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Fairview Council must put focus on constituents

The city council of a small town isn’t Congress and it shouldn’t act with the heightened partisanship typically reserved for Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, over the course of the past year, Fairview’s City Council has taken a page out of the D.C. playbook.

The council has had funds dedicated and available for replacement playground structures for a popular city park, but has been unable to stop bickering long enough to simply spend the available funds. The children’s playground remains fallow.

It took several council meetings, a subcommittee and countless hours of analysis to decide whether the city would fund a local festival. All of this work was dedicated to decide on a line-item in the budget that was less than $5,000. Undoubtedly the staff time alone to conduct the research well outstripped the expenditure.

The sidewalks on the main street in Fairview Village are cracking and creating a dangerous condition for pedestrians. This impacts visitors and shoppers in a critical area of town, but consideration of solutions appears to be going in circles with no reasonable end in sight.

Finally, the city has planned to create a mixed-use zone for use along the Columbia River to allow a mixture of commercial and residential riverfront development for nearly a decade.

Local property owners first asked the city to create the zone more than a year ago, but to date the city has failed to take any meaningful step toward enacting one.

Until the city creates the zone, the landowners cannot even begin planning any development which would create both local construction jobs and long-term jobs in newly created businesses. The request simply sits, a victim of hyper-partisanship and personality clashes.

There are many causes to this series of failures, and nobody is entirely blameless.

In the past, some citizens didn’t believe the council was being responsive to their needs on a host of issues. They organized and ran one of the most negative local campaigns I’ve ever seen.

In response, current members of the council have simply already begun the 2014 election campaign.

Policies necessary for the public good are refused not because they are bad or improper public policy, but rather based on the identity of who is supporting them. The playground equipment is a prime example of personality conflict impeding the public good.

The solution is easy to write, but difficult to accomplish.

The members of the Fairview City Council must begin to put the interests of their constituents first in all things. It doesn’t matter if one of their allies or opponents on the council has a great idea, takes the “credit” or even campaigns on a success he or she has achieved.

The only consideration has to be whether the idea is good for Fairview. Being an elected public official is simply incompatible with petty considerations like who will get the “credit” for an accomplishment.

This Fairview City Council will remain in office until early January 2015 when newly elected (or re-elected) councilors and a mayor will be sworn in.

It isn’t too late for all of the members of the council to rededicate themselves to serving their constituents, ignoring partisan consideration and rising above pettiness.

It begins with giving fellow councilors the benefit of the doubt and the grace of believing that each of them is working in good faith. Fairview citizens deserve nothing less.

Editor's note: Matt Wand of Troutdale has joined The Outlook as a monthly columnist. You’ll find him on the Opinion Page on the second Tuesday of every month, beginning with today’s edition. Wand will write about the people and issues with direct connections to East Multnomah County. Wand is an attorney with a law practice based in Gresham since 2006. He has served as a Troutdale City Councilor and state representative from East County. He lives in Troutdale with his wife and three children.




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