Newberg councilors weigh in on the effort to recall their cohorts
Local politics, when done right, is neighbors helping neighbors to make their community better. There is an unwritten social contract that is an understanding that everyone who is spending their time on budget committees, planning commissions and city councils are talking through solutions to complex problems with mutual respect.
Where it all goes awry is when some factor, some issue, polarizes the community, creating fissures of distrust, accusations and malice. In Newberg, the factor was city personnel issues that had little to do with the city council and everything to do with the lack of consistent professional leadership.
Now, we can all agree with the news of the petition to recall Mayor Rick Rogers and Councilor Stephanie Findley, local politics has gone awry. We feel it is our responsibility to make clear that all votes pertaining to expressed concerns in the recall petition were voted upon unanimously, by all council present.
If you need more evidence of the state of our community, there are a multitude of public records requests, accusations and even people reporting other people to state watchdog groups and the Oregon Department of Justice. Not city employees, but regular people who are trying to help their community are facing accusations, investigations and invasive fishing expeditions.
The plain fact of the matter is that city council doesn't have much to do with the inner workings of city hall. We hire a manager, we hire an attorney, and after that set policies, pass resolutions and stay as far away from personnel matters as possible. That is unless you have too many city managers in too short of a time period and no clear leadership to guide staff. When information was discovered, a change in leadership was encouraged by the council.
Having spent hours with this council in countless meetings and conversations, we can say without question every person on the Newberg City Council is there to work to better our community and has the city's best interest at heart.
We hope to focus the future of our council on the issues that we all came into office to address. The aspirational goals we set out for our community that are five, 10, 15 or even 20 years out. Topics that will provide better livability, economic opportunity and inclusivity to the people living in Newberg after we are gone.
We are humbled and privileged to be three councilors in a body of seven and believe our entire council is taking every step possible to right wrongs that have occurred over the past few years. We are also trying to keep perspective that the political fights today won't be remembered like policies that include more opportunities for people to live and work here, a better transportation system to move goods and services, or a sustainable city that considers its impact on the environment before making a decision.
We choose to work on concrete topics that will better our community and have complete confidence in the leadership of our new city manager, Dan Weinhemer. We hope the community will give Dan and the entire council the time and trust to move city hall in a positive, unified, and collaborative direction.
Patrick Johnson, Elise Yarnell Hollamon and Denise Bacon are Newberg City Council members
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