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New council is off to a strong start

The first “operational” Lake Oswego City Council meeting took place on Jan 15. It was notable in several respects. First, the new council took steps to reverse a decision made by the lame duck council in December by appointing the original recommended candidates for the Lake Oswego Budget Committee. I had suggested in a previous comment that those receiving appointments made by the Hoffman 4 recuse themselves to preserve their integrity. Two of them did so and I applaud them for it. Dave Berg and Charles Collins will now take their rightful places on the committee.

Secondly, the council prepared the way for another look at our possible approaches to developing the Foothills district. After having the Hoffman vision rammed down our throats for over three years, the public itself will be given opportunity to voice their opinions on how to go forward. It seems everyone is in agreement there should be development there, but public versus private funding will be aired in February.

There were disconcerting exchanges regarding aspects of the meeting. In a “surprise” agenda item, Mayor Studebaker made the motion to appoint Tom Coffee as interim city manager pending the selection process for the permanent manager. Now this was no surprise to Donna Jordan or Jon Gustafson as they received advance notice, but they certainly took steps to make it appear so. Gustafson, though he stated he wanted to work with the rest of the council, made serious allegations regarding the nomination of Coffee. First was cronyism. Because Coffee was a member of LOCAL, which supported the mayor and other successful council candidates O’Neill and Bowerman, Gustafson intimated this was a payback of sorts for that support. That was extremely disingenuous.

Compare that with Dan Vizzini’s appointment in 2010 by Mayor Hoffman to fill a vacant Lake Oswego City Council seat. Vizzini was a director on the Hoffman election committee. Does that not appear a blatant form of cronyism? CBC member Craig Prosser was also a director on that committee.

Secondly, Gustafson brought up “rumors” that Coffee was being brought in with a “hit list”of current employees, departments and programs.. Rumors should never be the basis for argument on the council. But even if true, there have been a great number of complaints regarding the response and reaction of city staff to citizens over the past few years, including some earlier in the evening during public discussion. A part of the job of a city manager is to address such complaints. When has that been done under Donaldson or the previous manager? Perhaps it is time.

Then we have Jordan’s statements in which she defended the “minority viewpoint,” stating those whose candidates narrowly lost the election have a right to voice their ideas. Her statements drew laughter from the audience and they are laughable considering her previous condemnation of the vocal minority during the Hoffman administration, coupled with her own close re-election after which she ignored those who voted against her. Though intelligent and articulate, Jordan fails to grasp the duplicity of her statements while a member of the controlling majority under Hoffman in contrast to her current status as a minority vote in the new council. It’s time for her to adjust to the will of the people by working in the interests of the people. 

Gary Gipson is a resident of Lake Oswego and a board member of COLA-LO.

(Editor’s note: City Councilor Donna Jordan responds: “I do take exception that what transpired was ever explained, either to myself or the community. Notice and discussion or even conversation are different things. I was told, grudgingly, that Tom Coffee would be the city manager. That decision was made outside the public view and I stand by what I said that night. I might add that I represent all the people of the city and have always tried to be true to that ideal.”)




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