Several in the community have asked me to run for City Council because they like how I have handled decisions on the planning commission and they are deeply concerned about the direction of our city. Many citizens of West Linn have spoken out on planning and development issues, but increasingly they feel dismissed by our council’s acceptance of alternative agendas and code revisions and plans prepared by city management over our planning commission and citizen interests. A prime example of this is the Lake Oswego/Tigard (LOT) water treatment plant project. More recent examples include administrative code and comprehensive plan revisions that favor development interests over community and citizen interests.

I accepted the offer to represent our citizens because I share these concerns and see no other way to affect change. I’m running a dual campaign with Brenda Perry because it will require at least two new voices on the council to bring about change, and Brenda and I share similar concerns and goals. Principally these include:

n To restore community-based planning from the citizen/neighborhood perspective.

n To save and reinvigorate neighborhood associations (NAs) which current council members have recently indicated a preference to eliminate.

n To ensure that future development serves our citizens and small businesses first, reflects sound sustainable practice, protects our schools and fosters community health overall.

My experience on the planning commission has given me a better perspective on how the city conducts its duties. I have observed how this conduct has negatively impacted our citizens and I believe it will significantly affect the future health of our community if changes are not implemented. This is not about questioning whether our council and city staff members are good people. It is about restoring honest and open dialogue on key issues and redirecting the conduct of city affairs to reflect citizen interests and our community’s health over development interests.

Effective community-based planning should originate with citizen and neighborhood interests and be directed upward in a collaborative manner with the city, as reflected by our comprehensive plan and city charter. Unfortunately, city planning efforts are currently directed downward from top city management, seemingly to maximize in-fill and growth to support development interests and increase tax revenues — and apparently at any cost or concern for our community’s health. This control by city management has increased the last several years under the direction of the city manager. At the same time, council has also been implementing measures to further limit citizen involvement. This must be reversed. As one example, the city would be better served by focusing on community-based planning to address key problematic areas of our city (e.g., Hidden Springs/Bolton-Hwy 43, Willamette, Cascade Summit) before implementing further code revisions.

Ask West Linn citizens why they live here and they will tell you community, schools, trees, quiet character and parks and open spaces. This character is threatened if citizens lose their voice, the planning process is further marginalized, and NAs are weakened or eliminated. Brenda Perry and I want to reverse this trend and better integrate citizen involvement and decisions with a vision to preserve the city’s future character and build a healthier community. If you share these interests, I urge you to inform the city and support us in November to affect real change.

Russ Axelrod lives in West Linn and is a City Council candidate. He serves as vice chair of the West Linn Planning Commission.

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