The Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council special meeting on Feb. 13 at the Museum of Arts and Culture was much more calm and organized than the group’s meeting on Feb. 6.
When the previous meeting’s vote against allocating $37,000 in community development funds to help the Peaceful Valley Community Center Youth Program move to All Saints Lutheran Church was called into question, chairwoman Katherine Fritchie said the special meeting was solely about allocating and preserving the neighborhood’s community development funds.
Kevin Brownlee, from the city of Spokane’s department of Community, Housing, and Human Services, explained that Browne’s Addition had its HUD funds sitting untouched in accounts for so long that HUD wanted to know if the neighborhood actually needed the money.
“This is a HUD directive,” said Brownlee, adding that the money would have to be sent back if it wasn’t allocated by Feb. 25.
Without much discussion and with an overwhelming vote for, the neighborhood council moved $27,000 that was allocated to projects at Over Bluff Park and $42,000 that was allocated to projects in Coeur d’Alene Park into other accounts, including one for new sidewalks and curbs.
Supporters of the Peaceful Valley youth program asked repeatedly if this move of funds precluded giving money for remodeling at All Saints so the youth program can move in there.
Brownlee assured everyone community development funds could still be given to that project in a new allocation.
Neighborhood council member Amanda Shelley then asked to make a motion to put the Peaceful Valley Youth Program on the agenda at the March 6 council meeting.
She was told by Treasurer Mary Moltke that according to Robert’s Rules of Order, the losing side of a vote cannot bring the issue forth again.
“And we can’t set an agenda for another meeting at a special meeting,” Moltke added.
Rod Minarik, public information coordinator for the city’s department of Neighborhood Services, was at the meeting to help answer such parliamentary questions and facilitate the meeting.
Minarik said he’d have to look up the specific rules and that the council should check its bylaws.
Supporters of the youth program wanted to make sure more discussion would be allowed March 6, but it was unclear how or if that could be added to the agenda.
“Any challenges to last week’s vote should be brought up when we review minutes from the last meeting,” Fritchie said.
Another neighbor wanted to know the final result of the Feb. 6 vote.
No one could readily answer that question because the neighborhood council has lost sign-in sheets and is currently trying to re-establish who can vote.
It became clear that no one knew if a quorum had been established at the Feb. 6 meeting, or how many voting members that would take.
Neighborhood councils are established in the city charter and they are self-governing. Jonathan Mallahan, director of the city’s community and neighborhood services division, said after the meeting that the city charter provides some simple rules – including defining a voter as someone who is 16 years or older and lives or owns property in the neighborhood. In Browne’s Addition, voting rights are established when a person who meets those criteria has attended three meetings in six months – that’s why sign in sheets are crucial.
“We provide a sample set of bylaws but they don’t have meeting procedures in them,” Mallahan said, adding that many neighborhood councils follow Robert’s Rules of Order. “Our recommendation is: Whatever you do, make sure you define your process up front.”
A neighborhood council decision cannot be appealed anywhere, Mallahan said, unless the council has violated the rules laid out by the city charter.
“If that happens, then the recourse is to go to the City Council,” Mallahan said. “But you can’t appeal a decision to the City Council just because you don’t like it.”
The Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council meets again on March 6 at 6:30 p.m. The location of the meeting will be announced later because recent meetings have drawn so many people the group exceeds occupancy regulations at the MAC.
Shelley suggested the next meeting could be at All Saints.
“I’d be happy to set that up,” she said.