Camas' Musical Chairs

The majority of Camas' Board, Commission and Committee meetings are now cancelled through the end of May with this recent public notice from a secondary web page on the city of Camas website. While city council meetings get the bulk of the attention in Camas, a lot goes on in these citizen boards and commission meetings made up of volunteers. In these meetings, citizens make recommendations to council, along with staff liaisons. While city council meetings persist to discuss "essential work" like roundabouts and real estate, what essential work is not occurring in these important meetings that aren't allowed to proceed remotely as city council meetings are?

The Parks and Recreation Commission comes to mind first during a time when our lakes have been closed by the county due to cyanobacteria toxicity. Addressing that issue actively seems objectively essential, especially as some neighbors report illness and even dying pets who've ingested lake water. Citizen oversight in parks and recreation may be more required than ever at this moment in time.

The Planning Commission is another group that was poised to make some important decisions to impact Camas' future. Most now know that the city council voted to spend $17m of taxpayer funds (during this global pandemic) to purchase "legacy lands". Some suspect that all or part of those lands (with an implied protection from the term "legacy") may be realistically converted and rezoned to north shore developable property over time. That conversion work would likely pass through the halls of Camas' Planning Commission.

The last agenda available for the Planning Commission's cancelled March 17th meeting shows that Senior Planner Sarah Fox would have given the group a full overview of the completed Phase 1 north shore work - to be followed by an implied vote to recommend council move forward with Phase 2. That vote would potentially be coming in the next meeting they hold, whenever that may be..

The Planning Commission's Chairperson, Tim Hein, made an appearance during a recent Camas Council meeting in early April during public comment. He gave uninterrupted praise to council for their $17m spend on those legacy lands. He said that he and his wife are big fans of the legacy lands acquisition north of the lake. He went on to say that he,

"really looks at it as Phase 2 of a... just a great jewel in the heart of Camas."

It was a specific choice of words with "Phase 2" mentioned. Why might a Camas Planning commissioner have "Phase 2" on the brain right now? Listen to Commissioner Hein's comment here:

Curious about Phase 2 of the North Shore and beyond? You can view the full North Shore phased plan below in the lead consultant's contract with the city.

WSP Northshore Consultant Contract
Download PDF • 218KB

You may have noticed that Mr. Hein is introduced as "Timothy" during the video above. Timothy introduces himself as Tim, but he also posts on local social media under the name "Cynthia". Tim has developed a bit of a reputation as someone who posts under the name Cynthia almost exclusively on social media. He'll sign off as Tim at times, but only at the end of statements that are normally shortened in social media feeds behind "read more" links. In general, whatever you'd call him -Tim, Timothy or Cynthia - this person just does not seem to like folks having a clear path to understanding that it's that Tim Hein, Past and Current Chair of the Camas Planning Commission.

A few Examples of "Cynthia" posting on a local Camas-specific social media platform.

And here's the same practice dating all the way back to 2014, this time in email, with "Cynthia" concerned about Marijuana in Camas. "Cynthia" sends an email to then Mayor Higgins and Council, again, from Cynthia Hein's email address, then signed off as Tim Hein.

Public city council praise from a chair of a citizen oversight commission isn't an isolated incident in Camas, not even on this specific April 6th call. The Camas Salary Commission Chair, Erika Cox, also came on at the end of that same meeting during public comment. In her brief remarks, Erika read a statement which she delivered with a satisfied tone while also taking a turn praising council for their $17m purchase.

So the chairpersons of two Camas citizen oversight commissions, not to mention Camas Fire Chief John Nohr who also commented that evening (featured News Story coming soon), called in specifically to give glowing and comprehensively positive reviews of this controversial action by the council. Not one of these city-involved individuals identified their notable city positions through their comments. Judge for yourself, but in our review due to word choices, cadence and stumbles, WATCH Camas feels it's likely that all of them were seemingly reading from carefully prepared statements that they might have read for the first time on the call.

Maybe even more important than those who spoke that night during public comment, was who did not. Randy Curtis is a man that is ever present at council workshop meetings while rarely, if ever, speaking into the public record as a citizen like Tim, Erika or John did that night. Randy is also a Camas commission chair, Parks and Recreation this time, and he's the MOST logical chair person to call in on that night. Randy may have even been expected to call in to offer praise to council and to praise a man that may likely be one of his oldest and dearest friends, Camas Parks and Recreation Manager Jerry Acheson (Jerry was tasked with making sure the "legacy" land owners felt comfortable throughout the multi-year acquisition process). A colleague of commissioner Curtis' on the Park's Commission even went out of her way to praise Jerry that evening, though she did it through email and out of the spotlight. Looking back at records, her email was actually sent to council two hours BEFORE THEY VOTED on the purchase, to congratulate them on that successful vote... that had not yet occurred. See her message below:

Commissioner Randy Curtis is a curious character in Camas. Mr. Curtis serves many positions on numerous committees, boards and commissions in town, including as vice president of the Downtown Camas Association. He serves on enough volunteer positions to fill two people's full time schedules most likely, but he's never taken a public office here in Camas or anywhere that staff has seen. He did work formerly as a land use planner for the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments and Planning Director for Marion County, but no elected offices. He's someone who so carefully exists in and around government, that he's never required to stand full electorate scrutiny for his various and sundry municipal activities.

Leading up to the 2019 pool bond, Randy told a slow and specific story in the press. The general tone was that he feared a catastrophic event and the Crown Park pool needed to be demolished. Randy never once mentioned to reporters that the city of Vancouver was restoring their 50+ year old legacy Marshall pool at exactly the same time for around $2m, the same price Camas was discussing for a more costly full replacement in the park. In an interview with a local blog last October, Camas' own Mayor Barry McDonnell seems to have expressed a specific opinion on Randy Curtis' role in justifying the demolition of the Crown Park Pool and trying to force the $78m pool bond. The blog's author began, "McDonnell said his view about Camas leadership started with the Crown Park pool process and the ensuing demolition." Then candidate McDonnell went on to say:

“I wanted to protect (the Crown Park Pool) and understand it,” he said. “The process didn’t feel right — I felt like there was another agenda. I look at the amount of time we pulled together as citizens and the research we did, and how we shared that information. But, when we attended the city council meetings it felt frustrating that we didn’t get any responses in those meetings."
"Randy Curtis (the City of Camas Parks and Rec Board Chair) told my wife in conversation during a P&R meeting that in closing the Crown Park Pool, they were hoping it would create a sense of urgency and enthusiasm in the public for a new community aquatic center. In our family, and our community of friends, it’s served to do just the opposite.”

Randy, a man who built large pools for a living immediately prior to moving to Camas, thought our landmark Crown Park Pool should be destroyed to create a "sense of urgency" to build Camas a $78m aquatic center.

So commissioner Curtis donates, what seems like all of his time, to boards and commission meetings in all corners of Camas. With that boundless passion clear in action, it again seems he has no opinions whatsoever to express during public comment with his neighbors. Camas is a town he seems so dedicated to on paper, but also seems happy to "clock out of and leave behind at 5pm when the shift bell rings" - almost like it's a job and not a passion at all?

Randy Curtis has been one of the people, if not the person, who has led the charge for an aquatics center in Camas from the moment he moved to town, and immediately after completing an aquatics center in Oregon. When asked about his job building that facility, Salem's Kroc Aquatic Center, Randy said,

“I was paid well, and I worked with some of the most outstanding people in the community." He continued, "(It) was an extremely rewarding experience because it was building something for the community... and, it started because I volunteered to work on a committee.

Seems like Randy may have imagined getting "paid well" here in Camas to build a $78m pool. He'd have another chance to be "working with outstanding people" likely with a lot of three letter acronyms. If asked about that $78m Camas pool, if it hadn't been defeated by a 90% margin of course, Randy may have been quoted today as saying, "and, it started because I volunteered to work on a committee."

The piece that Randy was quoted in was titled, "Making the Community Better" and it was written by then Camas-Washougal Post-Record Managing Editor Heather Acheson. The name Acheson may be familiar to some in Camas because of Jerry Acheson, Camas' longtime Parks and Recreation Manager. As mentioned, Randy Curtis is especially close with Jerry Acheson. They've worked together directly in every Parks and Rec meeting and many sub committee meetings since the moment Randy moved to Camas. They also speak constantly through email according to reports and are generally seen near one another at city events.

So a person that shares the last name of the Camas Parks and Recreation Manager writes a featured piece about the Parks and Recreation Commission chair with the title "Making the Community Better" - with the story's featured image a head shot o