At a time when many grumble about how the City has handled the snow removal and planners seem intent on putting a building on every square inch of Seattle landscape, we often don'êt hear about those who work day after day for the city government doing work that benefits us all, but is seldom noticed. So I'm going to take notice.
Last year the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition honored Ernie Dornfeld, who worked in the City Clerk'ês office. He designed and built a record system which provides electronic access to all city legislation past and present, along with who voted for what. It was a monumental task that opened one more door to open government.
But Dornfeld isn'êt the only one. Just announcing his retirement from the City is Bob Morgan. Morgan has for years worked on the City Council central staff researching and clarifying complex legislation so that both Council members and the public can better understand the issues they will be voting for.
Not everyone understands that the City Council members are, in some aspects, like the public. They don'êt just write legislation, but must study it and decide whether or how to vote. They are in some ways consumers, like you, trying to decide what to leave on the shelf and what to take home. They must decide whether new legislation will do what is promised and if it will have unintended consequences.
The City Council relies on their small central staff to read the fine print and offer analysis that is independent of those who wrote the legislation. In Seattle the Mayor's staff and City departments prepare much of the City'ês legislation. Legislation is often extremely complex, written by attorneys or land use specialists. No matter how well intended, some legislation creates as many problems as it might solve. In many instances Bob Morgan was the go-to guy to study and interpret the legislation for the City Council members themselves. It is often the case that the departments, or interests that generate legislation, have a vested interest in getting it passed. Morgan on the other hand works for the Council and has no personal interest other than making sure everyone understands exactly what is meant.
Mogan'ês amazing gift is that he has that sense of true north built in to his psyche. Morgan is always fair — he doesn'êt know how to be otherwise. He can explain complex land use language without jargon, and his is so even handed that even skeptics trust him. Morgan is also equally good at discovering sneaky little bombs hidden in the fine print. Some even wonder whether Mayor Greg Nickels isn'êt privately pleased to see Morgan go because of his ability to spot items in legislation that the Mayor would just a soon go unnoticed. There will be a celebration of Bob Morgan'ês service to the City in the Bertha Knight-Landis Room at Seattle City Hall, Friday January 16, from 3-5 pm. If you can'êt make the trip at least send him a thank you at email@example.com. I'm happy that Bob can enjoy his music and life without the pressure of his job, but I'm sad that Seattle will lose one of the most outstanding citizens and unheralded city workers of the last two decades.