Councilors hope transparency can break down walls

When Fairview’s City Council opted by one vote not to fund the Chili on the Green, it appeared every resident had an opinion about the controversial decision.

Tempers flared, message boards erupted and councilors engaged in online spats with voters and one another.

The Wednesday, Feb. 20, vote may have ignited strong emotions regarding Fairview’s signature event, but some councilors said it unearthed a deeper issue.

“I believe it’s a sign of things to come,” Council President Lisa Barton-Mullins said. “Right now (the council) is too divided.”

Funding for the Chili Festival was rejected 4-3, with councilors Dan Kreamier, Steve Prom, Ken Quinby and Tamie Tlustod-Arnold voting no, while Steve Owen, Mayor Mike Weatherby and Barton-Mullins were in favor of the proposal.

Some councilors say that vote identified the two sides of a divided council.

“I think some are in step with one another,” Owen said.

Quinby, though, doesn’t access the notion that the council is divided. He said the councilors vote as individuals, not as teams. But, he added, that in his nearly 13 years of service as a city councilor, he’s often been an outcast.

“I don’t know what walls exist,” he said. “In the almost 13 years I’ve been on the council, I rarely am contacted by other councilors. The last three years, especially, given the history between me and the rest of the council. They simply, in the majority of cases, discussed issues amongst themselves. There were various prior councils who did the same thing.

“We have hardly been a team, it’s very sad to say.”

That past divide could be the driving force for tension that still exists, Barton-Mullins said.

Last November, Brian Cooper lost his council seat to Tlustod-Arnold, while Barbara Jones lost hers to Quinby.

During a heated election, Jones filed a complaint with Oregon’s secretary of state, alleging violations of compaign finance laws by Quinby and Tlustod-Arnold. Both councilors were cleared of the accusations, but bitter memories weren’t forgotten.

“There was a lot of bad blood between the other four and past councilors,” she said. “Whether this is fallout, I don’t know.”

Owen said, Everyone is a little guarded right now because there are still some scars from the election season and it can take a while to heal.”

Cooper and Jones were strong advocates for the Chili Festival this year, and Owen said some councilors chose not to fund it based on animosity between them and the former councilors.

“It’s not a lot of money,” Owen said. “It’s about Brian Cooper. It’s about (Barbara) Jones. It’s all about payback right now and I hope people can move on.”

The council held a work session on Wednesday, Feb. 27, where they identified goals for the coming year.

Both Barton-Mullins and Owen said that hearing councilors speak about goals and hopes for Fairview could begin to break down walls, create needed transparency and allow the city to “move on.”

“At the goal-setting session, I’m hopeful that once we outline what our goals our, we’ll have a better understanding of each other,” Owen said. “Right now, what we know about each other comes from what we’ve heard about other people, not from what we’ve learned ourselves. Let’s see how the goal-setting session goes and that will answer that question.”

And Weatherby said the council must work together if it’s to properly serve the community.

“The more we work together — even if we don’t vote same — it’ll be a bloc of seven working together, not four or three,” he said. “And that benefits our citizens.”

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