March 6, 2019 — During Monday evening’s Florence City Council meeting, held for the first time in the newly renovated City Hall at 250 Highway 101, some voiced concern over Mayor Joe Henry’s authority to solely appoint FURA committee members. The final decision on an official change to policy regarding appointments was ultimately postponed until next month’s meeting.
The evening began with the introduction by City Manager Erin Reynolds of two new city employees, Finance Manager Lezlea Purcell and Accounting Clerk Katie Bennett.
There was a short list of consent items on the council’s agenda, a procedural change to allow for work sessions and times for the council to be changed, and approval of minutes from council meetings held in January and February.
These items were accepted and approved unanimously by council members.
City Recorder Weese also requested council authorization to apply for two separate grants, a Ford Family Foundation Grant for professional facilitation services and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development Grant in conjunction with the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN), for support of coastal entrepreneurship programs. Both grant applications were authorized with minimal discussion by councilors.
During the meeting, the most direct discussion took place between Henry and Councilor Joshua Greene, which centered around a difference of opinion on the process by which members of the Florence Urban Renewal (FURA) Committee are selected.
City Attorney Ross Williamson gave a report on the history of the FURA process and included his analysis that a clarification was necessary when it came to the critical part of the appointment equation: Who has the final authority to appoint members to the FURA Board?
“The problem I found in your code was that in Chapter 2-5, which is your urban renewal code, there was not a clear procedure for the appointment of board members. It lists how many you should have and where they should come from, but not who appoints them, so I think that was a little bit of an error in 2006,” Williamson said.
He also emphasized to councilors that there are other state-approved options available to the city when it comes to the make-up of an Urban Renewal Board.
“Under state law, you can have three choices for the make-up of the board. The governing body itself could act as the board for the urban renewal agency, which is actually the most common model throughout Oregon. Another option is what you have done, which is to appoint a separate board to run the agency. The third option, which is seldom used, utilizes a housing authority to act as the urban renewal agency,” Williamson explained. “What you see before you is an ordinance that I believe keeps things at the standard, as they are. It’s kind of a status quo ordinance. My intent was to basically keep things the way that I understand the city has been doing things for a half-dozen year at least.”
The end result, if Williamson’s recommendation for a new ordinance is eventually approved without a change in the existing procedure, would affirm the mayor’s authority to unilaterally select members of the FURA committee.
Williamson, and a short while later Henry, pointed out that the city charter specifically grants the mayor the authority to appoint all members to city committees. Williamson’s recommendation to adopt the new ordinance was accepted by Councilors Woody Woodbury and Geraldine Lucio, both commenting that the current process was working, and they saw no need for change at this time.
Councilors Greene and Ron Preisler were interested in pursuing a more inclusive model for selecting committee members by leaving the final selection of members to the full council.
“It used to be the entire council selected candidates, and we changed that last year,” Preisler said. “Some of us are not happy with that change and I am one of them. I felt not involved in this process and being a member of FURA and on the council, I would not like to see this take place.”
Henry responded to this assertion with a clarification of his own, explaining that, “A year ago, we did make a change, but it was not from all of the council voting — it was a change in the basic procedures. The city code basically says the mayor makes the appointments and has for some time. That part didn’t change. We used to interview all these people, but it was still up to the mayor. It was always up to the mayor to make these appointments.”
The most direct disagreement with Henry came from Greene, who pointed out that he has been involved in the FURA situation from the beginning of the process.
Greene recapped the steps used to determine the makeup of the committee and stressed that there was a matter of integrity and trust involved that needed to be recognized.
“I did two years of research, with 11 members of the community. One of the most important things we discovered was not to create a committee for urban renewal that operates under the council or the mayor. We specifically tried to keep this a sperate entity,” Greene said. “We should try to work towards the original intent and what was voted on, and the bottom line is a lot of people don’t trust government. If you do this, you are hurting our community, creating mistrust and opening the door to possible corruption.”
The raising of corruption as a reason for rejecting the ordinance and the obviously wide disparity between the positions of the members prompted Williamson to revisit his suggested ordinance, while noting a possible solution to the stalemate.
“The process put forward in the code is pretty detailed in terms of the mayor soliciting comments and putting forth recommendations, and in fact there is a process in the code, as it exists right now, for the council as a body to choose a different process for selecting committee members,” he said.
This observation by Williamson went mostly uncommented on by councilors and the discussion soon turned to taking action on the ordinance.
Henry asked for final comments on the action item from councilors and then called for Weese to make the required first reading of the new ordinance. He asked for consensus on the wording of the ordinance and, not receiving that assurance, scheduled the second required reading of the now pending ordinance for the April meeting of the council.
The last major item discussed by the council was a request from Florence Public Works Director Mike Miller for a substantial capital outlay totaling $39,500.
The request was made to authorize his department to purchase a 2016 Superior Broom for specific street cleaning scenarios.
“Public Works is in need of a versatile broom model sweeper to effectively clean the uncurbed paved shoulders; fine sand removal from Oak Street; street repair operations; and heavy or packed-down material such as road millings. Specifically, this equipment would be used to efficiently and effectively help us clean the wind-blown sand from Oak and 46th streets; and clean the shoulders along Rhododendron Drive,” Miller wrote in his request.
Miller added that the equipment under consideration is used but well maintained. The council authorized the expense.
Miller also reported to the councilors on the status of a number of capital projects and the committees under his supervision, including the Airport Advisory Committee.
At the end of the meeting, City Project Manager Megan Messmer updated the council on the ReVision Florence work that started on Monday. Furthermore, she highlighted the positive public response to the opening of the renovated City Hall.
Reynolds also gave a brief report on recent efforts undertaken by the busy city staff.
Henry took the time to congratulate Reynolds for having been selected and recognized as the 2019 Lane County Administrative Employee of the year.
The next City Council meeting will be held Monday, April 1, at City Hall. For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us.