A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Meanwhile, at City Hall …

Written October 23rd, 2017 by Hasso Hering

A flock of migrating Canada geese take their ease Monday in Albany’s sunny Bryant Park.

Geese stopping in Bryant Park during their autumn migration had nothing to do with what the Albany City Council had on its agenda Monday, but they made for a better picture than parking issues and garbage rates.

While the geese were nibbling grass and resting by the banks of the Willamette, the council (among other things) agreed on parking changes around the post office, was routinely informed of a 3.5 percent price increase for Republic Services’ trash and recycling service on Jan. 1, and probably prolonged its next few meetings by adding a nonvoting member in place of vacationing Mike Sykes.

The only thing unusual was the appointment of the stand-in for Sykes, which the council did on a 4-2 vote — with Sykes joining the majority by cell phone from somewhere on the road. Two weeks ago, with Sykes already absent, the council had declined to ratify his naming a “guest councilor.” Had Sykes not been allowed to vote in absentia, the outcome Monday would have been the same.

In 2009, the council adopted a resolution allowing members to appoint, with council consent, a stand-in from the same ward to serve “once each year” when they have to be absent. Sykes had told the council he would go on an extended vacation and miss several meetings. He wanted to name Scott Pierson, a member of the budget committee, to sit in for him.

That’s what the council confirmed Monday, over the objections of Councilors Dick Olsen, also representing Ward I, and Ray Kopczynski of Ward II. Councilman Rich Kellum moved to allow Pierson to sit in — not once as the 2009 resolution said — but “on all regular and work session council meetings in a nonvoting capacity” while Sykes is on his current vacation.

Mayor Sharon Konopa also objected, in vain. She said council meetings likely will be prolonged as proceedings are explained to the guest — and for what, since he won’t be able to take part in decisions. And the person responsible — the absent member — won’t be subjected to this because, well, he’s away.

Ah yes, the parking. After chewing this over for a couple of prior meetings, the council Monday raised no objection to changes in allowed parking times around the post office. On Calapooia Street, 11 of 19 new spaces will be designated as three-hour-customer and employee-permit spaces. The other eight, the same number as before the street was rebuilt this year, will remain unrestricted. On Second Avenue in front of the post office, the 30-minute limit will be changed to three hours to accommodate customers at the PO as well as places across the street.

The Republic Service price hike taking effect in January averages out to 74 cents a month for the company’s residential Albany customers. The 3.5 percent boost was determined based on the Consumer Price Index in Portland and Salem, the price of diesel fuel, and the dumping rate at Coffin Butte. The council had agreed to the formula several years ago.

As for the geese, they don’t care about any of this. They’ll be long gone. (hh)



5 responses to “Meanwhile, at City Hall …”

  1. Keith says:

    This interesting turn of events peaks my interest for these reasons:

    1) The resolution used to have Scott Pierson temporarily fill Mike’s seat was written so the non-voting proxy or “guest” could attend one city council meeting per year. Not six or an unknown amount of future meetings. The resolution should have been amended prior to this surprise motion to reflect the intent of having a proxy for more than one meeting.

    2) This motion was made during a city council “work session”. Work sessions while open to the public are not well attended due to the times the meetings are scheduled. This motion was also not on the agenda. This means no citizen knew they were about to get a guest councilor they did not vote into office.

    3) Scott Pierson is CFO of Wood Caste Furniture.

    4) Wood Castle Furniture has donated thousands of dollars to the Albany Chamber of Commerce’s Good Government Council which in turn completely funded Mike Sykes’s 2016 Campaign in Ward 1.

    5) Scott Pierson is also a Board Chairperson within the Chamber of Commerce.

    6) Mike Sykes hasn’t appeared to have the temperament, pertinence, or interest in actually serving as a councilor and has already missed city council meetings or urged meetings he has attended to wrap up.

    7) Mike Sykes no doubt planned this vacation months ago knowing he would be gone for five weeks. Prior to even going on vacation the council had to vote to approve and excuse his long absence. Mike hasn’t called into the previous meetings to do his job as a city councilor but made sure to call in today to drop a motion surprise to make sure his seat stays warm.

    Is Mike Sykes planning on resigning his position upon returning from his long vacation? If he is City Council would open up interviews to appoint a replacement for the vacancy. Not a public vote. Scott Pierson would have quite an advantage if this is the case having already attended six meetings at minimum. Isn’t the best replacement the one already serving in some capacity?

    Based on how councilors voted approving this motion today it’s not a reach to assume Scott Pierson could easily be appointed to replace Mike. Scott could also be planning to run for Dicks Olsen’s seat in next years election.

    Are we getting a city councilor shoe in, yet another extension of the Chamber of Commerce on city council? Keep in mind public campaign finance records indicate The Chamber has also funded and/or endorsed Mike Sykes, Bessie Johnson, Rich Kellum, and Bill Coburn.

    Maybe all of this is too speculative but it also smells.

  2. centrist says:

    Could it be that the geese have the long view??

  3. John Hartman says:

    Yet again, monied interests have solidified their grip on local politics. No surprise that Ward 3 reps Kellum and Johnson are puppets for the Chamber of Commercialization. The voting record of these two suggests that Ward Three is a Chamber of Commerce Safe Zone.

    Given the Chamber’s death grip on the City Council, it’s no surprise that there’s little or no interest amongst the rest of the members to do anything about Sykes’ refusal to do his job. The residents of the Sykes Ward have demonstrated their complete indifference regarding good governance. Unfortunately, the Chamber of Commerce is undermining democracy by their blatant funding of Councilor elections. The people of Albany have been warned by the brilliant expose’ Keith wrote in his comments. Sykes ought to be recalled along with Kellum and Johnson

  4. James Engel says:

    Was it “indifference” from Sykes ward or were we the governed given a taste of Tammany Hall type of politics by electing a “straw man”. The straw would blow away & the Council’s favorite then would be able to be shoe horned in w/o a vote!!?? I believe in advertising this is called “bait & switch”! And the council & mayor keep getting re-elected along with burdensome tax measures. I’m an absolute supporter of term limits for any government office. Like baseball, three terms & “yer OUT!!”….JE

  5. hj.anony1@gmail.com says:

    Piqued my interest as well.

    Elect a clown, expect a circus.

    Undeniable truth on the national stage. Possibly true on the local one as well?


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