Thank you, Oregon City voters, for showing your decency
Against a backdrop of national division, Oregon City chose to unite behind a common value of human decency when we voted overwhelmingly to recall Mayor Dan Holladay from office. In this moment of reformation, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to both the grassroots volunteers who ran this campaign and the voters of Oregon City who changed the course of our town through the ballot box.
Becoming the chief petitioner for a mayoral recall wasn't a part of the original plan when I became a community organizer and co-founded Unite Oregon City in 2016. Our group is dedicated to promoting equity and inclusion for Oregon City residents, and we work to identify tangible changes that can be made within local schools, businesses and government.
Mayor Holladay made it clear that he does not care about fostering equity in Oregon City when he refused to condemn racial injustice and downplayed the murders of Black Americans. At the June 17 City Commission meeting, resident after resident came to speak. Three 16-year-old high school students shared their experiences growing up in a town teeming with racism and sexism, and they were horrified to have a mayor who had demonstrated both of these things in his own words and actions.
At this point, I knew inaction was not an option. A nonpartisan group of residents was forming a committee to recall Dan Holladay, and I agreed to put my name on it as chief petitioner. We knew the odds were stacked against us to gather signatures during a pandemic, but we believed the people of Oregon City were better than Dan Holladay, and we were right. When our town learned the depth and breadth of our mayor's history of unethical actions, they were overwhelmingly eager to sign the petition and later vote to have him recalled.
Our city has deep wounds, both old and new. We were once known as a "sundown town," where anyone who was Black had to be out of the city by dark each day. More recently, we made national news for racist incidents at our high school. We see Confederate flags being sold by the road and flying from trucks. Oregon City has not been a place where BIPOC residents feel safe and valued.
We took one big step forward by recalling our mayor, but there is still so much work to be done. This is no time to be complacent. If you want change within your community, you have to be willing to stand up. You have to take a risk and speak up about things that matter. I encourage everyone to continue to be engaged with our local government.
Watch or attend City Commission meetings. Write to your commissioners. Join the Citizen Involvement Committee. Do what you can to make this community a reflection of what we value, and as Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Jeana Gannon-Gonzales is a parent to children who attend Oregon City schools. 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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