Council candidates answer questions: Part 3

 

October 11, 2016



Eight candidates are running for four City Council seats in the Nov. 8 election.

The top four candidates in the election will serve terms beginning Jan. 1. The top three will serve four-year terms. The fourth-place candidate will serve a two-year term.

The New Era presented a list of 18 questions to the candidates and will publish their answers weekly through Oct. 19 when ballots are delivered to local post offices.

The following are the candidates’ answer in randomized order, using random.org. In the following questions, the list is adjusted downward by one, with the eighth candidate moved to the top. The original order was Susan Coleman, incumbent Dave Trask, Theresa Howard, Andrew Allen, incumbent Diane Gerson, Lisa Gourley, Lisa Pye and incumbent James Goble.

11. The city paid more than $120,000 to part ways with the city manager. If you disagree with the council’s decision, how do you think this money should have or could have been spent?

Theresa Howard: By paying in excess of $120,000 to the former city manager, to get him to leave, tells me he was (forced to retire) for no wrongdoing. That money could have been used for upgrades to the Water Treatment Plant or to city parks maintenance. It could have gone towards the building of a new city hall. Instead, we are paying a temporary city manager and will soon be paying a new city manager and all because of someone’s need to change directions? This position can be in excess of $8,000 per month depending on experience but should actually be about half that amount.


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Andrew Allen: Had they done a better job in planning a transition, I think we would have been able to save a good portion of that. Instead, we have a temporary and a severance package to pay out.

Diane Gerson: There are always a hundred ways to spend money in a town. How about a parking lot for RVs coming through town with no place to park a big rig and walk around? Or a full-time economic development director?

Lisa Gourley: When the council made the decision to change managers they were still under obligation to honor their contract. Their intent was to do that. I would love to have spent that money on projects, but that is not an option now.

Lisa Pye: The standard practice with an employment contract is when an employee is forced to leave the contract still has to be honored.

James Goble: To me, this question is wrong. Of course there are better things the money could have been spent on. Think of that the next time the city council has a contract for a city manager! Because sometimes there’s a confusion on what we want to do and what we can do.


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Susan Coleman: (Gave no comment. She answered a previous related question this way: “As I was not involved in this decision or privy to many of the reasons as to why it was done, I have no comment.”)

Dave Trask: That was discussed, and the council made the decision by the majority.

12. Do you have concerns about city spending? If so, what are they, and what would you do?

Andrew Allen: Serving on the budget committee for four years, I think we are doing a good job of not overspending and we’re working towards putting funds off the side for future investments, such as replacing the city hall or other public facilities. Other investments, such as our parks, are slowly happening as we work through creating and executing plans with citizen involvement, e.g. Sankey Park planning in progress.

Diane Gerson: As I mentioned before, the goals are the basis for the budget, which drives what happens in the coming year. Direction and focus were unclear this year. The budget is not an ad hoc determination but one of planned focus on the needs and goals of the community.

Lisa Gourley: It costs to run a city. Sweet Home is no exception. Councilors have an obligation to the residents of Sweet Home to make sure that spending is within the budget, while benefiting all the residents. Councilors should always put the needs of the community first.

Lisa Pye: I do not have any concerns other than utilizing other sources for projects. (In) my experience with running a nonprofit for four years and attending awards ceremonies, I have seen other cities get grants for certain spending on the items listed in the grant.

James Goble: I am not concerned at this time as the budget was just released. I am able to follow this and feel that we are on track at this time.

Susan Coleman: The only concern I have would be staying within the budget and being fiscally wise.

Dave Trask: I’m always concerned about the spending. Review all the staffing levels.

Theresa Howard: If the money spent to get rid of the city manager and the money spent to secure the Sweet Home Ranger District office building are any indication of how the city spends money, perhaps a second party should be included in the final decisions.

13. Several city councilors have said economic development is a priority for Sweet Home. What does economic development mean to you? How would you pursue economic development?

Diane Gerson: First of all, we need a person guiding this, whether it be a collaborative effort, as proposed, or someone in City Hall. We need to actively pursue companies looking to move to Oregon with the pluses of our community and offer incentives, if necessary. This takes a concerted effort by the council and staff, as well as the citizenry.

Lisa Gourley: Economic development should always be a focus of the city. It involves creating opportunities for businesses to move or develop within our community. As a city we will always be looking for opportunities for economic stimulus. It’s really about making decisions and working to create and maintain an economic development plan and make it work.

Lisa Pye: Economic development is economic growth and jobs. First is researching what has worked for cities the size of Sweet Home. Next is creating a strategic plan for economic development while working with the city manager. The last is carrying out the plan.

James Goble: A) Economical growth to me says if we do not find a way to be more attractive to big business, we are going to continue in this rut that we’re in. B) A city manager that wants to pursue economic growth opportunities and working with the county and state, along with other groups in our community that are already on this path to help the future of Sweet Home.

Susan Coleman: Economic development means stepping forward to ensure employment opportunities for people while continuing to care for our natural resources. Economic development can be pursued by assisting the growth of more businesses and finding out from current local business owners what is working, what is not working, how best to help them succeed.

Dave Trask: Attracting more industrial businesses. Aggressively pursue all options.

Theresa Howard: Please see Question 4 – Sweet Home needs new businesses. City government should be trying to recruit new industries, offering tax breaks, etc.

Andrew Allen: First off, council can’t directly create new businesses. The piece we need to work on is having an economic development director or agency partnership with a representative here in Sweet Home. We need to help fund a position to assist SHEDG and SHARE in serving their mission of community development and revitalization. Create the tools and systems!

14. Some citizens have perceived and criticized a lack of councilors at various community functions, particularly some focused on improving Sweet Home’s livability and economy. What do you think the responsibility of City Council members should be to participate in open houses, field trips and workshops focused on livability and economic development and similar goals?

Lisa Gourley: City councilors have the responsibility to take a leadership role within the community. Being involved and informed happens through community engagement. I think it’s very important for councilors to attend all of these events that they can.

Lisa Pye: The majority of council members are self-sufficient and rely on their jobs to pay their bills, so they would need to participate in community activities outside of their work schedules. Most cities rely on city managers to be the city council adviser and to attend the various community functions. Usually, the city manager attends such functions and reports back to the city council. Also, it may be possible for one or a couple of city council members to attend the functions and report back.

James Goble: In my opinion, there has been a lack of real training for the City Council members for more years than I can remember. I feel this is one of the main reasons we have remained sedentary in our growth.

Susan Coleman: City councilor is a volunteer position in Sweet Home. Those who serve are often elected because of their good standing in the community. Therefore, it is important to remember, as upstanding citizens, they are often involved in multiple community groups. In the particular situation that brought about this question, The New Era reported the event had been planned last minute, during the summer. It was also reported three councilors were in attendance all day (that is almost half the council). In reading, it sounded like a successful event well attended.

Dave Trask: I personally could do a better job in the community.

Theresa Howard: Some city councilors actually have jobs and are unable to attend most community functions, usually held during work hours. But if they can attend such functions, it would be nice.

Andrew Allen: Council needs to make sure we have at least one individual at any major community events or forums. They should also carry suggestion sheets for citizens to voice their ideas. They should also have a basic knowledge of community resources to guide citizens towards committees, programs and department heads that can do a great job in answering their questions and report their findings to council at meetings.

Diane Gerson: It is very important for citizens to have the opportunity to talk informally with councilors. These events offer these opportunities. That being said, councilors are volunteers with jobs, families, outside interests.

One way to make this happen would be a calendar of events presented to the council at the end of each month for the coming month and councilors choose what they can attend.

All may not be covered, but more visibility would occur.

 
 

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