The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

New councilor brings experience, focus


July 20, 2016

There’s lots going on in our world right now – and we mean locally.

It’s encouraging to see six people step up to interview for the vacant City Council seat that ultimately was filled by Diane Gerson last week, by appointment of the other council members (page 1).

We have indicated our appreciation for Diane’s thoroughness and professionalism in the past, so we’re not really saying anything new, but we’re looking forward to seeing what she can contribute to the council in what many residents have indicated they consider a difficult period for Sweet Home.

There’s a lot of stuff floating around out there, which Gerson will have to get up to speed on.

A big one, of course, is City Hall. The deed is practically done after the council’s vote last week – to buy the former U.S. Forest Service headquarters building at 3225 Main St. for $750,000 (also on page 1). While that doesn’t seem like a bad price, we wonder if the council has really heard from citizens on this. After all, this is our City Hall.

There was really very little indication to the general public that the council was about to slap down $25,000 in earnest money on this thing immediately after dismissing our longtime city manager. There wasn’t much opportunity for input and the timing was, well, unfortunate. If their goal was to be proactive, they were.

The current City Hall certainly has problems. It’s an old building and it needs work. But it’s also in a great location and it is one of a few really historic buildings in Sweet Home. It is a center of the city, though, and relocating it to a spot two miles from where most of the commercial and residential activities of the city tend to center seems, well, remarkably far-sighted. It could be great if Sweet Home were to rapidly progress to the point that the sprawling building out there, midway between Clark Mill and Foster, would be what City Hall is now – a focal point for Sweet Home.

That, of course, would take some significant economic progress. It could happen, but somebody’s got to put the pieces in place to draw the investment and entrepreneurship that would be necessary to start filling in all those empty spots along our main street.

Bringing jobs back to Sweet Home sometimes seems like a tired, somewhat hollow phrase when we hear it voiced every couple of years before elections, but it’s what has to happen if Sweet Home is going to turn the corner. Energy, vision, cooperation and commitment is necessary to develop forest products and tourism industries, maybe white-collar digital firms envisioned by some local developers.

The council, frankly, has displayed, at least publicly, little, if any active interest in feet-on-the-ground attempts to move in those directions, even with the carrot of government and nonprofit grants dangled before us.

Pretty clearly, there are a lot of interconnectivity here. This takes critical mass.

We like what Gerson has demonstrated in the past, as a School Board member and as a SHEDG member. She understands goals and she understands processes. We’re hoping she can contribute as a new council member in those areas.

The council’s decision to appoint Gerson is an outstanding move, although other candidates also would have made good additions.

She spoke frankly and constructively with us this week about various city issues and ways the council and city could improve, reported in our story.

More good news, which also has kind of come out of the blue this week, is the giant gift to the Sweet Home Library (page 19) – more than $600,000.

This is a great opportunity and one that, if implemented strategically and carefully, could pay off in huge dividends down the road if it leaves local residents with an increased appreciation for the written word and the education it can bring.


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