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News Archives
March 2001
Our Goal: To improve the livability of Florence through public education and community involvement.

03/23/01 - Florence City Manager Interviews
03/14/01 - RVers Making Wal-Mart a home away from home
03/13/01 - SLAPP Suits - Frivolous lawsuits undermine democracy
03/07/01 - Florence City Manager Candidates Due
03/07/01 - Waldport to Test Tsunami Sirens
03/06/01 - Access to Stores Stalls Florence Highway Upgrade
03/01/01 - Florence's $20 Million Decision (Updated)

03/23/01 - Florence City Manager Interviews -- Applicants for Florence city manager will undergo a barrage of interviews Monday, starting at 9 a.m. when they begin a series of meetings with a citizens' panel, a group of city managers from other jurisdictions and the heads of Florence's city departments.

The candidates then will meet with City Council members at 6:30 p.m.  The council has scheduled an executive (nonpublic) session at 9:30 p.m. to begin deliberations.  Members may continue the nonpublic session at 7 p.m. Tuesday.  The candidates are:  Andrew Barton, city manager in Fernandina Beach, Fla.; Rodger Bennett, city manager in Clovis, N.M.; James nelson, CEO of Consulting Services Inc., in Gallatin, Tenn.; and Jacqueline Wedding-Scott, direcotr of finance in Lakewood, Colo. Source:  1/23/01 Register Guard.

03/13/01 - Commentary: Frivolous lawsuits undermine democracy-- A CANCER IS EATING away at public policy forums in Oregon. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation - SLAPPs - are becoming an increasing problem in the debate over public policy issues.

Oregon prides itself on its extensive and comprehensive land use laws, planning system and its citizen involvement. Oregon has 19 land use planning goals. Goal No. 1, the cornerstone, is citizen involvement. Citizen involvement and democracy are under attack by powerful special interest groups that want to stifle citizen input on numerous public policy issues. SLAPPs are designed to intimidate the public into silence. Only one in 10 is documented, with the vast majority going unreported.

The plaintiffs in these frivolous SLAPPs cite "slander" or "defamation of character" as their grievance. The plaintiffs are often corporations or powerful special interests, able to write off court and legal costs on their taxes while the average citizen has no such privilege or resource. Although usually groundless, SLAPPs can cost tens of thousands of dollars, take years to defend and can't be easily dismissed.

In the majority of cases the defendant will be found not guilty  after spending considerable time and money. Citizens then vow never to speak on public policy issues again - including writing  letters to the editor, which are the source of many lawsuits.

Oregon Communities for a Voice in Annexations, having documented dozens of SLAPPs, as well as having our own  members threatened and sued, worked with a statewide  coalition in the 1999 legislative session to sponsor anti-SLAPP  legislation, House Bill 2805. During public hearings before the House Judiciary Committee, dozens of organizations and  individuals shared one horror story after another of how SLAPPs are being used to undermine the peoples' voice on public policy  issues.

HB 2805 passed out of the House on a 49-9 vote. In the  Senate, the Judiciary Committee amended and gutted the bill, removing citizens' immunity to SLAPPs when they spoke before  public bodies. When it came up for a vote on the Senate floor, the Republican caucus voted along party lines to table the gutted version of HB 2805 and the bill died. This sent a chilling message to the many organizations and citizens who had waited years for the Legislature to put a stop to this form of  legal terrorism.

Additional SLAPPs have been filed since the 1999 Legislature's  failure to pass HB 2805. Now two years have passed. The OCVA and the formerly mentioned statewide coalition have proposed new anti-SLAPP legislation, HB 2460, for the 2001 session.  HB 2460 would indemnify residents who speak on public policy issues before their county commissioners, school boards, city councils, etc. Letters to the editor are specifically covered. Defendants can petition the court for an expedited dismissal, in addition to recovering attorney's fees if they can show a high  probability that they will prevail.

SLAPPs are baseless lawsuits that subvert our democracy and erode our constitutional rights. Ten other states have passed  anti-SLAPP legislation. The House judiciary subcommittee on civil law has tentatively scheduled a hearing for 8 a.m. Monday  in Room 357 at the state Capitol Building in Salem.

  • Examples of recent cases include a developer suing the city of Sandy for $14.5 million because it denied his 116-unit manufactured home development. The developer claimed the city discriminated against him because he was Hispanic and his development would have attracted Hispanic people to the area.

  • A citizen in LaGrande was threatened with a lawsuit for speaking out against a potential development project that he  felt would have created traffic problems.

  • Property owners in Florence took out a large advertisement in the local newspaper threatening to sue opponents over a Land  Use Board of Appeals appeal on a Fred Meyer development project.

  • A citizen of Hubbard was SLAPPed after writing letters to the editor concerning an administrator's use (or misuse) of a bank account.

  • The reality is that partisan politics killed HB 2805, the SLAPP bill, in the '99 session. The only people who spoke against HB 2805 were the builders, Realtors, Oregonians in Action, and the mining and aggregate people. Development interests have been the most frequent abusers of SLAPPs. The First Amendment should not be a partisan issue any more than people should be sued for petitioning or participating in the formation of public policy before their governmental agencies and bodies.

    The 2001 Legislature will once again have an opportunity to encourage citizen involvement in the public process. Legislators also have the opportunity to send a clear message that Oregon will not tolerate its courts being tied up with frivolous SLAPPs.

    Jeff Lamb of Philomath, a body and paint shop owner, is a founder and chairman of Oregon Communities for a Voice in Annexations ( Source: Register Guard, 3/13/01, by Jeff Lamb.

    03/14/01 - RVers making Wal-Mart a home away from home -- MARANA, Ariz. - Stars flicker high above the Sonoran Desert on a wild winter night. The tangy whiff of a mesquite campfire hangs in the frigid air. In the distance, a lone coyote calls and from the foothills comes an answering yip.

    Huddled together, Clif and Betty Santa prepare for another night camping out. After wiping out the microwave, turning off the TV and shifting the clothes from the washer to the dryer, Betty steps out of the 39-foot Newmar Diesel RV and into an eerie, fluorescent light. Before her is a vast grid of  white-painted stripes stretching into the void. Behold their campground: the Wal-Mart parking lot.

    Theirs was not the only recreational vehicle moored under the moonlight, amid the acres of asphalt, at the Super Center north of Tucson. Massive motor homes and pickups with pudgy cab-over campers were bivouacked all along the edge of the blacktop. All of them camping. At the Wal-Mart.

    They arrive uninvited, undaunted by local ordinances that prohibit overnight parking and evidently unfazed by the lack of amenities. But with recreational vehicle enthusiasts in the United States now numbering more than 30 million - and with national park campgrounds ever more crowded - the notion of bedding down in the parking lot of a busy 24-hour store is increasingly attractive.

    It's called ``boondocking,'' and it's big business. A 1999 survey found that one-third of campers had spent at least one night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The well-heeled RVers stream into the stores for one-stop shopping: groceries, photo processing, eye exams, tires and, increasingly, RV-specific merchandise. Wal-Mart even has produced a road atlas that notes the  locations of its stores in all 50 states and Canada, complete with information about local camping ordinances.

    The RVers represent such a windfall that greeters at some stores make early morning treks to the parking lot to knock on doors and let sleepy customers know that the coffee's on inside at the Wal-Mart Cafe. In Alaska, where RVs flock in the summer, the competition for  business has grown fierce. One Wal-Mart in Anchorage welcomes campers with a note placed under the vehicles' windshield wipers. The manager of the Kmart across the street noticed the massing of motor homes and ordered a banner - ``We welcome RVers'' - to lure some over to his side.

    But some residents of communities most familiar with the urban camping phenomenon have had enough. They object to the sight of hulking recreational vehicles decamped in town, complete with unfurled awnings and lawn chairs arranged around a swatch of AstroTurf. And some city officials across the country have started to crack down, invoking seldom-used bans on overnight camping within city limits. ``People here don't like it because they say it looks trashy,'' said a Wal-Mart employee at the Green Valley, Ariz., store who gave her name only as Megan.

    The craze is well known at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., where the official policy is that the urban campers are welcome to park and shop, however long it takes. ``We view them as customers who take their time deciding what they want to buy,'' spokesman Tom Williams said.

    Those slow shoppers, people like the Gefke family, have been good to Wal-Mart. The Gefkes sold their home and are traveling around the country in an RV, chronicling the journey on their Web site. Among the entries is a Wal-Mart review, where the Gefkes rate the stores they have camped at and note such details as RV access, noise levels and how much they spent: $97.50 at the store in Crestview, Fla.; $120 in Beavercreek, Ohio.

    Not wanting to miss out on a merchandising windfall, Wal-Marts are stocking more RV-related items and placing them closer to the front of the stores.  ``They're good customers,'' Marana Wal-Mart Assistant Manager Wayne Boone said of the campers snoozing in his vast parking lot.

    Not many RVers say that the parking lots are their first choice  for an overnight stay. They end up there when park campgrounds are full or if they need to get off the road in a town with no campground. Church and hospital lots are also good options, they say.  Source:  1/14/01 Register Guard, by Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times

    03/07/01 Florence City Manager Candidates Due -- -Four new candidates for the city manager position that's been vacant since September will be invited to interviews on March 26.

    The four include Andrew Barton from Florida, Rodger Bennett from New Mexico, James Nelson from Tennessee and Jacqueline Wedding-Scott from Colorado.  "They all have lengthy backgrounds in municipal government. Their resumes and preliminary reference checks all look good," said Lynn Lamm, Florence police chief ,who is serving as city manager pro tem. Lamm has been the city's chief administrator since former manager Ted Soltis resigned under City Council pressure in September.

    Last month the council interviewed four potential managers but none was given the job. Two of the potential managers withdrew their names after the interviews and the council chose not to hire either of the other two, Lamm said. The four new candidates were chosen by the council from the original pool of 75 applicants, Lamm said.

    This time the council chose to look farther afield; three of the first four candidates were from Oregon. Lamm said the council will use much the same interview process as with the first four. Each candidate will be interviewed by city department heads, a panel of citizens and a group of neighboring city managers in the morning.  Those interview groups will pass their assessments on to the council, which will do its interviews in the evening.

    Here is a summary of each candidate's background:

    Barton - City manager in Fernandina Beach, Fla., a community of 11,500. Initially joined the city in 1999 as deputy manager. Prior to that served as assistant city manager at Kirkland, Wash., for 11 years. Seventeen years experience in local government.

    Bennett - City manager since 1998 in Clovis, N.M., a community of 37,000. Before that worked as regional vice president of the nonprofit CDC Small Business Finance Corp. in El Centro, Calif. Also has been city manager in four other communities, including Baker City.

    Nelson - Chief executive officer since 1998 of Consulting Services Inc., a Gallatin, Tenn., company that provides  management services to cities and counties. Previously served as assistant to the mayor for two years in Gallatin, a community of 22,500. Experience as "circuit rider" manager who has provided interim management services to cities - sometimes to multiple cities at the same time.

    Wedding-Scott - Director of finance in Lakewood, Colo., a community of 140,000, since 1994. Previously held assistant city manager/economic development coordinator jobs in Englewood, Colo., and Sheridan, Colo. Source:  3/7/01 Register Guard by Larry Bacon.

    03/07/01 - Waldport to test tsunami sirens -- With its second siren hooked up and ready to go, Waldport Public Works Director John McClintock said a test of that siren last Friday would be followed by "a full-bore test" at 11 a.m. March 9.  Councilor Herman Welch, who had pushed for installation of a tsunami  warning system in Waldport, said that if the Washington earthquake had occurred in the ocean, it could have been a source of concern for the Oregon coast. Last Wednesday's 6.8 magnitude quake was, he said, "a  wake up call to take this seriously."

    The second siren was installed at Hemlock Street near Highway 101. The first of the sirens, both of which were purchased from the City of Spokane, Wash., is located at Mill and Spencer Streets. An older warning siren sits atop the fire hall on Highway 34. Source: 3/7/01 Newport News Times, by Joel Gallob.
    Editor's Note: Also see:  CFF Tsunami Information

    03/06/01 - Access to Stores Stalls Florence's Highway Upgrade – City council refuses to OK the new intersection design.  The fate of a proposed $1 million Oregon Department of Transportation safety upgrade for the busy intersection of highways 101 and 126 remains a question mark because the Florence City Council on Monday night declined to give unconditional approval of
    the project as designed.

    The hangup is access from Highway 126 to the Dunes Village Shopping Center.  As the project is designed now, the shopping center – which generates in excess of $10 million a year – would have no access from Highway 126.  However, highway officials told the council that if Mike Owen, the main property owner in the shopping center, applies for an entrance that would allow only access for vehicles making right turns in and right turns out, approval is “virtually certain.”

    But that approval must come from higher-ups at the regional level and will take 30 to 60 days, the officials said.  They sought unconditional approval Monday night to allow preparations to proceed for the project to go to bid in May, with the access to be added later.  “I have no project to move forward,” said Karl Wieseke, the project engineer.

    Highway officials have said they will not proceed with the project without city approval.  The council voted 3-2 to give the project approval if the shopping center gets right-in, right-out access from Highway 126.  Other conditions included consideration of signs advising west-bound traffic that they need to use Quince Street to gain access to the shopping center, a possible lowering of the speed limit, and efforts to improve pedestrian crossing of Highway 126 at Quince Street.

    Voting against the motion were councilors Dianne Burch and Donna Lee, who both fear the project could be lost.  ODOT district manager Don Ehrich said that’s a valid concern, because delaying the project until the access question is resolved could lead to the funds being reallocated to a large number of safety projects in other parts of the state that are ready to go.  The other conditions could also cause delays, he said.

    Council members Alan Burns, Dave Braley and Chris Spence, who voted to stand firm with the conditions, said they are concerned that inadequate access could lead to loss of business that could turn a retail center in the heart of the city into a collection of vacant buildings.  Source: 3/6/01 Register Guard, by Larry Bacon.

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