I have just returned from the library where Mayor John Kovash delivered his State of the City address. It was an excellent presentation. Brief and to the point. Having studied the various visual aids prepared for the presentation and being an active observer in our community, it is abundantly clear that we are blessed to live in one of the best small cities in the nation.

I believe it is fair to say that our good fortune is due, in no small part, to our volunteer city councilors, a competent cadre of city staffers and dedicated, capable volunteers who serve on the various advisory committees for the city. Our city is a superb example of the strength and value of volunteerism in America. Let us never forget that many of those who serve us so faithfully are volunteers.

Why then, would I feel so strongly that the movement to recall the mayor and three councilors has merit and should be thoughtfully considered by voters?

Our mayor and the three councilors, who are the targets of the recall attempt, made several egregious and frankly unforgiveable mistakes. Some argue that, “they did their best and should not be subject to recall simply because one does not agree with the position they took.” Fair enough. But, did they really do their best and did they exercise appropriate due diligence in their deliberations leading up to their decision to override the planning commission and a clearly, and mostly well spoken, majority of interested citizens, who took the time to participate and speak to the issues in the numerous meetings held in the community and in the newspapers. In the end, they certainly gave the impression that they had little regard for citizen input and effectively thumbed their noses at the citizens who chose to participate. They didn’t even give them the respect of offering a plausible explanation for the decision they made.

So, who were they listening to? Who was advising them and what were the motivations of those advisers? Certainly they must have been listening to the city manager and the two attorneys on the city payroll.

Therein lies one of the challenges of governance in our system. It is a particularly difficult challenge when the decision-makers are volunteers, as here in West Linn. It is even more pernicious where professional politicians are making the decisions. Power corrupts, that is simply a fact of life. Our elected representatives are too often overwhelmed by all the demands our system places on them and they feel they have no choice but to defer to the “experts,” the bureaucrats and “trusted advisers” who, all too often, are not deserving of that trust. In this case, I believe our mayor and counselors failed to exercise diligence.

Finally, I can think of several other options that would have served the citizens and city in its relationship with Lake Oswego-Tigard. This was a poor bargain for West Linn from the outset and to fail to consider other options in the negotiations is unforgiveable. Our city manager, our attorneys and our councilors and mayor may have meant well, but they failed us miserably. And we will be paying for it, as the agreement says, “in perpetuity.”

I believe a recall is appropriate and would be a healthy signal to those who have political aspirations, wherever they are.

Peter D. Lang is a West Linn resident.

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