In election years, candidates try to convince us that they are more qualified than their opponent (if any). In Redmond, that has come to mean “I can make decisions.” In essence, “You bring me an issue and your proposed solution, I will decide if that idea makes sense. I will filter out the bad stuff and let through the good stuff.” This is exactly what your kidneys do in your body. Unlike muscles, hearts, lungs, intestines, bones or brains, kidneys don’t accomplish anything except filter out most of the bad stuff of whatever they are given.
This reflects a policy that the best thing government can do is not let anything remotely bad get through. Fear of failure. In a fast-moving and -changing world, this can be a challenge. After all, kidneys are not progressive or innovative, they are reactive. They are also the very end of a long process.
Our system is kidney laden. Before anything gets to the city council, it has to go through a lengthy administrative process. Somebody, usually inside city hall, has an idea. They do preliminary analysis at the department level, and if that looks good it goes upstairs to get the OK for a thorough analysis. After approval, then the heavy lifting, typically involving more than one department, is done to shape a concept and possibly a recommendation. Hundreds of hours of thought and dozens of kidneys.
At this point, the city council may get a heads up. Perhaps at a committee meeting, a staff report or even a study session to look at initial ideas. Whatever happens there, it almost certainly gets passed on to a board, commission or committee for another thorough analysis. In most cases, this process lasts months. A lot more consideration is required, because the goal is to present a single recommendation to council. Before any plan or recommendation goes to council for a vote, it goes to at least two of: a council committee; a staff report; or a study session (three-touch rule).
When the final resolution comes to council, it is in a singular recommendation without options or alternatives. The council action choices, in simple English, are: approve; deny; or go back four spaces and roll again.
What the council needs, in my humble opinion, is not more kidneys, but more brains and hearts and muscles. Constituents criticize all the 7-0 votes. A lot of that is due to the really (really) thorough vetting process, but even more is due to getting a single idea to vote on with little chance, at that late date, to make meaningful or beneficial changes. There have been exceptions. Bad suggestions have been improved, but just as often good ideas got diluted.
As residents, we all need to stop asking about participation, and focus on accomplishment. It is nice that you were on a committee, but did whatever you were working on succeed? Did your project get funded; did the facility get built; was your policy adopted; was there an actual service improvement; did your issue succeed at the polls? Contrary to what you see on some bigger stages, government shouldn’t be about building self-esteem. Government should be about making Redmond a significantly better place to live, work and play for everybody. Elections aren’t the end of a process, but the beginning.