A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council nixes ex-mayor for planning commission

Written October 27th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

In this screenshot from Wednesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Bessie Johnson moves to reject the appointment of former Mayor Sharon Konopa to the planning commission.

In a rare insult to a nominee who served Albany in public office for 24 years, the city council Wednesday rejected the nomination of former Mayor Sharon Konopa to a vacancy on the city planning commission.

Councilwoman Bessie Johnson led the opposition to Konopa’s nomination to the unpaid volunteer position. She said Konopa “does not fit” with the planning commission because in the past she had been “against growth and development and anything that goes with it.” She contended that the former mayor would not be a “neutral person” on the planning board.

Konopa served 12 years on the city council and then another 12 years as mayor before losing her re-election bid in 2020.

She had often argued that large-scale land development does not pay for the indirect costs it generates for the increased city services it requires over time. She was also against changes in state law and the local code to increase the population density in established neighborhoods of single-family homes.

Councilman Ray Kopczynski, who had vigorously disagreed with Konopa on the density issue, nevertheless nominated her to the planning commission. There is no one, he said, more knowledgeable about the development code, and he considers her eminently qualified.

Kopczynski’s was the only vote in favor of Konopa’s apppointment. Dick Olsen “passed.” Voting to kill the appointment, besides Bessie Johnson, were Marilyn Smith, Matilda Novak, and Stacey Bartholomew.

By email after the meeting, I sought Konopa’s reaction.

“I am so hurt again,” she replied. “That was cruel of them, and a very lame excuse…” (hh)

21 responses to “Council nixes ex-mayor for planning commission”

  1. StopTheGrowth says:

    Stopping the ongoing expansion of the city is the right thing to do. When will our city planners realize that a bigger city means bigger problems? It makes one wonder if the planning commission is thinking about the existing citizens, or are they having their pockets lined by the builders? A bigger Albany means less peace and tranquility.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Growth is *absolutely* inevitable. Period.
      How it is managed is always the question.
      The Planning Commission cannot create or deny opportunities for that to happen willy-nilly.
      The different city, county, and state codes are the parameters for its decision-making.
      OR will have close to 1,000,000 more residents in the next 25-30 years. Albany will get its share.

      • StopTheGrowth says:

        You want to see what Albany will look like in the next 20-25 years (or sooner with the continued growth)? Go in and look around Bottle Drop.

      • sonamata says:

        “If you don’t build it, they won’t come” is magical thinking. Also wild to hear “no growth!” coming from people with kids & grandkids. I guess if you already own property with rapidly increasing equity while enjoying Oregon’s MAV cap limiting property tax increases, you can afford to demand that density never increase.

        • HowlingCicada says:

          I completely agree.

          Caps limiting property tax increases are not just unfair on the face of it, but are bad social policy — discouraging home owners from selling at times of shortages (like right now), and discouraging geographical mobility. California has it far worse than Oregon. In the 1990’s, I’ve known places near Santa Barbara where neighboring, similar houses had tax valuations almost 10 to 1.

          • sonamata says:

            In Linn County, the average MAV is ~$195K vs. RMV of $362K, so almost 2 to 1 (and ~$3340 in tax savings for an Albany resident). Meanwhile, landlords can increase rent up to 9.9% annually. In addition to low fixed mortgage rates, seems like a great incentive for people to keep homes as investment properties when they move.

  2. Avidreader69 says:

    I agree with Stopthegrowth

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The essence of political “planning” is social engineering – manipulating local society through regulation and its application. It’s a power trip.

    Want to keep out the wrong kinds of people? Want to drive away undesirables and their children? Want to engineer a upper middle class demographic and keep the lower class in their proper place?

    It’s all done through decisions that apply development codes, land use restrictions, density requirements, etc.

    Some people like certain kinds of “social engineering” but not others. Sharon’s kind is apparently in the minority.

    And then she whines about how the people in power hurt her. Typical narcissist’s response.

    With this decision, power is serving as a check to power. Good for the council.

    • DSimpson says:

      Having participated on a voluntary commission in the past, the absurdity of this comment, “power is serving as a check to power” struck me as especially ridiculous. It’s right up there with “stop the steal” in terms of being based in delusion.

    • John H. Marble says:

      I always appreciate a public forum where differing points of view are discussed. At the same time, It is disappointing when the discussion becomes rude. Mr. Shadle, your message would have been much more effective if you would have avoided your ad hominem attack. What a shame.

  4. Steven Reynolds says:

    Well that was a crazy meeting last night….. Just some observations.

    Politics is interesting, just didn’t see this one coming, it’s amazing which politicians end up being in coalitions together. Marilyn, Stacy and Bessie just gave a huge amount of power over to the conservative PAC’s backing Matilda. Stacy is going to be a major target if she tries to run, especially since that’s Sharon’s district (and she voted for the utility tax and wants to put in a homeless encampment *cough *cough zoning change). Sharon can just sit back and let the union and the PAC’s do the work for her. Sharon has 75% without even lifting a finger, I’m in shock to see this scenario play out. Sharon is really hurt right now and she is loved by a lot of people in this town… Just wow!!!

    I sent this email to one of the councilors…

    “Yea… CoC (Chamber) and PAC’s are going to be relentless against the more liberal council members next time around, just like the school board. Those members that voted against Sharon are certainly not going to get the CoC vote (except Matilda), but they also just alienated the 50% that voted for Sharon by alienating her, what voting bloc do they have? They‘re going to be fighting on a two front war, with motivated business dollars on one side and Sharon and her union friends on the other. Wow….”

    And then there’s the zoning change and the poor slobs that have no idea what’s coming to their neighborhoods, what happens when you don’t pay attention, everyone on the call pretty much figured out what was going on. I like the positions of Matilda and Sharon, they represent two sides of moderate centrist politics, one slightly left, one slightly right. After reading the Tom McCall autobiography I believe these two together represent a McCall type political doctrine, as you can tell I’m a fan. Just a wild night of the new normal.

  5. James Engel says:

    We’ve heard enough from her! Take the door to the liberal left to exit. Goodbye.

  6. Glenda Fleming says:

    I’m so very angry that that each of my Councilors voted against Konopa. They may find someone who more agrees with their own personal agendas, but they will never find anyone more qualified for that position — and they know it.

    They’ve both lost my votes for their re-elections. I’m speaking to you, Bessie and Marilyn.

  7. Kate Huber says:

    Dear Albany City Council: I thought we are living in an era where diversity is important. How can an appointment of someone be denied because they’re opposed to growth and development (a misstatement of what Sharon Konopa stands for)? City Council and Planning Commissioners are representing our community, a diverse community; therefore not everyone should think the same. It surely does sound like good-ole-boy back room dealing.

  8. TLH-ALB1 says:

    “24 years…”
    Have you really looked at the condition of Albany??
    Kinda reminds me of the definition of insanity…

  9. Sueebee says:

    Keep Kanopa out of our city planner… there is a reason she lost the vote… and rightly so!

  10. Rich Kellum says:

    There is a reason that the former Council endorsed her opponent in the last Mayoral election, every councilor, not just the conservatives but the most liberal as well.

  11. Anne Taleff says:

    It was cruel that Sharon Konopa was not welcomed with open arms into the Council. She is the most qualified and experienced. Albany would be so awful if all were pro growth for growth’s sake.
    She’s a selfless person who has done huge things for our city. To insult her, then to put in in the paper: so tacky, cruel, and crude. The Council is not deserving of her contributions. She deserves much better.


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