Lucky enough to live in West Linn is lucky enough
I recently read Rebecca Adams' Citizen's View in the Feb. 28 Tidings. The first thing that struck me was how lucky we are to have citizens like Ms. Adams who do the research, state the facts, and clearly present their opinions.
The following week, I saw an unsigned Tidings "Our Opinion" which I suppose must have been written by someone at the Tidings. That opinion had a headline which seemed to blame the new council for the impending city budget shortfall and went on to criticize Councilors Teri Cummings, Rich Sakelik, and Bill Relyea for their efforts to address the legal services problem that have plagued the city since Manager Chris Jordan's time.
I believe that Cummings, Sakelik and, now, Relyea, are champions for the people of West Linn. Their combined knowledge and experience far surpass what most small towns have in their elected officials. There is not a "hater" among them. They do not label people with derogatory names. They put in long hours and do the work that is required of a good city councilor.
They are not cheerleaders, but clear, independent thinkers who take time to listen to citizens who testify during the Community Comments section of City Council meetings. They do their homework, analyze the facts, and speak up to represent all of us.
They call for the best quotes for the work that needs to be done and save the city money in so doing. Time and again they vote based on the facts. Not necessarily on what the staff suggests, or the mayor wishes, but on what makes sense.
My husband and I have been active in West Linn for most of the 17 years that we have called this beautiful city home. We worked for 14 years and raised $3.5 million so that the 20-acre white oak savanna could be saved from development and preserved as a park, a biological preserve which is home to many species of flora and fauna, and as a living learning laboratory for students of all ages.
We were joined in this 14-year preservation effort by thousands of supporters who donated their money and/or time to acquire the savanna and/or to do the restoration of this amazing natural area.
Like Adams, we don't believe there is a "vocal minority" in West Linn. There are just people of all stripes who want to make this the best possible place to call home. It is a real shame when anyone is maligned for engaging in the civic process.
I looked deeper into the Sisters Nugget news record mentioned by Adams about the utility expansion/water rate conflict in Sisters, Oregon, while Eileen Stein was their city manager.
The conflict went on for 18 months and, in the end, the 4 percent rate hike was far less than what began as a recommended hike of over 100 percent. In a Nov. 15, 2011, article, Councilor Sharlene Weed mentioned "several instances in which she believes city staff provided 'misinformation' to councilors and to a council-appointed Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which analyzed the requirements of the water system."
Just like activists Ed Protas and Mike Morgan, she had trouble getting information from staff.
It was difficult, but in the end, Protas and Morgan proved staff's recommendations were grossly overinflated. They'd been ignored and labeled as uncivil by those who wanted the large expansion. I have seen similar things happening in West Linn where information was withheld or released too late and where concerned citizens were maligned or simply ignored.
When I consider what I read about in Sisters and what I have seen in my years in West Linn, I feel there are things to be thankful for and community lessons to be learned. In Cummings, Sakelik and Relyea we are fortunate to have three thoughtful councilors.
Everyone who engages with the city deserves respect and their chance to be heard. We should not invalidate citizens' suggestions or call them names. And finally, as they learned in Sisters, it is a mistake to blindly trust that the staff always has the best answers. Sometimes they just don't.
Roberta Schwarz is a resident of West Linn.
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