Letters for Sept. 13
I was struck by the Portland Tribune headline "People who never thought they'd be homeless are suddenly homeless" (Aug. 30). This quotation from Jean DeMaster really hit me in the gut, because she's right — unexpected events can forever change the course of someone's life. Hurricane Harvey has decimated the homes and communities of rich and poor alike. Living here in Oregon we are insulated from storms like Harvey, but we do have wildfires that are currently threatening the homes and lives of our fellow Oregonians.
Climate change did not cause Harvey, nor did it cause the wildfires that have ravaged our forests year after year. However, it did exacerbate both of these events. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, recently indicated that the main fuel for the storm was warmer water in the Gulf — as much as 7.2 degrees above average. The takeaway is that though these storms occur naturally, climate change will cause them to be more intense, bigger, longer-lasting, and with heavier rainfalls. It is the same in our state with wildfires, according to a 2016 report from researchers at the University of Idaho and Columbia University. According to the report wildfires in the western half of the United States, including Oregon, have been burning hotter, faster and twice as large over the last 30 years due to climate change.
Lives will continue to be disrupted due to the effects of climate change. People will be made homeless, lives lost, communities devastated — unless we are willing to recognize that we, as citizens, can make a difference. We have the power to affect change by contacting our legislators and telling them that we want a solution now. I support putting a price on carbon and hope that you will too.
What every Realtor should know, and was not discussed by the broker/appraiser in the article ("Homeowners hit with unexpected back taxes," Aug. 30), is that it is part of due diligence on the part of the buyer's agent to see that Clackamas County assessor's records of improvements match what is actually there. If not, the buyer must be informed that the assessment and amount of taxes may change.
Digging deeper into Gladstone mayoral promises
Transparency and fewer secret executive sessions were planks used by Gladstone Mayor Tammy Stempel for her platform during the 2016 election. Is she actually living up to these promises?
Between June and August 2017 there were six executive sessions. Between June and August 2016 there were 10. At first glance, it appears she is making good on her promises. Upon closer inspection, a much darker pattern appears.
Of the 10 executive session during these three months in 2016, half of them were obviously regarding the hiring of a city administrator and assistant city administrator. Of the six executive sessions during that period in 2017, ALL were regarding what information and records could be kept secret from public inspection or about consulting with legal council concerning litigation or likely to be filed litigation. To be clear: all the secret executive sessions were to keep secrets and protection from litigation under Mayor Stempel's reign.
I did not even include all the sessions that would have been held between January and March in regards to the Portland Avenue pay-offs to her friends and supporters. Even if discussions about the pay-offs were conducted in executive session, then ORS 192.660 (6) would apply. This statute states: "No executive session may be held for the purpose of taking any final action or making any final decisions." (Oregonlaws.org/org/192.660) Therefore, final approval of spending our money to pay her friends should have been held in public. I can find nothing about these payments being approved at a public city council meeting. In fact, in order for me to even find the amounts paid, I had to make a public records request. Just because Mayor Stempel spent the money in the shadows, that was the wrong thing to do. She should have had a discussion about spending more than $50,000 of our money in public.
Speaking of Mayor Stempel's covert spending, let's look at her voting on the budget during the Budget Committee meeting in which two full-time fire captain positions were created. Her husband was already in a temporary fire-captain position, so it is reasonable to assume that he would be a likely candidate for the new full-time position. During the Budget Committee meeting on April 17, she did not recuse herself when she voted to fund one of the permanent positions that her husband now holds.
Mayor Stempel did recuse herself from City Council's vote to adopt the budget on June 13. But she only recused herself at the direction of the city attorney. She then said at the meeting that it is only a perceived conflict of interest. The attorney corrected her, telling her it is an actual conflict when you vote for your husband's pay. Very telling that Mayor Stempel found this only to be perceived and not actual conflict. What other aspects of the mayoral position does Mayor Stempel find herself above?
Where is the transparency when the mayor holds executive sessions to keep information a secret and discuss avoiding litigation over and over? I do not feel comfortable with Mayor Stempel's actions, or those of her sycophants who will try to intimate and slander anyone who doesn't agree with them.