Understand: I've got nothing against self-congratulation. I love to tell myself, "You're doing a great job, Brian!"
So there really wasn't anything all that unusual in Tom Andersen's 5-minute CCTV video where he asks voters to support his re-election to the Salem City Council, even though he is running unopposed.
But as I watched the video, where Andersen talks about his various accomplishments during his first four-years as a city councilor, I kept thinking, I wish he'd give more credit to those who set the stage for those accomplishments.
Of course, it is almost a given that politicians are going to wring every drop of credit they can from the wet towel of something positive happening during their term of office. I'm realistic enough to know that this is never going to change.
However, I'm also idealistic enough to wish that politicians would do a better job of thanking the citizens who, almost always, laid the ground work for a vote that put a needed policy into motion.
So below are my annotations to Tom Andersen's campaign video. Again, I'm not taking issue with anything Andersen said. I just feel a need to provide some context to his list of accomplishments.
I realize that five minutes isn't a whole lot of time, and Andersen needed to be succinct. But here and there I feel that he could have given some credit where credit is due, such as by saying briefly things such as, "Thanks to the hard work of ______, I was able to introduce a motion to do _______."
Now, Councilor Andersen does mention "citizens" in his opening remarks. After that, though, it is basically all about him. Here's a broader view of the accomplishments he mentions.
Inclusive City resolution. Andersen did introduce this resolution in February 2017. But as I noted in "Citizens strongly support Salem "Inclusive City" resolution. Conservative city councilors not so much," the vote on this resolution was preceded by passionate testimony from about 43 citizens. That outpouring of support provided the emotional backdrop for the vote. As I said in the blog post:
Last night the conservative members of the City Council had to go along with the unstoppable force of progressive public opinion, as manifested by the 43 outspoken people who testified during the public comment period.
Climate Action Plan. Much, if not most, of the credit for getting Climate Action into the City of Salem's strategic planning initiative goes to Linda Wallmark and others involved with 350 Salem OR, the local branch of the national 350.org movement. Andersen has been very supportive of a local greenhouse gas inventory and associated Climate Action efforts, but others paved the way for this, as I noted in "Salem moves closer to a Climate Action Plan."
Fortunately, today I learned that Salem is making good progress on having a citywide Climate Action Plan -- thanks to the efforts of our local 350.org chapter, 350 Salem OR, and supportive city councilors such as Tom Andersen, Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Chris Hoy, and Matt Ausec.
Police Facility bond measure. Andersen said that he supported the second-try $63 million bond measure for a new police facility, but he didn't mention that he also supported the original $82 million bond measure that was rejected by voters. I led the fight against that over-priced proposal, so I'm well aware that it was a lonely battle -- since every city councilor endorsed the $82 million bond measure, and my Salem Community Vision colleagues were my main support.
Thus Andersen's statement that he helped reduce the price tag to $63 million is true only because I, along with Salem voters, had the good sense to reject the $82 million bond measure that Andersen supported before he got on board with the second-try bond measure. For more info on this, see my blog post, "How citizen activism produced a much better Salem Police Facility plan."
Third Bridge. Councilor Andersen has been a steadfast opponent of a Third Bridge across the Willamette River. But as I noted in "Salem City Council votes 5-4 against Third Bridge," it took four other votes to stop what I like to call the Billion Dollar Boondoggle. Credit for electing those anti-bridge councilors goes to Progressive Salem and the councilors themselves: Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Chris Hoy, and Matt Ausec.
Also, Jim Scheppke and other citizen activists have worked tirelessly against a Third Bridge, facing long odds. Their legal win at the Land Use Board of Appeals made possible a related accomplishment cited by Andersen, formation of a Traffic Congestion Task Force aimed at reducing rush-hour problems without a new bridge, as noted in my "City Council plans to reduce traffic congestion without a Third Bridge."
It seems clear that this is how the Third Bridge will begin to die after opponents were successful in getting the Land Use Board of Appeals to remand approval of an Urban Growth Boundary expansion needed for the bridge back to the City Council. In other words, that expansion was negated, and the City of Salem basically needs to start over.
Sit-Lie ordinance defeated. I didn't follow this proposal very closely, but my impression was that Councilor Chris Hoy took the lead in opposing this effort to prevent people (meaning, homeless people) from sitting or lying down on a sidewalk between 7 am and 9 pm. A Statesman Journal story mentions Hoy's statement prior to City Council deliberations on this issue: ""I have rarely seen a positive outcome in my almost 29-year law enforcement career when we criminalize the human condition."
Ouster of Councilor Daniel Benjamin. The City Council voted unanimously to censure Daniel Benjamin after he shared a Facebook video showing Black Lives Matter protesters being rammed by cars. So Andersen didn't play a particular role in this, which occurred at a City Council meeting where citizens testified for two hours about the need to stand up against racism and bigotry.
As I said in "Citizens speak about racism and bigotry in Salem," the real heroes of the evening were the people who spoke passionately about the need to address the problems of which Daniel Benjamin was a symptom.
So the City Council's censuring of Daniel Benjamin, and the acceptance of his resignation, wasn't the Big Story last night. This happened at the beginning of the meeting and was marked by a dismaying degree of self-congratulatory excess from the Mayor and seven remaining councilors.
Each member of the City Council had to make a mini-speech about how intolerance won't be tolerated in this town; how disturbed they were by Benjamin's actions; how Salem isn't the sort of place where racism can take root.
When motions were made to censure Benjamin and accept his resignation, every city councilor frantically waved a hand in the air to indicate how badly they wanted to second it. Understand: there wasn't anything wrong with this display of political self-righteousness. It just struck me as an awkward attempt, aimed in part at the cameras from Portland television stations in the back of the room, to paint Salem as a town where These Sorts of Things Just Don't Happen, Aside from This One Time.
After which, the dozens of people basically replied, No, let me tell you how it really is.
Bottom line: it takes a village, as the saying goes, to produce City Council accomplishments in this town. There's nothing wrong with city councilors taking credit for their votes and introduction of motions to do this or that.
I'm just saying that rarely, if ever, does the Salem City Council produce something praiseworthy without a heck of a lot of preparatory work by citizens.