Sunday, April 21, 2013

Remembering those that gave their all at Iwo Jima

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So...I am a little back logged on some blog posts...I apologize for this.  I have been working on a new library, seeking a new job, and studying to secure my Mortgage Loan Originator license so I can actually earn an income.  Let's get caught up, shall we?

Mayor's of small towns like Canby are asked to attend many community events each season.  I do wish I could make them all, there are just so many evenings and weekends.  Plus I need and want my family time as well.  One event that was an honor to be a part of, held back in February, was the Iwo Jima Remembrance Ceremony and recognition of our WWII Veterans.  It was an incredibly moving ceremony with young Marines, our local Color Guard from the Legion, and 3 local WWII Veterans (two of which were at the Battle of Iwo Jima) to name a few.  The Canby Adult Center was filled with Veterans, families, and loved ones.  City Councilors Traci Hensley, Tim Dale, Ken Rider, and Clint Coleman were also in attendance.

The history of this battle is extensive and this island in the Pacific was crucial to our success in the Pacific Theater.  So many men and women were lost in this battle that was supposed to last only 3 days. This event holds meaning for me because both of my Grandfathers were in WWII - one in the South Pacific as a Navy Man, the other in the Army.  Below are a few pictures of the event and my welcome speech.

Local Young Marines from ROTC

Spreading Iwo Jima sand

Color Guard preparing the Stars and Stripes

My welcome speech:

     Good morning and thank you Irene for the wonderful introduction and for this yearly event that is so important to our veterans and our community.

     I would also like to thank the Canby Aurora Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6057, their auxiliary and their fellow veterans and service organizations.

     Welcome all you to the 18th annual ceremony of our World War two Memorial as we replace the flags and re-dedicate this memorial in remembrance of those that have served.

     While preparing for this welcome I gave myself a little refresher history lesson on the battle of Iwo Jima.  Moving past the numbers like: 26,000 wounded or killed Americans; 22,000 Japanese soldiers lying in wait; 120 bomber planes showering the island night after night; 10,000 gallons a day of fuel used for flame throwers; the pictures and videos.  Moving past phrases like “pillboxes” and the “meat grinder” two things grab me.

     First is history, the second is courage.

     History is important.  As a grandson of a World War II Army cook on one side and a Navy welder on the other, history is important.   Harold Hodson, a hard working father of two, passed away before it dawned on me that “I should ask”.  James Vlach is 95 and a great man. Every visit home to Ohio I try to draw out more about World War II, being on the Midway Aircraft Carrier in the South Pacific, his first car and seeing the Benny Goodman big-band with my grandma.  Some topics come easier than others. “I should ask”.

     Second is courage.  Our servicemen and women have a courage and a devotion to God and country that can be complicated to explain.  I admire that courage of my grandfathers and Uncles to enlist, the courage of all our veterans, and the courage of all our young people to protect and defend our country and our freedoms.

     History must be revisited to understand the courage it took to take a 5 mile long island or a beach in Normandy.  “I must ask” to hear the history from those that lived through it.  “I must ask” you, our veterans, to please share your stories with those that are close to you.  This history is so very important to remember.
For many of us this kind of service to God and country takes a level of courage we may never realize, yet we want to know and remember what it takes to keep our nation strong. 

Thank you to the veterans and enlisted men and women for your service, your protection and your courage.

God bless you, your families, and our great country. 

Thank you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Update On The URD Library Project

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After the April 17th City Council meeting, here is an update on the Library Project...

Last August, the Urban Renewal Agency approved funds to build a new library in Canby that will be located on 2nd Avenue.  Since then, planning has been underway.  We had three community meetings to get feedback as the architectural plans were rendered.  We've also been trying to finalize the acquisition of the land that the plan intends the library to be built on.

We have hit some bumps along the way, a significant one is obtaining the land intended for the new library.  While some bumps are normal and expected in any large scale project, this was significant enough for several of the members of the council to request further analysis and discussion.  The land desired for the library is currently owned by Canby Utility.  Although originally anticipated to be a land swap with the city, Canby Utility and the City instead would like to come to an agreement for the city to purchase all of the Canby Utility property located on 1st Avenue.  The "bump" is the amount we will ultimately need to purchase the property.  Myself, Greg Ellis, our city administrator, and other city staff, on Friday April 12th came together to discuss what was still to come and the need for the council to engage in serious conversation on this issue.  Staff's position was that they just wanted/needed direction to go.  Based on the information we learned from having our Urban Renewal Attorney come speak to us, we had several options presented:

  1. Are we going to stay the course? 
  2. Sit on the bond money for 10yrs then pay back the money?
  3. Should we choose another location?  
  4. Should we reallocate the bond funds to other Urban Renewal projects?

My role in these proceedings was to present where we were thus far in the library planning process and to hear from the council and the citizens of Canby their thoughts on how to proceed.  After it was voted to not proceed with the current plan to build on 2nd Avenue (a vote of 3 -2) the conversation went on to the other options.  After that dialogue on the other options, a motion was made to over turn the evening's previous vote and to go ahead with the very plan, we had a half hour before, voted down.   So, it was ultimately decided that the Council would stick with the current plan by a vote of 4-1.

I'd like to emphasize yet again my support of the council's decision to build a new library.  While as a councilor I voted against the plan, I ultimately do see a new library as a positive move for Canby.  It was my questions with the overall plan that were still vague that influenced my vote, not the library itself.  As mayor, I have met with countless people in regards to this project.  I've heard all the sides of this initial planning process.  Some have translated my desire to insist on fine tuning and reviewing of the plan as we move along as "anti-library"; some claim that we voted it in, let's just move it along and be done with it.

I hope you all know that I am a mayor that would not sit idly by and let things just "roll along" or just rubber stamp things without making sure WE have done our due diligence. Of course I am going to ask questions. Of course I am going to make sure that in this project, as well as any other project or issue with our city, I am reviewing the process, analyzing it's progress, and adjusting accordingly, as needed.  This is our largest project in more than two decades and we are shaping downtown Canby for decades to come.  I will insist that it is done well and will be something everyone will want to be proud of.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Will We Go Bankrupt? Not Likely...

I have been MIA the last month or so and I apologize.  There has been so much going on personally that blogging has had to fall to the wayside.  I will get you all caught up very soon on all that is going on in the world as it relates to Canby.  In the meantime, here is something I found to be very important to know about our state as it relates to California.

I recently read a new article about the city of Stockton, California on the verge of bankruptcy due to their $900 MILLION obligation to CalPERS, their PERS (Public Employees Retirement System).  They cannot meet it at all!  It's a scary thought when you look across the country and see this happening across the board.  Here in Canby, we are anticipating about a $750,000 PERS/benefits impact to the city budget and the school district is looking at about a $2 MILLION impact.

The state legislature has several PERS reform bills in the pipeline where the savings will go directly to the State's school budget.  It's been a topic of argument and contention among Republicas & Democrats.  I urge you to read about these reform bills that are being proposed.

With budget issues looming like PERS increases coming in the next couple of years, the question must be asked:  Can Oregon Municipalities File For Bankruptcy?  Technically, no  It is against the law.  Who knew?

I  first learned of the Stockton story on Twitter and tweeted - "Stockton owes $900 Million!  Largest city to declare bankruptcy?  Is OR going to be 1st State?  Paging bold OR leaders! #orleg"

I was quickly informed by a Twitter follower, Oregon Oracle, that we could not go bankrupt and laid out why.  Here is their response:
The article states that in Stockton, California, a city of 300,000 residents, has become the largest US city ever to enter bankruptcy. That left a lot of Oregonians wondering when Portland, Eugene, Salem or other Beaver State cities might follow suit. Not to mention Southern Oregon counties laying off deputy sheriffs and school districts hemorrhaging teachers every budget cycle.

The short answer to the question is “Never,” or at least, “Not now.” The answer has less to do with economic doldrums, crushing PERS costs or “imbalanced tax structure” and everything to do with the technical requirements of the Internal Revenue Code. Neither Portland nor Curry County will be declaring bankruptcy anytime soon because unlike California, Oregon municipalities may not legally do so.

While too many Oregonians may be familiar with chapters 7 and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, and our struggling businesses know about chapter 11, most people have not heard of chapter 9, which codified the Municipal Bankruptcy Act in 1937, enacted at the end of the Great Depression. Chapter 9 permits a “municipality” to file for relief under the chapter. The term “municipality” is defined in the Bankruptcy Code as a “political subdivision or public agency or instrumentality of a State.” That definition is broad enough to include cities, counties, townships, school districts, and public improvement districts. It also includes revenue-producing bodies that provide services which are paid for by users rather than by general taxes, such as bridge authorities, highway authorities, and gas authorities.

The article goes on to stress that  there are several legal hurdles a municipality must clear before filing is allowed. Before ever reaching the issues relating to insolvency, the municipality first must be specifically authorized to be a debtor by state law or by a governmental officer or organization empowered by State law to authorize the municipality to be a debtor. And that is what separates Oregon from California.
The Golden State is one of only twelve states whose laws expressly authorize municipalities to file under Chapter 9. Arizona is another. Other states, such as Washington and Idaho, authorize taxing districts in their states to file petitions for chapter 9 bankruptcy provided that the taxing district adopts a resolution to authorize the filing. But Oregon remains silent on the issue; and with the requirement that permission must be expressly authorized, silence is as good as a denial.

So, the next time you hear a politician, bureaucrat, political activist or media member asking rhetorically when Oregon cities will follow California’s into Chapter 9 bankruptcy, you can give them the correct answer, which is, under current state law, no Oregon city or county may file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. I did that last year to a speaker talking about how mounting PERS costs were crushing school districts. While I agreed with his fiscal analysis, he did not appreciate being caught in a public presentation unaware of Oregon’s lack of authorization for Chapter 9 filings. Don’t be that person.

Ultimately, I think this topic brings up a good awareness of the issue of budgetary concerns for our elected officials.

So now you are armed for your next dinner party or political interview or if you want to stump a local politician at a local campaign stop.  Until next time...

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