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home : editorial : editorial June 24, 2016

5/13/2014 12:38:00 PM
The City and its critics
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

The City of Sisters should reconsider its decision regarding making recordings of its meetings available on its website.

Any move to make local government more accessible to citizens is a worthy consideration, and taking advantage of technology to do so is a good idea. Not only will it make the actions of the city council more accessible and transparent, it will also make it more convenient for interested parties - including the councilors themselves - to refer back to the record.

There are some costs associated with this, of course, but they are not onerous. The fact that Sisters would be one of a few cities to do so should be an enticement, not a deterrent. Sisters should be proud to innovate.

The fact that the suggestion is being touted by some of the city leadership's most vociferous critics is irrelevant. Leadership should take ideas at face value, regardless of where they come from.

Of course, City leadership might be more inclined to do that if they didn't feel that they will be slammed by critics regardless of what they do or don't do.

Take, for example, the recent hiring of a forestry consultant. Dan Galecki of Spindrift Forestry Consulting in Bend has been hired as a contract consultant and will be tasked with consulting the City on actions involving trees (including but not limited to removal). He is currently helping the City develop an Urban Forest Management Plan. This is a positive thing, professionalizing Sisters' tree management.

Yet there are complaints.

Critics would have us believe that because the City is paying Galecki, and he's working with city staff, there's an inherent conflict of interest, that this forester of more than two decades' experience will sacrifice his professional integrity to act as the city manager's "amen chorus."

Generally, when you pay an expert consultant for advice and expertise, you take their advice seriously and act in concert with it unless there is some compelling reason not to do so. Everything in Galecki's professional background indicates that he will give the City professional, dispassionate advice on urban forest management. The City should be expected to heed and act upon his advice.

It also has not escaped notice that some of those who are most concerned about Sisters' trees have made no effort to acknowledge the planting last month of more than 30 fine trees on the border of Creekside Park.

So, it's little wonder that the City leadership casts a jaundiced eye on valid suggestions that come from critics who seem to have their knives out to take a whack or two and draw a little blood over any move they make.

Activists who actually want to effect positive change might take a page out of the book crafted by the late Tim Lillebo. His work in the forests of Sisters Country demonstrates that it's possible to work with people holding widely divergent visions and interests, to hold the most hidebound government agencies to account, and to do it in a manner that builds bridges and working partnerships instead of carving out rifts and chasms. His work helped create results that are a model for other forests, a legacy that supports both healthy forests and healthy communities.

A better local example of effective activism would be hard to find.

City leadership should be open to ideas that come even from their harshest critics. No matter how frustrated or angry they may be, there is no room for condescending or rude behavior on the part of public officials. Setting aside frustration, hurt feelings and personal animosities is part of the job.

For their part, the City's critics might reflect upon whether they are really interested in making things better, or only interested in opposition for its own sake.

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