Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten says, “Don’t be Silenced.”

BAKER CITY – At the end of March, the Baker City Council passed Resolution 3881.  This resolution which can be seen here, was written, “Declaring an Economic, Mental Health, and Criminal Active Crisis due to the current COVID-related State of Emergency Declaration and relating OSHA mandates and guidance.”

Since that time, many cities across the start have joined Baker City with similar resolutions and statements to Oregon Governor Kate Brown. 

Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten (KM) spoke with News Director Shannon McKone (SM) on how things have progressed since the passing of Resolution 3881.

(SM) Mayor McQuisten, let’s start with a quick overview of how this resolution came about and what has taken place since it was approved.

(KM) The resolution came about actually as an idea from our citizens, we had Black’s Distributing initially bring forward the idea of a Common Sense Sanctuary and they had quite a bit of support from other citizens and other community business leaders here in Baker City. And they brought forth this idea and said, hey, what can you do with this exactly? I think, from the beginning they knew, as a municipality, we had limitations legally as to what we could do to stand up against OSHA. But they brought that to us, and we put it on the agenda for the next meeting and then ended up with quite a bit of public comment and testimony. From there, we ended up scheduling a work session where city council can just sit and talk about this and get ideas. We talk to our City Attorney, at that work session.  I believe the District Attorney showed up and gave us a few words of advice at the same time, so that was very helpful. And what came from that is the idea to put together a letter to the governor first, and then this resolution. And so, I ended up drafting the resolution, sending it to our City Manager and City Recorder for formatting, they turned it over the city attorney for a couple of weeks and by 

March 23, on that meeting it was on the agenda, kind of in final format.

At that point, we had more people from the community than ever turn out.  We had just a flood of emails from folks and the resolution ended up passing five to two that night.

(SM) For those who aren’t familiar, when you say Common Sense Sanctuary what does that mean?

(KM) The Common Sense Sanctuary was the rough idea that was brought forward.  What was actually passed was a resolution that declared a crisis. That is a little bit different than the actual Common Sense Sanctuary idea that was first presented. 

The crisis we presented was Mental Health and Economic and Crime Crisis. And what we’re saying is this situation has been created by the governor’s response to COVID, not COVID itself. 

So, what we are saying in a nutshell is we have a horrible situation here where our community is being hurt, more by these mandates than, by the actual virus, 

(SM) Did you ever receive a response to your letter from the governor? 

(KM) We never heard a word. No, we did get a confirmation that the letter had been received but there was no response to it. 

(SM) Since that time, I know that there have been other cities across the state including locally, joining in on this as well.  What has the response been not only from local citizens, but maybe on a city/state level, that you’ve received. 

(KM) It has been absolutely amazing and what is surprising to me is, the media talks about this division between Eastern and Western Oregon but we have received so much support and so much interest from the western side of the state, from the Portland area. It’s been amazing.

The night before last, the City of Canby actually passed this four to three. Nearly identical resolutions, but they took it and tailored it to their city. Clatskanie passed it the other night.  Prineville has passed a similar pushback resolution but they’re taking a slightly different approach.

So that’s a handful of cities, right there that have already passed something, jumping on board saying that these mandates are hurting them. And I personally know that there are dozens of cities whose counselor’s, mayor’s, or citizens have brought this forth, it’s just that a scheduling issue where their meetings are a week or two ahead still.

(SM) Moving forward, what’s in the works?  Do you expect ever hear from the governor? 

(KM) I would anticipate that for the next few weeks this voice will build. I would expect more cities and counties to jump on board. I know Yamhill County is also working on some sort of resolution of their own. We have had Congressman Cliff Bentz voice his opinion on this in support of opening state.  Representative Mark Owen and Senator Lynn Findley have chimed in, we have had 27 counties across the state ask the governor to open.  80 county commissioners signed on to that letter and she told the whole group to go pound sand at this point. So, I’m not very optimistic that she will listen to us or respond to us, but there is a certain point where, we’re reaching a tipping point here, where the whole state is saying, hey we need open and we need to continue to yell loudly and stick together in this because I would anticipate that she will attempt the same sort of lockdown, tactics this fall when we get into cold and flu symptoms this season.

(SM) I realized that there is a huge group that is in favor of this completely. Have you received any sort of negative feedback on this situation? 

(KM) I have received a handful, but it is miniscule compared to the support. It’s also very different kind of tactic the letters of support say why they’re supporting, and they give reasons, but the letters of dissent are honestly just angry name-calling. There’s no argument back saying why I should listen to that point of view of why they’re descending.  Very different kinds of communication there. 

(SM) Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share at this time?

(KM) The message I really want to get out there is the power is with the people and citizens have to show up. They have to show up in person and they have to talk to their elected officials. A lot of this situation is because people don’t realize that their voices can be heard, especially if they show up in numbers, and they voice them. There’s a very large silent majority out across Oregon that hasn’t had a voice for a year, and they need to start speaking up.  Don’t be silenced.  The future of our entire state at this point hinges on that. 

Mayors and county commissioners across Oregon have been formally requesting of the Governor’s office that she provide the data they are relying on to support the decision to lock down, for at least the past six months. Not one of them has received that data. During a mayors meeting with the Governor and OHA officials back in February, multiple mayors asked where the lockdown data had come from. The response was that they had purchased marketing data from credit card companies out of state. You could have knocked me over with a feather. This is not science. Our economy is being destroyed for this? I personally asked about the statement issued last October by the World Health Organization‘s special envoy to Covid, that lockdowns should not be used as a primary means to stop the spread, and why Oregon was not following that advice. OHA Director Allen and the Governor refused to answer that question. I also asked about the Stanford University peer-reviewed study determining the same, and they brushed it off as an “outlier.” It is clear to me that any science that doesn’t fit Oregon’s lockdown, mask-up narrative will continue to be ignored, and we need to band together strong to both open Oregon now and make sure it’s never shut again.Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten says, “Don’t be Silenced.”