On Tuesday, July 12, The Whatcom County Council takes its first public look at a new lease with Lummi Nation that should keep the Lummi Island Ferry operating for another 35 years. The lease agreement itself contains no surprises at this point, but county officials are also being asked to agree to curb public statements about the deal.
An “intergovernmental framework agreement” that is being brought to the council alongside the lease deal contains this language:
“Any potential media announcements or discussions regarding this agreement and the implementation of this agreement will be jointly discussed with the goal of agreement by the parties in advance to ensure that the sentiments expressed represent an accurate and balanced description of the subject matter involved. The parties will discuss foreseeable public events or open meeting where media may be present and/or where communications on the parties’ discussions may occur with other parties — with the intent to avoid surprises if at all possible. Neither party will make a statement characterizinig the position of the other party to any media relating to the substantive issues under discussion. Statements to the media by the individual parties apart from those referenced above should be limited to acknowledgement that discussions are ongoing between the parties with a view towards reaching agreement on issues concerning the project area, or other matters as may be appropriate.”
I’m not even sure what this means. Does it mean an unhealthy restriction on Whatcom County officials’ freedom to discuss a costly public contract with their constituents via “the media?”
Or is it a reasonable limit on public airing of sensitive talks between the county and a sovereign government?
I have emailed County Executive Pete Kremen and Council President Sam Crawford seeking their understanding of this paragraph. I have also left voicemail for Dan Gibson, assistant chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney. Stay tuned.