Clatsop County commissioners made appointments to the Planning Commission on Wednesday night after a contentious dispute that highlighted an ideological divide.
In 3-2 votes, commissioners appointed Robert Stricklin and Christopher Farrar to new four-year terms on the Planning Commission. They also appointed Lam Quang, the owner of HiiH Lights, to replace Michael Magyar, who resigned in May for a term that expires in 2022.
Commissioner Lianne Thompson and Commissioner Mark Kujala wanted to postpone the appointments until new commissioners take office in January.
Courtney Bangs and John Toyooka defeated Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan and Commissioner Sarah Nebeker in the May election, which will shift the ideological balance on the board to a more conservative direction.
“It makes sense to me that since the board hasn’t done strategic planning and thus can’t, I want to say, in a coherent way, complete way, guide the Planning Commission in what our strategic vision is so that they can partner with us in that, I think it makes sense to just hold off on appointing any Planning Commission members since the two who want to keep on serving and keep on doing that,” Thompson said.
Kujala added that he believed it was important to delay the appointments until Bangs and Toyooka join the board.
Commissioner Pamela Wev and Sullivan and Nebeker disagreed. Wev said she was outraged by the suggestion to wait for the new board.
“I think this is an enormous, enormous insult to our two outgoing commissioners,” Wev said. “They have six months left to serve. And if certain members of the commission think that they shouldn’t do anything for the next six months — they were elected to serve four-year terms — and those two terms are not up until Jan. 1.”
“And I’m sorry, Commissioner Thompson, but I am deeply, deeply disturbed by the little trick that you’re trying to pull here. And if you think that I’m going to sit here for the next six months and let this kind of activity happen, there will be a very bad transition to this commission.”
Thompson and Kujala defended their position and argued they were trying to prevent what happened in 2011, when the board, after a progressive majority was elected, voted 3-2 to replace the entire Planning Commission.
“We know how things happened several years ago where there was a full-scale replacement of the Planning Commission,” Kujala said. “I don’t want to go that direction. I think we want to do this in conjunction with our next commission (with the) two commissioners that are going to come on.”
The majority chose to make the appointments.
“I understand that things are going to change in January, but I think the new board will also have new decisions to make and that will be their role,” Sullivan said. “And our role right now is to make the decision that’s in front us.”