Student to OC mayor: 'People like you are holding us back'
Avi Palaoro, 16, a Continue to Find Kindness board member, said that Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay has a history of downplaying movements for women's rights or Black Lives Matter and attempting to silence people who do not share his opinions.
"He denies people the right to join citizen committees if they are known to have a history of disagreeing with him," Palaoro said at the June 17 commission meeting in which the city's four other elected officials decided to investigate and officially censure Holladay.
"The mayor chooses to be vocal on social media in damaging ways, such as posting #NotMeToo in response to a Me Too Movement post," she added.
Palaoro, a junior at Oregon City High School and a member of the Student Council, said Holladay isn't fit for the mayoral position, likening his actions to a middle school boy.
"Our generation is ready for change. However, it is people like you who are holding us back," Palaoro told Holladay after he granted her the right to speak for three minutes in front of commissioners.
City Commissioner Rocky Smith, who works at the high school, said it was a sad day for Oregon City when groups of students joined dozens of other citizens at the meeting in calling for Holladay to behave or resign his mayoral office.
"If certain of these things were something that I did, I would have been fired, and we have to think about that position in the public that we have," Smith said.
Commissioner Denyse McGriff said that the censures against Holladay were a good first step.
"We need to be firm and resolute with our displeasure in the actions," McGriff said.
Commissioners agreed to censure Holladay with a unanimous vote on the following topics:
1. Holladay's "actions as described by our city attorney have injured the good name of Oregon City, have disturbed its well being and hampered its worth."
2. Holladay "refused to recognize members entitled to the floor," a violation of Robert's Rules of Order.
Holladay has admitted to telling a technician to end video recording of a meeting, which prevented other commissioners from responding to his comments about Black Lives Matter on tape. His actions already have led to a threatening letter from the state attorney general and an impending lawsuit from an Oregon City developer.
On the topic of the first censure, Holladay said he would reserve his defense until the proper time. When recall signatures are submitted, Holladay will be asked by the elections office to give an official statement or resign.
"The commission should take some action tonight and then everything else is up to the residents," said Commission President Rachel Lyles Smith.
City commissioners are expected to take additional actions against Holladay in the coming weeks. They have directed city staff to investigate the mayor's continued defiance of the governor's orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"I would welcome an ethics investigation," Holladay said.
Holladay also admitted that he tried to raise money for a Oregon City celebration that would have been in violation of the ban on large public gatherings, after he had agreed in an emergency meeting to uphold the governor's orders. During the investigation, he said he would stop short of naming specific local businesses he asked for money to put on a July 4 fireworks show.
"If you didn't want to make that public, you should have kept your mouth shut," Smith said.
When asked if the city should go further than censures against Holladay, City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell said he is prepared to join an official vote of "no confidence" in the mayor.
"Holladay should resign for the good of the city," O'Donnell said.
Another speaker at the meeting, OCHS junior Kylee Manning said she grew up hearing many racial slurs directed toward her, and Holladay's comments has exacerbated her difficulty of living in her own skin.
"I'm half Asian and half black, which has made it very hard to live in Oregon City ... a predominantly white town," Manning said. "Mr. Holladay, please recognize that your POC community is already feeling unequal, and instead of looking at the perspective of everyone … recognize that others have struggles that need more attention and effort put behind them to resolve."
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