In the city of Umatilla’s November newsletter, some restatement of the facts needs to occur as it appears the author of “City of Umatilla welcomes new staff” is not very familiar with what has gone on in the city over the past 15 years, let alone the “several decades” of which the author seems to speak. It might be reasonable to suggest the author owes a few previous city managers, business owners, civic leaders and the city residents a bit of an apology.
Not taking away anything from the new staff, the article seems to imply it is the advent of the new staff that is going to miraculously turn things around. We should wish the new staff success, but the statement “after sitting somewhat dormant for the last several decades” couldn’t be further from the truth.
Revitalization of the downtown has been a goal of the Umatilla City Council and city management since the late 1990s. The issue has always been available money, and not put the citizens of the city into heavy debt making it happen. More than several city managers and city councilors have worked with economic factions of the state, and with philanthropic foundations to bring about change. Countless volunteer hours have also been evident throughout the periods, and the citizenry have had generous outpourings of money — when they had money to spare and to give.
The new library and city hall exists because of energy by the city council, two former city managers and their collaboration with community civic leaders, and a very heavy dose of community support (labor and money). The owners of Harvest Foods spent a significant sum of money revitalizing their business; Java Junkies was a fledgling start-up business some years back and now flourishes; the community built a beautiful new high school; a former mayor was the main driver that helped to bring Two Rivers Correctional Institution to the local area (which is barely two decades old); Cycle Oregon came to Umatilla through the efforts of the school district’s volunteer coordinator and a team of community volunteers; the city has seen more than several new housing developments and a rise in new students that has burdened our existing schools; previous city councils took some bold steps in helping to clear out some of the dilapidated structures through use of eminent domain; the city revitalized its police department and appointed the area’s first female police chief; working with the Corps of Engineers and the Confederate Tribes the city established a soccer field and with the help of citizen-volunteers helped to clean out unwanted vegetation in Old Town; the city owes its good working relationship with both the Corps of Engineers and the Confederated Tribes to city councils and city managers in the early 2000s; and the list could easily go on.
The “somewhat dormant” statement of the newsletter article is a misrepresentation of the facts, and misrepresents the continuing energy of Umatilla citizens and recognition of former city management and city councils. More would have been done, and could have been done, had additional funding been available. Former city management and city councilors, beginning with former city manager Bonnie Parker, were positive in their look forward but always cautious not to overly-encumber the citizens of Umatilla with debt — the city has always attempted to live within its means and prided itself that it was able to operate in the “black.”
It would not be out of hand for the author to reconsider this section of the November newsletter, and to proffer an apology to past councils, past city administration, and Umatilla citizens, because the city of Umatilla has not sat dormant, it has done its best with what it had to work with; and, looking at what it has accomplished over the previous two decades, has every right to be proud of its accomplishments.
David P. Trott