By editorial board • 

Rift stirs nostalgia for return of shared respect

The popularity of the Dragging the Gut Festival, recently reborn as Cruise McMinnville, illustrates the enduring pull of memories forged during a childhood long gone.

Dragging the gut. Dropping by the Palm or Jumbo. Catching a movie at the Mack. Rocking to AM radio. They all stir memories of a time when life was simpler, surer, safer and slower-paced.

But we wax nostalgic for a different kind of loss —  loss of leadership deeply rooted, closely interlocked, scrupulously civil and reliably united in pursuit of the common community good. How did we let such a quality so precious be put at risk?

The increasingly contentious relationship between the city and chamber, which had historically managed to operate together, is just the latest in a disturbing series of reminders. We see several factors at work.

Most obviously, it’s a near total turnover in personnel at key institutions. And that change has frequently been marked by replacement of well-integrated old hands with new leaders and different ways of communicating, operating and advocating.

The city itself and virtually all its departments have new faces at the helm. So do the chamber, the college, the county, the Yamhill Community Action Agency and the McMinnville Downtown Association, among others.

McMinnville has historically been a tightly knit community where families have become increasingly rooted for decades, if not generations. Those families welcome fresh perspectives, but expect newcomers to respect bedrock community values. 

An example in the breakdown or such principles can be found in the ongoing division between the city and chamber of commerce.

Under current leadership, the chamber has adopted a more strident tone and embraced an increasingly aggressive political agenda. It’s acting more as if its hundreds of members are of one mind, forgetting the diversity of businesses and owners it represents.

In the past, the city and chamber would typically have worked out their differences behind the scenes to the maximum extent possible, via phone or in-person contact, and addressed any remaining disagreements with respect and restraint. But when the chamber felt earlier this year that the city was dragging its feet on the homeless issue — a view we also shared — it marshaled an all-out public attack with a hostile tone and execution that is becoming its modus operandi.

Most recently, the chamber has thrown its weight behind a measure to reverse fines and fees on local nursing homes — all owned by national chains. The city responded by questioning the legality of public funding going to the chamber if it takes any political stance on any ballot issue. A search of the N-R archive finds myriad instances where the chamber has advocated for a local measure without question. 

What we know about the resulting rift stems largely from an exchange of sharply worded e-mails, mined from the public record.

That in itself raises a red flag, as major local institutions should be able to talk issues through face to face. They should not have to rely on lobbing e-mails back and forth from their respective office fortresses.

We yearn for leaders who embrace collaboration, display restraint, put the community first and maintain open lines of communication. It’s a McMinnville tradition well worth respecting.


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