By Beverly Calder
Less than 60 days ago, five members of our council took an oath to uphold and defend the constitutions of our country and our state as well as the charter of Baker City.
Our city charter is a short and concise document, although written in legalese as should be expected. It outlines the powers of the city and provides the framework for ordinance creation, public works, elections and the duties of the council and city manager.
Chapter 3, Section 12 states: “All elections for city office must be nonpartisan.”
As council, they represent and serve all 10,000 plus citizens of Baker City, nearly four times the number of votes that any individual received in the last election. There are no party lines in our council chamber. Our council represents the whole community.
Our charter further states, in Chapter 5, Section 18: “The mayor shall enforce the rules of council.”
The Revised Rules of Council — amended just this past April — are more specific:
• 5a. All members of council shall accord the utmost courtesy to each other, to city employees and to the public and shall refrain at all times from rude or derogatory remarks, reflections as to integrity, abusive comments and statements as to motive and personalities.
• 17. Each member should support the collective decision making of the council.
In the past 30 days we have seen a lack of civility. We have witnessed violations of these rules. We have heard malicious statements made against public servants, volunteers and leaders in our community.
We have seen repulsive statements made online. These acts are in violation of both our City Charter and the Rules of Procedure of the Council. These acts certainly do not represent the oath taken by each member of our council and they cause harm. Public service demands civility to function properly.
Many of the statements have been made without “naming names” but in a community as small as ours, the objects are often obvious. Each of the people maligned have given much to our community and deserve, at a minimum, the respect of the council and a civil manner.
The mayor impugned the character of an applicant for the Golf Board a month ago. That applicant, Fred Warner Jr., has served this community well and faithfully. The Warner family has been a contributing part of Baker City for generations. These statements shocked me but it was only the beginning.
A council member posted a statement online maligning both the elected members of the county commission and the appointed committee volunteers that serve the county.
One council member posted a silent assault on another member of the council on Facebook. I feel compelled to include this because it matters what is said — or posted — when you represent the city council. I will not include the obscenities.
“As for you worthless (bleep) lying piece of (bleep). You can kiss my (bleep) I got zero time for any more of your (bleep).”
This comment was “‘liked” by the mayor — the person charged with enforcing the rules of council.
In the Feb. 23 council meeting, the mayor also impugned the character and motives of three business leaders in our community that also volunteer their service on boards and committees. Not saying their names provides no cover for this attack. Business creators and volunteers should not need to be defended; they should be respected and honored for their willingness to serve.
Tyler Brown’s family has served, quite literally, this community for 40 years. Beyond creating a brand that is talked about with envy around the Northwest, Tyler has created jobs and has actively served his community as a volunteer with the Chamber, the Downtown and the County.
Scott Thatcher is one of the largest employers in our downtown. His company provides some of the best and most relied upon customer service in our town. The Thatchers have expanded their operation to the great benefit of our entire county as well as the county to the north of us with a second store.
Tori Thatcher was raised by a second-generation entrepreneur. She returned to Baker City after college to pursue her career, marry a public servant raised by another local entrepreneur and start a family. Tori served as the first president of Baker City Downtown and has been an exceptional new voice on the Transient Lodging committee as a representative of the burgeoning AirBnB economy. This industry has been critically important during our COVID year for tourists.
These individuals have contributed energy, ideas and jobs to our community. None of these industry leaders financially benefit from volunteer service and not one of these people should suffer derision from their elected leaders.
It is time we ask our city council to observe and respect the City Charter and the Rules of Procedure. It should be the desire of the council as a whole to lift up our community and encourage more participation.
Beverly Calder is a former Baker City Council member and a Baker City business owner.