by Matt Williams
Meeting number 3 of the Water Advisory Committee is now in the books, and it was largely uneventful.
Committee Chair called the meeting to order and read a cautionary statement to all the members and alternates about the importance of not speaking in public about water/wastewater without clearly stating that any comments are personal, and not official comments of the WAC.
Although it wasn’t said, Walter Sadler’s Op-Ed probably prompted the caution, since the Enterprise chose to end the Op-Ed with the sentence, “He (Walter) is an alternate member of the Davis City Council’s Water Advisory Committee.” Some readers of the Op-Ed may have inferred that the author was speaking for the Committee.
The next item of business was dispensed with quickly and efficiently, with the end result being that all future WAC meetings will be relocated to Council Chambers so that the meetings can be 1) take advantage of the existing cameras and recording equipment in the Chambers, in order to 2) simulcast the meetings on the City website, and 3) archive all the meeting recordings so that all Davis citizens can replay the audio/video at any time of their choosing.
The WAC’s actual decision was less interesting than the public comment prior to the deliberation and vote. Council member Sue Greenwald, Finance and Budget Commission member Johannes Troost, Pam Nieberg and David Suter all spoke in support of maximizing the transparency of the WAC’s activities and actions. WAC member Michael Bartolic expanded on the public comment by referring to the WAC meetings as “an ongoing tutorial for the public.”
After a brief discussion of some logistical concerns regarding how best to capture images of a committee as large as the WAC, committee member Steve Boschken summed up virtually everyone’s thoughts when he said, “Transparency trumps everything else. We all just saw Ernie Head get up and leave this meeting because he couldn’t hear us. That wouldn’t happen if we meet in Council Chambers.” And followed that comment with a motion, seconded by Michael Bartolic, and amended by Chair Roberts-Musser to hold and televise all future meetings in/from the Council Chambers.
The remainder of the meeting was a continuation by Jim Yost of his presentation of the Water Supply Project History (for a copy of the presentation slides, click on the link for Item 6 – Presentation: Water Supply Project History. The purpose of the presentation was to bring all WAC members and alternates up to the same foundation level of background knowledge about both the current state of the Project, as well as the various alternatives that were considered in the planning process.
Throughout the Yost presentation, members of the WAC and alternates asked probing questions that enriched the formal presentation material. The only controversy of the night came when the committee wrestled with how best to handle questions in future meeting presentations. Bill Kopper advocated for 1) holding back all questioning during the presentations, 2) each member writing down any questions they may have as a result of the presentation, and 3) having a limited time question period at the end of the presentation where the written questions are answered.
The sense of the rest of the committee members was that such a structure would be very hard for the public to follow/understand, and therefore as questions arise in committee members’ minds, they should ask them and the presenter should answer them.
One biproduct of the evening was a clear understanding that the current schedule of 2-hour meetings every two weeks will not allow the committee to fully complete its work in the proposed timeline. Committee members proposed two different possible solutions to this problem, A) expanding the duration of each meeting to either 2 and ½ or 3 hours from the current 2 hours, or B) periodically conducting weekend workshops of a 3-4 hour duration.
A straw poll of the committee produced equal support for each of the possible solutions and the members agreed to give each solution further consideration before the next meeting where it will again be discussed.
Bottom-line this was a very business-like evening with the most noteworthy aspect being that if you didn’t know which Council member had appointed which WAC members (and alternates), you would never have been able to guess each member’s provenance based on the questions s/he asked. The rumors that this WAC is DOA are grossly exaggerated.