Land movement prompts question: Was the city sufficiently skeptical?The land movement in Astoria's Uppertown is a slowly unfolding tragedy of considerable proportions. The testimony of dislocated homeowners at Monday's meeting of the Astoria City Council was heart rending.

This story is so fraught with emotion that it will be difficult in the months ahead to think clearly about the future. But someone at the city must look ahead, replay the events that led to this situation in Uppertown and implement policy changes.

No one has asserted that the city of Astoria caused this problem. At the same time, the city's managers must not play the role of innocent bystander.

For many of us who are not geologists, there is an essential question of whether the city's Public Works or Engineering departments were sufficiently skeptical of a major excavation planned at the foot of a hill in a city with a history of landslides. And was the city's policy of requiring approval of excavations in previous slide areas sufficient?

The eventual settlement of the costs of this catastrophe will be sorted out in court. But if the city is not brutally honest about how its managers performed, we will be no better off when the damages have been allocated.

There is a pressing question of whether city government could pronounce judgment on itself. Given that limiting factor, it might make sense for the mayor and council to appoint a commission of outsiders, just as a private corporation would bring in auditors to sort out a mess.

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