Another view on the reset button
This op-ed has been updated since its original version.
In response to both; "Hitting the reset button" (11/14) and "The citizens have spoken" (11/21), I would like to offer another viewpoint. What the citizens of West Linn deserve from our local paper is unvarnished reporting of the facts. What we are sometimes getting instead is a somewhat stained version of issues depending on who is involved.
Lately I have attended enough city council, planning commission and various advisory committee meetings that the dynamics and individuals are no longer just names or issues in a Tidings article. They are now people I have heard speak and have spoken to in person and issue discussions I have observed firsthand. When I compare these observations with coverage in the Tidings the bias is often as clear as it is disappointing. No group of individuals view an issue with the same lens. Some take a broad, shallow view and others will dive deep into context and detail. Some will prioritize short term, immediate gains, while others will look far down the road, trying to make projections of theoretical future impacts of a decision. A few can do all at once.
I appreciate our elected community members and city staff for the perspectives they bring to these decisions using their knowledge and experience of often complex issues. Mistakes will be made; discussion may devolve to dissension. This is part of the process.
What continues to puzzle me, is the Tidings' consistent negative focus on Council President Teri Cummings. I have had several conversations with her and can assure anyone who has not, that Councilor Cummings is a thoughtful, selfless, detail-oriented watchdog for public funds, responsible, environmentally sustainable and a community-focused decision making. Having been elected several times for city council and planning commission seats, she also holds a wealth of knowledge on the recent decade of city government history. Caring more about popular opinion than responsible policy making might have kept her on the right side of her few, loud detractors but that is not her main concern apparently.
Those who gather on social media platforms and preach to their choir against her may have created a false impression of a majority opinion. One might even conclude — the citizens have spoken. But if one looks at the numbers, the same handful of people repeatedly opining in the Tidings and in other forums does not represent the majority of a citywide population of 27,000.
I don't know what came first here, the chicken or the egg, with respect to the paper's portrayal and the public pillorying but both provide a cautionary tale and chilling effect to those who might consider running to serve on city council or even to speak their opinion in West Linn. Whether the Tidings possibly justifies biased coverage as serving this perceived majority of the community is hard to say. That it is not really their place to side but rather to present facts is much easier to say.
My plea is not just to the Tidings but to everyone who cares about West Linn. Let's all hit the reset button. The next time we have an opportunity to participate in a public setting, whether in published media or an online forum, let's consider if this will further informed community engagement and growth or do just the opposite.
Mary Baumgardner is a citizen of West Linn.
(Editor's note: This op-ed has been updated from its original version, which contained two edits included to improve clarity but inadvertently changed sentence meaning. The Tidings regrets any confusion this may have caused."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.