Oregon City Commissioner James Nicita, a registered Green, ‘faces recall effort’ over opposition to a new mall

The full story can be read here, below is an excerpt.

Parks has 90 days to collect 1,742 valid signatures from registered voters. If the recall petition is certified, a special election would be held by the end of the year.

CenterCal Properties, which had worked on the mall project and was negotiating an agreement with the city’s Urban Renewal Commission, pulled the plug on the project last month. Nicita spurned offers to meet with CenterCal President Fred Bruning, who made it no secret that Nicita’s continued opposition was a key factor in the decision to kill the mall.

Last year, Bruning temporarily broke off negotiations with the city, citing a “deep division” among city commissioners — Nicita in particular.

Nicita voiced strong criticism of The Rivers, questioning whether it was viable to build a huge mall in a down economy and provide the $17.6 million subsidy the developer requested to offset construction costs. The mall would have been built on an old garbage dump.

When Nicita proposed a city charter amendment that would have killed the project and alienated other developers, more than 400 people showed up to oppose the plan, which was withdrawn.

Nicita suggested other uses for the land and proposed building a nearby trash-burning plant that could turn the waste into electricity.

Nicita, a Pacific Green Party member, was elected to a nonpartisan seat on the commission in 2008.


One Comment

  1. Some of the background on the issues behind the recall effort are in my latest constituent letter, appended below, and in these two articles (and the comments from citizens afterward):



    I don’t know if this website automatically creates hyperlinks out of web address texts, so folks might have to copy and past the links into their browsers.

    If this website can post pdf documents, I can provide the paper I wrote on alternative scenarios for development of the area around the historic End of the Oregon Trail, which proposed alternatives to the big-box mall.

    Jim Nicita
    City Commissioner
    Oregon City, Oregon
    Member, Pacific Green Party

    —–Original Message—–
    From: James Nicita [mailto:jnicita@ci.oregon-city.or.us]
    Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 7:23 PM
    To: James Nicita
    Subject: Constutent Letter from City Commissioner James Nicita: Follow-Up on
    Deliberations on The Rivers

    The Oregon City News ran this article regarding the impasse that occurred
    between the owner of the Rossman landfill and the developer of the proposed
    Rivers Mall:


    As the article points out, there are other parties now expressing interest
    in developing the Rossman landfill site. In addition to Mr. Duyn of Macadam
    Forbes, mentioned in the article, e-mails from city staff indicate staff has
    had meetings with Mr. James Kyung of Parkland Development Co., and with
    Growth Design, Inc., the firm I mentioned in a previous constituent letter
    that had expressed an interest in the Blue Heron mill property.

    My next constituent letter will discuss moving forward on economic
    development matters. In this e-mail, I would like to mention a few items
    regarding the recent discussions regarding the proposed Rivers project.

    I. Executive Session Transcripts Regarding Negotiations on The Rivers

    There was a lot of interest in the community regarding the negotiations that
    were going on regarding the proposed Rivers project. People wanted to know
    what was going on, but the urban renewal commission was undertaking its
    deliberations on the proposed development agreement in executive sessions
    that were closed to the public.

    The urban renewal commission can make the decision to waive the privileged
    nature of the executive session meetings. In light of the significant
    interest in the matter, I am in favor of having the urban renewal commission
    order transcripts of the executive session meetings, and releasing them to
    the public. In that way, citizens can make their own determination on how
    well urban renewal commissioners, staff, and legal counsel were advancing
    and protecting the citizens’ interests in these deliberations.

    II. Urban Renewal and Sales Price of the Rossman Landfill

    The Oregon City News article quotes the developer of the proposed mall as
    saying, “Price is always an issue, and one of the reasons we needed urban
    renewal was the price of the land.”

    If the quote is accurate, it highlights one of the (many and significant)
    issues the urban renewal commission had to grapple with in its deliberations
    over the use of urban renewal for this project.

    In 2008, Leland Consulting and GEL Oregon prepared a staff report for The
    Rivers Project. An excerpt from that staff report is attached, and includes
    a table in which the developer’s financial estimates for the project include
    a figure of approximately $7.2 million for “Property Costs”; both
    acquisition and demolition.

    On the other hand, the Oregon City News article provides an estimate of $12
    million for the price of the Rossman landfill; although it is not possible
    to know what two private parties – the landowner and the developer –
    discussed in terms of a purchase price.

    But, if as a hypothetical matter, the purchase price would have been in,
    say, the $12-$15 million range, a significant question would then arise for
    the URC as to whether urban renewal would or should be used, at least in
    part, to augment the purchase price of the Rossman landfill.

    The only way, it seems, to even begin the discussion to make such a
    determination on this matter was for the URC to make a signed sales
    agreement — which would include a concrete purchase price – a prerequisite
    to the consideration of using urban renewal.

    The URC did make that a prerequisite (for a number of reasons); then, the
    landowner and the developer were not able to reach an agreement.

    The same issue will almost certainly arise if any subsequent proposal for
    developing the Rossman landfill involves a request for the use of urban

    It might not be out of the realm of possibility that under some futuere
    scenario the citizens of Oregon City would find such a hypothetical
    augmentation of sales price acceptable for a particular development
    proposal. In my opinion, however, that sentiment should be recorded in a
    public vote, after full and complete provision of information.

    III. The Great Incinerator Myth

    One interesting lesson for me during the debates on The Rivers was regarding
    how myths get generated and propagated. Because it might not be the last
    time that such a mythmaking will be injected into Oregon City’s political
    discourse, I want to explore it a bit.

    In this case the myth, propagated by some opponents of my position that
    citizens should have the right to vote on the issuance of urban renewal debt
    for large projects like the proposed Rivers mall, is that my alternative
    idea was to build a trash incinerator on the site where the Rivers would be

    This spring, the Oregon City News ran an editorial correcting its role in
    the generation of this myth, based on a paper I had written on alternative
    development scenarios for the North End of downtown:


    As this editorial indicates, a handful of people who knew for a fact that I
    had not proposed siting an incinerator on the Rossman landfill – the site of
    the proposed Rivers mall – yet nevertheless propagated the myth.

    For example, I had sent the paper mentioned in the editorial to my fellow
    members of the Urban Renewal Commission, and we had discussed it during a
    URC meeting. Nevertheless, two URC members, Brian Shaw and Doug Neeley,
    picked up on and spread the myth. I outlined this myth propagation last year
    in an e-mail to the Oregonian appended at the bottom of this constituent

    Two other examples of spreading the myth are notable:

    A. Former Mayor Dan Fowler

    Former mayor Dan Fowler has extensive land holdings near the Rossman
    landfill, as outlined by another former mayor, John Williams noted in this
    opinion piece:


    I do not have a record of my personal conversations with Mr. Fowler
    regarding my paper, but I do have a record of his presence at a Citizens
    Involvement Council meeting on January 4, 2010 (minutes attached), at which
    I presented my paper in detail, including my vision of using plasma-arc
    gasification technology to remove the Rossman landfill and restore the
    historic Abernethy Green. As the Oregon City News editorial correctly
    infers, I did not want to put an incinerator on the Rossman landfill, and in
    particular where the Rivers mall would be built, because my proposal was to
    explore removing the landfill.

    Nevertheless, at the time of the public hearings on the proposed urban
    renewal right-to-vote charter amendment held this past January and February,
    Mr. Fowler used the incinerator-on-the-landfill myth in this editorial he
    published in the Oregonian:


    He also attached his editorial to the following e-mail, which he distributed
    in order to organize people to get to the public hearings on the urban
    renewal charter amendment:


    —– Forwarded Message —-
    From: Dan Fowler
    Sent: Sat, January 29, 2011 3:18:08 PM
    Subject: Big Decisions for Oregon City

    To All,

    Oregon City has two BIG meetings this coming week and I NEED your help.
    There is an Urban Renewal Meeting 6 PM Monday the 31st at City Hall (corner
    of 7th and Center) and Wednesday night Feb. 2nd 7 PM at the Pioneer
    Community Center the City Commission will be taking up Charter amendments
    and one could stop “The Rivers” project. They are rushing into these issues
    and we need to show them the majority of the people in the area want jobs
    not delays. We need a crowd! Please read my attached letter to the editor.
    Also attached is an informational flyer on the project. If you can be there
    do so and bring people. Anyone is welcome to speak but it is not necessary
    but it is important we have a good showing for both meetings. Invite
    people. Pass this on to anyone who might be supportive and live in Oregon

    Thank you,

    Dan Fowler


    B. The Oregonian

    The worst perpetrator of the myth, though, in my mind, is the Oregonian. In
    theory, newspapers have an obligation to get the facts right and be
    objective in their reporting. Yet, the Oregonian freely repeated the
    incinerator-on-the-landfill myth in this February 18, 2011 article:


    I had sent the reporter Mr. Mayes only a few months previously the paper I
    wrote, attached to the below e-mail which included a long explanation that
    the incinerator myth was false. Yet he nevertheless actively participated in
    the mythmaking in the above article.

    From: James Nicita
    Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 7:30 AM
    To: stevemayes@news.oregonian.com
    Cc: Doug Neeley; brian_d_shaw@msn.com; editor@clackamasreview.com
    Subject: Clarifying Commissioner Neeley’s incorrect statement


    Thanks for speaking with me briefly last night. Attached is my paper which I
    distributed last year on north end redevelopment.

    Colin wrote an article on the document, which quotes Doug as saying that it
    merits “major discussion:”


    So, presumably, Doug has actually read the document himself, and knows full
    well that the document does not call for an incinerator on top of the
    landfill, as he erroneously implied last night.

    The Oregon City News erroneously reported that the paper called for a waste
    to energy facility next to the Home Depot on the landfill site (namely,
    where the Rivers Mall would go), in the first paragraph of its article on
    the paper:


    Ever since, I have unfortunately had to face accusations like Doug’s false
    accusation last night, as well as in Brian Shaw’s recent letter to the
    editor in the Oregon City News:


    Later, I got the Oregon City News to run a clarification, as they did at the
    end of this article:


    Generally, I think Doug has more integrity than he displayed last night.


    The degree to which both the Oregonian and the Oregon City News get things
    wrong, at a basic, factual level, is concerning. This periodic constituent
    letter will probably from now on therefore include a section to fact-check
    what these media outlets are reporting about Oregon City.

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