Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker wants the community to know he's aware that racist incidents in Lake Oswego have been a problem and the city is taking measures to address that.
During an interview with KOIN 6 News on the AM Extra Monday, Aug. 24, Studebaker referred to a recent racist incident that occurred in the city as a "one-off" situation. He was discussing the letter neighbors sent to a Lake Oswego resident that requested the removal of their window signage highlighting police violence and showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the letter, the neighbors said the signage was driving down property values.
"I was referring to the letter specifically. That's the only letter I've seen," Studebaker said. "I was just saying that's an isolated incident."
Also during the interview, Studebaker addressed Black Lives Matter protests in Portland and elsewhere.
"I am sorry to see people using that issue as a way to loot and destroy property," he said during the interview. "It's not just Black lives that matter, I think all lives matter — whether it's Black, Asian, white, whatever."
When asked about his statement, Studebaker said he agrees that Black lives matter but that Antifa members are using gatherings for looting and violence.
"I think it's clear that there have been, not necessarily by Black people, there's been protests, violence and lootings and some people are doing that under the name of Black Lives Matter," Studebaker said. "I'm sorry about that ... I'm not going to say that's something Black people have encouraged because I don't think they have."
Lake Oswego's Respond to Racism Board of Directors released a statement Aug. 25 that addressed Studebaker's words during the interview.
"He minimized their experiences and accepted no responsibility for the racism we see in Lake Oswego every day," the statement read. "Using 'All Lives Matter' completely denies the longstanding struggle faced by black people in this country and in Lake Oswego. Unfortunately, Mayor Studebaker's words reinforce the nickname for our town — Lake No Negro."
Joe Buck and Theresa Kohlhoff who are both running for mayor in the upcoming election, also released statements Aug. 25.
Buck's video statement addressed systemic racism and his thoughts about Studebaker's interview.
"When we hear words that minimize these real experiences and ignore our history, that is not leadership that demonstrates the kind, compassionate heart of Lake Oswego," Buck said in the video. "There is no 'one-off,' just one experience after another, after another, after another."
Kohlhoff made a Facebook post that focused on the culture of Lake Oswego and key issues including racism, the COVID-19 pandemic and differing viewpoints.
"There are Lake Oswegans saying Blue Lives Matter and Fetus Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. There are others who think Black Lives Matter is Marxist, that it is at the root of some of the 11 o'clock confrontations and property damage in downtown Portland," Kohlhoff said in her post. "Opposing views always have some grain of truth, but the fact remains — to me — at this moment — the most relevant and pressing point is that Black Lives Matter. Full stop.
"The task in the coming days and months is to transform our city, swiftly and powerfully."
Studebaker said the Black Lives Matter movement is important so people have the opportunity to "participate as much as possible in our community and other communities."
He said the violence and looting is not what he understands the movement to be about and that he didn't articulate that well during his interview with KOIN 6.
"My choice of words (in the interview was) not appropriate to encourage that message and that's what I'm trying to express here so that people will realize that was my poor choice of words and they're taking it the wrong way. But that's my fault for not being more clear," Studebaker said. "What I'm trying to indicate to people is [that] our goal is to make our community a welcoming place to everybody — a place where they can come to enjoy themselves, realize their dreams or just find a good community."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.