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NAs hope to strengthen ties with city council

Neighborhood reps present vision to improve communication

West Linn neighborhood associations are uniting and organizing common threads to improve communication between the city, themselves and residents.

Neighborhood association (NA) representatives met with the city council Oct. 24 in a work session. Five neighborhood presidents were present to discuss a proposed mission statement and vision. Neighborhoods represented included Hidden Springs, Parker Crest, Savanna Oaks, Sunset and Willamette.

In an effort to stay connected with residents and the different pockets of development within West Linn, the city created 11 neighborhood associations nearly 30 years ago. The intention was that the NAs would act as go-betweens for residents and the city. They are considered arms of the city, each acting alone.

However, in recent years, the ties of communication have worn thin and, in some cases, broken.

Some complaints from the NAs include having no formal role or accountability, mixed communication success and no regular contact with the city council.

Under a charge from the city council, the NA presidents started meeting regularly last spring. They worked to identify common ground and issues and developed a mission statement, which they presented to the city council during the work session.

'We want the NA to be a more vibrant, integral part of West Linn,' said Alex Kachirisky, president of Hidden Springs.

The mission the NAs proposed stated: 'The West Linn Neighborhood Associations exist to facilitate and improve communications to and from the city and its leadership; facilitate healthy, active neighborhood connections and interactions, and to make it easy for residents to become engaged at whatever level in the planning and policy making of the city … all to improve the livability, character and quality of life in West Linn.'

At first blush, councilors liked the idea of the statement but said they would need time to reread and think about it before accepting it.

'We're in a listening mode,' said councilor Teri Cummings.

'I think, in general, I like what I'm reading,' said councilor Jody Carson.

The vision statement they developed discussed engaging the community with the city and improving the flow of communication between all levels, thus increasing the livability of West Linn.

Mayor John Kovash applauded the NA presidents' hard work.

'The city council has never had a unified vision what neighborhood associations are and what they should do,' Kovash said. 'I appreciate you trying to do this and do it better.'

Dave Rittenhouse, president of the Savanna Oaks neighborhood, said he has found some people in his area don't even know the NAs exist. He suggested improved marketing to inform residents of the NAs and what NA they live in.

Beth Smolens, the Willamette president, said the NAs need more structure and embracement from the city council.

'The reality is, it's kind of like herding cats,' she said. 'It's a fluid situation.'

Smolens suggested that the NA presidents could be representatives to the Community Involvement Committee, whose members are currently appointed by the city council.

'We are talking about a two-way conversation,' she said. 'That is one thing that has been missing.'

She also suggested that the presidents should continue to meet regularly and that their roles should be written into city code more clearly.

City-based emails, a joint NA website and quarterly meetings with the city council were also recommended by the presidents to the council.

'We are not the city council, we don't want to be you,' said Troy Bowers, Sunset president, but instead suggested working together.

'That sounds like a beginning of a plan,' said Kovash.

'You really do have a legitimate function in the city,' said Cummings. 'We can all learn from each other.'

Kovash told the presidents to keep working on a plan of action and recommendations and the city council would discuss the mission statement and vision during its Nov. 7 work session.

'I think we are definitely moving in the right direction,' said Rittenhouse.