Just recently, Baker City has improved their ability to take comments from citizens. I for one, have great difficulty speaking in public--especially to powerful people who I believe do not understand or respect me--thats why I write a lot. Others also do not feel comfortable expressing their opinions to Council at a Council meeting for various reasons, perhaps similar to mine, or, perhaps related to the class they find themselves in. Now, anybody can post their concerns to the city on their website. Just go to the "Latest News" link on the website and scroll down through the news to a subject that interests you. The website is currently very slow on my Mac, but maybe you will have a different experience. They had a Google virus alert a few weeks ago during the transportation plan process when people were trying to access the necessary documents, but it seems to have been taken care of. It might take some patience. When your subject of interest shows up, read the info and at the bottom you may find a comment or two and an opportunity to comment yourself.
For example, for the "Citizen On Patrol Volunteer--Community Information Meeting" that occurred on June 20, 2013, they have:
My comments there are:
refugee2000 • Mike and City Council, I think "Ordinance Compliance Checks" should not be one of the duties of Citizens on Patrol. That sort of enforcement should be left to a hopefully professional police officer on the force, or better yet, to neighbors familiar with the situation. There is too much room for abuse due to political, personal, religious, and other agendas, or due to over-zealous volunteers.
My recollection is that when the Council passed the property maintenance ordinance, they said enforcement would target only the most egregious cases. I believe that was the word they used. It appears to me that those cases have been, or are in the process of being taken care of. Egregious cases are also easily spotted by the current code enforcement officer. Having a troop of volunteers snooping around the neighborhoods looking for violations seems to ratchet code enforcement up to a whole new level that was not intended by the Council that passed the property maintenance ordinance. Poor people might get the impression that they are living in the old Soviet Union or with the East German Stasi.
Yesterday I photographed a property on Dewey that Officer Davidson had requested a property maintenance case number for [the day earlier]. It seemed to me that they were in compliance because they had obviously kept their property up and the lawn looked like it had been mowed in the last week or two. They had a garden on the parkway that had some weeds like sweet clover in it, but some people don't consider them weeds, and those kind of gardens grow higher that the 10 inch requirement in the property maintenance ordinance in any event. If the City is going to target them for a violation, then they might as well target half the city. Is that where this is going???
I might mention that someone I know who had a husband In Iraq was given a citation, but it never turned up in the Press Log and was later dropped.
One person I talked to suggested that the City drop the punitive approach, and have the volunteers help these people with the volunteer's concerns, rather than turn them in for a suspected "violation" of the ordinance.
Thinking about "property maintenance," it was interesting to see Bill Uttenreuther, 1410 Dewey, Baker City, in the city video at the Council meeting on June 11, 2013. Mr. Uttenreuther is a retired city firefighter (Family PERS income 38,000+/yr according to the Oregonian website) with a lot of time on his hands apparently, so he went before the Council to report on properties that, in his estimation, didn't pass muster. I'm surprised that he had the time, because I was under the impression that he spent a lot of it on our heavily subsidized golf course. You know the one, it's the City golf course that Councilor Button and Kata Bulinski's back yard backs up to. Why Kata rarely, if ever, identifies herself as Clair's significant other when she's ranting to the Council, that her significant other sits on, about burn barrels and etc., is something I'll never quite understand. But then I've never understood either why Councilor Clair Button doesn't declare a potential or actual conflict of interest when he advances ever more taxpayer money to the golf course, which in my estimation, props up his property value, as it sits on the back nine holes. It's not like we need the money for all our ongoing and looming basic infrastructure expenses--we can always stick it to the ratepayers and we gotta keep that back nine green and gorgeous!
In response to the City Council's non-response about my concerns with the new transportation plan, I wrote:
OK, so they cut me off and all those comments were pretty much ignored by the Planning Commission--that's Baker. There was certainly no rational response, and my comments seemed to be completely ignored by the Council too, as they too didn't respond. (I guess the message is, "Hey, that's Baker, get used to it poor boy. Too bad you don't have the $400.00 it takes to start an appeal.")
The Planning Department has continued to send relevant information, after the local transportation plan process is over, and which I had asked for some time ago. At least they are belatedly trying! Turns out that Mr. Tim Collins, a current member of the Planning Commission and PERS retiree (annual family benefit $85,106) who lives up on the hill above the golf course, was involved as a City Attorney back in 1981, at which time he and the Council had the duties of the Committee for Citizen Involvement turned over to the Planning Commission. The Planning Department and I are currently trying to find evidence of whether Mr. Collins ever received a letter from the state with recommendations, and which also approved the change.
I.E. The Statewide Planning Goal 1 requires that:
a letter shall be submitted to the Land Conservation and Development Commission for the state Citizen Involvement Advisory Committee's review and recommendation stating the rationale for selecting this option, as well as indicating the mechanism to be used for an evaluation of the citizen involvement program.There is, as of now, no evidence produced that indicates a review by the state that would justify the Planning Commission serving as the Committee for Citizen Involvement, and in any event, the current Planning Commission is not "broadly representative of geographic areas and interests related to land use and land-use decisions” and does not "involve a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process," so could not in any rational mind be construed to comply with the requirements of Statewide Planning Goal 1 for the Committee for Citizen Involvement.
In response to a note from the City on the matter, I responded:
OK, enough of the opportunities for comment--you really should use the City's comment facility if you have concerns. They do require an email address, which may be a problem for some that are afraid of retribution, like City employees or. . . .
Thank you . . . .,
I do realize that most residents are not yet aware of the opportunity to comment on the City website, just as they were not aware of the specific changes being recommended by the transportation plan. I think what you and the city administration have done to facilitate this communication is great progress for Baker City democracy if and when people become aware of it. The more Baker City enables people to become involved through the communication advances provided by the internet and etc., the better off we will be in understanding what Baker City citizens would like to see happening in their city and in their neighborhoods. One problem, of course, is that many of our older or lower income citizens may not possess a computer, or may not be computer literate.
I gave my comments to the Planning Commission at their meeting on May 29th, and I was told that the comments were included in the packets for the Council at the June 11th meeting. I also sent my comments to the Council prior to the June 11, 2013 meeting using the email addresses available on the city website at http://www.bakercity.com/city-.... None of them have responded to date.
I have received additional information today from the Planning Department, but they have yet to find a response on the the final recommendation from the CIAC concerning their assigning the Committee for Citizens Involvement to the Planning Commission, which is, as I read it, required by law. As the Planning Commission membership changes from year to year, one might hope that the City would seek the CIAC's approval to make sure that the Commission is in compliance with Statewide Planning Goal 1, which is that the CCI "involve a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process." Additionally, both Goal 1 and the Oregon Revised Statute require that committees flowing from a "program for citizen involvement,” including the CCI, be "broadly representative of geographic areas and of interests relating to land uses and land use decisions." None of the committees, including the Planning Commission itself, comply with that requirement. As I note in my comments from May 29 above, the current Planning Commission is not "broadly representative" of the citizens of Baker City, and most certainly is not representative of those of us who live west of the tracks and south of the railroad overpass on Dewey/Hwy 7.
I would recommend that the City arrange for a Committee for Citizens Involvement that "involve[s] a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process." and that is "broadly representative of geographic areas and of interests relating to land uses and land use decisions." Some neighborhoods do not share the land use values of those who choose to live downtown or in the newer neighborhoods, and we still cherish our rural, not so spic and span, rural atmosphere. Sometimes the City has to personally ask people from the various neighborhoods to be involved, or otherwise they might not take announcements of calls for committee membership seriously--that is as actually include them. There are those who have opinions but who are reticent to give them for various reasons. That is why questionnaires sent to citizens, as recommended by the State's discussion on Planning Goal 1, should be used early in the process. I would also recommend that the City inform citizens not just about a process that is occurring, but that the City inform citizen property owners by mail of the specific changes being suggested for their neighborhood as soon as those changes are floated by the connected folks involved on the committees creating the plan.
I appreciate you for your response and would thank you for fair consideration of my comments,
1985 15th Street,