By editorial board • 

Resolutions and proclamations seldom worth the investment

It seems the season for local resolutions, declarations and proclamations, the vast majority having not even tenuous relevance to the adopting body’s authorized function. In response, we’d like to suggest the following pronouncement for adoption by Yamhill County, its 10 cities and the other local government entities:

“Be it hereby resolved, declared and proclaimed that we will, henceforth, avoid all pronouncements on state, national, political and social issues lacking any direct relationship to our core function.”

Doing so is a quagmire, a minefield. At best, it’s a time-wasting distraction. At worst, typically reserved for our county commissioners, it’s a display of overtly partisan posturing.

The most recent examples exist courtesy of our well-meaning city fathers, who should know better.

In one case, they couldn’t resist limiting themselves to condemnation of the Jan. 6 insurrection staged by Trump supporters at our nation’s Capitol, something almost universally shared. They felt compelled to wade on into condemnation of racism and white supremacy, thereby suggesting racist causation that went too far for many in the community.

It’s one thing to oppose racism and white supremacy as evils we desperately need to eradicate. It’s another to frame the Capitol assault in those terms. That’s best left to politicians, pundits and editorialists like us.

In the other case, they could and did resist signing onto a statement from the chamber — one in which it sought to impose its own virus protection judgment on the governor and her expert advisers. The Oregon Mayors’ Association struck a more broadly acceptable tone when it simply asked the governor to share the scientific data on which she was relying.

However, the mayor and council let both resolutions become time-wasting sideshows, suggesting — unfairly, we hope — they have nothing better to do. They should really try to avoid this kind of distraction.

Councilor Chris Chenoweth led the opposition to the insurrection condemnation in commendably thoughtful terms, expressed both orally and in writing. However, Councilor Adam Garvin perhaps best captured the substance when he warned his colleagues they risked falling into a never-ending cycle of such issues.

For a prime example, one need look to the courthouse, where Commissioner Mary Starrett has a long record of dragging the county into partisan social-issue sideshows. Allen Springer used to lend avid support, and it appears newly elected Lindsay Berschauer could fall into that trap as well.

At Starrett’s urging, the county has entertained resolutions: 1) asking the federal government to relinquish all land it owns in the county, including extensive Bureau of Land Management holdings and the federal prison site in Sheridan; 2) joining cattle and timber counties in opposing a projected “flood of anti-gun legislation” at the state and federal levels; 3) setting aside a “School Choice Week;” 4) and adding property owners, taxpayers, business owners, farmers, convicts, addicts, the developmentally disabled, people of faith and the “pre-born” to a community welcoming aimed initially at immigrants, people of color and the LGBTQ population.

The county has been particularly active on the firearms front. Incensed by legislation extending background checks to private sales, it first registered opposition, then vowed to forgo enforcement and finally entertained the idea of ordering the sheriff’s non-compliance — even though the enforcement function was reserved exclusively for the state police.

In a public meeting opening with prayer and Bible reading, as many did when Starrett and Springer were teamed up, the commissioners spent hours taking fervent gun rights testimony from out-of-area interests. On another occasion, they devoted most of a meeting to a Baker County commissioner railing against state and federal logging and mining regulation.

Most recently, the commissioners devoted three hours to a Starrett move to have the county declared a sanctuary from enforcement of state gun restrictions. She was undeterred even after being advised the unconstitutionality could open the county to costly litigation.

Do we equate the city’s recent foray into the resolution arena with that of the county? Hardly. 

We do, however, think entertaining feel-good resolutions with little relationship to city business is a slippery slope. And the county shows just how far down that slope truly egregious violators can slide.


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