The Molalla City Council, desperate for bodies to sit at hearings to rubber stamp “plans”, is considering new Planning Commission membership rules on May 8. Wow! Instead of beefing up citizen involvement within the City limits, the plan is to throw a 3 mile outside the City limit dragnet. No mention is made of giving business or people who own property inside the City limits but don’t live there the right to serve on the PC.
As usual, “plans” done in haste will result in more crappy, short-sighted ordinances and rules that encourage an ever small, ingrown group to make decisions.
The City Council has a long and ugly record of dismissing PC members – the following open letter is a challenge to the City Council to consider dismissing a PC member who has demonstrated blatant conflict of interest and extensive ex parte contact regarding a hearing proposal. Let’s see if the “insider” club escapes dismissal – if so it will further prove how BIASED AND INGROWN the City of Molalla really is!
May 7, 2019
Open letter to Molalla City Council re: Planning Commission Membership
Dear Molalla City Council,
As you work to modify your PC membership profile please consider the following:
PC Membership: Many cities allow business owners/ owners of city property who don’t live in the city limits to serve on a PC. Your proposed ordinance just outlines 3 mile residence limit. Why not allow property/business owners to be on your PC?
Citizen Involvement Committee: What will serve as the state mandated Citizen Involvement Committee since that is stricken from the proposed language? Every city must have a Citizen Involvement per Goal One. Molalla’s failure to have vigorous involvement in city issues is likely directly related to Molalla’s failure to have an active Citizen Involvement Committee per DLCD’s Goal One mandate:
“Opportunities for widespread public involvement
Effective two-way communication with the public
The ability for the public to be involved in all phases of the planning process
Making technical information easy to understand
Feedback mechanisms for policy-makers to respond to public input, and adequate financial support for public involvement efforts
The goal also calls for local governments to have a committee for citizen involvement (CCI) to monitor and encourage public participation in planning.”
PC Members unfit to serve because of ethical conflicts of interest/ ex parte contact in violation of hearing rules: A current member of your PC, Jennifer Walton-Satter, is also an elected member of the School Board. That always seemed like a potential direct conflict of interest/ethical problem because the School Board is often concerned about development stressing the ability of the School District to absorb more students. This conflict of interest has now been graphically illustrated on social media on Molalla Now Facebook.
Ms. Walton-Satter has violated the rules of ex parte contact for quasi-legislative hearings and expressed her bias as a Molalla School board with the opinion that proposed development will not burden schools with students but will provide needed revenue for the Molalla School District:
Further examples of Ms. Walton-Satter’s ex-parte contact and bias in favor of the proposed Cascade development include:
Ms. Walton-Satter’s extensive discussion on Molalla Now Facebook social media is clearly a violation of hearing rules on ex parte contact and demonstrates bias in favor of a plan that has not been through a Planning Commission hearing she is scheduled to participate in on May 15. Ms. Walton-Satter should at least be required to recluse herself from participating at the May 15 hearing. Given the past dismissals of PC members for unexcused absences and for asking questions at PC meetings, it would seem the City Council and Mayor should consider whether Ms. Walton-Satter should be dismissed from the PC because the demonstrated bias in the above ex-parte contacts shows she is not fit to serve on the Molalla Planning Commission while serving on the Molalla School Board.
It is long overdue for Molalla to have a stable, well trained and independent Planning Commission and to promote citizen involvement. Allowing people to serve on a PC who have hidden agendas because they serve on other boards and commissions defeats the any hope of having a fair and unbiased Planning Commission.