The Forum: Proposed charter changes warranted complete public review process

August 2012 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

Recently, The Silverton Appeal published a news story about three petitions to amend the city of Silverton Charter started by Mayor Stu Rasmussen and Councilor Scott Walker. While I support the right of every citizen to use our democratic system – including the petition process – I also want to make sure the record is clear with regard to statements made in the article.

In February, the Mayor and Councilor Walker presented a proposal to Council asking for nine amendments to the Charter.  Among the nine changes were the three issues that are currently the subject of petitions.

At the meeting, our legal counsel said in order to send the entire proposal to a ballot, the Council would need to take action to do so.  The alternative – a petition process – would require each change to have a separate petition. While some of the recommended changes were not controversial, I found that many of them went against my philosophy of legislation.  That, coupled with the fact that very few citizens have ever expressed support for the type of changes involved, led me to vote against a complete referral to the ballot.  That night, I suggested a work session so the Mayor and Councilor Walker might have an opportunity to convince me of the need for such changes, and pointed out that some of them would be ideal subjects for our upcoming Community Survey.

In the recent article, the Mayor referred to our interest in public input as giving the “same old excuse” not to take action.  I couldn’t disagree more – public input is the number one priority for me when it comes to making new city regulations, and that’s a philosophy that I expect from all of our elected officials.   In my opinion, what is wrong with most levels of government is the need to always be making new rules, and we have more than enough codes and ordinances at this moment in time.

Creating a system that elects City Councilors based on where they live, as one petition would do, is dangerous for a community our size.  State and federal government and school districts are made up of area that have unique needs and resources – our community is not big enough to risk pitting one area against another in competition for improvements and attention.

For all of my 45 years, I’ve considered all of Silverton to be my “neighborhood” and I’ve lived in six areas scattered around our city in that time. I don’t believe that my fellow city councilors favor their own neighborhoods, and I don’t support a system that encourages them to do so.  Qualifications and residency in the city should be the only criteria for election – not age, gender, race, religion, or where you live.

Among the Mayor’s other proposals submitted in February were the following changes: a citizen must have served as a City Councilor in the past in order to run for Mayor; the term for Mayor would increase from two years to four years; and the filing fee (should one choose not to collect signatures) would increase from $50 to $500.  These types of changes were the reason I voted not to refer the Mayor’s proposal to a ballot – they represent a clear intent to reduce the number of citizens qualified or able to run for his office, and I don’t support that type of legislation. I was interviewed for the recent article on this subject, but most of my comments – including the ones above – were left out of the story, which seemed to focus instead on another opportunity for the Mayor to criticize his fellow councilors.

Kyle Palmer
Silverton City Councilor

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