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Jason Beebe wants state rules to change, but urges locals not to defy the existing rules

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jason BeebePrineville Mayor Jason Beebe has joined a coalition of mayors throughout Oregon advocating for the opening of local businesses.

Oregon mayors comprising the Main Street Mayors coalition gathered virtually on Dec. 22, led by Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam. The group is supportive of business owners who say they can open safely and strike a balance between slowing the spread of the coronavirus and preventing irreversible economic damage to Main Streets across the state.

"People are packing into malls and grocery chains supporting corporate America, and yet we can't sit down at a locally owned restaurant to support a local business owner and their employees while enjoying a meal with our families in a safe and responsible way," Pulliam said in a press release. "The double standards must end."

Pulliam described the coalition as peaceful and nonpartisan. The group's political action committee is dedicated to supporting candidates and measures that "stand up for small businesses threatened by government overreach."

"A sales tax on gross sales, huge increases in the minimum wage, excessive wage and hour requirements and now a full stoppage of work are decimating community Main Streets around Oregon," said Bess Wills, director of Main Street Mayors PAC. "As someone who has dedicated my life to propping up my local community, I'm proud to be part of this effort to give these communities a voice to fight back."

Main Street Mayors is supporting coalition members operating in counties labeled as "Extreme Risk," who will voluntarily comply with state requirements for "High Risk" counties starting on Jan. 1. This will allow restaurants and gyms to open at significantly reduced capacity.

During the virtual meeting, Oregon mayors discussed their roles in this environment and brainstormed solutions to assist small businesses that may soon close permanently. In the event such economic devastation comes to pass, the coalition asserts that great harm will be inflicted on Oregon's cities smaller than those the size of Portland, Salem, Eugene and Bend.

Beebe said that he is not a coalition member with any specific expectations, but he is very interested in what Pulliam has planned for the coalition and plans to stay in touch with him as the group evolves.

"I joined in on the effort because I want to help our community and as a group, we may have a stronger voice when working with the governor as most of our communities are faced with the same issues," he explained.

Beebe lamented the fact that 411 cases have emerged locally (as of Dec. 29) and the illness has claimed seven Crook County lives, but he went on to stress how well the community has handled the pandemic thus far.

"Together, as teachers, healthcare workers, businesses, and community members, we have done our part to meet these challenging times," he said. "Thanks to everyone's efforts, 98.3% of Crook County remains virus-free."

While that is the case, he is not advocating for any local businesses to defy state mandates. Beebe said that the city's focus is "on opening local businesses as safely and quickly as possible."

"I fully believe that we can do so following OSHA industry guidelines that were adopted before the freeze," he said. "I want to be clear that I am not encouraging citizens or businesses to defy state law. What I am trying to do is get these overbearing restrictions removed so that we can live our lives with the liberties and freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution and fought and sacrificed for by generations of Americans."

Beebe insists the business shutdowns in Crook County must end and added that he has not yet seen any data that suggests restaurants, gyms and other shut down businesses have disproportionately contributed to the spread of coronavirus.

"My experience with people in this community is that we care for our neighbors, including their health. We do not wish to do anything that may get somebody sick, and we can support regulations and restrictions that contribute to this goal," he said. "However, when regulations and restrictions are arbitrarily imposed upon our community, we deserve to know why."


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