Sherwood City Councilor’s Online Poll a Leadership Misstep on Future UGB Expansion

Sherwood City Councilor’s Online Poll a Leadership Misstep on Future UGB Expansion

On Tuesday evening, the City of Sherwood elected a new Mayor (former Mayor Keith Mays) and confirmed a couple of City Councilors who were running unopposed after being appointed to fill the position of councilors recently removed via a recall election.  The election closes a tumultuous period for Sherwood and should allow the City to get back to the business at hand.

The most immediate business at hand for Sherwood is determining whether to move forward with a request to Metro for the inclusion of 600+ acres to the UGB for future development, commonly known as Sherwood West.  Staff has made the request to Metro, but Mayor Mays and some of the Council have indicated an interest in pausing the process until 2021 so more work can be done locally to determine how the City would serve the area.

While a rock-solid case can be made for adding the acreage to the City of Sherwood for future expansion (location, land availability, desirability, economic benefit etc.) the more troubling development came from one of the newest elected City Councilors, Tim Rosener.  In what may or may not be a genuine attempt to gather information from his community, Rosener placed a poll on his facebook page asking anyone willing to take the survey to chime in.

The problem with this approach is two-fold.  First, the questions Councilor Rosener asked were incredibly slanted.  If you are seeking genuine information from a poll, your questions need to be as neutral as possible to get a genuine opinion.  Here is a direct sample of just two of the questions in the Poll:

Q:  “The Sherwood West Expansion (57-76% increase in population) would have a positive effect on our community”

And:

Q:  “Adding 3,017 to 4,036” more students to the school system would have a positive impact on the community and the schools”

Respondents are asked to agree or disagree to varying degrees with these statements.  These loaded questions are meant to solicit a specific response.  While the size of Sherwood West, depending on zoning, will significantly increase the population of Sherwood, the question ignores the fact that over the next five years it would have virtually no impact on growth.  As the land goes through the planning process, infrastructure negotiation/build out and individual neighborhood approval processes, no new homes will be added.  Over the next decade, even two decades, population growth would continue in the area, gradually increasing Sherwood’s size.  Rosener’s first question is meant to solicit a negative response by making it seem that the city will explode overnight if Sherwood West is brought in the UGB.

The second question is more of the same, but playing on a different community.  No parent in their right mind wants thousands of more kids at their schools, driving up class sizes and taxing resources.  What the question ignores is that for every new home in Sherwood, the School District charges a one-time Construction Excise Tax on each home for new facilities.  Along with new families living in Sherwood West, comes millions in new money directly from development for schools.  It certainly doesn’t lead to a glut of students immediately after the vote and adding this many students might be just fine if the schools have time to add capacity.

Not surprisingly, the poll elicited a heavily negative response from those who chose to take it.  Only Rosener can know what his true intent was with this poll, but if his goal was to get genuine feedback on Sherwood West and the City of Sherwood’s future, all he likely did here was inflame the situation and create unrest about an issue that cannot be boiled down to a simple, unscientific Facebook poll.  In the pursuit of information, how you collect the data matters.  Rosener’s community, constituents and fellow council members would be smart to take his data with a grain of salt.

Rosener seems to be a dedicated and smart local government official dedicated to his community.  However, if he believes tainted data like this is the best way to represent his constituents, he is sadly mistaken.  As an elected official in a republic form of government, he is elected to represent the public and make decisions on their behalf after studying all the facts.  If Rosener sincerely believes expansion into Sherwood West is not a good idea now, then he can make that decision.  There is no need to manufacture support through a poorly designed poll to confirm your beliefs.