Monday night Astoria City Councilor Drew Herzig gave another amusing performance attempting a bone-head play to gut the office of Mayor. His motion to change the city charter died for lack of a second but the discussion was interesting and rather telling. Herzig suggested the city attorney be directed to rewrite a line of the charter that would change one of the powers of the Mayor to appoint or dismiss members of city committees and commissions. The change would require consultation and approval of any appointment by the city council. As it stands, the Mayor bares sole responsibility for those appointments. Any change to the city charter requires a public election which gave Herzig the opportunity to play his now famous 'The people have a right to make this decision.." card. He trys to play that frequently because the man is always running for office.
From time to time over the years the Mayors have asked for input and suggestions from the city council, city staff, or members of the public but ultimately the Mayor makes the appointments. It is a reasonable responsibility for the town mayor and has worked well as long as anyone can remember. There are a lot of citizen committees not including those short term committees that are formed from time to time to tackle a specific issue. Suggesting that all those appointments be the business of the entire council is to put the focus on appointments rather than focusing on the business of governance.
It really doesn't matter what other cities might do when it comes to this and taking time to fix something that is not broken does nothing constructive. That much is clear. So why would anyone make such a suggestion?
In this case Herzig is obviously looking ahead. He sees a situation where a long tenured Mayor is not seeking re-election and an opportunity to steer powers away from that office before a new Mayor is elected. But again the question is why?
Herzig says "the people" should be allowed to vote on this issue he is creating and that might make sense if the general population had suddenly risen up protesting the process but there is no sign of that having happened. No, that can't be the real reason. When his motion to pursue the change in the city charter died for lack of a second, Herzig said "I hope people remember this in November". At that moment the reason for this ridiculous idea became clear.
Herzig is, most likely unwittingly, working for the democrats as a political agent attempting to discredit the council members who are up for election. That would be his old nemesis Karen Mellin and Arlene LaMear who is running for Mayor against Clatsop County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Larry Taylor. Taylor made a rare appearance at the meeting last night taking a seat in the back of the room. The council and mayor's race are considered non-partisan but make no mistake. Josh Marquis, his wife Cindy Price and Larry Taylor are keen to gain control of the Astoria City Council.
There is a planted story in the rumor mill about Herzig and Taylor having a parting of the ways. The story goes that the falling out occurred when Taylor caught Herzig in a lie over something. The story becomes rather vague after that. Given Herzig's reputation in the community at large this story is entirely believable but after last night's little show by Herzig with Taylor looking on, I have serious doubts about the truth of the rumor. It smells more like an attempt to give some separation between the tainted Herzig and Taylor in his run for Mayor.
Herzig is an outsider on the city council and not in a good way. He has terrible relations with city staff. He is a disaster for the party that designed his campaign to unseat Peter Roscoe. Just as soon as he ran out of his supplied talking points and started showing his true colors it became clear that he is dangerously wayward. I suspect Monday night's performance was payback for Taylors help in getting Herzig elected and would appeal to Herzig who has been gunning for the council ever since they slapped his hands over his inappropriate behavior with city staff.
But like everything else Herzig has done this was poorly executed and made Arlene LaMear look like a peacemaker when she suggested the council contact the League Of Oregon Cities for advice. It may have made her look weak from a conservative standpoint but remember she has lots of Democrat friends who like that kind of thinking. The suggestion shows she is willing to listen, gather the best information, and move toward an informed decision rather than rushing to an ill-advised vote that would have set the whole thing in motion. Good for her.
This was not an easy call.
Dealing with a older family member can be challenging, as anyone who has gone through it can tell you, it's sometimes frustrating. Sometimes heartbreaking. Often both at once. It's very hard to watch someone who once was the person you leaned on begin to regress and tumble into a demented state. Of course, this doesn't happen to everyone of advanced age. Some remain sharp and mentally aware their entire lifetime.
Mary Louise Flavel is very much like that estranged aunt who has always been a challenging person with which to deal, now made worse by advancing age and the baggage she has collected over the years. Her relationship to the town her family helped build is problematic. When it comes to Astoria she always had her "dukes"up. Her defensive position has grown stronger with the onset of age and the things that happen to people approaching their 90's.
We need not go into the detailed history of her relationship with the town, the people in in it and her years of protecting and defending her errant brother Harry, long dead. That's readily available information elsewhere.
I want to address here the recent decisions by the Astoria City Council in regard to the neglected properties Mary Loiuse owns in town.
When the council got word that Ms. Flavel's lawyers planned to have her declared unfit to manage her own affairs and would seek to have the court take charge through the appointment of a conservator, the council members were a bit torn on the subject of delaying a planned foreclosure sale of her buildings. On one hand, you have a person who has managed to avoid previous attempts to turn over those properties using various legal gambits taking advantage of the kindness of strangers who felt compelled to help her out by lending money she never paid back. If there was any means by which she could delay, she would make use of those means to keep those properties...and keep them the abandoned eyesores they have become. On the other hand, you have one of the most respected lawyers in the state taking an interest in the matter, not because he wants to see a continuation of Ms. Flavels past practice, but because it is clear to him that she isn't mentally capable of handling her affairs any longer and he feared she would lose everything as a result.
It took a leap of faith on the part of the council to make the decision to delay the foreclosure sale.
That faith was justified this week when a conservator was appointed by a Washingon County Court and that conservator set to work sorting out Ms. Flavel's finances.
We don't have a conclusion to this story just yet but it is clear that the Mayor and the City Council made another good decision based on what might be best for all the parties involved. It was a tough one.
When Doris Queener got up at the last Astoria City Council meeting to ask specific questions about the hiring process for a new city manager there were not many answers. It was a little painful to watch.
Read more: Timing Is Everything
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