Citizens to meet city officials in Aberdeen

If public outcry on Facebook and at city council meetings is predictive, then Aberdeen’s city officials will get an earful about lack of action about neighborhood vandalism, safety in public parks, drug addiction and homelessness at ward meetings late this month and early next.

A call to action was issued on Facebook earlier this month by lawyer Jack Micheau, following several heated council meetings. Micheau is particularly outraged by what he perceives as a non-responsive city government, including elected officials who claim not to know what else to do, he said Monday.

“Civic discontent in Aberdeen is at an all-time high,” said Micheau, who served on the council for six years in the 1990s. He quit in the middle of his second term in frustration over a lack of action since when he perceived Aberdeen had “an effective mayor” in Chuck Gurrad.

“We can’t continue to flounder and expect things to get better,” Micheau said.

So, Micheau offered to help organize a congress of citizens similar to those held years ago to brainstorm and find solutions. He met with Mayor Bill Simpson.

Simpson had ward meetings “already in the works” for after the general election, the mayor said. The timeline was moved up, and Aberdeen Police Chief Robert Torgerson organized and set them up at four elementary schools sooner rather than later.

After the ward meetings, a summit-style meeting will be held in the new year, Simpson said. Micheau wants that meeting to include solutions as well as direct citizen communication with city officials.

Earlier this year Simpson formed a task force which organized four cleanups of downtown and heard testimony about several issues including drugs and homelessness. The Mayor’s Task Force will make a report to council on Nov. 13, chair Mike Spezia said.

The mayor also sent out letters to downtown building owners asking that derelict and neglected buildings be spruced up. Many owners complied, most notably the group that owns the Morck.

Meetings on these subjects and minimum maintenance standards have been well-attended and popular topics of conversation on city and city commission websites. The Planning Commission Facebook page, led by chair Brian Little, is very active.

Since most of the city budget pays for services and salaries there is very little discretionary room for big projects. Micheau favors “zero-based budgeting” so priorities can be reallocated and every dollar is budgeted from scratch. He also favors resuming training of council members at the Association of Washington Cities training workshops.

The ward meetings are a repeat of a series of meetings held last year and were not moved up in response to recent citizen ire at council and on Facebook, Simpson said. Last year’s meetings were sparsely attended, he noted.

Each meeting is to start at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the following elementary schools:

Monday — Stevens at 301 S. Farragut St., Ward 1 & 2

Tuesday — A. J. West at 1801 Bay Ave., for Wards 5 & 6

Monday, Nov. 4 — Robert Gray at 1516 N. B St., for Wards 2 & 3

Friday, Nov. 8 — McDermoth, 401 N. K St., for Wards 3, 4 & 5

Erin Hart: 360-537-3932 or Twitter: @/DW_Erin