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Editorial: Northside issue illustrates how local government can work positively

 

June 27, 2017



The subject of our report on page 1 about the city’s pause in its effort to evict the caretaker at Northside Park highlights some important points relating to city government and how it can work for the benefit of its citizens.

One is that our city manager, Ray Towry, has voiced a commitment to playing fair, making sure the city follows its own rules. We appreciate that commitment to the law, all other things being equal, since it can be easy to get a little loose with the details. We like a city staff who play it straight.

At issue in this situation are city ordinances, which for the most part, are created to solve problems. And even though zoning laws can be a real pain for property owners, they generally reflect a studied rationale that is focused on community growth and health.

One does not have to look too far into history, if not the present in Sweet Home – our monthly water bills, for example – to see how we are paying now for short-sighted thinking and errors of the past. We have city streets that are barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass, houses that are poorly constructed (note the code requirement that residences in the Northside Park area must have foundations), other sloppy construction.

Yes, zoning laws can be a challenge on the ground level, but they do serve a purpose.

Secondly, local democratic government is healthiest when people participate. That’s why we were glad to see the turnout for the June 20 meeting in which the caretaker issue was discussed.

It is pretty clear from our report that a lot of folks saw positives in the presence of Tina and Robert Lint at the park. They’ve testified about reduced drug presence and other “riff-raff,” to use the words of one, at Northside. Some say they allow their kids play there now. They did not in the past.

Considering that conditions in parks are one of the biggest complaints we hear at The New Era from folks who come in to chat, we can see some positives in what people are talking about here.

What was missing from the June 20 conversation, though, were those who complained about the RV in the park. Somebody apparently doesn’t think that trailer the Lints have lived in since they arrived in 2009 should be there.

Well, they have a point. It shouldn’t. At least not according to the codes we mentioned earlier.

The reason it is and the reason there’s a manufactured home at Sankey Park, also once occupied by a caretaker, was because previous city councils have created variances, exceptions to the rules, to allow them to be there.

And that brings us to a third point: What’s good for Sweet Home?

We get that somebody might not be happy that the trailer is in the park. Sweet Home has had situations in which the city has had to crack down on people who were taking things too far with mobile living facilities on their properties. Laws have been passed to prohibit this.

But when was the last time Sweet Home had three dozen people show up at a city meeting, let alone to testify on behalf of a park caretaker? That should provide some food for thought for city officials, and the fact that they’ve let up a bit on the gas pedal in this drive to evict the Lints suggests they get that.

Which brings us to a fourth point: Rules are made to sometimes be broken.

We probably all know of cases where the letter of the law has abused the spirit of the law. While that may not be the situation here, the letter of the law should not prevent a good situation from continuing.

That turnout, and the testimony of how things have changed for the better at Northside, and the big picture that’s starting to display itself here suggests to us that there might be justification for continuing the exception to the city code in this case. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

It will be up to Towry and the City Council to decide that, to determine what the realities are here and how to balance them.

On a practical level, this is pretty straight-forward. A significant number of folks say it’s working for their neighborhood and their park. They’re content with people living in an RV in this case. The council may need to find a way to allow this arrangement to continue serving the purpose the neighbors believe it does at Northside.

 
 

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