WL advisory boards will see extensive turnover
Examine the ranks of any West Linn City Council — past or present — and it's likely that the majority of its members started their political careers volunteering on one of the City's 11 Citizen Advisory Groups.
The groups, which cover everything from economic development to sustainability, parks and transportation, are each comprised of seven members (save for the Citizen's Budget Committee, which has 10) and generally meet once or twice a month. As the City website states, "It's the best way to effect real change in the city," and with 2018 coming to a close there are a total of 28 seats up for grabs.
West Linn is currently accepting applications for each of these seats, which are filled by the mayor with approval from the City Council. If you're wondering what it takes to serve on a given board, the Tidings spoke to a number of staff and board members about what to expect.
Citizens' Budget Committee
Three seats will open on this board come 2019, and its makeup differs from all other advisory groups.
The CBC has a total of 10 members — five citizens and all five members of the City Council. It also meets far less regularly, with the majority of its work hours jammed into a two-month period every other year as the City prepares to adopt a new biennial budget.
"In odd years (2019), members can expect to work primarily in April and May as they review and react to the City's draft biennial budget," CBC member Todd Jones said. "This likely will include 3-4 meetings of 2-3 hours each, and another 4-10 hours of study outside of these meetings. These are rough estimates … each member's approach to their responsibilities is different."
The budget committee is also responsible for evaluating applications for the City's Community Grant Program, which doles out around $25,000 each fiscal year to an array of nonprofit organizations.
"This likely will include one live meeting of two hours, 1-2 virtual meetings of about an hour each and 2-3 hours of outside study," Jones said.
Committee for Citizen Involvement
It was an incredibly busy year for the CCI, which held a total of 40 meetings, according to staff liaison John Boyd.
The committee, which has three openings heading into 2019, was continuing an "intensive review" of the City's land use process that began in 2017. The City Council reviewed the CCI's findings and recommendations earlier this year.
In Boyd's mind, a new year with fresh voices could be a good time for the CCI to "reset."
"(The land use policy review) is a project the council really feels strongly about, and some members have found it to be taking a long time and kind of outside their knowledge base … they just felt taxed," Boyd said. "They tried to hang in there, and some have chosen to move on.
"Sort of the challenge is, 'What's the focus of the CCI?'"
According to the City website, the CCI is intended to "serve as a watchdog and advocate for citizen involvement." Two members are from the City Council, and two more are from the planning commission and a neighborhood association. There is also a business representative, and two "citizen at large" positions that are open for 2019.
Economic Development Committee
The EDC has four vacancies for 2019. As the City website states, the committee "functions to bridge the gap between the business community and the City, and works in close partnership with the West Linn Chamber of Commerce, neighborhood associations and the general public."
Most recently, the EDC's work prompted a series of changes to the Willamette Neighborhood Mixed-Use Transitional Zone that were intended to make it easier for businesses to come into the Historic Willamette district.
Historic Review Board
The HRB is one of two advisory groups that is identified as a "quasi-judicial body," which means that it has powers similar to that of a judge and must base its decisions strictly upon applicable laws.
The board, which has two vacancies, is responsible for reviewing and conducting public hearings on development projects that take place in the Willamette Historic District, the Willamette Falls Drive Commercial District and any local landmarks in any part of the city. It also reviews amendments to the City's Community Development Code that relate to historic properties.
The City website states that members "shall have a demonstrated interest, knowledge or competence in historic preservation and, to the extent possible, in one of the following fields: archaeology, architecture, building construction, history, landscape architecture, law, local history, real estate or urban planning. If possible, at least one member shall be an architect experienced in historic preservation."
Member Danny Schreiber says the HRB's workload can be unpredictable.
"Since the HRB responds to the planning department, it all depends on what applications have been filed," he said. "When there is an application, the city staff sends a nice report with all of the needed information and supporting documents. It requires you to read through the information prior to the meeting and understand what the applicant is seeking as well as which city codes apply to the application."
Library Advisory Board
The LAB, which has two vacancies, advises City Council on matters related to one of West Linn's most popular institutions.
The board meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 5:45 p.m. at the library. During its most recent meeting Oct. 17, the LAB discussed the findings from a recent patron survey and persistent issues with parking.
Parks and Recreation Board
These are particularly busy times for the parks board, which has two vacancies, as the City embarks on a number of projects funded by a recently-approved general obligation (GO) bond.
"With the passing of the GO bond, I think we will have great emphasis on the proposed waterfront development in the Willamette area," board member Don Kingsborough said. "Probably just north of Bernert Landing (in Willamette Park) we hope to provide swimming, kayaking and other low impact water activity as requested in the surveys."
Earlier this year, the board reviewed and recommended the approval of a new Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan, and Kingsborough said he hopes to see the City Council approve that plan by the start of 2019. The board meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at City Hall, but Kingsborough said meetings may be more frequent due to the large amount of projects planned for the next several years.
Members serve four-year terms.
"Candidates should be prepared to give a lot of thought, a little time and have fun with wonderful people who love West Linn," Kingsborough said.
Perhaps the most well-known advisory board is the planning commission — another quasi-judicial body that oversees land use planning across the city.
The commission, which has three vacancies, is primarily responsible for reviewing City policies and holding hearings on land use applications before making a recommendation to the City Council.
"The planning commission focuses on legislative activities and quasi-judicial decisions," member Gary Walvatne said. "The legislative activities range from reviews of City planning documents to updates of the Community Development Code. … The quasi-judicial decisions are made through a state-mandated land use hearing process. This is a formal review process that results in legal decisions regarding the approval or denial of land use applications."
The planning commission meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. at City Hall, and members serve four-year terms. The City website also states that "No more than two voting members shall be engaged principally in the buying, selling or developing of real estate for profit … or be members of any partnership, or officers or employees of any corporation (that buys, sells, or develops real estate)." Also, no more than two members can be involved in the same occupation.
Public Safety Advisory Board
The public safety board, which has three vacancies, makes recommendations related to crime prevention, traffic matters, fire safety and police/fire/community partnerships. It meets from 6-7 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the West Linn Police Station.
Sustainability Advisory Board
The SAB, which has two openings, is dedicated to promoting environment-friendly practices across the city.
As member Sara Harding Mihm puts it, the board "is a casual and forward-thinking group of seven residents who are committed to collaborating with government and residents to improve the quality of life in West Linn by advancing stewardship of our environmental, social and economic resources. … Monthly meetings are casual, supportive and fun, though (they) follow an agenda to help the group prioritize projects and report progress."
Transportation advisory board
Like the parks board, the TAB — which has three vacancies — has plenty on its docket as a result of the $20 million GO bond. Thus, board member Andrew Mallory hopes to see the group meet more than just once every two months come 2019.
"I'd like to meet once or possibly twice a month, because we really are at a point where whatever has to be recommended to the council (for transportation-related bond projects) has to be done — there's a lag in the system," Mallory said.
He added that new members would ideally be well-informed about transportation infrastructure and bring a fresh perspective to the board.
Utility Advisory Board
The UAB, which has one vacancy, is principally responsible for evaluating City water rates.
"They're going to be talking about that (in October) sometime, because we have to wait until the water usage (numbers) are in for the summer," said City Council President Brenda Perry, the council liaison to the UAB. "If it was a good summer, lots of water was used and we had good revenue. If it was bad, then revenue is down and that's what impacts rates."
Perry said the UAB recently added wastewater to its scope of evaluation as well.
"No one is really looking at wastewater, and if you're going to look at water, you should look at wastewater as well," she said.