“Government Bureau”: Modern Anxieties in Molalla

This stunning and disturbing painting was done by George Tooker in 1956. It is called “Government Bureau”. It could be called “Molalla Process” since Molalla’s unethical, top down government has little interest in citizen involvement. Tooker perfectly captured the grim, colorless feeling of people hopelessly trapped in the maze of non-transparent bureaucracy  – his “urban” paintings convey the feelings we all have when we feel abused and tossed aside by “government” in places like Molalla.

Molalla treated its citizens like “slots” or “piggy banks” as it stole public money to “help” land speculators.  “Manager” Atkins and pathetic “mayor” Clarke have shown no respect for the need for improved quality of life in the current city limits; citizen taxpayers and their investment in Molalla suffer. Think of this painting as houses in Molalla, marching in comic lock step, without character and without parks or open spaces to break the “cubicles”:

Molalla “government” is represented by manager’s Atkins constant drum beat to be a dictator who holds all the cards and who only dribbles out  scraps of information to influence peddle for the good old boys. An honest, competent manager would celebrate when elected Councilors and the interested public take an interest in THEIR city and IN THE FUTURE OF THEIR RURAL LANDS.

But not Molalla – we’re heading to feeling like this about welfare Molalla:

Molalla made an exceedingly poor choice when Atkins became “manager”. In his past, in West Linn, he “managed”, to alienate the community neighborhood groups. I understand from talking to West Linn officials that there was dancing in the streets when Atkins left.

Let’s hope one of these days the City Council will have the courage and the intelligence to hire COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT oriented managers and staff, leaders who emphasize diverse participation and full transparency, leaders who know that collaborative process is the only hope for a successful City. As long as the “government bureaus” in Molalla are filled with liars and power mongers, who try to hide incompetence and to morph the truth, Molalla will continue to be the bottom of the barrel among cities in Oregon.

I wish every local citizen would take the time to visit with real urban planners, to talk with and listen to real city leaders who aren’t afraid to consider the truth in public. Molalla will only move forward to protect its exceedingly slim assets if it accepts the reality of the demographic future projected for suburban outlands around America. The prospects for growth in times of peak oil are next to nil in suburbia.

It’s time to embrace the rural resources, the connections between the community on both sides of the “borders”. Molalla’s best and greatest resources are the farms, forests and natural habitats that are fiercely protected by “outsiders”.  Without the “outsiders”, what’s left of Molalla’s shrinking economy would totally implode. It is time to celebrate feed stores, saw shops, welding shops and basic food suppliers. High end isn’t coming, big lots are dead, and Molalla is next to bankrupt. The elected officials had better find the courage quickly to start to value PEOPLE over 50 year plans! The PEOPLE want concrete baby steps toward QUALITY.

I gave a top ODOT official a tour of my habitat land and of the River Corridor last week. The first words out of her mouth when she reached my farm was “What was THAT I just passed as I left the City limits?”  “THAT” was the moldering hulk of polluted ruins called Floragon.

“THAT” is what visitors see when they visit Molalla: crumbling, empty storefronts, trash filled sites, ditches instead of sidewalks, cookie cutter developments, archaic strip malls and a massive lack of parks, open space and street trees. My visitor was thrilled with the rural landscape and the Molalla River Corridor; I’m glad I could wipe out the “Desolation Row” images she saw on the way south.

Here’s how those of us who are lucky enough to live outside the gray, colorless city feel about our lives, our lands and our neighbors:

We’ll keep “peeking” at the noxious Molalla process until everyone on both sides of the urban “fence” is treated as an equal. Grow up Molalla: you have made huge mistakes and the Council has failed to assert any authority.

The clock is ticking on Molalla’s future and the “leaders” have dropped the ball on planning for quality of life. Time is running out – here comes Ghost Town Molalla…

Link to the fascinating, haunting work of George Tooker:

ARTS | March 29, 2011
George Tooker, Painter Capturing Modern Anxieties, Dies at 90
Mr. Tooker’s haunting images of trapped clerical workers and forbidding government offices expressed a peculiarly 20th-century brand of anxiety and alienation.

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