10 vie for city council stage
Each candidate talks about goals, values and the quest for a seat.
Decision time nears, and the Nov. 7 general election ballots will be in mailboxes next week.
Each of the 10 West Linn City Council candidates are vying for one of four seats on the council.
West Linn's registered voters may vote for four of the 10, and the two who finish in first and second place in number of votes will be elected to four-year terms. The two who finish in third and fourth place in number of votes will be elected to two-year terms.
That procedure, approved by voters in the 2006 primary election, applies only to the Nov. 7 election. In succeeding general elections, every two years, two council positions would be on the ballot.
Meanwhile, the mayor's office remains a two-year term, and two candidates are on the Nov. 7 ballot for that position.
Michael D. Babbitt
Babbitt's forte seems to be land-use planning, since he is a current member of the city's planning commission. He lists his interests as budgeting and land-use planning as well as the city's comprehensive plan and community development code.
Babbitt has six years of experience volunteering in West Linn city government, including several task forces and the planning commission. He said his leadership has been shown not only on the commission, but also during the four years he served on the chamber of commerce's board and while managing a private law firm for 12 years.
He points to several issues related to West Linn government that he has participated in, including updating the city's comprehensive plan, applying for grants for bicycle/pedestrian paths and for police and fire and other emergency services. He also was a member of a task force to revise the Willamette River Greenway Code.
On his radar is looking to the future, but not just a few years.
'If West Linn is going to preserve its livability, we must adequately plan for capital construction and improvements,' he said. 'This means thinking not only five and 10 years down the road, but also 20 and 30 years.'
Babbitt said he is concerned about the need for better leadership for the city's boards and commissions, and the necessity of ensuring that the city is adequately staffed.
And he said he is committed to preserving the quality of life in his hometown.
'I want to put my experience, commitment and leadership to work,' he said. 'I am dedicated to representing the city of West Linn with honesty, integrity and fairness. As an elected councilor, I will maintain an open mind and door to all residents and represent our city with integrity.'
Scott A. Burgess
Continuing the current effort to get the city's financial house in order is one of Burgess' primary goals, along with 'building a sense of place and community.'
'A sound financial foundation is critical to quality services and staff, value for our citizens and a strong community,' he said. 'Specific actions include improving our reserves, professional and timely audits, improved and balanced budgets and a long-term financial plan.'
Burgess offers as relevant experience nearly eight years as West Linn's city manager and the past two years as a city councilor. As a West Linn resident, Burgess said he has the goal of improving the community in which he lives.
'In my first term on the city council,' he said, 'we took major steps to correct financial and leadership problems at city hall - created by the previous administration - and rebuild a strong foundation of fiscal responsibility and accountability.'
Burgess said more steps are necessary to reach the council's goal of rebuilding a strong financial foundation.
'We need to re-establish our good bond rating,' he said, 'pass the police levy, develop a funding mechanism to maintain our streets, plan how to maintain and improve the city's other infrastructure, solicit views and participation of all our residents and develop a sound and responsible financial plan for the future.'
To accomplish these tasks, Burgess says, the city needs to attract and retain several department heads.
Burgess wants to represent the diversity of public and private interests, and listen to the views of all he represents.
'I am an independent thinker, effective leader and consensus builder,' he said. 'On every issue, I seek and listen to the views of all citizens and affected parties, expect professional staff analysis and recommendations without interference and encourage and participate in an active debate.'
For more information, visit www.scottburgess.com.
Maintaining and improving the quality of life in West Linn as well as preserving its historic and environmental resources are among Carson's major interests.
During her 15-year tenure in West Linn, she served a neighborhood association, a local heritage foundation and the city's planning commission. And her byword is 'proactive.'
'We have a history of 'closing the barn door after the horse is gone,' ' she said. 'We attempt to enforce our codes after the tree has been cut, the house has been built or the land has been graded. We've established internal controls after the money is gone. Generally, we've been reactive in our response to challenges. We must become proactive.'
Carson said she developed skills relevant to city government over a 30-year career in healthcare administration. Those skills have been gained, she says, while she served as a quality review auditor, government contract manager, volunteer organization board member, program director and board chair.
High among her major interests is planning. She said the quality of life in West Linn is directly affected by the decisions that planners make daily. Those decisions are better if they are guided and confirmed by professional planners, but originate from local residents.
'Far from being a top-down process,' she said, 'this type of planning should start with our neighborhood associations, the involvement of all our citizens, our local businesses and other neighboring communities -including Metro and Clackamas County.'
Carson also is determined to promote policies that help maintain the individual charm and appeal of each neighborhood in West Linn.
'Our identity is grounded in our neighborhoods,' she said, 'and I value them and our neighborhood associations. Each has its own distinct character and issues, and the residents of each should have the power to determine their future, as much as possible.'
For more information, visit www.jodycarson.com.
Michele S. Eberle
The financial operation of city government is one of Eberle's strongest interests. In a way, it's a self-centered interest that benefits everyone.
'As a taxpayer,' she said, 'I want to ensure that the money I invest in my community is used judiciously.'
This starts with prioritizing short- and long-term goals, she says, and being sure that city staff members are efficiently working toward those goals.
What Eberle calls 'lack of depth within our city staff' is one of her major concerns about the operation of local city government. Several experienced department heads were lost about six years ago, she said, but the tide is turning.
'As a result of the current city council, we now have a very financially-savvy, competent, professional city manager,' Eberle said. 'This city manager now needs to build the experience and competence of his staff.'
Eberle's goals, should she be elected to another term on the council, are to ensure that the city's financial management stays on track, establish a consistent method of funding for street and sidewalk improvements and revisit existing code language to be sure that it supports community values.
Eberle has more than 20 years of leadership experience working for insurance, technology and nonprofit companies. And she has the education to back it up, with a bachelor's in management science and a master's in business administration.
'My ability to listen to all points of view, ask critical questions and dig deep into facts,' she said, 'allows me to make prudent, educated decisions on behalf of our community.'
Eberle said her only agenda is serving the interests of a majority of local residents.
'I come to the council with no personal agenda,' she said, 'other than wanting to be a good steward of our community and represent the reasonable voice.'
For more information, visit www.eberleforwestlinn.com.
An open government that is willing to listen as well as to act is Gates' foremost interest, and an open forum is the way he believes the city will achieve that goal.
'We are a community of leaders and experts,' he said. 'Every challenge that comes up brings to the forefront someone with expertise and perspective to help solve the issue. Past failings of elected officials occurred when they began to think they held all the answers.'
Gates suggests the best example of that is the sustainability task force that gave its report to the council a couple of months ago.
'We have a chance to become a state and national leader,' he said, 'in addressing environmental issues in a suburban community.'
His concerns for the city come in two forms, short- and long-term.
In the short term, he says, get the audits done and bring the city back to a superior bond rating.
But in the long term, there are three major issues: 1) improve the transportation system, with multiple modes; 2) develop a new system for financing infrastructure repairs after build-out occurs; and 3) before build-out occurs, develop a plan to replace retiring senior staff, who might leave at about the same time. At that time, the city would need staff skilled not in building but maintaining a city.
Gates said his willingness to listen to his constituents is 'emblematic of my philosophy to first set the direction, and then set the velocity.'
A candidate who has served on the city council, school board and a Metro committee, Gates knows a lot of people.
'My address book is full enough that I can call on someone for background or action on just about anything that comes up,' he said.
And because he has been around the block a few times in government circles, Gates said he is qualified to represent the varied interests of West Linn residents.
'I know what questions to ask,' he said, 'and I am willing to listen to the answers. I know what budgetary impacts can be and, most importantly, I know what citizen expectations are from their local government.'
Adequate city parks is high on Hughes' list of what affects the quality of life in his hometown, and that's why he is serving on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Other features that he emphasizes in government leadership are a trail system, open space and activities for all ages.
'In my opinion,' he said, 'the top three factors that enhance overall livability of a city are safety, quality schools and parks. A lot has been accomplished with regard to West Linn's park system, but there is a lot more that can be done.'
Hughes said his ability to help people compromise who are on different sides of an issue would benefit the city, citing the Fields Bridge Park scoreboard issue as an example of his work. He also served on the school board of a large school district and owned several small businesses.
The city is at a crucial stage in its history, Hughes says, and he is looking for an active role in policy decisions that affect the quality of life in West Linn. Build-out is not far in the future, he says, and there are several unanswered questions that could cloud the city's destiny.
'As we are approaching maximum build-out within the current city limits,' he said, 'future growth will depend on whether the urban growth boundary is extended, how far it is extended and when and if the city annexes any of this new area.'
Hughes' main concern is 'the lack of financial accountability that has plagued West Linn for the past several years.'
Not only does this fact bother Hughes because the city's bond rating has suffered, but also because park projects were put on hold because of the loss of $1.4 million to embezzlement.
If elected, Hughes' priorities would be: restore financial accountability in city hall; oppose development of the Stafford Triangle; ensure adequate playing fields for youths; build relationships with the school district, nearby cities, Metro and Clackamas County; enhance parks facilities and preserve open space; and develop a transportation plan that includes the 10th Street corridor.
O'Connell has 18 years of accounting experience for profit and nonprofit organizations as well as audit planning and preparation. Therefore, she is most interested in 'getting the city's financial house back in order.'
'Regardless of who's to blame for the problems, they must be fixed and fixed quickly,' she said. 'I believe that it's my business and accounting background that will be the biggest benefit to the city, coupled with my enthusiasm and genuine love for the place where we all live.'
But she's also concerned about adding to the city 'hundreds of new homes with little or no apparent thought to traffic, policing, libraries or schools.'
'The small-town way of life that drew us all to this city is disappearing quickly,' she said. 'I would like to see more careful planning when development issues arise.'
O'Connell said she isn't interested in the easiest course of action or the decision that brings in the most tax revenue. Instead, she wants to be part of a council that looks at the good of the city in the long term.
'We need to balance growth with livability,' she said. 'That's why we moved here - to enjoy all the beauty and community that West Linn has to offer.'
Calling herself a 'well-rounded candidate,' O'Connell said she has been a resident of three neighborhoods, has experiences as a student in local schools and as a mother of school children.
'My love for the city is based on many years living here, growing up here and raising a family here,' she said. 'I want to make our city the best it can be, and make every citizen proud when they say, 'I live in West Linn.'
For more information, visit www.julieoconnell.net.
As a new resident of West Linn, Pryor said he brings to the table a 'fresh pair of eyes and objectivity.'
While living in the Bay Area of California, Pryor said he became part of an area that underwent massive change that involved a lot of competing factions. He said he gained a lot of experience that would be valuable in West Linn.
'I was part of the process of bringing neighborhood, city, university and businesses together,' he said, 'to resolve zoning, parking, traffic and quality of life/growth issues.'
Pryor said he is amazed that Oregon does not have system development charges to support schools and libraries such as the SDCs that developers pay in California and Washington.
'Lobbying with like-minded citizens and municipalities to accurately access realistic SDCs for Oregon,' Pryor said, 'is the easiest way to increase much needed school funding without requiring a tax increase.'
Pryor doesn't express much trust in the mayor and council to guard the city's interests in the South Fork Water Board and avoid problems for the city.
'Regardless of citizen desire,' he said, 'the mayor and council have the ability to sell West Linn's equity in its South Fork water treatment plant without input from citizens.'
He cited a few examples of what he considers the city's ineptitude in matters relating to water such as 'past attempts to build storage in the park, the debacle of the pipe in the park, and the push for a revised water master plan; these aren't coincidences.'
Pryor said he has 'many years of sales and marketing experience in both international and domestic environments.' And he expects his experience to work well in decisions affecting a city.
'Integrity and delivering on commitments should translate well in government, too,' he said.
A better plan for the issues of land-use planning, affordable housing and traffic, Pryor says, could be had by tapping into the resources of a highly educated population or PSU's urban planning department and the business community.
Charles R. Roberts, Sr.
Citing a number of problems the city has experienced during the past couple of years, ranging from missing audits to employee misconduct to suspended bond ratings, Roberts said 'the city council needs new blood.'
Roberts has years of experience as a deputy district attorney, and he said he is skilled at asking the hard questions and demanding responsive answers.
'My background in prosecuting financial fraud and official corruption,' he said, 'should prove particularly helpful to the city in view of the past problems which the city has suffered.'
Describing his ability to investigate and ferret out the facts, Roberts said government decisions need to be carefully considered to avoid unintended consequences.
'What interests me most is making the logical tradeoffs that must be made to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number over the long term,' he said.
'In other words, what interests me is the boring but essential stuff that other people tend to overlook.'
Roberts' concerns with West Linn government are threefold: the city's financial problems are not yet corrected; some neighborhoods do not agree with the city consultant for their neighborhood plan; and the city has five departments without a permanent staff leader.
Roberts boasts that he is conducting a quiet campaign, without any ties to campaign contributors. He said that in his campaign there are no lawn signs, no direct mailings and no campaign contributions.
'Anybody coming to me for special treatment has no financial leverage,' Roberts said. 'I belong to no faction and have no agenda except to see decisions made in the long-term interest of the citizenry. I promise to be a voice for moderation and long-range goals.'
Interested in protecting West Linn's financial and natural resources, Sommer said he comes from a commercial real estate appraisal background and would, if elected, be a watchdog for city land-use issues.
'Land-use decisions are a primary determinant of the future livability of the community,' he said. 'They have long-term impacts and affect the quality of life for everyone who lives in the community.'
Sommer said his analytical and communication skills as well as his experience on the city's sustainability task force, would be of most benefit to the city.
'I have also served as chair of the League of West Linn Neighborhoods,' he said. 'This was a very challenging position that taught me how to bring divergent views together to work toward common goals for the community.'
Sommer, who has lived in West Linn for about five years, is concerned about council decisions that appear to have been made prior to council meetings, and he criticizes the current council for making choices before hearing from affected citizens.
'The lack of transparency and openness is very disconcerting,' he said. 'Some of the council's decisions appear to have been predetermined before hearing from the citizens. Wilderness Park comes to mind, but there were other instances that raise questions.'
The 'Money Magazine' survey that identified West Linn as a great place to live, Sommer said, is a confirmation of what he already believes. And he wants to make it a better place to live, not just a bigger community.
'The things that make West Linn a desirable place to live are the very things that are in jeopardy,' Sommer said, 'namely our quality of life and our open spaces.'
Sommer said he is uniquely qualified for a seat on the council because of his leadership as chair of the League of West Linn Neighborhoods.
'As a city councilor,' he said, 'I will act as a steward of the city's resources, both financial and natural, and endeavor to protect and use them in the most wise, prudent manner possible.'
For more information, visit www.curtsommer.org.