Open letter below to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, Molalla Mayor Debbie Rogge, Molalla City Manager Dan Huff and greedy Molalla “business” cronies Eric Kyllo (insurance agent), Joan Deardorff (landlord), Carol Maloy (real estate agent), Karl Ivanov (developer), Susan Barlow (real estate agent) and Julie Deardorff Gilkison (who takes stabs at a community group she never attended – then I realized she is just another grasping Deardorff!) regarding their attempts to silence free speech because it “damages” the City of Molalla (note the “business” names and boycott their businesses if you value the First Amendment!).
First, here’s the email from Tea Party Tootie Smith to Molalla Mayor Debbie Rogger that solicited slam letters to try to stop a community election and to try to eject candidates; clearly Tea Party Tootie drove the process.
April 3, 2014
I have listened to recent work sessions where claims have been made about the city of Molalla, its developers and its economy. I refute the claims made by Commissioner Smith and her Molalla business cronies (most do not live in the city limits of Molalla) regarding the reasons Molalla is decayed, close to insolvent and facing a bleak future. The views expressed are my private opinions as a citizen of Clackamas County.
First, it is ridiculous to believe that the opinions of any individual can kill a town’s future. Unethical city “leaders”, inept managers, business owners who fail to re-invest profits back into the community and inattentive residents have only themselves to blame for Molalla’s failure to thrive.
Out of concern for land use and the environment, I have, as a rural resident near Molalla, closely monitored the City of Molalla since 2007 as it went insolvent pushing an illegal urban reserve proposal. Once insolvent, it was discovered, via a forensic audit, that 2.5 million dollars of system development money could not be accounted for. Molalla has had four different city managers in less than three years. Its public records are in such total disarray that the City recently could not produce the record for a 2005 annexation (by state law, annexations are permanent records).
Landlords refuse to upgrade or to tear down and rebuild decayed buildings so blighted commercial vacancies abound. Old downtown features dirty bars, a quasi-pawn shop and blocks of empty storefronts, all the markers of urban ghettos. Commissioner Smith’s own B&B has been for sale for years with no buyer in sight, along with a host of other for sale commercial real estate and empty land.
Terrible planning that catered to developers’ greed for quick profit instead of quality neighborhoods produced a glut of cheap houses during the real estate boom. Molalla was a state leader in foreclosure rates during the bust and now the prices are still highly depressed. Molalla struggles every month to stay in the black; it has ceased managing its senior center and soon will likely have to close its pool. Residents face the longest commutes to family wage jobs of any city in Clackamas County; Tax Assessor Bob Vroman recently commented that each time gas prices rise, real estate values fall in Molalla.
Molalla failed to provide adequate parks, bike routes and sidewalks as it stuffed in houses; now it can’t afford to correct those glaring quality of life failures. A recent study proved that entrepreneurs seek high quality of life cities that are well connected to other cities when they seek to locate businesses – tax incentives and handouts were at the bottom of the list. Molalla can’t meet the desired high quality of life or the business connectivity profile.
Entrepreneurs also look at the education levels of an urban work force – US Census facts show that Washington County leads the Metro areas with 39.5 % of its residents 25 or older with college degrees; Multnomah has 39.2% and Clackamas County trails with 31.8%/. The State average for urban areas with bachelor’s degrees is 29.2%. Beaverton has 43.4%; PDX 43.1%; Silverton 29.1%; Canby 26.1%; Oregon City 22.3%; Woodburn 12.3%. Molalla comes in dead last on this list with a miserable 9.7% of its residents 25 and older with bachelor’s degrees. That sad rating reflects on the lack of urban citizen involvement opportunities in Molalla and its inability to fill essential boards like the city planning commission or the library board.
Molalla’s failure to upgrade its infrastructure is of urgent concern. It’s ludicrous that anyone can believe a city can grow its economy without well managed funds to fix roads, drinking water systems or sewers. Old Molalla is served by archaic concrete asbestos drinking water pipes. Molalla’s roads are a disgrace – a network of potholes, failed paving, standing water, open roadside ditches, with some neighborhoods lacking paved streets. Molalla’s wastewater systems are in rough shape, with glaring problems; solutions are not in sight.
Comments were made about an apartment developer. That developer in Molalla failed to obtain state highway access permits and failed to file the required ODOT traffic study before he broke ground on the apartments. No one contested his apartment project.
When the developer began to do work without permits and before any land use hearing for proposed garage/ storage units on land that bordered rural residents and their exceptionally poor condition County roads, the rural neighborhood reacted in anger.
Before any hearing or permits were in place, the developer molested a creek and a historic cemetery that has Pioneers graves dating to the 1850’s. The developer trimmed heritage oak trees on the public cemetery and dragged houses across it without permission. He was cited for improper removal and fill. He carved access to county roads on a Saturday without county road access permits. He moved houses back and forth across waters of the state without permits from the Army Corp of Engineers.
Again, all of the above occurred before any land use hearing. Molalla failed to legally notice the hearing – there was no notice to community groups like the CPO, the hamlet or in the local paper. There was no notice to county roads department. There was no notice to the State Historical Protection Office, which after the fact said any work done within 200 feet of the cemetery should have had an archaeologist on site to protect the sanctity of unmarked graves. When this lack of notice was protested to Molalla and to Clackamas County citizens were ignored.
Molalla, in ten years, squandered at least 1.5 million dollars of public money that came from State and County taxpayers. That public money fostered industrial parks that remain vacant, studied things that Molalla could not afford to implement and produced land use documents Molalla failed to adopt.
Molalla “promoters” cling to pipe dreams of truck bypasses when they can’t maintain a legal sewer system and can’t even fix potholes or pave neighborhood streets. That grandiose view of what Molalla wishes it could be defeats any hope of compliance with permits and fixing the glaring quality of life issues.
If Commissioner Smith is concerned about Molalla’s future, why has her B&B been for sale with no takers for years? Why is she trying to abandon her business in Molalla if Molalla is such a hot ticket for future success and growth? Why has Commissioner Smith, who lives rural in Mulino, not stepped in to guide Molalla to success long ago if she has answers to Molalla’s dire problems?
Molalla’s good old boy, highly ingrained cronyism, as displayed in the letters shared by Commissioner Smith, is at the heart of Molalla’s failure. I pity the poor trapped residents of Molalla, whose property values are still tanking. Those resident family “investors” are held hostage by petty bourgeois business interests and incompetent city management that see them only as marks with money in their pockets, instead of as deserving, often struggling families who need great quality of life with decent parks, sidewalks, bike routes and well maintained roads, sewers and water systems, overseen by competent and ethical city management.
The County and Molalla may enjoy looking the other way when code, legal noticing and environmental violations occur, but watchdogs and whistleblowers will not be silenced when they see ill managed public money and find environmental atrocities. Most of all, the First Amendment gives everyone the right to call public attention to violations and to state their personal opinions about politics, government and quality of life issues.
It’s essential that everyone know the state of Molalla’s decay, so unwitting people don’t get trapped paying through the nose in the future to fix the ever growing, glaring problems Commissioner Smith and her business cronies want to sweep under the carpet.
Molalla truly is a mess and futile attempts to silence dissent and criticism won’t do a thing to fix Molalla’s deeply ingrained social, governmental, financial and environmental problems.