Camas now has a remote council meeting scheduled as of this last Wednesday, April 1st and it’s approaching quickly - Meeting to occur on Monday, April 6th at 7pm if you missed the news. Camas may need to study up a little this weekend on what that will mean in this new moment in the COVID-19 era.
As discussed in the WATCH Camas forums, Governor Inslee has partially lifted the OPMA and PRA laws in response to COVID-19. These laws were adopted by many states as a post-Watergate reform to increase public access and participation in government and they work to keep a minimum level of transparency in our interactions with local government in Washington State. In his most recent guidance though, the Governor used some vague language about what exactly changes and what can be discussed on a remote meeting’s agenda in the age of COVID-19,
“The OPMA requires public meetings have facilities made available for people to attend. Waving this requirement works to prevent the gathering of people to further curb the spread of the virus. However, governing bodies may only address “necessary and routine matters” as defined in RCW 42.30.020, or matters necessary to address the COVID-19 outbreak, for the 30 days the proclamation is active.”
The phrase "necessary and routine matters" shows up in quotes in Inslee’s statement, but the same words don't show in RCW 42.30.20 referenced in the statement? A "Governing body", also referenced in his statement, is defined in that language though. It is defined as,
“ the multimember board, commission, committee, council, or other policy or rule-making body of a public agency, or any committee thereof when the committee acts on behalf of the governing body, conducts hearings, or takes testimony or public comment.”
The Governor's statement can be found here in full.
With a lack of definitive clarity in language from the governor, will Camas make a push similar to the April Fool's Day morning surprise revealing the Lake/Everett intersection was no longer merely an "improvement project" but in fact now, "soon to reach failure" and an essential project that would be moving forward without delay to avoid a COVID-19 related catastrophe? Camas will likely get these answers and more on Monday night, but in the coming days, neighbors may want to work to carefully prepare themselves to WATCH a new type of Camas city council meeting, which could become the new normal and require a new type of citizen oversight.
As of yet, no agenda has been provided by the city of Camas, even though the meeting is just days away. Remember that Camas is still discussing:
the “North Shore” project
the “Legacy Lands” acquisitions
the (paused) Roundabout Project, along with other construction projects
and council's ongoing challenges of our "Strong Mayor" form of government
Might Council try to move forward on any of these topics as “necessary and routine”?
The “north shore” project may very well find its way, quietly, on to what is currently a blank page if recent hints from cancelled meeting agendas are any indicator - The planning commission meeting that was supposed to take place on 3/17, still has a posted agenda due to those previously discussed OPMA laws. Within that agenda is a presentation from Camas Senior Planner and sitting Vancouver City Councilor Sarah Fox. In the Fox presentation titled "Camas North Shore Subarea Plan Project Update" the Details portion reads,
"Overview of the work completed during Phase 1 of the North Shore Subarea Plan. A public hearing will be held at the April 21, 2020 Planning Commission Meeting to consider the draft North Shore Vision."
That April 21st planning commission meeting is now also listed as cancelled. In this unsure moment, would staff look to bypass the planning commission entirely and go directly to council with an ask to approve phase 2? Or, as council did in the last meeting, when Greg Anderson proceeded with the meeting while a Clark county husband and wife both died from COVID-19 complications miles down the road at PeaceHealth, will councilors individually take their mics in hand to try to explain to Sarah Fox why North Shore is essential, in a complete reversal of responsibilities and as they did with Steve Wall on the roundabout project just weeks ago - Will Councilor Shannon Roberts tell us why “North Shore” developments are “economically wonderful” or will Councilor Don Cheney give us an update on his usually disapproving neighbor, who had a zoom meeting with him that same morning to tell him that he’s “all for the North Shore”?
Outside of the 600 lb. Gorilla above our beautiful lake, that will possibly need $200m+ to feed should council vote to proceed, anything can happen in Camas. If this past election, with a former Camas mayor proclaiming that our children may commit suicide without a community center, or this current week of roundabout start and stop during COVID-19 is any indication of council’s intention to not let a good crisis go to waste, then we citizens have got a busy weekend ahead of us. Camas may be tested this Monday as we log on to the future of local government.
UPDATE: Thankfully, it seems the city has started to take notice of WATCH Camas. After the posting of this WATCH Camas news article, the city of Camas has now posted the meeting agenda for the Regular Council Meeting on Monday, April 6th at 7pm. The city will not discuss the North Shore according to the current agenda, but they will be discussing the purchase agreement for Legacy Lands properties (download the purchase agreement here) totaling nearly $20m dollars.
You can download the April 6th agenda here.