Editorial: Clearer air in Parkdale and Cascade Locks

September 14, 2011

The air is a bit clearer in Parkdale these days.

And, to an extent, also in Cascade Locks, where the atmosphere is a bit easier to inhale in City Council room at City Hall. Interim city administrator Paul Koch started work two weeks ago and immediately began a process of goal setting for the council.

A detailed plan for resolving fire department issues emerged as the council's new top priority, followed by improving financial reports, developing a plan and strategies for negotiating with Nestlé Waters and bringing them to town, developing a comprehensive water system master plan, and developing a plan for city operation of the wastewater treatment plant.

(Look for details on the plan in Saturday's edition.)

Mayor George Fischer and Council President Tiffany Pruit, along with the rest of council, expressed thanks to Koch for "easing the burden" that came in August when the city had no administrator and Fischer had to serve as acting administrator, backed up by Pruit when Fischer underwent surgery on his knee.

"I like the way we're heading," Council Member Tom Cramblett said.

There was still distinct disagreement Monday night, but little rancor during the session. As is the case each meeting, several citizens spoke critically of the council for its handling of the fire department and other city issues, while others praised the current council. In the past five months the public comment periods have been pugnacious; this week's was merely prickly. A slight rearrangement of the podium and public chairs made getting up and down from seating more comfortable.

This is not a minor point in the tight quarters that is the council chambers. The entry to the room opens directly onto the seating area, and prior to Monday's meeting the podium was just four feet inside the door and the speaker looks directly down on one of the council members.

Given the close proximity of people who are politically at odds, if not hostile toward each other, the seating situation is generally uncomfortable (as there are rarely any vacant seats) and sometimes feels dangerous as adversaries literally come nose-to-nose in passing between chairs to and from the doorway or podium.

All in all, the layout of the room is not conducive to positive democratic interactions.

While Koch and others are helping create a more expansive forum for people to communicate, this leads to one dramatic, but simple recommendation.

It is an idea that can help improve the physical restrictions while also enhancing the democratic process in the community: knock out the back (north) wall of the chambers, and expand the council chambers into that space. That would give more room for staff and council, as well as the public, and allow for better placement of the podium where people address council. Also, it would give more room for the filing cabinets and other gear that fills one corner, and provide more room for the cable television camera, and unsung public servant, operator Betty Rush.

The big question is: where do you move the library? To another facility in the community, one with ample space available: Cascade Locks School.

Superintendent Charlie Beck said he would welcome discussing the move, so there is a willing first partner in such a plan.

Changes in human space can foster a change in human spirit. Citizens' readiness to participate in the process can be greatly affected by the environment. Cascade Locks needs a more open space to match a more open attitude.

Whatever the political fortunes of current Cascade Locks elected officials, the level of citizen participation in town - always high - will only increase. Figuratively and literally, good can come from knocking down walls.

The air is a bit clearer in Parkdale these days.

And, to an extent, also in Cascade Locks, where the atmosphere is a bit easier to inhale in City Council room at City Hall. Interim city administrator Paul Koch started work two weeks ago and immediately began a process of goal setting for the council.

A detailed plan for resolving fire department issues emerged as the council's new top priority, followed by improving financial reports, developing a plan and strategies for negotiating with Nestlé Waters and bringing them to town, developing a comprehensive water system master plan, and developing a plan for city operation of the wastewater treatment plant.

(Look for details on the plan in Saturday's edition.)

Mayor George Fischer and Council President Tiffany Pruit, along with the rest of council, expressed thanks to Koch for "easing the burden" that came in August when the city had no administrator and Fischer had to serve as acting administrator, backed up by Pruit when Fischer underwent surgery on his knee.

"I like the way we're heading," Council Member Tom Cramblett said.

There was still distinct disagreement Monday night, but little rancor during the session. As is the case each meeting, several citizens spoke critically of the council for its handling of the fire department and other city issues, while others praised the current council. In the past five months the public comment periods have been pugnacious; this week's was merely prickly. A slight rearrangement of the podium and public chairs made getting up and down from seating more comfortable.

This is not a minor point in the tight quarters that is the council chambers. The entry to the room opens directly onto the seating area, and prior to Monday's meeting the podium was just four feet inside the door and the speaker looks directly down on one of the council members.

Given the close proximity of people who are politically at odds, if not hostile toward each other, the seating situation is generally uncomfortable (as there are rarely any vacant seats) and sometimes feels dangerous as adversaries literally come nose-to-nose in passing between chairs to and from the doorway or podium.

All in all, the layout of the room is not conducive to positive democratic interactions.

While Koch and others are helping create a more expansive forum for people to communicate, this leads to one dramatic, but simple recommendation.

It is an idea that can help improve the physical restrictions while also enhancing the democratic process in the community: knock out the back (north) wall of the chambers, and expand the council chambers into that space. That would give more room for staff and council, as well as the public, and allow for better placement of the podium where people address council. Also, it would give more room for the filing cabinets and other gear that fills one corner, and provide more room for the cable television camera, and unsung public servant, operator Betty Rush.

The big question is: where do you move the library? To another facility in the community, one with ample space available: Cascade Locks School.

Superintendent Charlie Beck said he would welcome discussing the move, so there is a willing first partner in such a plan.

Changes in human space can foster a change in human spirit. Citizens' readiness to participate in the process can be greatly affected by the environment. Cascade Locks needs a more open space to match a more open attitude.

Whatever the political fortunes of current Cascade Locks elected officials, the level of citizen participation in town - always high - will only increase. Figuratively and literally, good can come from knocking down walls.

The air is a bit clearer in Parkdale these days.

And, to an extent, also in Cascade Locks, where the atmosphere is a bit easier to inhale in City Council room at City Hall. Interim city administrator Paul Koch started work two weeks ago and immediately began a process of goal setting for the council.

A detailed plan for resolving fire department issues emerged as the council's new top priority, followed by improving financial reports, developing a plan and strategies for negotiating with Nestlé Waters and bringing them to town, developing a comprehensive water system master plan, and developing a plan for city operation of the wastewater treatment plant.

(Look for details on the plan in Saturday's edition.)

Mayor George Fischer and Council President Tiffany Pruit, along with the rest of council, expressed thanks to Koch for "easing the burden" that came in August when the city had no administrator and Fischer had to serve as acting administrator, backed up by Pruit when Fischer underwent surgery on his knee.

"I like the way we're heading," Council Member Tom Cramblett said.

There was still distinct disagreement Monday night, but little rancor during the session. As is the case each meeting, several citizens spoke critically of the council for its handling of the fire department and other city issues, while others praised the current council. In the past five months the public comment periods have been pugnacious; this week's was merely prickly. A slight rearrangement of the podium and public chairs made getting up and down from seating more comfortable.

This is not a minor point in the tight quarters that is the council chambers. The entry to the room opens directly onto the seating area, and prior to Monday's meeting the podium was just four feet inside the door and the speaker looks directly down on one of the council members.

Given the close proximity of people who are politically at odds, if not hostile toward each other, the seating situation is generally uncomfortable (as there are rarely any vacant seats) and sometimes feels dangerous as adversaries literally come nose-to-nose in passing between chairs to and from the doorway or podium.

All in all, the layout of the room is not conducive to positive democratic interactions.

While Koch and others are helping create a more expansive forum for people to communicate, this leads to one dramatic, but simple recommendation.

It is an idea that can help improve the physical restrictions while also enhancing the democratic process in the community: knock out the back (north) wall of the chambers, and expand the council chambers into that space. That would give more room for staff and council, as well as the public, and allow for better placement of the podium where people address council. Also, it would give more room for the filing cabinets and other gear that fills one corner, and provide more room for the cable television camera, and unsung public servant, operator Betty Rush.

The big question is: where do you move the library? To another facility in the community, one with ample space available: Cascade Locks School.

Superintendent Charlie Beck said he would welcome discussing the move, so there is a willing first partner in such a plan.

Changes in human space can foster a change in human spirit. Citizens' readiness to participate in the process can be greatly affected by the environment. Cascade Locks needs a more open space to match a more open attitude.

Whatever the political fortunes of current Cascade Locks elected officials, the level of citizen participation in town - always high - will only increase. Figuratively and literally, good can come from knocking down walls.

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