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December 06, 2020


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Thank you, Mr. Hines, for highlighting the Meiner-Dalton SJ December 6th guest editorial.

I appreciate your lead observation.

"I've observed that even when citizens present solid evidence that what city staff are saying is either untrue, or not the whole truth, city councilors typically side with the staff."

Why does City staff act in this manner and why do council members acquiesce to staff falsehoods and partial truth declarations?

You correctly state that "they (Council members) are heavily dependent on City of Salem employees."

Unfortunately the recent Council decision regarding the Costco land use case turned upon prior council decisions which were supported by public promises that were never legally enshrined as obligations in the original land use decision.

Your argue: "It isn't healthy when our local elected city councilors, who are the go-between their constituents and City of Salem staff, kowtow to staff as they did with the Costco relocation."

That did not happen in 2020. The seeds of the Costco legal challenge were planted more than a decade ago. Sadly, the past council did not formally adopt public commitments as conditions of the development.

Instead, at the time of the land use approval the City accepted as good faith declarations and oral promises, Times changed, PacTrust paid for a portion of Kuebler Boulevard and subsequently the City was constrained by its earlier adopted land use approval and court interpretations of that approval.

The 2020 Salem City Council did not kowtow to City staff. The Council simply reviewed the limited options available in 2020 and may well, out of exhaustion or legal threats, decided to avoid the further expense of continued legal jousting.

Did staff recommend the original land use decision? Yes. Has staff guided Councils with less than accurate information and/or even silence? Yes. At best, the Costco history highlights the need for Salem to put in writing all intended land use promises.

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