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'Treat all communications as if they might appear on the cover of your local newspaper.'

As another trying year riddled with contentious discussions neared its end, West Linn city councilors found one thing they could all agree on at a Nov. 19 meeting: the discourse around town needs to change.

To that end, the council voted unanimously to approve a resolution adopting new "Guidance for Civil Discourse" that will apply to the council and community at large.

The document, which is intended to "encourage civility and a spirit of community in our public settings, meetings and correspondence," includes 12 provisions ranging from "assume the best in others" to "discuss policies and ideas, not people" and "treat all communications as if they might appear on the cover of your local newspaper."

"Public discourse is at a disturbing condition in the national scene right now and I think it's important for us at the local level to establish guidelines and guidance we all adhere to," Mayor Russ Axelrod said.

"We haven't always adhered to these in the past," he said.

Indeed, City Council President Brenda Perry — who opted not to run for re-election in 2018 and has been vocal about her frustrations with the tenor of meetings — said that while she supported the effort, she wondered if the guidelines should be coming from the council.

"I've struggled with this," Perry said. "The council should be setting an example of what behavior to follow, and not (an example of) what to avoid. So I will go ahead and work for the council on this, because I think it's really important, and I hope the council itself follows these guidelines."

"The entire council this year hasn't followed these guidelines," City Councilor Rich Sakelik added. "And the public hasn't followed these guidelines. ... I think it's incumbent on everybody."

After the council voted to approve the guidelines, a member of the audience asked how — if at all — the resolution might be enforced. Could, for example, the City bar someone from attending meetings for a certain period of time if they did not adhere to the rules?

Constitutional rights limit the City's ability to take an action like that, according to City Attorney Tim Ramis.

"This particular document is about creating norms of behavior here for people who participate," Ramis said. "It's really not connected to an enforcement question."

"We have an officer here if we need protection or have someone unruly," Axelrod said.

View the guidelines in full at https://bit.ly/2SeVhKm.

Busy work session ahead

As the calendar turns over to December, the council faces another packed agenda for its Dec. 3 work session.

The meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. at Council Chambers, will feature continued discussion about a number of items including the future of the old city hall building, a city attorney evaluation process, bond funding allocations for city-owned facilities and an intergovernmental agreement regarding future development of the Stafford area.

Specifically, pertaining to the old city hall, the council will evaluate potential terms of a letter of intent between the City and the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition.

The latter organization has proposed installing a cultural center at the historic building, which would feature museum and tourism components while also providing office space for WFHAC and several other nonprofits.

In November, the council asked City staff to draft terms for a possible agreement with WFHAC, and the discussion Dec. 3 will center on those staff proposals.

In a Nov. 20 memo, Community Development Director John Williams noted that staff recommended a "due diligence phase" before the parties come to a final agreement.

"The Due Diligence phase would include a thorough building assessment, identification and cost estimating of needed improvements and parking options, plus development of a proposed financing plan, cost-sharing agreements, roles and responsibilities, and other elements needed for future improvement and operation of the building," Williams wrote.

The full agenda can be found at https://bit.ly/2QoIzeE.

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