The Baker City Council on Tuesday evening, March 23 will consider approving a resolution declaring an “economic, mental health and criminal activity crisis” resulting from Oregon COVID-19 mandates that the resolution deems “arbitrary, ineffective, and draconian.”
Councilors will meet at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1655 First St.
Mayor Kerry McQuisten, who drafted Resolution 3881, said that it, along with a letter the City Council agreed on March 9 to send to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, is in part a response to the concerns that a Baker City couple, Whitney and Shannon Black, raised in a letter they sent to the City Council in late January.
The Blacks expressed their concerns about how state COVID-19 mandates are harming local businesses and the economy.
The letter the Council approved on March 9, written by Councilor Jason Spriet, notes that Baker City’s small businesses “have been forced to weather this monumental obstacle with very little assistance from the state or federal government.”
“The community is clearly asking us to stand with them and speak out for them as best we can,” McQuisten said. “I hope we can show them we heard them by passing this (Resolution 3881).”
Although the resolution concedes that the city “has no legal ability to summarily flout these mandates” and “therefore cannot protect any local business from State-directed targeting, repercussions and penalties if such local business personally chooses to,” the document goes on to state that “we do believe our citizens are fully capable of making their private, individual healthcare and lifestyle decisions themselves.”
The resolution calls into question whether the steps Brown has taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, including restrictions on businesses and limits on attendance that prompted the cancellation of most of Baker City’s major summer events in 2020, were justified.
“Science has shown over the last year that COVID-19 is overwhelmingly survivable and lockdowns do not stop its spread,” the resolution states. “All models and projections used to justify initial state emergency mandates have been proven inaccurate over the past year.”
The resolution contends that the state’s restrictions, by affecting residents’ ability “to earn a living or pursue other rights as outlined in our State and U.S. Constitutions, have resulted in an unconstitutional seizure of property without compensation.”
The resolution also refers to “inappropriately weaponized State agencies.”
The document notes that some local businesses have closed and that others “are on the brink of permanent closure, creating a fiscal emergency and a devastated local economy.”
The resolution also mentions state mandates for wearing masks and social distancing, claiming those and other rules “are actively creating division and unrest with the increased potential of physical violence within our community as those of one opinion are encouraged by it to impose their opinions over the free will of those of another in a physical way ...”
The resolution cites limits on the number of inmates housed at the Baker County Jail, which has a capacity of 45 but generally has been holding around 15 during the pandemic. The resolution cites an “ongoing ‘cite and release’ system that puts criminals straight back on the streets to further victimize our community immediately after arrest.”
The resolution goes on to state that “the Governor’s mandates result in pitting local law enforcement against law-abiding citizens rather than criminals, which damages our community’s strong relationship with our valued local law enforcement, and which is a dynamic no community should tolerate.”
Another clause in the resolution states that the “deliberate isolation of the ill in hospitals or the elderly left to die alone of that isolation is the cruelest of abuses and is not to be accepted in any civilized society.”
The resolution concludes with a series of actions, which include that “the City will communicate in writing with the Governor’s Office to encourage the full opening of our city and county, recategorization to low-population status, or suggesting other means necessary to give our citizens relief from these mandates.”
The resolution also states that the city “recognizes the citizenry of Baker City are free, sovereign individuals within a Constitutional, Representative Republic, not subjects or slaves, and will be recognized as such as we firmly stand to represent them.”
McQuisten said she was motivated to write the resolution, and propose that the City Council approve it, because of a lack of action by the governor.
“Counties and cities across Oregon have been asking Kate Brown to fully open the state for months,” McQuisten said. “The requests have fallen on deaf ears, and Oregon is in the national news in a negative way yet again — we’re looking at permanent OSHA distancing, masking, and vaccine rules that will indefinitely harm our businesses and schools. This defies science, hurts our community, and shouldn’t happen. This resolution approach is unusual. I’ll be interested to see if other cities and counties take it up and run with it as well.”