Current council has duties; enjoyable visits here and elsewhere


While we await final results from last Tuesday in local races that are so close they won’t be decided until provisional votes are considered, let’s talk about a few other things…

Work to be done

Regardless of last week’s election results for Hillsboro City Council, the current sitting council has work ahead of it through the rest of the year. Current city council members were elected to serve from January 2014 until January 2018, not for three years and 10 months. They are tasked by voters with serving the city for four full years. Important issues in front of them at their November and December meetings deserve their attention and action, rather than punting issues down the road for the next council.

As I’ve mentioned, the Downtown Redevelopment District proposal has been needlessly politicized. It’s a great economic development tool that isn’t going to make anyone rich. It’s not a tax increase, it’s a very minor redistribution of property taxes that are increased because of improvements, as will happen with or without the DRD, and are then used to incentivize more development.

Spurring additional improvement to properties and buildings in the historic district is a good thing. Succumbing to the fear and loathing campaign will be truly unfortunate.

BBC breaks local news

When Mayor Drew Hastings was being interviewed live last week in our office by BBC Radio, he was casually asked whether he would seek a third term. I have long had the feeling he wasn’t going to run again, but I expected him to hedge a little, perhaps saying that it was too soon to decide. Instead, he said, “No.”

I joked with BBC host Nuala McGovern that she and her crew had come all the way from London to break local news in Hillsboro. Thanks a lot!

The BBC did a great job here. My thanks to Paulette Donley, Dinah Phillips, Anneka Collins, Bill Fawley, Branden Jackman and the mayor for participating in the show. Jeff Gilliland and David Wright from our newsroom staff also made us proud during segments in which they participated. I know from follow-up communication that the BBC enjoyed the visit and thought the two-hour broadcast was informative and well worth the trip.

The personal visits here by faraway media entities serve a positive purpose, primarily by allowing them to discover firsthand that most of the stereotypes they have come to accept about regions like ours are far from accurate.

An enjoyable visit

On Friday, I had the honor of addressing graduate students at Columbia Journalism School in New York City, courtesy of Prof. Samuel Freedman, who extended the invitation. A few weeks ago I talked with another class at Columbia via Skype, but the chance to travel to New York and meet with a class in person on the beautiful Columbia campus was a career highlight for me.

Let me pause to mention that flying into LaGuardia airport is always a treat, because you get a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty during the descent. It was, I think, the third time I’ve landed at LaGuardia over the years, but I’m sure there were many on the plane who make the trip regularly. Nevertheless, virtually everyone aboard took a few moments to look out the windows in appreciation of the impressive spectacle of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island.

The Columbia students from around the U.S. and different countries were well prepared and had some excellent questions and comments. Frankly, the level of engagement and the quality of the work required of them at Columbia gives me new hope for the future of journalism.

I think Professor Freedman’s goal in inviting me to meet with his class was to expose them to a journalist from a part of the country that heavily supported Donald Trump in last year’s election, and to encourage his students to think about regions like ours – and how they are reported — a little differently than they might otherwise be predisposed to do.

Professor Freedman – a gracious host who has become a friend — and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but we share a dedication to the idea that journalism should be fact-based, objective and fair to all sides, with personal viewpoints reserved for the opinion pages. Journalism has too often strayed from that, especially in the Trump era.

My thanks to Professor Freedman and the students at Columbia. It was an opportunity I will long cherish.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

By Gary Abernathy

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