Man calls city ideas abysmal
- Brian Eastman
- West Linn Tidings - Opinion
I am saddened and disappointed by Mr. Hart's article 'Governance on the Brink of Change' in the March 29th edition of the Tidings.
Without contacting me, Mr. Hart quoted extensively, not only from a public e-mail I sent to a neighborhood e-mail list regarding this topic, but also from private e-mails I sent in response to Mrs. Patti Galle.
He greatly favored Mrs. Galle's arguments, though she herself admitted in her initial message to me, 'I have not researched this issue enough to know how I will react to these changes.'
He reprinted her accusations regarding my understanding of the facts, whether I had met our civic leaders personally, and whether I have participated in any civic activities.
She also inferred that the neighborhood association's sole aim is to criticize the city council.
How would she know that if she does not participate by attending any meetings? Mrs. Galle is flat wrong on all counts and Mr. Hart jeopardizes his credibility relying on her uninformed assumptions in his story.
More importantly, such biased reporting relating to an issue critical to the future of our city does a great disservice to the community.
I will say here what I said to Mrs. Galle: 'There are many things this council has done that I do approve of and support, and I have a great respect for each of them and their willingness to serve our city. I also disagree with them on several specific issues.'
When I sent an e-mail to the Marylhurst neighborhood on March 11th, documentation on Agenda Bill 07-03-05 was difficult to obtain.
It is still not available on the city Web site. More importantly, all such documents indicated that no public hearings would be required for the city council to pass this significant change on March 19th.
Such was my motivation for alerting my neighbors of the issue and asking them to become informed and involved.
Since that time, the city council has decided to hold a special work session with the neighborhood associations on April 16th, as well as subsequent public hearings. Was the 'no public comment required' just sloppiness or intentional?
Why didn't city hall start with the reasonable approach of meeting with the neighborhoods first?
We will probably never know. I have asked several sources who should know, and have not received an answer.
As written, the proposed changes to the municipal code relating to neighborhood associations are abysmal.
I think any reasonable person, whether they support this council and/or their neighborhood association would find the current proposal anti-democratic, unnecessarily limiting of public input into our local governance and contrary to the intentions of establishing neighborhood associations in the first place.
The proposed language is in direct contrast to memos, statements and e-mails originating from city hall, which actually befit the title of this program, 'Neighborhood Involvement Improvement.'
While there are a lot of good things being talked about, such as some uniformity and restrictions on what rules neighborhood associations must operate under, the possibility of expanded funding for special projects based on grants, and much improved communications through e-government, none of that is in the current ordinance language.
I understand there are problems with the existing system, and that some associations have allegedly abused their relationship with the city by charging dues, restricting voting rights or misusing association funds.
I don't believe it is necessary to sacrifice the right and obligation of the citizens to serve as a check and balance to the actions of their elected representatives to correct such problems.
Somewhere between the ordinance as written and the spin surrounding it, there is the possibility of municipal code language that will actually improve neighborhood involvement while retaining the citizens' vital right to collectively influence the governance of our city more frequently than every four years.
If enough citizens become educated on this issue and provide feedback at the special work session on April 16th and subsequent public hearings, we might get there. I personally look forward to working with the council on this topic.
Brian Eastman is a West Linn resident.