Friday, October 28, 2011
The hours of daylight may be getting shorter, but there are bright times ahead for the City of Cascade Locks.
At the forefront are newly appointed council members Gail Lewis, Mark Storm, Jeff Helfrich and Randy Holmstrom, and "the three" who continue on from the previous council: Lance Masters, Eva Zerfing and Tom Cramblett.
To be sure, all seven have much hard work ahead of them. The city government has been in stasis since July, when emergency services staffing and spending all but took over the agenda and created deep divides in the community.
A recall election removed Mayor George Fischer and councilors Don Haight, Kevin Benson and Tiffany Pruit from office. Through much of this, Fischer was all but sidelined by health problems; Pruit had to take on the dual role of councilor and acting mayor; and Fischer had to serve as acting city administrator between the hasty departure of former interim administrator Rich Carson and the hiring of current interim administrator Paul Koch.
The city has the chance now to emerge from a tunnel of conflict and duress that had gripped the community since February when former city manager Bernard Seeger departed under pressure from the former council; and a few months later when former fire chief Jeff Pricher resigned.
Now, there is a new council, with two continuing members - Masters and Zerfing - who are on record of support for Pricher and funding a full time fire chief, and one who was equally vocal - Cramblett - in wanting the department to move to all-volunteer staffing.
Cramblett was clear in his support of changing the department's organization, but was marginally less critical of Pricher than were Fischer, Benson, Haight and Pruit.
The rancor between Cramblett and Masters was apparent as recently as Sept. 26, the former council's final meeting before the recall took effect.
It remained evident on Oct. 10 when Masters remained silent after Zerfing nominated Cramblett as acting presiding officer in the trio's first quorum-less meeting. This forced Cramblett to take the unusual step of seconding his own nomination.
The matter of "personality differences" between these two important public officials is brought up for a reason.
For starters, Cramblett and Masters have shown they can get past this. They have been painfully open about their disagreements, which in a strange way is of benefit to the community. That is because other such schisms may well exist that have not been so well revealed. The lesson is this: if two seated councilors can sit side by side and, as the two men have done, get things done, then others who may harbor similar friction could benefit from their example, and get it out where light can expose and then heal it.
Further, while people can disagree, and do so vehemently, the time has come in Cascade Locks to put aside personalities and address the issues that are of such vital concern to the community.
The new and returning council members, along with Koch, realize this. Through the pending council service training workshops, a stronger sense of openness prevailing at City Hall, and citizens' willingness to give public participation another try good things can happen in Cascade Locks.
As Koch put it, "the window of opportunity for the community is still open, if everyone can start pulling together."