A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

City: What the “against” voters want

Written November 5th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
How necessary is it, really, to add decorations to this traffic circle?

How necessary is it, really, to add decorations to this traffic circle?

Even though the four incumbents on the Albany City Council got re-elected Tuesday, it would be a mistake for them to shrug off the very substantial number of votes that three of them did not get.

One of them, Councilwoman Bessie Johnson, had no opposition. The others, while winning, did not exactly generate landslide margins of victory. Mayor Sharon Konopa earned the support of about 8,800 voters even though she put up no active campaign, but she also had to recognize that about 7,300 city residents voted against her by going for the two other names on the ballot. (Based on updated returns, these rounded-off totals have been corrected from an earlier version of this story.)

Councilors Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski did campaign — especially Olsen, who did a lot of walking around and handing out leaflets — but their opponents came within a few hundred votes of replacing them on the council. And in North Albany, Kevin Manske outpolled Olsen by about 100.

In a nominally nonpartisan local government, office holders would be wise to acknowledge such strong opposition and to take it into account in their decisions from now on. First they’ll have to figure out why so many residents in the city or their respective wards voted for the other guys.

One likely reason is that in some ways, the council is perceived to be too free or even frivolous in spending money while not paying enough attention to the basic functions of local government. The perception is mostly wrong because the public safety arms of city government have strong council support, and basic services function well, especially water, even though they seem to cost too much.

Still, the city government too often seems caught up in processes and red tape that cause projects to take years instead of months. And while the city government is fundamentally frugal compared to other governments, the occasional frivolity — such as superfluous decorations on the new Main Street roundabout costing up to an estimated $90,000  — stick in the public’s mind. (hh)

6 responses to “City: What the “against” voters want”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    “Stick in the public’s mind” is being too polite. The city has developed a pattern of frivolous spending (e.g. CARA) and this provokes downright anger in taxpayers.

    You are right about this election not generating a landslide. Look closer at the mayor numbers. Konopa achieved a plurality, not a majority. The under votes (effectively voting “none of the above”) were 14% of the ballots cast. Not exactly a resounding victory for the mayor.

    And let’s be real. The position of mayor in Albany is pretty much a bobble head with no real power. Just smile nicely and administer the council meetings. The position simply doesn’t matter much when it comes to critical decision making unless there is a tie.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Having been around during the terms of several mayors, I can say that while the mayor’s powers are limited (though not insignificant, especially in the naming of committees and in other ways as well), how the office is performed has a huge effect on the work of the council. Residents should thank Mayor Konopa for having done an exemplary job in helping the council conduct itself with patience and class, going out of her way to let disagreement be aired even at the risk of long, long discussions. Albany has had mayors whose abrupt and imperious ways were the cause of much discord, without doing anything to improve the town. (hh)

  2. Bob Woods says:

    The council is right where it’s always been: in the middle, with representation from both conservatives and liberals. People who read volumes of reports; listen to EVERY person that comes to the podium; argue points and possibilities of the decisions they are required to make; and then make open decisions often based on compromise.

    That’s the way government is supposed to work. That’s why they ALL were reelected.

    And Gordon, your lack of grace in utter defeat is symptomatic why you and your gang lost.

  3. Mark Spence says:

    Quick correction: Ray Kopczynski did not campaign (see his quote in the DH), but his opponent did.
    Dick Olsen campaigned just as you describe, but I believe Manske hit some all-time spending levels for a Council seat.

  4. Mark Spence says:

    Regarding the traffic circle, I have an answer to your query and another question. For basic road safety, a traffic circle of this nature requires some kind of structure or landscaping to prevent drivers from looking across the circle and instead orient their focus toward traffic coming from the left. As for what that central fixture should be or cost, here’s a question that I ponder: how much is the landscaping at the Pacific-Ninth Ave. couplet worth? In terms of safety, attractiveness, and–perhaps more importantly–the look and value of surrounding real estate–I think the answer is a lot more than it cost.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Good point on the landscaping. It’s the wall and sign that are being questioned, particularly since they raise the estimated cost from $15-20,000 to about $90,000, according to what the CARA board was told. (hh)


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