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New council is off to a questionable start

I have never felt like I have always had to agree with the results of decisions that are made, but I have always hoped that I would agree with the process.Chris Schetky

This is why (the Jan. 15) Lake Oswego City Council meeting was both a surprise and a disappointment. The new mayor and city councilors had run their elections on the major issues of transparency and keeping the public informed. In the first public council meeting of the term, the mayor and majority of the city council, unfortunately, did neither.

The first item of business was to approve a search process for the hiring of a permanent city manager, which was done. Next, however, came a surprise motion made by the mayor himself to remove the current interim city manager and replace him with a new interim city manager. The surprise was not that this was happening. Anytime there is a change in leadership, these changes are not that unusual. What was a surprise, however, was how all of this was handled.

First, there was no mention of this on the agenda so the public could be informed and attend if they chose to. Second, it became clear that the mayor had not discussed this with all of the councilors. They had apparently been told this was going to happen but had never been given an opportunity to offer input or discuss this among themselves. Therefore, the appointment by the mayor of the new interim city manager happened with virtually no information or reasons given to the public.

Again, the result would not have been different, nor did it need to be, but apprising all of the councilors, as well as the public, would have made most people feel like this was being done “transparently” and not behind closed doors. Mr. Coffee is the person who is going to be running the day-to-day business of our city, and I think it is understandable that people would like some information on his background and his qualifications. Would everyone be happy with the appointment — of course not, this is Lake Oswego, after all — but the process at least would have been open and done in public. This action is well within the purview of the city council, but had it been done in an open process, it could have immediately addressed the very legitimate questions that have already appeared in the press.

Many of us were hopeful that our new mayor and city council would work to bridge the division that we have seen in the council in recent years and find ways to work with the various groups within our community. All of us want to believe in our government, but as we have heard from so many before, the first requirement of that is trust. (Jan. 15) was not a good start, but will it be just an unfortunate incident that is replaced in the future with the promised transparency and community involvement so touted during the election? I certainly hope so.

Chris Schetky, Lake Oswego, is a member of Keep Lake Oswego Great and wrote this as a private citizen.




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