Wilsonville denounces Senator's comments regarding airport
During the recent Oregon State Legislative Emergency Board hearing considering a federal application for funding of the Aurora Airport, an active state senator who represents Wilsonville accused the City of breaking the law.
Oregon Sen. Fred Girod (R., Dist. 9) accused the City of Wilsonville of illegally discussing its strategy for contending Aurora Airport development in executive sessions, misappropriating funds by hiring a lobbyist to advance their interests and contesting the implementation of water and sewer facilities at the airport.
Wilsonville City Council vehemently denied these allegations at a meeting Monday, Oct. 1, and agreed to send a letter to legislators and stakeholders arguing that Girod's assertions are false.
"I think it's a complete misrepresentation of how this council has operated in the seven years I've been here," Wilsonville City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said.
Development at the Aurora Airport has been a hot button issue for the last decade and the Emergency Board hearing was in response to the Oregon Department of Aviation's application to receive $37 million in federal grant money. The decision was shelved until December and in the interim opponents and proponents of the extension will discuss their concerns through Oregon Solutions, a Portland State University program that mediates disputes between governmental leaders.
Girod believes Wilsonville should not have a say in the matter because the airport resides in Marion County, not Clackamas County.
"It would be like one of your rural counties being dominated by cities that aren't in your district," Girod said of Wilsonville's contentions. "The City of Wilsonville conducts these meetings mostly in executive sessions because they want to hide what they're doing. And they pay a lobbyist to go out in this district and organize the opposition."
Wilsonville officials denied discussing the issue in executive sessions. And Cosgrove said hiring a lobbyist is the norm among cities in the region.
"I would add that somehow the inference that the city is misappropriating funds because we have a lobbyist is laughable to me because we have to follow Oregon Budget Law for one. And number two, I don't know any city in the Portland region that doesn't have some level of lobbying going on," he said.
Counselors also objected to the notion that they have opposed the airport receiving sewer and water services. Instead, Public Affairs Director Mark Ottenad noted that, in 2013, the City advocated against a bill that would allow cities to provide such services to areas that hadn't been annexed. The airport currently resides in an unincorporated part of Marion County.
Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp, who testified at the Emergency Board hearing that the extension proposal should be put aside until a new intergovernmental agreement and Aurora Airport Master Plan is formed, believes the Aurora Airport could significantly impact surface transportation in Wilsonville.
"I've heard Senator (Betsy) Johnson testify that we could have 4,000 jobs there. If you're going to go from 1,200 jobs at the airport to 4,000 jobs, it is even rational to think that there isn't going to be traffic and transportation issues arising out of that? I cannot believe that," he said.
Knapp added: "I think we need to rebut and we need to do it factually and remind them of the issues that they insist are theirs alone to decide but are affecting people across jurisdictional boundaries."
City says it will not remove Planning Commissioner
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a handful of members of the public implored the Council to remove Planning Commissioner Simon Springall due to a post he
made on Facebook about Council candidate Ben West's son.
Springall posted a picture of West and his husband Paul Rummell giving their son JayQuan Rummell-West a gun for his 10th birthday with the comment: "Unusual parenting technique."
"I ask you Mayor Knapp and members of the City Council to immediately remove Simon Springall from his role on the Planning Commission because failure to do so would be seen as an endorsement of his behavior," Rummell said at the meeting.
Simon Springall told the Spokesman that West posted the photo on a political forum when he announced his run for Congress in 2016. He said he initially found the photo distasteful and alarming.
"Since then I recognize people have different perspectives on that," he said.
And Springall believes the push to remove him is simply a political stunt. He said he had helped manage David Davis's social media presence previously but is simply helping out with yard signs now. He has also helped Councilor Charlotte Lehan in the past but said West has exaggerated his role.
"They're trying to score their own political points and tie me to David and Charlotte's campaign incorrectly," he said.
Along with Rummell, four other speakers advocated for Springall's removal at the meeting.
"If we're being represented by someone who is going to be bashing and pulling up a child's photo, a birthday photo, a gift he received from his parents and slander a family, it's just not right," Justine Keith said at the meeting.
Citing First Amendment rights, Wilsonville City Councilors told attendees that they would not remove Springall from the post. Cosgrove said the City could be susceptible to a lawsuit if they were to remove Springall.
"I think as everyone in this room is well aware, one of the most protected rights under the constitution is the First Amendment, the right to free speech," City Attorney Barbara Jacobson said. "Sometimes speech that comes out is offensive to a lot of people but it's still free speech. There's a very high bar of what you can say before it becomes actionable."
Council President Scott Starr said citizens who are unhappy with Springall's comment should make their voices heard when reappointments are considered.