Albany council: Expect big turnover in 2021 – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany council: Expect big turnover in 2021

Written August 20th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Behind this wall is the council chamber, where a new wind will likely blow after the first of the year.

The filing period for the Albany City Council closed on Thursday, and the three members whose terms end this year are not on the list of candidates, which means a 50 percent turnover in council membership in 2021.

If Councilmen Bill Coburn, Rich Kellum and Mike Sykes had announced ahead of time they would not run again, I missed it.

In Ward 1, three candidates are competing to succeed Sykes, a business owner completing one term on the council. They are Keith Kolkow, whose filing paper says he works in “nonprofit development;” Matilda Novak, a restaurateur and voice actress; and Sean Knowles, employed at Albany Box Company.

In Ward 2, the candidates to succeed Coburn, retired from electrical contracting, are former Councilman Ray Kopczynski, who’s also retired; and Amanda Dant, self-employed as a floral designer.

Ward 3 Councilor Kellum recently sold his welding supply business. Competing to succeed him are Marilyn Smith, who retired in June as the city’s public information officer; and Jessica Brenneman, a dog groomer and business owner who serves on the city budget committee.

Jill Van Buren, a retired elections supervisor in Linn and Benton counties, late Thursday withdrew as a candidate in Ward 3. In an email she said Smith was the best candidate because of her long employment in the city administration.

Mayor Sharon Konopa, who lists her occupation as “mayor of Albany,” and Councilman Alex Johnson II, an insurance professional, remain as the only candidates for mayor.  If Johnson wins, the council would elect someone to fill his council position in Ward 2.

The filing form has an optional line that asks about “race and ethnicity.” Some candidates left it blank and others said “Caucasian.” Johnson, a Navy veteran and as far as I know the first African-American to be elected to the Albany council, answered: “American.”

No matter how all this comes out, the council next year will have a substantially different makeup in personalities and outlook from the one Albany has had for the last eight years or more.

How this may affect the outcome on pending controversies we’ll see if and when candidates answer questions during the weeks before election day Nov 3. What controversies? Well, among them, how to close the looming gap in the city budget; what size and style of buildings to allow in historic districts; and how much money to spend on giving the riverfront a new face. (hh)

13 responses to “Albany council: Expect big turnover in 2021”

  1. CHEZZ says:

    Albany has this great opportunity to create a Council that will better represent our citizens. Let’s make that happen!

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    “The filing form has an optional line that asks about “race and ethnicity.””

    It looks like the candidates cleverly danced around this question.

    A few articles ago you submitted a few questions for the candidates. Given the candidate’s response to the “race and ethnicity” question, all of the candidates should be asked the following:

    Given racism exists in Albany’s institutional structures, social systems, and cultural norms, please provide specifics to the questions below. General penance statements are not revealing.

    1. Which city employees do not treat people of color fairly?

    2. If unwilling to answer #1, which city departments and political institutions are guilty of racist acts and inequality?

    3. If unwilling to answer #1 & #2, how will the voter of color have confidence that city government is changing course and addressing the behaviors that produce inequality?

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    My water/sewer bill is up 23% since 2016.
    WHY would you want these people?

    • Steven Reynolds says:

      We’re looking at around $170 water/sewer bills if the utility tax is implemented, I think that’s why Hasso is asking that question be posed, do you support or no? I don’t know where this community ends up if the average property tax bill is around $5000 and the average water bill is just south of $200. I’m just not sure what the end game looks like.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        Since I only use 1 “unit” of water/mo., I’m paying $.096/gallon. (that’s almost a DIME per GALLON for those a little slow on the trigger)
        They should deliver it in jugs!

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Hey Bill-O K –

      Your question answers another.
      Why the high turnover? Why would we want these people?

      Yes, failure. Good Riddance.

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    ORESTAR is a good source of who is funding the campaigns.

    For example, the PAC Marilyn Smith for City Council appears to be off to a lucrative start. It has received three contributions of $500 each. One from a family member and two from individuals who aren’t residents of Ward 3 – Robert F. Woods from Salem and William R. Coburn from Albany.

    Kind of revealing – two outsiders who can’t vote for Marilyn attempting to influence who represents Ward 3.

    • Bob Woods says:

      I worked with Marilyn for 13 years at the City of Albany and know her very well. She was a great employee and a great friend. I support my friends.

      The voters will decide if Marilyn gets the job. All I’m doing is helping her get her message out so people can judge for themselves.

      Funny you see fit to actively work against her from your house in Yadkin County, North Carolina. You’re the pot calling the kettle black.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Yes it is revealing people who are willing to put their money where their mouth is in direct support of a candidate they believe in…

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        Why not reveal the times you voted NO on extracting more money from the Albany citizens?
        I guess you can’t even make a list, since you would need to start with one instance.

  5. James Engel says:

    Our City Council is like the legislature in Salem & Washington. Each election just brings a sifting around of the same old faces so not much new is to be expected from them. This proposed Utility Tax is just another “Rain Tax” we already get shafted for each month. As to the “Rain Tax”, it’s not been made clear: is this $$ going into a savings fund for when the Feds descend on Albany at some future date? As it is now that tax goes right into the general fund as this Utility Tax probably will.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Your instincts about the same faces is spot on. Not much will change, but that won’t stop the attempt to gouge even more from residents.

      Here is my prediction.

      Given no power to unilaterally increase the permanent tax rate, the new councilors and mayor will ask voters to approve another local option to cover increasing operational costs. Scaling the size and scope of city government to available revenues is not in their DNA. The probability of the attempt is about 50/50. The probability of a referendum passing is about 75% if less than 35% vote; 40% if 50%+ of registered voters turnout.

      And the new councilors and mayor will gouge every penny they can through unilateral increases to local fees. This is low hanging fruit, so the probability of it happening is about 99%.

      And if the new councilors and mayor want to create debt or, God forbid, want to create a new urban renewal district (CARA part deux), they will need to ask voters for permission. Like above, the probability of the attempt is about 50/50. The probability of a referendum passing is about 75% if less than 35% vote; 40% if a majority of registered voters turnout.

      The only certainty is that Albany residents will pay more, in one form or another, for city government with the new councilors and mayor. In other words, not much will change in city hall.


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