A Canby City Council meeting with a shorter-than-usual list of business to attend to last week saw a lengthy but seemingly productive discussion about the appointment of a new member to the planning commission.
Such matters are typically included in the so-called “consent agenda” — a laundry list of routine items such as meeting minutes and liquor license applications that are bundled up and handled in a single vote — but the application of Jason Taylor caught the eye of more than one councilor because of its apparent political nature.
The Planning Commission — like all elected and appointed positions in city government — is nonpartisan, but much of Taylor’s application seemed to have a decidedly political bent.
Under the first question, which asked about community interests, Taylor said he is part of an organization called the United Liberty Coalition and that he has been part of political rallies and meetings with legislators “on bills on bills that are either taking our liberties away or mandating our liberties out of existence.”
“I have more recently gotten politically involved as a result of tiresome government overreach,” Taylor said. “Though I’d rather spend my time filling the roles of father, friend, and business owner, I’ve realized that there is a need for people without agendas to be tangibly involved in the process of local government as well.”
This seeming reluctance to do the job he was applying for bothered Councilor Sarah Spoon, as did his later promise to help “ensure that city guidelines are developed, followed, and enforced based on the will of the people.”
“I think every single one of us has, particularly when it comes to land use, has made a vote that maybe wasn’t our personal preference, or maybe wasn’t the will of the people, but the role calls for following the law,” she said. “I’m concerned that about two-thirds of his application was about ideology, and the other third was about following the will of the people.”
A robust discussion followed, and every other councilor, along with Mayor Brian Hodson, had a chance to speak.
Mayor Hodson, who was part of the interview committee that had recommended Taylor over a second applicant, Mike Hutchinson, explained that he had similar concerns when he read the application, but that the committee had impressed upon Taylor about the appropriate role of the planning commission, which is one of regulation and oversight — not advocacy of one’s personal or political beliefs.
He said that what made Taylor ultimately stand out from the other candidate was that he had recently attended a number of planning commission meetings and was familiarizing himself with how that body works.
Council President Tim Dale said he had interacted with Taylor in the past as a member of the local home owners’ association for which Taylor has served as president, finding him to be a smart, responsive and capable leader, who had no trouble following the laws and regulations pertaining to that particular role.
Councilor Tryg Berge, a vice president of a commercial contracting firm who’s no stranger to job resumes and applications, said he has found such documents are often “just as good as (the paper) it’s written on.”
“I see applications like this, where somebody has a lot of time and they try to make it sound good, and they sort of go overboard on the issues and stuff like that,” Councilor Berge said. “To me, it’s when you sit down with them and you really hear what they have to say, that’s when the rubber meets the road, so to speak.”
As the council’s liaison to the planning commission, Berge was also on the committee that interviewed both candidates and ultimately recommended Taylor.
Councilors suggested a number of ways that the process for local boards and committees could be improved in the future, including custom applications that ask more meaningful questions about the role of each one — rather than the “one-size-fits-all” form the city uses now.
In the end, Taylor was appointed to a term ending in December 2021 by a 4-2 vote, with Councilors Spoon and Greg Parker in the minority.
But, in an unexpected coincidence, it appears Hutchinson will join Taylor on the planning commission anyway. He was the only one to apply for yet another seat, which is being vacated at the end of the year by a current member who doesn’t want to be reappointed.
Hutchinson is a facility maintenance technician for the city of Portland, who has spent over 20 years providing technical support to high school and community theater productions at the Canby Fine Arts Center.
He is scheduled to be appointed on Dec. 18.
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