State of the cities: Plenty to do, but no need to panic
While most of the country spent last week eagerly awaiting Sundays Oscar results (we still suspect there was a plot against Lincoln) public policy junkies in western Washington County were looking forward to Monday, when two local mayors gave their State of City addresses.
Banks Mayor John Kinsky delivered his assessment last month, but Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax and Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin both offered their municipal report cards on Monday.
All three cities are fortunate to have mayors with long records of local government service in office (Kinsky is the newcomer, having first won election in 2008), as they all face some serious, but not insurmountable, challenges:
The first priority of Mayor Kinsky and his council colleagues is to find a new city manager. This was also on the to do list a year ago, as the city was preparing to replace former manager Jim Hough, who had led the city admirably for five years and announced his retirement in February 2012. After an eight-month national search, the council hired Kyle Awesome, a community administrator from Virginia.
Awesome started his job in September but made a hasty exit on Nov. 1 after the Forest Grove Leader asked him for details about his resume. It turns out that Awesome was born Franklin Kyle Hayes and, as the News-Times revealed, several claims about his academic and professional history could not be confirmed.
Theres no indication Awesome did anything wrong during his brief tenure (in fact, he got high marks from colleagues) but his sudden departure did cause a headache for Kinsky and the rest of the council.
Those who point their finger at the council for this bizarre turn of events have missed their mark. The council hired the League of Oregon Cities to lead the search. The League has apologized for its lax research and refunded the citys money. Its time to move on, and Banks is well-positioned to do so.
Officials in Cornelius also have a key hire to make following a messy departure, after longtime Police Chief Paul Rubenstein retired earlier this month amid an internal investigation.
Rubensteins exit, which came with a $10,000 severance check, will make things easier, but certainly not easy for Dalin and his colleagues. Investigation details are still under wraps but its clear that whoever is hired as chief will inherit a divided the cop shop and lingering questions from the community.
The internal distraction is unfortunate because Dalin and the rest of the council seemed poised to look ahead in 2013. In his State of City address Mayor Dalin did a good job of focusing on the citys many accomplishments (including the long-delayed repair on 10th Street and the opening of the Virginia Garcia Wellness Center) and plans to increase citizen participation, particularly among Spanish speakers, at civic events.
Juggling the internal police drama with the need to look ahead will be difficult, but Dalin has demonstrated a cool head in heated situations before.
Give Mayor Truax credit for starting his Monday address by addressing the elephant in the room: the ongoing lawsuit against the city over a development deal that went sour. There wasnt much Truax could say other than the city is appealing the $6.5 million verdict against it, which was handed out by a jury in October 2011.
The city made plenty of mistakes in this saga, but the decision to appeal wasnt one of them.
Truax also acknowledged that it was a divided council vote that authorized the $800,000 purchase of the Times-Litho property on the edge of downtown. The city has many plans for 2013, but the success or failure of the year will largely be measured in what steps are taken to transform the 2.7 acre parcel from an eyesore to an asset.
The challenges listed above for all three cities are daunting. But having watched them deal with with previous trials and tribulations, we're confident they have the right people at the top to lead them in 2013.
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