Trump rally follows mailer to recall Oregon City mayor
Oregon City's big week in politics began with the campaign to recall Mayor Dan Holladay mailing out petition signature sheets to 11,210 Oregon City households and ended with a Trump rally at Clackamas Community College.
College officials denounced the Labor Day rally for failing to obtain the proper permits, and Oregon City officials denied the recall campaign's request for a deadline extension for turning in at least 2,400 signatures by Sept. 21.
At last week's city commission meeting, residents testified against Holladay, who responded by advocating that his possible supporters watching the video hijack recall campaign materials to criticize the campaign.
Oregon City resident Heidi Chang, an Army combat veteran, spoke out against Holladay's treatment of women and the mayor being the subject of two restraining orders.
Chang mentioned that Holladay wrote "#NotMeToo" in response to a woman who identified herself as a victim of sexual abuse and who was concerned about the proposed location of a halfway house.
"Even through he deleted the comment within minutes, he failed to acknowledge that this behavior contributes to rape culture and makes survivors of rape and sexual assault even more reluctant to use our voices," Chang said. "When another female resident called him out, she said, 'You find sexual assault and degrading women funny?' Mayor Holladay responded by saying, 'I'm sorry you have no sense of humor.' As a survivor of rape and sexual abuse myself, this dismissal and lack of accountability is unacceptable from leadership."
Chang provided other examples of Holladay's actions, but was eventually cut off by Holladay, who said "you're out of time," enforcing the three-minute limit for public speaking at city meetings. Holladay did not respond to Chang's comments, instead offering a suggestion for potential recall opponents.
"If folks do not support the recall, feel free to respectfully write something on that petition and share your feelings why you don't support the recall and send it back," he said, noting that he was speaking as private citizen, not as the mayor.
Holladay's suggested action would force the recall campaign to pay for postage on anti-recall comments, if any recall opponents took his advice. No recall opponents spoke at the meeting, nor have any written letters to this newspaper.
Signature deadline looms
Recall campaign spokesman Adam Marl has pointed out that Holladay is not being recalled for being a registered Republican, and said the reasons for recall include but are not limited to his treatment of women. Supporters of the Holladay recall include progressive members of the school board, but also Republican former county chairman John Ludlow.
Recall campaign organizers say they've collected more than 2,000 of the required signatures and are on track to reach their goal of 3,100 raw signatures within the 90-day period ending 5 p.m., Sept. 21. While the required number of valid signatures is 2,400, the recall campaign hopes to turn in more than 3,000 in case some will be invalidated.
Recall organizers recognized they faced tough circumstances for collecting signatures, which puts the pressure on individuals who received the mailer to return their petitions as soon as possible. While signature gathering campaigns have relied in the past on large public gatherings and door-to-door canvassing to engage potential signers, COVID-19 has taken those options off the table.
In response to an Aug. 14 request for a deadline extension for turning in signatures, Oregon City Recorder Kattie Riggs said she doesn't believe that she "unilaterally" has the authority to waive the 90-day time-limit requirement set forth by state law.
Jesse Buss, the recall campaign's volunteer attorney, tried to challenge Oregon City into extending the deadline, in light of COVID-19 and the Oregon Constitution. Buss had asked the city to ignore a 1933 statute that he believes contradicts a section of the state constitution adopted in 1908 simply instructing election officials to call a special recall election when enough petition signatures have been gathered, with no time limit mentioned.
"Adopted in 1933 by legislators afraid that the people's recall power might be used against them, that statute contains a 90-day signature gathering limitation which, if enforced, would effectively kill any recall petition that doesn't obtain enough signatures within 90 days after it's filed," Buss said.
Marl thanked concerned citizens for their donations to mail signature sheets to over 11,000 Oregon City households. Each mailer contains an official signature sheet, instructions for signing, and a prepaid return envelope that will deliver the signatures to the campaign.
"With our 90-day deadline fast approaching and the pandemic severely restricting the use of traditional door-to-door signature collection procedures, our team made a call to action and the people of Oregon City responded enthusiastically by donating to this effort," Marl said.
Hundreds of people from all over the state gathered on the college campus for the Trump rally without masks, including Keith Diffenderffer and his wife, Jo.
"We have to stand up for American because we are in control of it. If we take control of it and if we don't, we have to accept what other people want," Keith said.
Jo said she is "confused by all the different messages in the media" and said the governments of Oregon, Washington and California "are keeping us under their thumb with COVID fears."
She said she's at high risk for contracting the virus, but "don't ask me to wear a mask."
College officials said Trump rally organizers "did not go through the standard process for events such as this," so the Sept. 7 event was not sanctioned by the college.
"For the safety of participants and the general public, the college is working with the Oregon City Police Department," the college's statement said.
Holladay has likewise criticized the state's response to COVID-19, including the mask mandate. During the Aug. 19 commission meeting, Holladay lit a cigarette while listening to a nurse's testimony about the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. In April, Holladay planned to issue a declaration reopening businesses without authority from the state or other elected officials in the city, which garnered a cease-and-desist letter from the attorney general.
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