Ha, ha! We were right and you were wrongI
Thanks to Salem Weekly, our city's alternative newspaper, I got to gloat again about our neighborhood's land use win over the Marion County commissioners after publisher A.P. Walther asked me if I'd like to write an opinion piece based on my recent gloating blog post.
"Of course," I told A.P.
I then struggled to find the perfect lead for the column, one which reflected my maturity, seriousness, and dignified writing style. "Ha, ha!" struck me as perfect, especially since I figured Salem Weekly wouldn't allow stronger language in a publication that's read by minors.
Check out "Marion County commissioners proven wrong."
The photo accompanying the column in the printed Salem Weekly was what I use in the header of this blog. But the online version was the pleasingly sinister version above. I like the semi-crazed look. "Watch out, law-defying politicians, I see what you're up to!"
My wife and I have been gloating about our neighborhood's legal victory over Patti Milne and Sam Brentano since 2010. See: Circuit Court reverses Marion County commissioners and Judge slaps down Marion County Commissioner Patti Milne.
I'll probably keep on gloating for a couple of reasons.
One, gloating is fun, particularly when the objects of the gloat are politicians who blatantly favor special interests over the public good. Two, the more light is cast on politicians who ignore the law, the greater the chance they won't be able to hide in the shadows.
I realize that county politics isn't of much interest to the majority of Marion County voters.
Salem residents identify mostly with their city, even though they (obviously) also are county residents. So it takes a debacle like Courthouse Square, which used to house county offices in a block close to downtown Salem until it was declared unusable due to construction defects which were ignored for years by Milne and Brentano, to focus even a modicum of citizen attention on the County Commissioners.
People in our neighborhood, though, have had lots of experience watching Milne and Brentano clown-walk their way through important decisions, ignoring facts, ignoring public testimony, ignoring expert reports.
Here's an excerpt from a previous gloating that shows what I'm talking about:
Patti Milne and Sam Brentano, acting in their quasi-judicial role as county commissioners, concluded that the Ridge View Estates vested rights application deserved a pass on all six factors.
Judge Johnson, however, gave the application a fail on five of the six factors (she gave a rather weak endorsement of the Board of Commissioners' application of the law on the nature, location, and ultimate cost factor).
That's a big legal turnaround: six for six, versus one for six. It reflects how uncaring Milne and Brentano were to getting both the law and the facts of this case straight, in contrast to Carlson, who seemed much more concerned with making a wise informed decision.
In April 2009 our neighborhood's Keep Our Water Safe committee sent a letter to the Board of Commissioners, asking that they hold a public hearing before deciding whether the Ridge View Estates vested rights application should be approved. Here it is:
Download KOWS request for hearing
Sixty-five people signed the letter. Sixty-five. But Milne and Brentano didn't want to learn about the legal and factual errors in a hearing officer's report to the Board. So they voted without a public hearing. In the request for a public hearing we presciently said:
"By holding a hearing, the Board will provide the public with due process and an opportunity to refine these issues before the board makes its final decision. If the board were to decide this application based on incomplete information it could very likely cost more money down the line by requiring this matter to be remanded for further proceedings."
Which is exactly what happened.
We and our neighbors, along with Friends of Marion County, had to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees and lots of hours in volunteer time working on the briefs that got filed in Marion County Circuit Court.
This wasn't necessary. Just as letting problems go with Courthouse Square until the building had to be vacated seemingly wasn't necessary.
As we indicated in our press release, the citizens of Marion County should be able to count on their county commissioners to be sound decision-makers, gathering all the pertinent facts about an issue before voting on a course of action.
Patti Milne and Sam Brentano didn't do this with the Ridge View Estates subdivision. They clearly had personal political and philosophical agendas which prevented them from making the proper legal decision on the vested rights application, as well as the original approval of the subdivision.