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Keizer elected officials place obstacles between community & service
Two City Council votes signal exclusivity for Keizer’s ruling class
Correction: Keizer City Councilor Robert Husseman made his appointment to the Volunteer Coordination Committee. We mistakenly reported that his appointment was to the Community Engagement Diversity Committee. And we drew conclusions about the ineptitude of the City Councilors that voted against community service based on that error. The good news is, even with the right committee name swapped in - you can still clearly enjoy the ineptitude of our elected officials!
UPDATE: We learned after publishing this article that the result of the measure regarding Keizer City Councilor Robert Husseman’s appointment to the Volunteer Coordinator Committee mean that his legal, rightful appointment will be overturned, and he must pick someone else at least 18 years of age. Initially, the status of his original appointment was unclear.
A pair of resolutions capped a night of City Council action on May 1st in Keizer where citizens saw two opportunities for increased access & participation in government sealed off by the sitting body of councilors.
Keizer City Council President Shaney Starr offered a resolution requiring City Council members to be physically present for committee meetings on which they serve as liaisons. Despite previous efforts to soften the “requirement” language to accommodate the often busy work and personal lives of City Councilors, the resolution passed by a 5-2 vote.
One “no” vote, Keizer City Councilor Reid, pointed out the obvious. The change, she said, “puts up barriers to service to people who might be considering service on the City Council.”
The other “no” vote was City Councilor Robert Husseman, who put a finer point on Councilor Reid’s reaction.
“This is an exclusive measure, and not an inclusive one,” he said. “If we’re looking at what it is that we should be trying to do with the city council, we should be trying to include as many prospective counselors and prospective involved citizens as possible.”
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Perhaps the best part of the discussion around this proposed rule change was a pair of questions from Keizer City Council Youth Liaison (a non-voting position). Angelica Sarmiento Avendano asked City Attorney Shannon Johnson if Starr’s resolution carried any consequences for NOT attending a meeting in person…
Then Sarmiento Avendano asked if there were really no exceptions to this in-person attendance rule…
(Esteemed reader: Please remember this part. I promise it will come up later)
Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark reminded the audience that the City Council still had the authority to reprimand or censure Councilors, suggesting that might be a path for those that violate the in-person mandate. But, no - the resolution itself has no actual teeth.
And, Mayor Clark conceded, there was actually an exception to the in-person rule - which she then had added to the new rule. There’s a standing arrangement where City Councilors can phone-a-friend to substitute for them on a particular liaison committee assignment. That would remain intact.
But those two issues only came up because the non-voting high-school student sitting on the City Council pointed out those deficiencies in the resolution.
(Again, I’m emphasizing this for a reason…)
A few beats later, Keizer City Council considered a pair of agenda items spurred by a recent appointment made by freshman City Councilor Robert Husseman.
Husseman was eligible to appoint a voting member to Keizer’s Volunteer Coordinating Committee. The appointment was at his discretion and required no confirmation from the rest of the City Council. And Husseman followed all existing rules & requirements in choosing his appointee.
It just so happens, he appointed a 17 year-old. By all accounts, an incredibly bright high-school student with sincere interest in serving the community. Awesome, right?
Apparently, not awesome to some folks on the City Council.
Despite the appointment being at Husseman’s discretion and his selection having violated no rules…despite THE CITY’S OWN LAWYER SAYING IT WAS FINE…some folks on the City Council don’t want a 17 year-old as a voting member on the VOLUNTEER COORDINATING COMMITTEE.
Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark, City Council President Shaney Starr and Councilors Kyle Juran, Soraida Cross & Dan Kohler appeared to cherry pick facts when struggling to support their position against meaningful youth participation in Keizer.
They relied on a sort of precedent across a smattering of committees where 18 years-old was set as a benchmark for voting positions in various public service opportunities & committees.
But they also ignored that the Keizer Police Department accepts children as young as 14 years-old in their cadet program. They heard that (presumably - not so sure some of these city councilors actually hear anything) and choose to just…ignore it. Like, just shrugs.
It seems like there isn’t any consistent precedent for their collective decision to deny this form of healthy community engagement. But they decided that way, anyway.
Except for Councilors Reid and Husseman. They were sensible enough to vote no on this one. Husseman even politely reminded his colleagues that he made an extremely high-quality selection and even the City Attorney thinks its a valid, legal appointment.
Sit with that for a minute…
Think about the message that sends to our community. And to our young folks in general.
Notice the almost comical absurdity of deciding against the spirit of volunteerism when appointing someone to a committee created exclusively to advance that concept.
And think about how five of our elected leaders, facing a giant grey area with mixed precedent, chose to ignore the City Attorney and the rightful appointment of one of their colleagues.
Folks, both of these decisions smell terrible.
There’s no other way to slice it. What the absolute FUCK is the Keizer City Council doing? How can a city so loudly committed to volunteerism and service slam the door on that spirit twice in ONE NIGHT?
Creating more rigid rules around in-person meeting attendance doesn’t widen the pool of available community talent to power our service-driven community.
It narrows it.
Manufacturing a debate over a completely valid committee appointment and turning away an incredibly capable 17 year-old doesn’t serve to attract more participation from youth.
It dampens their hope for change.
Despite their words, council leadership seems more committed in their actions to cementing their own status and power in Keizer than actually serving their constituents.
Remember the non-voting youth City Councilor from earlier in the night? Angelica Sarmiento Avendano? The person pointing out giant deficiencies in Shaney Starr’s resolution to make public service more difficult and less accessible?
After pointing those out, Sarmiento Avendano had to sit there and listen to their adult colleagues belittle and diminish the abilities and reliability and contributions of young folks (except for 14 year-old police cadets, of course). It was very uncomfortable to watch, honestly.
Such a shameful session for the Keizer City Council. And with council leadership working to make serving on City Council less possible for the average Keizerite, it only seems like this type of leadership will continue.
*****Fun Bonus on a sour story:***** If you watch this clip, you can see City Councilor Dan Kohler describing himself when he’s intending on belittling youth service in government. It’s unintentionally hilarious. Good palette cleanser for this unmitigated bummer of a City Council effort.