Ethical leadership is badly needed in Oregon City
Ethical leadership is an essential foundation for a successful community. This includes both leaders who oversee our schools and those who govern our city. Sadly, our city does not have an ethical leader in Mayor Dan Holladay. As a resident of Oregon City for the past eight years, I have co-founded a grassroots organization to build a more welcoming, inclusive and equitable city. Leaders within our school community have listened and dedicated themselves to learning, responding and growing. In the exact opposite fashion, Mayor Holladay has refused to even listen or respond to questions from myself and other citizens, so the time has come for us to take a stand for our community.
A true leader lifts their city's morale by letting citizens know they are seen and heard. A few years ago, I wanted to talk with the mayor and commissioners about our city's policies related to undocumented members of our community. It is one thing for a leader to hold a differing opinion, but it is another to refuse to even have a conversation with members of your community. Effective leaders can engage with their community members and work together, but Mr. Holladay completely refused. I extended an olive branch once again before becoming the chief petitioner for the Petition to Recall Dan Holladay. I wrote a letter to him with the title "Extending a Hand of Grace." In the letter, I asked if we could meet to talk about concerns I had for the future of our community and how we could work together to address them. He did not even bother to respond to the letter, so here I am.
True leaders lead by example. Examples of Mayor Holladay's recent actions include the following: Defying state orders during a pandemic, resulting in official threats from the Oregon attorney general, soliciting funds from local businesses for an illegal event without notifying fellow commissioners, and directing the city's audio-visual technician to cut the live feed of a public meeting to ensure citizens could not see his comments about their equity policy. In response to his lack of ethical leadership, our city commissioners have done everything allowed by our city charter to respond to him. They voted 4-0 to censure him, ordered official investigations into his actions, and voted 4-0 to state they have no confidence in him. They do not have the power to remove him, and that is why they're supporting the citizens' effort to recall him.
True leaders let their constituents know they matter, but his refusal to sign a letter condemning racial injustice (a letter that every other mayor in his Metro-area consortium signed), and his recent comments on social media, in an attempt to downplay deaths of Black Americans, let certain members of our community know that they do not matter to him. Some of those members of our community chose to come speak to him directly at the June 17 City Commission meeting. Even if he holds different opinions, a leader listens to his constituents and shows he cares about them by being willing to have a conversation with them. He did not listen nor engage. When citizen after citizen brought forth their concerns, all he said was, "move along," and "next." So, here we are.
When Mayor Holladay refused to even respond to my letter, he let me know that he did not care about our city. When he refused to respond to concerned citizens, several as young as 16 at a commission meeting, he said loudly and clearly that he does not care about the citizens of Oregon City. When he refused to condemn racial injustice, he let certain members of our community know that he does not care about them, nor does he feel the need to stand up for them. When he refused to follow state safety orders, he let his community know that he does not care about their health. When he secretly ordered a live feed of a public meeting to be cut, he let us know that he does not care about our rights to be involved with our own government. Over and over, he's let us know that he does not care about us, and that is why I became the chief petitioner for the effort to recall Mayor Dan Holladay. Now is the time to speak up for ethical leadership. Our children are watching. Our community is watching. I encourage you to learn more about why the past three mayors of Oregon City support the petition, and why it is so important for the future of our city at recalldanholladay.com.
Jeana Gannon-Gonzales is a parent to children who attend Oregon City schools. She is a co-founder of Unite Oregon City, a nonpartisan grassroots organization advocating for inclusion and equity in Oregon City schools, businesses and the community. She has a bachelor's degree in community and school health education. She is a chapter volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention presenting "Talk Saves Lives" accredited curriculum.
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