Apply an equal editorial standard
As someone who has submitted Citizen Opinions to the Tidings on a regular basis, I value the service to the community that this local paper provides in allowing a forum for sharing ideas through print.
I do have some concerns about a recent "Our Opinion" editorial though. When I was writing about the school transfer phenomena, the lack of student achievement fours years running, concerns about whether our school district is adequately serving all segments of the school-age population, or whether the district spends money wisely, the Tidings editor often held me to a rigorous standard of proof.
More than once I was asked to substantiate my claims with factual evidence, and I did so based on the documents that I had been collecting as I studied each matter. No "alternative facts" here!
So I was surprised to see the recent "Our Opinion" in which the editorial board of the Tidings seems to have not held themselves to a similar standard while making critical claims about Councilor Richard Sakelik's actions at a recent City Council meeting.
In my opinion, an unfounded accusation was made against Sakelik, an accusation which I think holds no water at all, and just shows the Tidings staff did not entirely grasp the issue at hand.
Since Mayor Russ Axelrod and the two outgoing councilors, Brenda Perry and Bob Martin, admitted to discussing public business in a private executive session with City Manager Eileen Stein, and since the tape or a redacted version of it has not yet been released, and since a member of the public has for months filed formal public records request on the matter, it seems Councilor Sakelik was just doing his job to inquire about the matter.
Sakelik, as I do, comes to City business from a private industry background, and it's possible that the newspaper's opinion writer does not understand that people from this background can be very direct when trying to move forward on issues that are being handled in a sluggish manner.
Sakelik correctly encouraged the release of the tape, and if some portions of it must be redacted by an attorney, so be it. Many of us are curious as to what public business was transacted in private, and we all have a right to know.
In the same "Our Opinion," it seems the entire council is blamed for the long meetings. But meeting agendas are set by the mayor and city manager, while the pace of the meeting is really under the authority of the mayor.
Conversely, staff's attendance is purely under Stein's control. Granted, Stein and Axelrod could be more organized, but there is much work to be done at this level of City business, with new issues cropping up almost weekly, such as ODOT's proposed I-205 sound walls or the uncertainly around whether Clackamas County soon will sell that industrial pond along Willamette Drive.
The Tidings plays a wonderful role in encouraging civil discourse through print, but they could do better by applying the same editorial standard to their own staff opinion writers. This would be fair and would encourage a respectful climate in which future elected officials would feel more comfortable throwing their hat into the ring in the next election. Until then, there are so many ideas to discuss and so little time.
Mike Taylor is a resident of West Linn.
Editors note: The Tidings disagrees that Sakelik was "just doing his job" when he made a statement about a matter thus far only discussed in executive session. Mr. Taylor's agreement seems to be that these subjects should not be discussed in executive session and the public has a right to know -- which is another argument altogether and irrelevant to the issue of whether Mr. Sakelik improperly disclosed information.
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