Gladstone's political garden needs more tending
I would like to start with the article allegedly written by Maryanna Moore (Letters, Aug. 23).
Let's connect the dots... This is Kevin Johnson's (former council member) mother. Kevin Johnson was the second largest contributor to the Save Gladstone group. Save Gladstone supported Steve Johnson and helped him to get his seat on the council. Later, Steve Johnson helped to "reward" Kevin Johnson with a seat on the council. Also worth mentioning is that Les Poole (Planning Commission member) lives with Mrs. Moore. He also was appointed in part by Steve Johnson to the Planning Commission shortly after moving to Gladstone. Les Poole, Steve Johnson and Libby Wentz were seen in public — meeting about a week before this article was published — writing notes. Collaborating for this editorial or coincidence, perhaps.
Have you ever noticed that weeds in the garden just keep growing back no matter how many times they're pulled? They only choke out my vegetables and berries and have no positive impact. Steve Johnson reminds me of a weed that just keeps creeping back up through the dirt. He freely admits that while he was part of the local government he had no issues with the mayor being on the Budget Committee. Was he lying then, is he lying now, or is it something else? Steve seems no stranger to stretching the truth; one only has to look at the statement of justification on the recently successful recall. He said he had accomplished many things without raising taxes. The truth to that is that we have all seen increases in our utilities in the form of a new line item titled, "Gladstone privilege tax." If there was no tax before, and now there is one now, that would be an "increase," from zero to 2 percent. He also claimed in 2015 that the new police station would not be funded by the sale of any parkland while at this very same time, the city was spending money to appraise a park they, in fact, wanted to sell.
Steve Johnson was recalled by 57 percent of the voters in the special election. The turnout was much larger than the special Gladstone School Board election one week prior and well within the normal range for a special election. After we the people removed him from office, this man had the audacity to try to get appointed to one of the vacant positions that the recall created. He applied last minute with applications to both positions, 1 and 3, in a manila envelope. He had asked city staff to keep this from the residents of Gladstone. They refused, as this information was open to the public. Let that sink in for a minute. We voted him out of office and he tried to sneak back in, just like the weeds in my garden. Steve now tries to muck up the mayor's reputation as he is rumored to be plotting to run yet again in November 2018.
Steve suggests that the fire department is corrupt and that nepotism is running rampant. The fact is that the fire chief when addressing the city council on Aug. 15 stated that he has only once been approached by any elected official. The chief said, "The only time I have ever been pressured by an elected official regarding a personnel decision was when a former councilor aggressively suggested that I should terminate the Temporary Day Officer pilot position..." Why does it not surprise me that Steve Johnson would use his power to attempt to intimidate a city employee? What else would you expect from someone who disregards the decisions of voters and attempts to exploit a loophole to regain the power he craves?
The illegal meetings that were common occurrence before the recall seem to be running rampant yet again. The Clackamas Review reported that Pat McMahon and Tom Mersereau attempted to convince Linda Neace to reappoint Steve Johnson through an illegal meeting via the phone. Aside from reading about this I was also told personally by Linda Neace about the two trying to influence her vote for Steve Johnson. From these meetings it's hard to believe that it's just coincidence that these three who thumb their nose at the law all randomly decided to deviate from the advisory committee's recommendation and came to the same decision.
I have talked to both Councilors Mersereau and Neace about these meetings and have received two conflicting accounts. The one consistent admission is that there was some conversation on who they believed to be appropriate to appoint to the council. Regardless of how deep the conspiracy goes, at a minimum, it violates Oregon Public Meetings Law.
The fracturing that continues to affect the council is disappointing. Just when we think we're moving in the right direction, this happens. Now accusations of illegal voting coupled with the illegal meetings tarnish Gladstone even more. I have addressed the council before and said to them that we expect our elected officials to set a good example for the rest of us to follow. Good examples have been sorely lacking lately.
With all of this crazy drama in local politics I have to give credit where it's deserved. Kim Sieckmann, after being recalled from the council, has moved on with his life and accepted the people's decision. He has not tried to sneak back on the council like Steve Johnson. Regardless of history, you have to respect someone that accepts things gracefully.
I would also mention that, while some are responsible for the dark cloud that continues to hang over Gladstone, some are innocent in this collusion. The two newly appointed councilors have taken some criticism for this deviation on the recommendation, but they had no vote or control over the decision. The acting city administrator has also been blamed. She works for those who voted and does not have a vote herself.
The garden that is Gladstone is well fertilized, as is with any political group, but some fertilizer is helpful and some is not. It's time we permanently remove the weeds that have been choking out our crops so that they may flourish. The community deserves a stronger Gladstone.
Bill Osburn is a Gladstone resident.