Council reflective as 2018 goal setting kicks off
Two full days of goal setting for the West Linn City Council — beginning Friday, Jan. 12, and continuing Tuesday, Jan. 16, after a three-day holiday weekend — were intended to outline a vision for 2018, but first the council and City Manager Eileen Stein took some time to reflect on what was accomplished last year.
Many of the big picture goals from 2017 — including waterfront master planning, transportation infrastructure improvements, fiscal sustainability and economic development — will carry over to 2018 in some fashion. But during the early portion of the Jan. 12 session at the McLean House, Stein said the city completed a number of significant projects and initiatives last year, listing everything from the adoption of a 2018-19 biennial budget to the approval of significant changes to the Community Development Code, public engagement for waterfront planning and the completion of a contentious collective bargaining process with the city's employee union.
She added that in the midst of those accomplishments, the City dealt with everything from mundane maintenance issues to record-setting weather events.
"We spent 1,100 hours dedicated to snow and ice management. It seemed like we were closing City Hall every other day for a while," Stein said. "We performed sewer main lining and rehabilitation on approximately 32,000 linear feet of pipe, primarily in the Willamette area. ... These are the types of things that your departments are doing that don't really raise to the level of council attention all the time, but I want you to know that while we're doing the high priority stuff, all of this is going on beneath the surface as well."
To kick off the goal-setting process, moderator Joe Hertzberg of Solid Ground Consulting asked each councilor to talk about what should be prioritized in 2018. The answers were predictably varied.
"My biggest goal, I think, is to have the CCI (Committee for Citizen Involvement) complete their work," City Councilor Bob Martin said. "(Last year) they started an overhaul of the land use hearing process — a lot of work has been put into that and it needs to come to fruition."
Martin added that he hoped the proposed changes would come to the council by October.
Several councilors said the approval of a General Obligation (GO) bond was their top priority. In an upcoming May special election, the City is expected to ask voters to approve the continuation of an existing bond levy rate of $.42 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, which would likely generate between $15 and $18 million to be used for an array of projects.
"I'm looking forward to hopefully the approval and implementation of the GO bond ideas, projects, etc.," City Councilor Rich Sakelik said, "as well as starting to implement Highway 43 improvements. ... I hope we can get some traction on that sometime this year."
"The GO bond is a very exciting thing, very important — it's definitely number one," City Councilor Teri Cummings added.
Stein, for her part, agreed that the year would largely be defined by the success of the GO bond process.
"Of all the projects that we manage, that's the one I lose the most sleep about," she said. "Are we going to be able to put something together on the ballot that citizens are going to approve?"
Mayor Russ Axelrod said statewide fiscal issues made the GO bond even more important.
"As things tighten up fiscally with PERs issues, they're going to be challenging the city — and all cities — coming up," he said. "Finding some money we can use for projects is huge. So that's something we need to really go at carefully and diligently."
City Council President Brenda Perry looked inward when she evaluated her hopes for 2018.
"I would like to see the council working together in unison in a much more efficient manner than we are now," Perry said. "Get things resolved, have a plan where we're going forward, get these things accomplished without all this angst."
The council completed its draft list of 2018 goals Jan. 16, after the print deadline for the Tidings had passed.