been done historically,” she said. “He (Wheeler) is the president, but I think all of the council and the administration need to have a joint discussion.”
Parking woes in Bremerton are nothing new.
“From the very beginning, when the city was incorporated in 1901, we’ve had parking problems,” Lent said.
Councilwoman Leslie Daugs, who is a member of the parking committee, also seems less than pleased to see it going away. She says she was out of town for a legislative conference when the decision was made, but lobbied against the move via email.
“I really am not sure what and why the purpose of disbanding (is),” she said.
Bremerton resident Bob Dollar has served on the parking committee since 2009 and says the decision to disband the group “came out of the blue” and is a bad decision.
“I think (Wheeler’s) trying to stifle public input,” he said.
Dollar said it took the better part of four years to get Bremerton residents the right to park in front of their own homes without getting a ticket and more work remains.
I think the Ad Hoc Parking Committee has done a good job of trying to resolve issues,” Dollar said, noting that many former and existing parking rules are absurd.
For his part, Wheeler said that city council members and the public can continue to work on parking solutions.
“The council members who feel strongly about this can stay on the committee and can keep going, but it won’t be a council meeting,” he said. “They will represent themselves and not the council. I’m also ready and welcome to a proposal from the administration on any policy decisions that need to be made and I am looking forward to some policy decisions.
“I don’t anticipate this being the last time we have a committee on parking,” Wheeler added. “However, it is an ad hoc committee and I believe they’ve got some good things to turn over to the administration. At some point we need to sit down as a council and say, ‘Do we need a full time committee or do we get a project based committee where we get some recommendations to give to the administration?”