May 28, 2018

Term Limits Encourage New Ideas, Less Stagnation

In Troutdale, former City Councilor John Wilson has stepped up as the chief petitioner to put term limits on the ballot for all city elected offices.  In an interesting twist, the longest serving member of the Council – Dave Ripma – filed a court action hoping to prevent the citizens of Troutdale from having a vote on this issue.
First, some background.  Troutdale has had substantial challenges ignored or left unsolved for many years due to personalities and personal agendas.  These lingering issues remain largely due to certain Councilors who have been re-elected without opposition, due in part to support from public employee unions who are well funded, well connected;and also to good, old fashioned bullying.  This cannot continue.


Inside Troutdale's condemned city hall.
Two simple and obvious examples of inaction are the Imagination Station park rebuild and the City Hall fiasco.  With Imagination Station, a beloved, volunteer constructed wood play structure was partially destroyed by an arsonist.  The same group of citizens immediately mobilized to make repairs and collect donations, only to be stymied by personal agendas and inaction.  This effort to “slow down” the process of rebuilding the structure for children was in part due to a desire by some Councilors to prevent a political opponent from getting a “win” in an election year.  Of course, the children suffered, not the fossilized politicians.

With the City Hall, one proposal was killed five years ago due solely to long-standing personal agendas and animosity.  The City would already be in a modern building that it owns without increasing taxes.  Instead, taxpayers foot the bill for endless studies and estimates from engineers and specialty contractors to preserve a failing building.

After spending tens of thousands of dollars on the engineering estimates and inspections, Councilor Ripma still refuses to agree that spending millions to squeeze another twenty years of life out of an old building that is not up to current code standards is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

He is pushing his personal agenda instead and is ignoring what is most cost effective for the taxpayers.  So the City languishes in this process, with no decision in sight, all the while paying a lease payment for space without any ownership of the building.  We are nearly eight years after the old City Hall was abandoned as unsafe, yet the old guard fights and quibbles and accomplishes nothing.

In any small town, is it so easy to simply elect and re-elect the same people willing to serve.  After all, it is a challenging job with a lot of responsibility.  This has been the Troutdale model and it is failing.  When a seat is left without an incumbent running for re-election, we typically see several candidates.  This shows the widespread interest in serving.

Some of our more recent, newly elected councilors, have taken the lead on proposals such as updating the City website to make it modern and functional, not to mention using social media as a way to communicate with the younger generation of residents.  All great ideas that were heavily resisted by the longer serving Councilors.

At the end of the day, is it really to Troutdale’s benefit to have people serving more than twenty years on City Council when others with new, fresh, ideas should also have the chance to serve?  Times and ideas and technology change and Troutdale should have an easier time accepting than.  Terms limits will accomplish that.

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