In the span of just over 30 minutes Wednesday at the Gold Hill City Council meeting, city officials voted to seek applicants for two vacant council seats, were informed that a resigned council member had rescinded his decision, and the rest were asked to resign their own seats.
In between those items, there were discussions of a city cleanup and wastewater treatment.
The usually empty council chambers were filled Wednesday after media reports of empty council seats and the resignations of council member Ron Palmer and both a city recorder and her replacement. Palmer later rescinded his resignation.
Sawyer’s Paddle Shop owner Pete Newport voiced concerns about the council not filling vacancies after he sought an appointment in recent months and was denied. Newport put in a bid for mayor in 2016 but was disqualified based of residency requirements.
Newport garnered applause from a handful of audience members after telling the council that the city beach park was in disarray, a bridge owned by the state was crumbling into the river, and the resignation of city employees was related to poor leadership.
“Please resign,” he said. "I wrote a letter of resignation for each of you. I’d like you to sign them tonight and I’d like you to resign tonight. Your time is done.”
Council members shook their heads in disbelief, several informing him they would not resign. Mayor Chris Stanley explained that she had awaited council direction to post the available seats while council President Donna Silva said city crews had actively been trying to keep up with beach cleanup despite wet conditions preventing access.
The bridge mentioned by Newport, several council members explained, falls under state jurisdiction.
Former councilor Christine Alford scolded Newport for distributing campaign packets, declaring “Newport for Mayor,” during the meeting. Alford listed the accomplishments of the current council and said she wanted to “thank the council” for the work being done at City Hall, including work on the once-failing wastewater treatment plant.
“I think if Mr. Newport could be more familiar with what the city is supposed to be doing, instead of surface and cosmetic, and instead of trying to rile people up …,” she said. “I’m sorry (the mayor) hasn’t been able to solve the opiate addiction problem, too, but if you could put that on your calendar and get it handled by the next meeting!”
Stanley said she was happy to learn that Palmer was not resigning, calling him “a valuable asset and a very, very good council member.”
Stanley said she was “extremely proud” of the work being done by the council and voiced concerns that a rumored recall campaign by Newport would distract the city from taking care of business.
“If Mr. Newport goes through with his recall, that would force the city into a special election, which would fall around June at the same time we are getting ready for November,” she said.
“I think Pete was up there (at the meeting) putting on a show for his people. The bottom line is that the clock is ticking and we are working as hard as we can. We have to stay focused and keep taking care of business, and his negative attitude, I believe, is splitting the town in half once again. It’s been so quiet. Everybody has been getting along. We’ve got good water and good people working for us.”
Councilwoman Deb West said if Newport were concerned about vacant council positions, it made no sense for the council, or for citizens, to heed his demands to step down.
“Anybody that gets involved in local government for the first time, they really don’t know what's going on and there’s a learning curve,” she said. “They complain about things they really don’t understand. It would be very irresponsible for the whole council to resign all at one time when we swore under oath to take care of the needs of the city. We are moving forward the best ways that we can and we have accomplished some very large milestones.”
West added, “And I’d love to see that bridge rebuilt as much as everyone else — it’s something that everybody who comes to this community says all the time — but that doesn’t fall under city jurisdiction.”
— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at email@example.com.