Shady Cove needs new civic leadership

"The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."

— Norman Maclean,"A River Runs Through It"

Several years ago, I discovered the beautiful town of Shady Cove and have since been proud of the great river that runs through our little town. However, I ask the citizens of Shady Cove to carefully consider the current state of affairs that haunt us all now, which is reflected in the waters.

Most of us know of the Federal Emergency Management Agency probation and possible future suspension; and as we look into the waters to see the root of these problems, the only reflection we see is FEMA and the homeowners themselves. For some reason, our very own city government does not appear in that reflection.

It is most haunting that the permits freely issued for building in the floodplain over the years were approved by our city. When we as citizens follow rules and regulations, whom do we look to for the same compliance by our neighbors? Yes, our city government. And yet, I have attended numerous City Council meetings concerning the demands of FEMA, and our city government takes no accountability for its actions, which have contributed to this situation.

"This is not the City Council's fault." "FEMA is playing games with us." "The city is under the gun now." These are words spoken by our public officials in response to this embarrassment that has afflicted our once-proud town.

We certainly would not tolerate this kind of behavior in our everyday jobs. We demand accountability from our children, families and people we work with. Why do we not demand the same of our city? It is our council that has the power to remove the one person who should have the education and training to run our town professionally, our city administrator. It is the administrator who oversees the department that approves building in the floodplain and who is responsible for the lack of action over the past seven years since the violations were first discovered by FEMA. And yet, none of these peoples faces reflect in the waters of mismanagement.

We still have time to act, time to avoid becoming yet another dysfunctional town governed by a council in chaos. We still have time to do our duty, as citizens in a democracy, to elect a governmental body that will clean the haunting waters that run through our town.

I ask for my fellow citizens to be proactive instead of reactive, to demand this situation be rectified. If our administrator and public officials are afraid to do it, then they need to be replaced with people who will. Currently, they do not act, for to do so would expose them to the inevitable questions that would ensue, such as why are they now demanding compliance with floodplain regulations they ignored when approving the building permits? Imagine the catch-22 that would invite.

The river that is our city cannot flow mightily with our current city administration. To correct the problems in the floodplain would be to admit mistakes, and we all know too well that when fault is not admitted for a few years, it will never be. It is no longer a matter of identifying the hand in the cookie jar — we need a new cookie jar.

In the upcoming election this fall, Shady Cove will fill three of our council seats, including our mayor. It's time for us as citizens to wade out into this river, being cautious of the deceptive and sometimes treacherous currents lurking just below the surface, and find three or more honorable citizens that will clean up this problem and return our city to simple politics and management. We are one community, connected not only by our great city, but by a great river we must respect. Or, as Norman Maclean said in his great American classic:

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."

Jane Hagan lives in Shady Cove.

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