Yesterday I walked out of the City of Salem's Recorder's Office with a thick stack of documents.
They were given to me in response to two public records requests that I filed, wanting to learn more about the City's outrageous approval of US Bank's request to cut down five large healthy trees in downtown's Historic District.
I was charged $350 for them.
Happy early Father's Day to me, from me! But I would have preferred to have spent the money on something else. I've asked for a waiver or reduction of the fee since my request clearly was in the public interest.
I'm only had time to look through the documents quickly. I need to ask some follow-up questions of City staff based on what I've found so far.
But I wanted to share some initial conclusions, because I believe these records point to some general "personality traits" of the City of Salem (Oregon) these days.
Yes, organizations have personalities, because they are comprised of people. Leader-people have an especially strong effect on the personality of the organization they head up, since lower-downs want to please higher-ups.
With decisions on a Third Bridge, downtown parking meters, riverfront development, and other important issues on the front burner, how the City approaches public policy issues is a matter, obviously, of broad public concern.
My initial perusal of the documents confirms impressions I'd already gotten about the City of Salem, circa mid-2013 (details to follow):
Facts and expert advice are ignored.
Decisions are made, then reasons for them are found (should be other way around).
Special interests get more attention than the public interest.
Overarching vision is obscured by a nearsighted focus.
Public involvement is viewed as an irritant.
Now, I'm not saying these problems are all-pervasive among City staff, elected officials, and the various departments. But I see them as real concerns which need to be addressed.