Swim Safely

June 29, 2013 12:48 by Ryan

Photo by Alex Mahan — CC By-NC-SA 2.0.

Many Anacortes residents—along with friends and tourists from all over—will enjoy a respite from the rising temperatures this week in the lakes in our community forestlands and elsewhere on Fidalgo Island. But on Tuesday, a 28-year-old man drowned at Whistle Lake.

As this recent Slate article points out, drowning doesn’t look like the drowning you see on TV. Be extra vigilant, and watch out for your friends and others.

Got an idea to promote tourism?

June 23, 2013 15:32 by Ryan

Each year, City solicits proposals from local non-profit organizations for “activities designed to advertise, publicize, or distribute information or other activities specifically authorized for the purpose of attracting visitors to our community.” Completed applications are due by September 2, 2013. If you have questions contact Carol Yates at 360-293-1912 or carol@cityofanacortes.org.

The grant recipient must match the grant amount with at least 25% of its own funds.

Past recipients include:

  • Fidalgo Island Quilters ($1,800)
  • Anacortes Arts Commission ($1,800)
  • Anacortes Chamber of Commerce ($174,000)

City Negotiating Services Agreement with Samish Tribe

June 21, 2013 22:33 by Ryan

Over the past 18 months, the City of Anacortes has been negotiating an agreement with the Samish Indian Nation to provide municipal services (e.g., police, fire, water, and sewer services) to a future Samish casino at the intersection of Highway 20 and Thompson Road. Earlier this month, the mayor sent a letter to the tribe’s chairman noting the ongoing negotiations.

Although this property is currently within the city limits (where the City is obligated to provide services even without a contract), the Samish Tribe is working to convert their property to federal trust land, which would remove it from the City’s jurisdiction.

Because the process for conversion to federal trust land is a lengthy one, the Samish Tribe has requested in the meantime a change to the City’s development regulations to allow a gas station with attached convenience store or attached drive-up food or beverage service in the LM1 zone, consistent with other uses that already exist in the same zone. The City Council docketed the Tribe’s request on Monday and will process it along with other comprehensive plan amendments over the next year.

The Samish are simultaneously, but separately, working with Congressman Larsen to obtain Congressional legislation to convert several of their other properties in Skagit and San Juan counties to trust land. These properties could not be used for gaming due to a provision in the legislation prohibiting it.

Watch Anacortes’s Development 1984-2012

May 14, 2013 00:33 by Ryan

Thanks to Time Magazine, you can watch an animation of Anacortes's growth in the last three decades. Go to Time's Timelapse viewer, make sure your browser is full screen, then click “Explore the World” and type in 98221 in the search in the lower right corner. HT: Cynthia Richardson.


Here are our census figures over the same period. Note that some annexations occurred during these periods that may skew growth rates. Source; source.

Census Year Population % Change Housing Units % Change
1980 9,013 17.0% 3,917 37%
1990 11,451 27.0% 4,992 27%
2000 14,557 27.1% 6,551 31%
2010 15,778 8.4% 7,680 17%

Sign up for Green Power!

May 5, 2013 15:05 by Ryan

What is Green Power?

For as little as $4 per month, you can get your electricity sourced from renewable energy sources like wind, biogas, and sun—including some right here in Skagit County. Learn more and sign up online at PSE’s Green Power website.

The Challenge

Puget Sound Energy is challenging five Western Washington cities to get 15% more of their citizens signed up for Green Power. So far, Anacortes is lagging behind!

Green Power Challenge tracker graphic.

The Reward

If we get 15% more electricity users signed up for Green Power—just 85 residents—we’ll win a $20,000 solar array for the city. If we get the highest percentage of all five cities, we’ll get a bonus $20,000. Help us out! If you already are a Green Power customer, boost your participation level to add to our recruitment total. You’ll also be entered to win a $10,000 solar system for yourself.

Isn’t the Northwest already powered by renewables?

Not exactly. Although much of Washington’s power is generated by hydroelectric facilities, we’re part of a multistate grid that includes many other states with much less cleaner energy sources. Since electricity is sold to wherever there’s demand, decreasing our overall demand and increasing our renewables mix here in Washington can help offset the demand for dirtier energy elsewhere.


R Avenue Roundabout

February 7, 2013 10:47 by Ryan

R Ave RoundaboutHave you seen the proposed R Avenue roundabout? The City Council recently approved a $65,000 contract for 30% design work on the project.

The City’s webpage for the roundabout notes:

This is a high accident location due to: the width of R Avenue; traffic volumes; and limited sight distance. A roundabout will decrease accidents and allow for safer merging from side traffic. The project has been in the City Capital Facilities Plan since 2008. It is also a key part of our long term planning for the R Avenue Corridor which shows left turns onto R Avenue only being allowed at safe locations along R Avenue at 22nd Street and 30th Street.

The roundabout design will include pedestrian improvements, which will be later complemented by additional crosswalks across R Ave. Those crosswalks (which came up at my last Ward 1 public meeting) are important, especially for bus riders who are dropped off on the east side of R and have to cross to residences on the west side.

Send comments to City Public Works Engineering staff or click “Comments” below to add to this post.

Get E-mail Updates

February 3, 2013 19:11 by Ryan

Did you know you can get an update via e-mail when a new post is added to the Anacortes Ward 1 blog? Scroll down this page till you see the “Updates via E-mail” box on the left side, and enter your e-mail address.

City Council Resolutions Now Online

February 3, 2013 17:24 by Ryan

File FolderThanks to a grant from the State Archives, the City was able to have all City Council resolutions back to 1901 scanned into TIFF format. No council resolutions appear on the city’s website—not even current resolutions—but I’ve made them all available in an easily-browsable (although unfortunately not searchable) format at this link. Because these are TIFF files, you will need to download the document and open in a TIFF viewer to read beyond the first page.

Please let me know by posting a comment below whether you find this service helpful.

Improving City Council Meetings

January 13, 2013 12:22 by Ryan

Robert's Rules In Brief, available at WatermarkAt a couple of recent meetings, the City Council has plodded through a set of summary procedural rules that we’ve spent a great deal of money having our city attorney draft. This has been a pointless exercise for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we’re not learning anything about the very point of parliamentary procedure (to enable the majority to make decisions, while protecting the rights of the minority to participate) nor the theory supporting procedural motions and their standard characteristics.

I argue that a better course would be to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order, and arrange for training for the mayor and council on how to work within that standard framework.

Why Robert’s Rules of Order?

It’s the Standard

Adopting Robert’s Rules of Order is, in fact, the norm for local governments. For example, the following nearby city governing bodies have adopted Robert:

By some estimates, ninety percent of the voluntary associations in our country use Robert.

Moreover, if a governing body doesn’t adopt any rules at all, the common law still requires the body to follow general parliamentary law. See Paul McClintock in the MRSC article “Meeting Tips and Myths.”

It’s Flexible

Jurassic ParliamentRobert’s Rules includes a set of modified rules for small boards, i.e. groups of less than 12. In Robert’s Rules In Brief, see page 158. Jurassic Parliament , the meeting consultant the Association of Washington Cities has offered at recent trainings, recommends adoption of a modified set of rules for small boards. See this Jurassic Parliament Tip Sheet. I purchased a copy of this document for each city councilmember.

It’s a Complete Reference

The rules of procedure drafted by our City Attorney are far from complete. They lack an explanation of the fundamentals of parliamentary procedure, for example:

  • No explanation of the four basic types of motions (see pages 126-129 of In Brief)
  • No explanation of how motions are presented (page 20)
  • No explanation of how debate is structured to preserve decorum (page 31)
  • No explanation of how to make amendments (page 39)
  • No information on the precedence of motions (page 105)
  • No explanation of the role of the chair (see below)
  • No explanation of the notion of “suspending the rules” (see efficiency, below)

It’s not necessary or wise to spend time and dollars drafting new versions of established rules. Instead, we should just adopt Robert’s Rules as the baseline.

It Establishes the Role of the Chair

The chair’s role as moderator of the meeting is to impartially run the meeting according to its rules—not to participate in the debate by offering rebuttal after each member’s remarks. In Robert’s Rules In Brief, see page 69. The set of rules drafted by our City Attorney omit this important principle.

Each of the examples above are important to have in writing in order for group to exercise its will. In the absence of rules, the chair becomes a dictator by necessity. That’s not democracy.

It Promotes Efficiency

Robert includes easy methods to move the meeting along while preserving the rights of the body to govern itself. Today, the mayor makes many decisions about the course of the meeting on his own, effectively usurping the right of the council to govern its own affairs. Under Robert, these decisions require approval of the members—but getting such approval need not be onerous. In In Brief, see page 68 for a description of “unanimous consent”—a streamlined procedure for handling matters upon which there is actual consensus.

It Defines the Role of the Council

The City Council should understand that it can do what it wants. The Council is not dependent on the mayor or staff to add items to agendas, nor is it constrained by any of the rules it has adopted or will adopt. At any time, the Council could vote by 2/3 to “suspend the rules” to do what it needs to do. See page 93 of In Brief.

How would we adopt Robert?

Adopting Resolution

Both our currently-adopted and city attorney-proposed rules of procedure amount to 2-3 pages dedicated to procedures covered by Robert. We could replace all that imprecise verbiage with the following:

The rules contained in the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised govern City Council meetings in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with state law, city ordinances, or any special rules of order the Council may adopt.

We could then adopt any special rules of order (e.g. the rules for small boards) subsequently in our revised procedures resolution.

Parliamentary Procedure Training

All of us—council, mayor, and city attorney—would plainly benefit from real training in parliamentary procedure and best practices in conducting a meeting. We don’t have to search for an expert: I’ve repeatedly suggested Ann Macfarlane, a recognized local authority on parliamentary procedure and meeting protocol. Macfarlane regularly presents at AWC meetings and writes for the Council/Commission Advisor column for the MRSC website.

Macfarlane offers a 3-4 hour interactive training through her consulting firm, Jurassic Parliament. Eric Johnson and I participated in one of her trainings at last year’s AWC Newly Elected Officials training. She presented again at the AWC Annual Meeting I attended in June:

AWC Annual Conference 2012

The Oak Harbor City Council held a training with her last year, and I arranged for her to train the Skagit County Planning Commission. Each of these trainings has been fun, engaging, and extremely helpful. As you can tell, I’m a big fan. The Planning Commission and other city boards and commissions could also benefit from and participate in the training. With a little introduction, Robert is accessible to everyone and it could help correct ongoing problems with the way our City Council operates.

Ward 1 Meeting: January 24

January 13, 2013 10:50 by Ryan

At our Ward 1 meeting last fall, attendees asked for additional meetings on a quarterly schedule to discuss new topics of interest or get updates on topics we’ve covered before. To that end, I’ll be hosting another Ward 1 public meeting on January 24 at 6pm in the public library’s main meeting room. I’ll be there to hear your questions, suggestions, comments, and complaints, so hope to see you then!