On behalf of the Volunteer Coordinating Committee (VCC) I would like to formally apologize to the citizens of Keizer, specifically those who were attendance of the December 13 VCC meeting.  Although absent that meeting (I was out of the country), I feel it is my responsibility as Chairman to do so, after having listened to a recording of the meeting.

It was an unusual meeting, to say the least, inasmuch as there were more than 50 citizens in attendance.  A number of them provided public testimony.  Having listened to the audio, I heard some question the committee’s practice, policy, and procedures, while others simply provided an endorsement for a particular volunteer-candidate.  While they were direct with their statements I found all, however, to be polite, courteous, and respectful.

It is unfortunate that the Volunteer Coordinating Commitee committed errors in the voting/appointing process to determine which applicants would be recommended to the city council for the two Parks Advisory Board volunteer positions.  Mistakes happen, and I can assure everyone that there was no malicious intent by anyone on the VCC.  In fact, in the eight years I’ve served, the past four as chairman, the VCC has strived to be open, honest, and, above all, accurate.  Where the VCC went wrong during the December 13 meeting, was the ability to listen with the proper frame of mind.

Some of the VCC members took personally what the citizens had to say, and went on to call the meeting intimidating.  Words such as accusatory, turmoil, and anger were used by VCC members to describe the mood of those in attendance.  One VCC member mentioned feeling threatened.  In response many citizens were offended by these statements (I’ve not received as much personal e-mail in a month as I did in a matter of days regarding this—spam included).

Having fully digested the audio of that meeting, I did not get a sense of any anger, intimidation, or threatening statements.  On the contrary, what I heard was a group of citizens exercising their right to speak.  Be it to boldly endorse an applicant, or to express frustration over policy or procedure shouldn’t have mattered.  The Volunteer Coordinating Committee should have been better listeners.  It is for this that I offer to the citizens my apology.

I hope that the words and actions of the VCC during the Decemeber 13 meeting in no way dissuades anyone from continuing to express themselves to our city officials and representatives.  I hope the opposite happens—that Keizer citizens become even more motivated to speak out for what they believe. And not just at VCC meetings, but also City Council meetings or any of the many volunteer committees, specifically in this case, the Parks Advisory Board.

There is a quote that was often used by John F. Kennedy  that went something like this, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”

If you’re serious about your issues, and really want to institute changes in our city that you believe should take place then I urge you—please—continue to express yourself.  Go to the meetings and speak.  Speak with courage.  Speak with conviction.  And speak from your heart, but do it with respect so no one can accuse you of being intimidating.

(David Fifer lives in Keizer. He is chairman of the Volunteer Coordinating Committee.)