By editorial board • 

Call to curb free expression rings sour note at courthouse

Earlier this month, the Yamhill County commissioners finally addressed a crisis in behavioral health staffing that the Oregon Legislature addressed back on March 23 with an infusion of grant money.

It’s a crisis that has left the county with 27 help wanted postings in its Health and Human Services Department, compared to just one or two in most other departments. But that didn’t stop Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer from complaining about criticism over the delay and Commissioner Casey Kulla’s role in stoking it via Twitter.

“We received the money before having a plan on how to spend it,” she said. She went on to say, “Some counties sent the money back,” and added, “I don’t know that I would accept a grant like this again.”

All well and good to that point. Berschauer is entitled to her own opinion, as are we all under the First Amendment, which anchors our treasured Bill of Rights. 

But she couldn’t resist a parting shot. And it revealed a shocking lack of support for the very First Amendment right she was in the process of exercising.

“It underscores my belief,” she said, “that we need some sort of policy or plan as to how our board is going to relay information to the public in a way that’s accurate and doesn’t create strife.”

In fact, Kulla was simply using a public forum to communicate with the constituents who elected him, something all three commissioners do on a regular basis. It is, indeed, something we expect of them as our duly elected representatives.

And his comments were neither pointed nor personal. He simply lamented the lack of local action to date on a pressing public health issue. That Berschauer took offense is on her, not him.

In the U.S. Congress, venomous personal invective is spewed on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Heaven help us if we ever reach that point here. But even if we do, the response should not involve undermining the right to free speech that we all enjoy as American citizens.

Berschauer’s call to muzzle a colleague — on a board where she and ideological ally Mary Starrett constitute a commanding two-thirds majority that they are seeking to expand come November — reminds us of two favorite sayings of the cantankerous and colorful Harry S. Truman.

On his Oval Office desk, he famously posted, “The buck stops here.” And he famously observed shortly after ascending to the presidency, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”


The local buck stops on the desks of our three county commissioners. If one of them deigns to sound a note of dissent, his colleagues should accept it as part of the normal give and take of politics or get out of politics altogether.

A landmark case the American Civil Liberties Union brought in the heavily Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie, home to one of the nation’s largest contingents of Holocaust survivors, reflects our rather absolutist view of the First Amendment.

When city officials tried to bar American Nazis from staging a uniformed march in Skokie in 1977, the Nazi commander reached out to local ACLU leader David Goldberger, whom he well knew to be Jewish. Goldberger took the case and won it, demonstrating the ACLU’s commitment to uphold the right of free expression even under the most odious of circumstances.

If uniformed Nazis can march freely in Skokie, an elected county official can surely communicate his views freely in McMinnville. It’s a sad day when we feel compelled to point out what should seem so very obvious.



Excellent editorial, particularly the closing paragraph.


What Berschauer and Starrett are saying is that another commissioner can only speak when it is something that B&S agree with. Coming from those two who spew vile whenever they feel compelled to do so is rather preposterous. Why we elect these people escapes me. IMO, they are an absolute joke. If we think they are really representing us well, we'd better think again.


The people who voted B & S in – and showed up to prevent the Berschauer recall – are either not paying attention, or they actually approve of this dictatorial regime. Evidently the majority of our electorate is happy to write those big tax checks and is not even slightly bothered when our blatantly mismanaged county commission flushes our dollars down the right-wing rabbit hole. I have stopped trying to understand why my fellow citizens find this acceptable.

Heart-felt thanks to Mr. Kulla. He tried to be the voice of reason and ethics under impossible circumstances. It must have been exhausting and demoralizing.


Why don't we just do this: From now on all grant recipient counties that choose to return the grant $$$ should only be able to return those funds to an adjacent neighboring county in that state. If you don't want HAVE to give it to a neighbor instead.


Why would the county refuse to accept a grant that benefits county programs/citizens?….The logic eludes me. The fact that the commissioners didn’t have a plan speaks volumes about the competence of the current leadership. To much time spent on personal agenda items it would seem.


The B&S Show is getting very tiring. Blow money on vanity lawsuits, complain about the lack of mental healthcare whenever guns and shootings are mentioned, but then say they might refuse to accept grant money to address that very problem. It's all show and no go with those two.