Miracle of Lights complaint heard by City Council

A long-time holiday tradition in Keizer was front and center at the Keizer City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 5. The Gubser neighborhood’s Miracle of Christmas lighting display elicited comment from residents of the area concerning a route change.

Organizers of the annual display added a loop that connects  Mistwood Drive NE and Meadowlark Drive NE. Some residents of the 24 homes on the loop testified before the council that they were notified of the change less than two weeks before the start of this year’s display.

The Miracle of Christmas attracts thousands of vehicles and people to the Gubser neighborhood to view the houses festooned with holiday lights and decorations. The display is a fundraiser for Marion Polk Food Share. Attendees are encouraged to donate non-perishable food items or money. In 2021 approximately 10 tons of food and $47,000 was collected during the three-week event. In the 40-plus years of the Miracle of Light, hundreds of tons of food and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been collected for Marion Polk Food Share.

A petition was signed by 21 of the homeowners opposing the addition of the loop to the display route. Some of the testimony at the council meeting cited the short timeline to decorate their homes. Residents Allie Coriano, Diana Dotson and John Miesner addressed the council about their concerns of adding the Mistwood-Meadowlark loop to the display route.

Jennifer Skipper, one of the display organizers, told the Keizertimes that the organizers changed the route in response to a homeowner on the loop who volunteered to manage the donation collection tent next year. She said the organizing team was just following the model that has been in place for 40 years.

Skipper said that the Miracle of Lights and the resulting donation for Marion Polk Food Share “is the good that begins when neighbors come together.” She added that the light display had two goals: making a good neighborhood and food and money for the Food Share.

“There is no pressure on any homeowner to participate in the display,” said Skipper.

Regarding comments at the council about older homeowners unable to participate, the organizers encourage others to be good neighbors and help those who need assistance with putting up lights.

With consensus, the council directed city staff to look over the permitting process and criteria for future years.

An email sent from Miracle of Christmas to Mayor Clark, councilors and the city manager expressed “extreme disappointment” in the portrayal of the organization.

In part, the email stated “It is very sad that the Mayor and the elected council would instigate such decisions of this magnitude without every asking to listen to our side of the story.” In addition, the email stated that comments made at the council meeting by community members and council members were “hurtful, many were not honest, and were not in the spirit of what the Miracle of Christmas event exudes.”

Mayor Cathy Clark responded with an email that said, in part, that city involvement is imperative since this is on public street…Organizational structure to ensure community and collaboration will help spread the workload and strengthen the team across the entire neighborhood.”

In other business, the council held two public hearings. The first was an approval of a 10% increase in solid waste collection rates. The second was for proposed revisions to the Keizer Development Code regarding stormwater management.

City Planner Shane Witham said the revisions will update language in the Stormwater Management code. Mayor Cathy Clark agreed.  “The rewrite is way easier to read,” she said.

The council also extended City Manager Adam Brown’s employment agreement into 2024. He started his job in April.

Appearing before the council were Kira Johnson, 2003 United States of America Miss Oregon and her predecessor, Sofia Boru, to promote their platforms.