What They Did in Bremerton
The public can breathe a sigh of relief: They didn’t miss much.
As expected, the city council’s annual retreat was pretty uneventful - for two days, council members and their staff holed up to plot media strategy, “focus on the big picture,” and learn about “external communications.”
Day 1, which I missed, was apparently chock-full of the kind of goofy team-building exercises that the Stranger has mocked the council for in the past: Staffers put together puzzles, broke big problems into little steps, and did exercises designed to teach them to share.
I skipped out on the love-fest and showed up last night just in time for karaoke at the South Pacific Sports Bar, across the street from the hotel. While some staffers stuck with the tried-and-true (Pat Benatar; Stevie Wonder; Madonna), others got adventurous: unsuccessful council president candidate Richard Conlin, a karaoke virgin, sang a poignant rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and a dozen people crowded the stage for “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That”) by Meatloaf. (Meanwhile, Richard McIver, Sally Clark, and a handful of council staff were playing poker in a nearly conference room. Tom Rasmussen staffer Mike Fong won.)
This morning, staffers and council members hauled themselves creakily back to the conference center, where Seattle P-I writers Mark Trahant and David McCumber talked about media strategy, how to get coverage, and the P-I’s increased focus on local news, an attempt to position the paper against the regionally focused Seattle Times.
Later, council communications director Jackie O’Ryan led a discussion of TV news that I found sort of depressing (O’Ryan instructed council members to “distill and condense your message” for easy television digestion, and called TV interviews, in contrast to interviews for print media, “a very good way to spend your time”) and a communications seminar that disintegrated into a debate about a nonsense issue - whether the city should lift its (fictitious) ban on blue chewing gum - when council members couldn’t agree on an actual issue to discuss.
Despite the undeniable time-suck factor of it all, I do wish the council would hold its retreats closer to home - or at least film the (public) meetings so citizens could watch them if they wished. Besides me, only one non-city hall employee - new P-I city hall reporter Angela Galloway - showed up for the retreat, making the “public” meeting essentially an off-the-record event.