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Not all neighborhood associations are bad

I must assume that Council President (Mike) Gates' recent Citizen's View column attacking neighborhood associations did not include Hidden Springs. The following information relates to just six of his accusations (in quotes).

First, the 'non-performance' of officers. HSNA officers have served or are serving on the following civic service committees: budget, storm water master plan, new city manager citizens review panel, police advisory committee, and the ad hoc Keep Our Cops committee. The president led the successful effort to install crosswalks across two very busy neighborhood streets. The association officers and members are working with the Trails Advisory Committee, the Parks Bureau, and the chamber of commerce to restore a section of the Palomino Loop trail. HSNA purchased a park bench for the trail and worked with West Linn Eagle Scouts to clear brush and blackberries at the viewpoint. Members held a general neighborhood and two trail cleanup days and raised more than $240 at its annual garage sale for beautification projects. HSNA hosted home-based businesses at its booth at the Old Time Fair.

HSNA officers did not work 'to defeat the levy' and 'dismantle the police force.' The police levy was featured at the February 2007 meeting. There was a lengthy report on the levy by the president of the police advisory committee (and HSNA vice-president), who also talked about the Keep Our Cops committee and gave everyone contact information, including the group's Web address. There was no opposition voiced by HSNA officers or members. All e-mails from the city about the levy were forwarded to all members who have supplied their e-mail addresses. Members voted to donate $275 to the McGruff House program. The second accusation is so untrue as to be laughable.

Third, having a 'narrow goal.' HSNA has hosted guest speakers that have included two state senators, chair of the Clackamas County Commissioners, Metro, and many others. Other invited guests spoke on water conservation and the use of drought-tolerant landscaping, fire safety, the Tryon Life Farm, roofing alternatives to cedar shakes, the Clackamas County and Oregon sex offenders programs, Metro Goal 5 (Portland Audubon Society), and sustainable growth (Earth Institute). There were dozens of others.

Fourth, the accusation of 'taking over' the HSNA. The neighborhood association was inactive for a number of years due to lack of interest. The current officers have done the following: posting metal signs throughout the neighborhood; submitting notices in the Tidings and The Oregonian SW Metro Section and on the city Web site; distributing fliers taped on the square mail boxes (in pink for extra visibility); posting notices at city hall, the library, and the post office; mailing postcards to every household (since discontinued because of expense); mass e-mailings; phone calls; door-to-door solicitations. Twenty-six members were present at the last election, and current officers were elected without a single 'nay' vote.

Fifth, 'replacing officers mid-term.' The HSNA by-laws, which were used as a model by the city for other associations, have a provision for replacing officers at anytime.

Sixth, HSNA officers 'shout louder, intimidate more (and) fan higher flames of dissension...' HSNA meetings are contentious and sometimes loud and argumentative. The president has recently purchased a gavel and has tried to limit speaking time to five minutes. Why? HSNA provides information and speakers on the difficult issues confronting our city, such as the pace of development, growth, traffic, water, public safety, the Stafford Triangle, etc. All stir passionate debate. Councilor Gates would replace all of this with the quiet acquiescence of 'sensible and mature citizens.'

The issue is less about the police levy than it is about forcing the city's neighborhood associations to agree with the council president's agenda and preventing the associations from providing information about difficult issues. In his own words, he has threatened to use 'every legal thing we can' to make that happen. Mr. Gates is looking for a scapegoat for the failure of the levy to garnish 50 percent of the voters. The Hidden Springs Neighborhood Association isn't it.

Charles Lytle is the secretary of the Hidden Springs Neighborhood Association.