Oregon City commission declares stance against racism
Oregon City commissioners on Tuesday, June 9, adopted a resolution that condemns violence and racism and encourages a diverse, equitable and inclusive community regardless of the age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity of residents and visitors.
"I live in my skin every day, and unless you are a person of color, you have no idea about what I go through on a daily basis, yearly basis, for my entire life," said Commissioner Denyse McGriff.
Commissioners held a special emergency meeting Sunday, June 7, in response to Mayor Dan Holladay's recent inflammatory comments about police killings and systemic racism. During that meeting Oregon City's elected officials directed city staff to write the resolution in response to the killing of George Floyd.
Also during the emergency meeting, commissioners discussed how Holladay has single-handedly directed city business without the consent of commissioners or city management, which they say goes against the protocol of their commission-manager form of governance.
According to city officials, Holladay asked a city staff member to attend a meeting with a local business that was considering a donation to a now-canceled July 4th fireworks display. He also directed a city-contracted employee to end the meeting recording directly after he adjourned a June 3 meeting, which prevented other commissioners from responding to his comments on tape. Commissioners voted to reopen the meeting, but audio recordings of their comments were lost due to the mayor's actions.
"I don't want this (June 9) resolution to be the only response to the actions that have been taken by the mayor," said Commissioner Rocky Smith. "This is the first step to kind of convey what the commission and what the city feels, but there are other issues we need to deal with in the next coming days and weeks."
All four city commissioners had expressed their disappointment in Holladay's actions during the previous June 7 meeting. Commission President Rachel Lyles Smith said she had a "real concern" about Holladay as an elected official soliciting funds on behalf of the city.
"That raises very big alarm bells for me," Lyles Smith said.
According to the city charter, commissioners can declare the mayoral office vacant if they determine that Holladay's actions destroyed public records or put the city in a position of financial malfeasance by requesting donations from a local business that is, in turn, requesting assistance from the city, an action that Commissioner Frank O'Donnell called potential tit-for-tat. Citizens have been gathering to protest the mayor's actions and plan a formal recall effort.
Holladay defended his actions during the June 7 meeting, saying he did nothing wrong, but he walked out of the meeting before commissioners could discuss his behavior with him. Holladay also declined to sign a June 4 statement from the Mayors' Metropolitan Consortium consisting of 26 regional mayors standing in solidarity with residents mourning Floyd's murder. He then participated in the June 9 meeting and joined the commissioners for the unanimous vote to support the resolution.
Oregon City officials are standing with the Oregon City School Board, Clackamas County commissioners and thousands of of citizens taking part in recent protests in recognizing the value and contribution of the lives of all peoples, especially people of color, and the importance of removing all barriers to success and equity.
"We denounce discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national origin and (we will) fight for a public environment that is respectful and free of hate, discrimination, misogyny and unlawful abuse in all of its forms," Oregon City commissioners said in their resolution.
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