Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sisters should elect its mayor

This is no way to start a new year and a new city council.

The first act that brand-new city councilor David Asson will take Thursday night will be divisive. It’s not his fault; he’s the presumptive swing vote in a choice between Lon Kellstrom and Sharlene Weed for the mayor’s seat on the council. Asson has already indicated that he will not support Weed in for position, but any way he votes puts him crosswise with somebody right off the bat, despite best intentions to be a unifying force.

By charter, the city council selects the mayor after each election. The idea is that the mayor is merely “first among equals” rather than a separately elected chief. That’s fine for a small city with little politics. But that’s not what Sisters is anymore.

Like it or not, Sisters has politics — strongly held diverging positions on issues ranging from economic development to the manner in which the city should conduct its business. That means the old way of selecting the mayor is outmoded.

Council selection of the mayor sets the body up for infighting and gamesmanship which erodes the body’s ability to work together. Direct election eliminates one divisive element.

The citizens should decide who they want to be the face of the city and a four-year term will give the position built-in continuity. Direct election makes the will of the citizenry clear and gives the mayor a mandate. It also makes the mayor more accountable for the manner and style of his or her conduct of the city’s affairs.

It would take a charter amendment to change the method of the mayor’s election — something that many in the City of Bend are also advocating for the same reasons. It’s an idea whose time has come.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Jim,

    At first your suggestion for direct election of the Mayor seems an obvious step. But on reflection, I don't think that the problem of divisiveness is related to how we elect the Mayor. I think that it is more related to the leadership qualities, or lack there of, of the people on the council. Unless you believe that a direct election for Mayor would some how produce dramatically different results, i.e. different set of people, then I don't see that it would change much with regard to the divisions on the council.

    It seems to me that unless there is someone who can provide leadership that promotes inclusion of diverse opinions and interests, and help create a decision making environment that lets people feel as though they were heard, then you will continue to have the kind of strife you see now. I don't think the method of election will imbue the winner with these qualities.

    If there is someone with these qualities it doesn't seem as though they have been elected to the council.

    Having said all that, it maybe that direct election of Mayor is a good idea for other reasons, not the least of which is to remove the possibility of having a "King Maker" emerge, like Mr. Asson, as a result of a split decision. We now have a one vote election for Mayor, which is wrong in and of itself.

  2. Jim:

    In your endorsement of David Asson you said:

    “Though a relative newcomer to Sisters government, David Asson brings financial expertise that will benefit the council and the city. While his views on economic development issues tend to track with those of the current council majority, he is much more attuned to the need for careful and appropriate council conduct of city affairs. If he is willing to continue to assert himself, he will serve as a valuable balancing fulcrum for a council that could easily divide into unproductive factionalism.”

    I've spent considerable time with David and I concur. He is very intelligent with the necessary background and experience to be Mayor. I told him so earlier this week. He should put himself into the mix, he is by far the best candidate and the only potential candidate with any chance whatsoever of bringing the council together.

    We should all encourage David to step up to the task that only he can do.

  3. I cannot see that the direct election of the Mayor would have any impact on the “infighting and gamesmanship which erodes the body’s ability to work together”. This problem is the result of the kind of council leadership we have witnessed over the last 2 years.

    Clearly the November vote was for change, but the voters didn’t want it enough. They put their faith in a relative newcomer, David Asson, about who little was known. It was posited that Asson would bring the balance to end the factionalism. Asson candidacy was financially supported out of the very same pockets that supported Kellstrom, Thompson, Bogart, and Lindsey. While one might have hoped for change, the expected result was there to be seen all along.

    His nomination and vote for Lon Kellstrom as Mayor, then the reciprocal nomination and vote for Asson as Council President clearly indicates that although the voters wanted change, change is not something we are likely to see.

    Sharlene Weed attempted to broker reconciliation by a change of council leadership that would have been shared: She offered Kellstrom/Weed, Weed/Kellstrom, Kellstrom/Holzman, Asson/Weed, and Asson/Holzman. Each of those suggestions was turned down by all parties involved.

    The process of Mayor and Council President selection last night had all the grace of a head-on collision. I can still replay it in slo-mo in my mind’s eye. It was pretty sad.

    To give Dave Asson a pass (“It’s not his fault”) for a continuation of the divisiveness seems unrealistic.

  4. Seems like we got the "same old same old" from Mr Asson.

    Oh, well maybe we can fix that nmistake in the next election.

  5. Maybe it's time to start a conversation about a recall. Enough is enough.

  6. recall sounds good. is there a provision for that in the charter?

    Let's Go For It!

  7. Recall procedures are covered in Oregon Law at ORS 249.865 through 249.877. There are forms and instructional materials available at the Deschutes County Recorder's Office in Bend. Staff there will help those interested in such an effort understand the process that starts with a petition.

  8. The elected official must have served for at least six months.

  9. One obvious problem with directly voting the Mayor in is that you may only be able to run for one office.
    That being said, maybe several of the best candidates would decide to run for Mayor and the ones that lose that decision would be unable to serve the city as councilors so the city loses their interest and capacity to serve the city in any other capacity.

  10. I agree with Virginia (and that is not usually the case). I see this as a big problem with electing the Mayor.

  11. We should recall Lon Kellstrom. That would send a very strong message from the community to the council and to David Asson in particular.

  12. Lon is certainly part of the problem. He's short with people and often does not allow opposing views to be heard and adequately vetted. However, I went to the council workshop on the water rate proposal last week and it was a real meeting in large part because of David Asson and Pat Thompson. Both were persistent and wanted answers to their questions before they were willing to consider a vote on the issue. In essence, they sided with Sharlene Weed and Wendy Holzman. Lon was standing alone as the only councilor pushing for a vote without more information and a community meeting. There is evidence the new council will be better than the old one; I hope so. continues.

  13. "Lon is certainly part of the problem. He's short with people and often does not allow opposing views to be heard and adequately vetted."

    LOL!!! Great one Mike!!!

    Although I feel you are an asset to our community, many, many people in Sisters (besides the folks who have been sued by you.... ie the School Board) could describe you as "He's short with people and often does not allow opposing views to be heard and adequately vetted."

    Kettle, Pot, black...

  14. Anonymous:

    Thanks for the compliment. Since I have no idea who you are I can't evaluate if you have any first hand knowledge that support your opinions. Of course there are people that are upset with me, how could there not be? I've been willing to go public with information and positions that, at least to some extent, require public officials to be accountable. Can you say the same?

  15. I really miss the little bit of humor that went along with way the Sheriff's calls were written!