Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Budget breaker

The Fly in the Ointment


The Oregonian article referenced below says it best.  The PERS system is 20% underfunded, and government entities will face horrendous rate increases necessitating personnel and or service  reductions.  At the current time, Lake Oswego struggles to find Minh for infrastructure maintenance and capital improvements.

Personnel costs (salaries, health, PERS and other benefits) make up the largest part of the city's General Fund.  All other general fund expenses compete with staffing.  With NO staff cuts, the increasing PERS rate increases will engulf more and more of the general fund.  No city, county, school district or any public agency can afford this.

PERS costs to soar in 2017 and beyond, clobbering Oregon
Oregonlive, November 28, 2015, By Ted Sickinger

State public pension officials are holding town hall meetings around the state to warn schools, cities and public agencies that they will be clobbered by an unprecedented string of pension cost increases starting in 2017.

That is expected to be followed by persistently high contribution rates that will strap public budgets for at least a decade. 

In order to bail out, PERS will need to raise public employers' contributions to the system by about 4 percent of their payrolls in each of the next three budget cycles. And that implies public employers will need to tap their budgets for an extra $800 million per biennium starting in July 2017, another $860 million in 2019 and an additional $930 million in 2021.

The size of the financial hit makes it a material problem for every Oregonian. It's billions of additional dollars that will be redirected to the pension fund instead of funding teachers, school days, reduced class sizes, police, firefighters, transportation projects and so on.

All told, statewide pension costs could eventually increase by about $2.6 billion each biennium. That comes on top of the $2 billion employers are paying today. 

Cheri Helt, a restaurant owner and member of the Bend-Lapine School Board, said the last time her district saw significant PERS cost hikes, it was forced to eliminate 100 teaching positions.

"So we're now going into a more vicious downturn and we have not even recuperated yet," she said. "We've never seen anything like what's being proposed." 

All told, statewide pension costs could eventually increase by about $2.6 billion each biennium. That comes on top of the $2 billion employers are paying today. 

For entire article, use link above.  There are also links to related stories.

A "gig" economy

Wall Street Journal, March 2 , 2016. 

Silicone Valley "Gig" Economy Spreads Broadly

New research shows labor shift affects health care, education and other industries that have traditionally offered stable employment 

As com­pa­nies look to shed non­core tasks and gov­ern­ment bud­gets come un­der strain, an ex­pand­ing share of the work­force has come un­teth­ered from sta­ble em­ploy­ment and its at­tendant ben­e­fits and job pro­tec­tions.

The rise has hap­pened even across in­dus­tries in­clud­ing health care and ed­u­ca­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing and pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion, with pro­fes­sions that have tra­di­tion­ally of­fered sta­ble employ­ment.

For ex­am­ple, they es­ti­mate the share of work­ers in al­ter­na­tive arrange­ments has more than dou­bled to 11% in man­u­fac­tur­ing and to 16% in health and ed­u­ca­tion. It has quin­tupled, to 10%, in pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion.

Nor have white-col­lar in­dus­tries been im­mune from the shift. The num­ber of work­ers in al­ter­na­tive arrange­ments, for ex­am­ple, in the le-gal in­dus­try has nearly dou­bled over the past decade. The busi­ness process out­sourc­ing in­dus­try—es­sen-tially white-col­lar con­tract­ing firms—had $136 bil­lion in rev­enue last year and has been grow­ing 4% a year since 2000, ac­cord­ing to the in­dus­try re­search firm IBIS­World.

Com­pa­nies seek­ing to re­duce in-house op­er­a­tions have many op­tions. Large staffing agen­cies like Adecco SA, Man­pow­er­Group Inc. and Kelly Ser­vices Inc. can place work­ers into a grow­ing range of roles—in­clud­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion, gov­ern­ment and health care.

In other cases, com­pa­nies con­tract out to shed ben­e­fits they pay to full-time staff, to fo­cus on core com­pe­ten-cies, or to dis­tance them­selves from li­a­bil­ity costs.

Even fed­eral, state and lo­cal gov-ern­ment in­creas­ingly use con­trac­tors through­out their ranks to carry out ad­min­is­tra­tive, man­age­ment and in-for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy tasks.

A Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re-port last year said spend­ing for these gov­ern­ment ser­vices had nearly dou-bled be­tween 2000 and 2012, af­ter ad­just­ing for in­fla­tion, ac­count­ing for about $260 bil­lion of spend­ing. The con­tracts were so wide­spread and com­plex that CBO said it was un­able to quan­tify how many peo­ple were in this con­tracted work­force.

Mr. Weil of the La­bor De­part­ment dubbed this econ­o­my­wide phe-nomenon the “fis­sured work­force,” the ti­tle of a 2014 book he wrote on the topic. The new RAND re­search pro­vides the broad­est con­fir­ma­tion to date that these trends are grow­ing. 

DISCLOSURE:  USC is currently a recipient of PERS benefits from a job many, many  moons ago. PERS benefits will continue to deliver a stable, generous retirement to long-term employees no matter their income or the financial condition of the government agency, due to rate increases the agencies are required to pay.  (Number 9 of the top PERS recipients in the state is Bill Korach who receives $250,395. Until the governent entity goes broke and can't pay any of its bills.  What can the poor, beleaguered government agencies (taxpayers) do?  Plenty.  Read more in future posts.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

CA gets better & wetter

After several years of drought affecting most of California, drawing down reservoirs and drying up farmland and threatening urban water supplies,

Shasta Lake is back!

As of today (March 17, 2016), the lake has gone to just 24' from the capacity height of 1,067'.  On March 12-13 the lake added 6' of water in one day! Succeeding days saw 2' - 4' per day additions.  Shasta Lake has exceeded its average historical water height for this date.

For those of you who keep track of such things, all kinds of facts, statistics, information, links and photos can be found at: shastalake.com/shastalake/

Despite news stories that made the recent drought (ongoing in SoCal) sound biblical in nature and somehow tied to global climate change, the lowest lake level on record was in 1977-78.  While this was terrible for Californians, I don't remember ever hearing that automobiles and suburban sprawl were the cause.  Mother Nature is fickle.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Budget time bomb

Tik Tok

Personnel costs makes up most of the City's General Fund expenses, and by 2018,PERS plus health insurance costs will make up about half of the personnel budget.  PERS costs are tied to staff income levels and are going up at an alarming rate.  If the city does NOTHING to address staffing this year, PERS increases will have the same impact as adding 10.5 new employees (7-8 without counting COLA increases) or $1.1M - $1.3M in 2017-18.

There are several ways the City Manager has outlined to make up for PERS cost increases in the short term - use money previously spent on WEB building operations (about $1 M), and carry-over department reserves.  Later on, the end of the East End Redevelopment District (downtown urban renewal district) plus increased property taxes from new development will add to revenue sources.  But these funds are also needed for increasing infrastructure needs that have been deferred and will cost more if not taken care of sonner rather than later.

Current and anticipated needs are roadway maintenance, storm water infrastructure, bridge replacements, sewer line replacements, upgrades to the Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, park facilities maintenance, public building repairs for City Hall, and more.  This does not include new facilities like pathways, nor the maintenance for them.  How long will the City dance on the line between deferred maintenance and ballooning personnel costs -- before doing now what will need to be done later?

Citizens and their elected officials are having to make hard decisions about how to parcel out limited funds: Make staffing cuts;  or  Outsource as many operational functions as possible;  or  Continue to defer capital expenses;  or  Reduce staff, services and programs;  or  Require employees to pay a higher percentage of their benefits;  or  Increase taxes and fees.  

It will likely take a combination of tactics to do the job, but infrastructure maintenance cannot continue to be sacrificed, and taxes and fees cannot be raised without seriously harming a large number of residents on limited or fixed incomes.

There are significant philosophical hurdles to cross, generally breaking down between one's (in)ability to manage the rising cost of living here, and the desire to have government supply the non-essential programs we have come to expect.  Respecting the the former is the hallmark of a compassionate society.  Citizen-organized NGOs may be able to take up some slack.

For a discussion on staffing levels, read the USC post of May 7, 2014, "Do you know the numbers?"

While the City Manager and Budget Committee fussed about on how many percentage points of staff reduction are being made year to year (watch Budget Committee Meeting of 3/17/16), the goal remains at 9 FTE per 1,000 residents.  There has been a slight reduction from 2013-2014, but not enough to help.  From blog post noted above, compare 9 FTE/1,000 to other similar-sized cities' average of 5.77 FTE/1,000.  Lake Oswego also has a higher cost for benefits and rate of salary increases than state and county employees and private industry.  Data suggests we have room to improve, and several ways to do it.  The City Manager is aware of the problems and along with Council, will hopefully attack it with gusto.  
He who does not economize will have to agonize.

-- Confucius

Comments from online survey, April 2013:
Gerry Good, Evergreen

Given the projected cost increases in personnel costs and PERS, it is imperative that some servicesneed to be outsourced to reduce their cost yet there is appears to be no plan to evaluate and assess how when this may be done.
The future is clear. Costs continue to rise and will outpace revenue growth. Simple mathematics tellus that the situation cannot continue. Therefore, we must begin to reduce head count and the "load" of benefits it costs the city. Families cannot continue to outspend their resources. Why should the city? For example, a logical first step might be park maintenance. There are certainly firms who would bid on that work. Keep a supervisor to make sure the contractor does the work as per the contract. Same for vehicle maintenance and perhaps even building maintenance. Start with the "commodity" type services and use them for a year; then move on to more complicated areas.
The other topic that bears study is a financial strategy for the City. Is it really the prudent thing to use full faith and credit bonds for the water project? Perhaps revenue bonds would be better so that full faith will be available for future needs? Have we really thought through all this with the use of bond counsel? Yes, full faith and credit may be 0.5% cheaper for the water project but will it cost the City more or even limit our borrowing in the future? That 
needs to be clearly thought through. 

Chart below is from March 17, 2016 Budget Meeting materials:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Emergency Prep Fair

For your calendar:
Thursday, April 21. 4 - 8 pm 
LO Parks and Recreation Department 
1500 Greentree Rd. (Palisades School) 


On Thursday, April 21, learn how to care for yourself and your family in the event of an earthquake, landslide, flood, winter storm, or other disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Fair. Brought to you by the city of Lake Oswego, this free, family-friendly, event will feature approximately 20 informational booths plus programs and activities. Stop by any time between 4 and 8 p.m. and learn about water storage and emergency food options, portable sanitation, seismic retrofitting your home, non-structural recommendations, living without power, and much more!

Special Presentation - 6 to 7 p.m.

The City is proud to host a presentation featuring Jay Wilson from Clackamas County Emergency Management. Please join us from 6 to 7 p.m. to learn about:
Mr. Wilson is the Chair of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC) and currently serves as a Disaster Resilience Fellow with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The city-wide group, LO Prep, is involved in an ongoing effort to bring emergency and disaster preparedness to residents and institutions in the city, including our local schools.  In the even of a major disaster, there may be no place that is seismically sound enough to serve as a public shelter, so getting schools and large buildings retrofitted and individuals prepared is critical.

Remember to sign up for CERT classes.  These free classes, run by the Fire Department, train individuals to assist emergency personnel in the field in the event of an emergency.  In a large disaster, their skills may be the only help available.  Every block should have one!  Contact the LO Fire ?Department today if you live or work in Lake Oswego if you are interested.

You don't get a second chance 
to prepare for an emergency.


Just like gentrification of lower-priced neighborhoods, now whol cities are experiencing revivals as millennials escape unaffordable areas, many of which line the west coast.   According to Bloomberg Businezs (June, 2015), Portland ranks 13th on a list of metro areas nationwide as least affordable.  On the same list, Pittsburgh ranks the second most affordable.   See map below.

If any city wants to attract young families, it must have affordable housing - especially single family homes - be an affordable place to live, and have an abundant supply of jobs.  Pittsburgh has all three.

USC Confession:  I heard about this trend from my millennial daughter.  She would like to find an affordable home someday.

Pittsburgh expected to be one of America's hottest housing markets for millennials in 2016

Pittsburgh Business Times   December 2, 2015.  By Tim Schooley

Realtor.com, the official website of the National Association of Realtors, projects that Pittsburgh will rank as the country's second-busiest market for millennial homebuyers. The research was based on a formula of millennial population, employment growth and housing affordability.

These are the 13 Cities Where Millennials Can't Afford a Home
Bloomberg Business.  June 8, 2016    By Victoria Stilwell and Wei Lu

Soaring home prices and stagnant wages combine to make home-buying in some cities a pipe dream for young adults

There's no place like home - unless you can't afford one.  

Millennials have been priced out of some of the biggest U.S. cities, with residential real estate prices rising even as wage growth remains elusive. 

Bloomberg used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Zillow Group Inc. and Bankrate.com to quantify how much more money millennials would need to earn each year to afford a home in the largest U.S. cities. The good news is that out of 50 metropolitan areas, 37 are actually affordable for the typical 18-34 year-old (scroll down to the end of the story to see the full results).

The bad news is that the areas that often most appeal to young adults are also the ones where homeownership is the most out of reach.

Where will the kids go?

With all the tear-downs, lot partitions, and mega-house sore thumbs popping up in every neighborhood, people are wondering, where will all the median-income people live?  Where will the young, first-time buyers live? *   Where will the kids, the people on fixed incomes, the families, the city's income-diversity go?  

What started in a couple of neighborhoods has escalated to mass mailings to homeowners in all parts of town:  Unsolicited offers to buy one's home, all cash.  Though not specific, the message is clear: We don't care about your home, its architectural significance or design, the loving care you gave it over many decades, the kids you raised there, the show-worthy garden and tall trees, or even how valuable it is in today's market.  We just want your land.
In the 70s, an urban growth boundary seemed like a good idea.  So here we are: Supply down, demand up and no new land to build on.

Real estate data for Lake Oswego, as of 3/20/2016 
(from realty.com)

Median price of homes listed for sale in Lake Oswwgo:    $799,000    |   Price per square foot:    $250

Total number of homes listed for sale:    177

Number of single family homes for sale:    145

Number of homes under $399,999:    3

Number of homes between $400,000 and $499,999:    12

Number of homes between $500,000 and $749,999:    36

Number of homes between $750 and $1,000,000:   31

Number of homes over $1,000,000:    63

Most expensive home:    $15,000,000 @ 13,462 SF.  1500 North Shore Rd.

Next 4 top-priced homes:      $6.9 M,   $5.95 M,   $5.45 M,   $4.35 M

Number of condos (and townhouses) listed for sale:    25

Number of condos under $200,000:    11

Number of condos between $200,000 and $299,999:     6

Number of condos between $300,000 and $399,999:     3

Number of condos between $400,000 and $1,000,000:     3

Number of condos over $1,000,000:     2

* The answer to where young people are going to buy their first homes is..... Pittsburgh.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gather 'round, it's slop time!

Coming soon to your kitchen counter, a compost pail (cost to you is $.20/month over 5 years, or $12.00) with Lake Oswego "branding" on it.  (I love that word "branding" - it reminds me of a pack of cigarettes that 60s Ad Men are marketing to the public.)  Look for your bucket starting sometime in June.

Our buckets will be just like Portland's
(Uh Oh. Do I see some perfectly good cheese and vegetables in there?)
At this time, no one will be inspecting your trash to see if you are 
complying with the program like they do in Seattle.
The Residential Organics Collection program is Lake Oswego's latest effort to be environmentally conscious at the citizens' expense, while accomplishing very little.  Whether or not you want to recycle your potato peels and chicken bones, the city will charge you more to recycle your food waste in garbage bins you already have, with trucks they already use, on the days they already come.

"The only procedural change for residents would be that they could now add their food scraps, inclusive of meat, dairy, tea bags, coffee grounds and fibrous paper to their existing yard debris bins."  There will also be 11,225 plastic compost pails distributed ($134,700) and additional garbage truck travel to Corvallis.  How many residents do you think will participate in this program now that meat and dairy can be composted, and how many buckets will gather dust or be used to wash cars instead?  What will be the net benefit of the program after negative environmental elements are taken into account?

In the Staff Report for the City Council meeting on March 1, 2016, this program claims to:
  1. Make LO a regional leader, after Portland, in food scrap recycling.  It will elevate our "brand" as a green city.  (At our expense.  Being a regional leader is all about ego, not compost.)
  2. Reduce capacity and efficiency of the garbage trucks because food waste makes up about 50% of garbage by weight.  (If you shift food waste from the gray can to the green can, how does that reduce the amount of food waste going into trucks?  Don't the trucks have to drive further to dump the food scraps?  
  3. Reduce oil and grease in the wastewater system.  (Vegetable scraps don't have much, if any, oil. Composting animal products may help with some fats if enough people eat meat and then compost, but it won't help with cooking oils and fats.)
  4. Lake Oswego can "close the loop" by using the resulting compost in city landscaping.  (It already does.) 
If you are not happy with the design or function of your government-issued compost pail, I assume you still have to pay for it, but there are many other options to make composting fashionable and fun.  Here are a few examples:

This one sounds good - compostable bags and no flies!  

Odor-Free Kitchen Compost Collector.

Air flows around the compostable collection bag so excess moisture evaporates — there’s less mess, less odor and no flies. By reducing moisture build-up, scraps stay drier, minimizing bacterial growth. When the bag is full, toss it — bag and all — into your compost bin. Includes five compostable bags; additional bags sold separately. (Bin requires the use of compostable bags.)

  Any product that has the word "arugula" in it has to be cool!  


Introducing the coolest way to compost. This compost bin is meant to be placed on the countertop, staying clean and stylish while storing leftover food scraps for composting.

This one will match your SS appliances; a good choice if you
store your slop in the refrigerator.

Stainless Steel compost bin

The Endurance® Compost Pail holds several days' worth of vegetable trimmings and food scraps, while 
two charcoal filters in the vented lid ensure an odor-free environment.  Dishwasher safe. 

Have some fun!  This one takes a drill to punch holes in the 
top. You can be creative and use other types of large, lidded containers.  Bonus: Food containers are good for disguising the true function of the compost bucket.  If your container doesn't have built-in handles, a wire coat hanger will work just fine.

Kitchen Compost Bucket
DIY, Easy, Frugal

Monday, March 14, 2016

Silencing the opposition

This is for all the "loud ones," -  the ones who speak up when others wish they'd shut up.  

This is for all those who take the hits and keep on standing. 

When you hear the phrases, "vocal minority," "the loud ones," "anti-progress," and "NIMBY," or when someone poses an either-or proposition like "you either want strict tree codes to preserve a natural environment OR you are anti-environment and want to clear-cut your property,"  you are hearing propaganda disguised as hyperbole.  Maybe you have heard an innocuous word or phrase  like "economic justice" or "sustainable" and knew it meant something other than its dictionary meaning and it seemed more like a secret code for something else.

How can the public learn the truth when people manipulate the way they use words and define others?  What is the deeper message the speaker is trying to send?  Perhaps this article will explain what is really going on.

USC NOTE: The examples in the article may be politically charged for some readers, but the argument is worth reading.

The Ways of Silencing
The New York Times.  June 25, 2011
By Jason Stanley

We might wish politicians and pundits from opposing parties to engage in reasoned debate about the truth, but as we know, this is not the reality of our political discourse. 

Instead we often encounter bizarre and improbable claims about public figures. Words are misappropriated and meanings twisted. I believe that these tactics are not really about making substantive claims, but rather play the role of silencing. They are, if you will, linguistic strategies for stealing the voices of others. These strategies have always been part of the arsenal of politics. But since they are so widely used today, it is worth examining their underlying mechanisms, to make apparent their special dangers.

As Klemperer writes in “The Language of the Third Reich,” propaganda “changes the value of words and the frequency of their occurrence … it commandeers for the party that which was previously common property and in the process steeps words and groups of words and sentence structures in its poison.” When writing these words, Klemperer was thinking of the incessant use of the term “heroisch” (“heroic”) to justify the military adventures of the National Socialist state. Obviously, the mechanism described by Klemperer is not used for such odious purposes today. Nevertheless, there has been a similar appropriation of the term “freedom” in American political discourse.

It is difficult to have a reasoned debate about the costs and benefits of a policy when one side has seized control of the linguistic means to express all the positive claims. It is easy to say “a tax cut is not always good policy,” but considerably more difficult to say “tax relief is not always good policy,” even though “tax relief” is just a phrase invented to mean the same as “tax cut.”

Silencing is only one kind of propaganda. In silencing, one removes the ability of a target person or group to communicate. As a philosopher of language I am less qualified to make a judgment about the wisdom of Plato, Machiavelli, and Leo Strauss than I am to comment about their favored political tool.  However, I do think that given our current environment — of oppression, revolution, intervention, war, pseudo-war and ever-present human power relations — it is worthwhile bearing in mind the dangers of the manipulation of language. What may begin as a temporary method to circumvent reasoned discussion and debate for the sake of a prized political goal may very well end up permanently undermining the trust required for its existence.

Support what you love

Our disappearing heritage  

I was shocked to read that the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Los Angeles, California, was to be sold by UCLA.  Can you imagine this happening to the Portland Japanese Garden?  

A group of individuals and local and national
organizations stepped in to try to save the garden and the sale was halted in 2011.  The garden has been closed and not maintained since then, but a recent court action resulted in a settlement to take the property off the market and create to plan for its future. Read about it on the HCJG website (link above.).

In Lake Oswego, we have historic homes, properties and neighborhoods that are continually threatened and in need of preservation, maintenance and care.  To preserve the physical elements of our cultural and historic built environment, it takes 1) people who care, and 2) money.

My personal interests are architecture (especially mid century), gardens and natural areas.  And of course, local politics.

My list, and yours too, could go on forever.  The point of this post is to remind us all that if we want the things we love to exist in the future, we need to take care of them today.  If the cultural resources of our city, state, country and neighborhoods disappear, how do we define ourselves as individuals and as a people?  If we lose our uniqueness and historical touchstones, how do we grow an attachment to the place we call home?  Change is a given, destruction is not.

Everyone talks about...

the weather.

What can we expect for Lake Oswego, and will there be enough water to wash our cars and to share with Tigard?  There is no "sharing" though - Tigard owns part of our water supply no matter the level of the Clackamas River.  A bad move.  So far, snow on Mt. hood is still falling and skiing is fine.  For a look at what precipitation we can expect, check this out:

Oregon Water Resources Department

How about that storm this last weekend - Lake Shasta gained 6' in just one day!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Your vote, your voice - Shut Up!

The Oregon State Lobby Game
1. Citizens vs Special Interests
2. Government Bonds for Special Interests
(government deluded, builders happy)
3. Citizens vs Government and Special Interests
(profit, power and bad ideas)
4. Bad News for Citizens' Rights

Game Pieces:
The People Government 
Rigged Game: Roll dice to play again.

Government teams with builders, realtors and land investors to subvert city charters statewide to undermine Home Rule in order to force annexations without a vote of the electorate, with the excuse of increasing the supply of affordable housing.

Does the State Constitution allow usurpation of a city's charter?  We'll see.  Urban services to places like Damascus and Stafford are non-existent.  If builders had to pay for new infrastructure, housing would not be affordable., or current residents would pay making their houses unaffordable. Where is our City Councils on this issue? Whoever supports this measure should be replaced!  It is clear these legislators believe they know better than citizens what the future of their towns should be - and we will all be alike.  We need a revolt in Salem! 

One can only imagine what a city under seige by builders and land speculators might look like and what it would cost to serve new territory and residents with new city services.  With the stress of tear-downs and lot partitions in Lake Oswego we have had a taste of this, but this takes the struggle between current residents and developers to new heights when the power to annex shifts away from citizen control.

Are you angry yet?  I am.  So are a lot of people and groups that testified at a Public Hearing in February regarding SB 1573.  Excerpts from testimony are below.   Follow all committee meetings and read the testimony for and against the measure by clicking HERE.  The bill is currently awaiting the Governor's signature.  Will Governor Brown sign on to a bad bill?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Can you hear me now?

City Council meetings are open to the public, but citizens do not have the right to speak except at public hearings.  Lake Oswego City Council, like most cities, has always had a Citizen Comment period at the beginning of their regular meetings to allow citizens direct access to their local government officials.

Not any more.  I heard that the Council will be limiting citizen comments to just the first of the two meetings held each month.  Why?  Who's idea was this, and which Councilors approved of the change?

In 2013 the changes in the makeup of the City Council gave people the idea that their city government would be more open and responsive to citizens.  For a while maybe it was.  But for at least the last year, the mood has shifted.  It is always challenging to get business done and at the same time cater to citizen demands.  But the "optics" on this move are reprehensible.

Cutting the public out of public process is not a good move, especially for the mayor and councilors running for office this year.