New Grants Pass city leaders working to rebuild trust

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — After months of discontent and mistrust in Grants Pass, change is coming to city hall after voters decided it was time to make some changes.

Some of the new faces in city leadership are working to rebuild trust within the community.

“The council has been governing by inertia and I just don’t think over time they are actually able to see themselves and really see how the public perceives them, Rob Pell said.

Pell is one of the newest city councilors and in Ward One.

He said residents sent a clear message by electing three new councilors and a new mayor in Sara Bristol.

“I really don’t feel that the city council right now is doing a good job of listening, reacting and making the public feel like their opinion matters,” Pell said.

Pell said an issue with the Parks Committee in the past year losing its faith in the liaison, which was brought up publicly, showed something needed to improve.

New city councilor in Ward Four, Vanessa Ogier, has lived in Grants Pass for five years and said the biggest issue is the thumbs up approvals in workshops.

“There have been city council workshops that were not televised for some reason … there was a recording failure or whatever the issue was, so that creates a sense of secrecy,” Ogier said. “No one knows what happened in those three hours of the city council workshop unless you were present,” she added.

Along with fellow new councilor Brian DeLaGrange, Pell and Ogier wrote a letter to city leadership.

In the letter, they included four points to increase transparency, public participation and trust.

Those included ending thumbs-up and secret written votes, allowing councilors to participate in all agenda setting discussions with mayor and city manager, allowing committee and commission chairs to address the council at a workshop once a month and public comment portions be moved to the beginning of meetings.

“These four points are super easy,” Ogier said “They’re free, you know, they can be done almost immediately just with a consensus of everyone involved. These are a win-win,” she added.

Newly-elected mayor, Sara Bristol, said she felt people were ready for a change at city hall.

She wants to improve communication, tighten the belts on the budget and rebuild trust with taxpayers.

They said they all believe in a free and open government which values public opinion.

“We are in fact working toward rebuilding trust with them because let’s be frank, there have been some decisions that have been made recently that the public is very unhappy with,” Ogier said.

“That’s all we’re looking for … the transparency being built into the infrastructure so that even if someone forgets from time to time, inertia doesn’t take over and erode that over time,” Pell said.

Bristol said the reason the three year city police and fire tax was voted down last week was because voters are wary of spending more money right now.

She said the city needs to focus on making good spending decisions.

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NBC5 News weather forecaster Aaron Nilsson is a Southern California native, but most recently lived in Seattle. He's also lived in Sweden and Utah. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelors Degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Scandinavian Studies. While at BYU, he covered sports for BYUtv. Aaron is not new to the Medford/Klamath Falls market. He was a local TV journalist from 2013-2017. Outside the station, Aaron enjoys music, traveling, sports, movies, and cooking. His favorite sport is soccer.
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