By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: The right mayor at the right time

This is not the first time competing political interests have sought control of McMinnville City Council.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Forty years ago, many important council actions required the mayor to break 3-3 ties among the six councilors — the crowning controversy involved efforts to dissolve McMinnville Water & Light into general city government. That mayor’s vote defeated a proposal that would have placed vast watershed resources into the politics of city budgeting.

I remember one meeting, among others, during which people discussed recruitment of candidates to run for City Council. There never was an organized slate of candidates put forth, but subsequent elections did build a more politically cohesive council that evolved into steady and moderately progressive oversight of city affairs.

In 2020, several partisan whirlwinds have merged into a tornado of local political controversy that will culminate at the polls in 11 days. Related intrigue could fill a small book.

The situation started almost silently a few years ago when Conservative Republicans recruited newcomer Lindsay Berschauer to help capture control of the Yamhill County Commission. That project, later fueled by out-of-county interests, was propelled by some questionable yet effective campaign strategies.

Overlapping that time, local business leaders and the Chamber of Commerce developed major grievances toward the City Council. One issue involved frustrating delays in city response to the growth of high-visibility street and sidewalk camping by homeless people. Other were council approval of a care center licensing law, ending with voter approval of a City Charter ban on such action, and a series of fee increases, including a controversial 5% franchise sewer fee.

A third phenomenon was a different kind of whirlwind in the form of mayoral candidate Heidi Parker and council candidate Brittany Ruiz. Their separate brands of community activism drew them into favor with the other aligned political forces, and the races were on.

Suddenly, McMinnville was awash in private and public social media platforms, accompanied by aggressively negative labeling of liberals and conservatives alike. A political action committee with close ties to the Chamber found local and outside funding to help its chosen group of candidates in both county and city elections.

Resulting unrest mirrors the political disunity of our state and nation. It’s a shame to see this kind of polarization growing in a community with such strong traditions of community collaboration.

I still remember the importance of having the right mayor at the right time. For me in 2020, that’s Scott Hill — someone I’ve known and worked with and respected for decades.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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