Over the past four months we’ve seen unprecedented sacrifice and resolve from the citizens of our small community. Through this period, I strongly believe that Seaside City Council has provided steady leadership through an untenable and difficult situation.
I listened intently to my colleague Seth Morrisey’s statement at the close of the Council’s workshop last Monday addressing his “deep concern …
On July 2 Mayor Jay Barber wrote an op-ed response to my statement and I agree with many of the points made. Many of the actions taken by the city, county and state were justified and did help slow the spread to buy us time to increase hospital capacity, gather adequate personal protective equipment and increase testing. We’ve since accomplished that and since then many of the actions the city, county and state have taken I strongly disagree with and I prefer to ensure we learn from our actions and apply that knowledge and experience going forward.
To start off, I think it would be helpful to go over a short timeline.
On June 28, I asked for an agenda item to be added to the June 29 workshop. The agenda item was to discuss the upcoming mask mandate, enforcement and my concern that restaurants and bars could soon be forced to close again. My request was not granted because state law requires a 24-hour notice. In lieu of a discussion, I opted to give a statement.
While this statement is my own viewpoint, I have come to take this position based on my research, careful consideration of the facts available, and from hearing from hundreds of constituents — most whose voices have been steamrolled during these discussions. I never requested a vote or approval from the City Council, it was simply me representing a constituency of people here in the city of Seaside whose viewpoint and concerns have not been represented and to bring this viewpoint into a discussion of free and open ideas. The next day I had a great conversation with Mayor Barber in which I requested to take no action at this time and that was the end of the conversation.
As a council we’ve always worked together well, and I’d like to see that continue. Representing our constituency means to debate the ideas of our constituency through the council. I’d prefer if we continued that versus op-ed exchanges.
Seaside is a city of restaurants, bars and hotels. If we are heading into another series of lockdowns and travel bans, how do we make sure our service sector employees can feed their families and pay their bills? How can we ensure the businesses that employ our residents and support many of our community programs are able to stay afloat?
Look at the last lockdown. While all cities were affected, Seaside bore the brunt of the hardship. For example, Warrenton with its shopping hub and big box stores was for the most part fully operational. While our gift shops, barber shops, clothing stores and other small businesses were deemed “nonessential” and forced to close their doors. The vast majority of our service sector workers were laid off and did not have a way to provide for their families.
The policy coming down from the state of Oregon and the governor’s office seems to be signaling a future closure of bars and restaurants and further restrictions on travel. How can our community survive another lockdown? How can our city survive and thrive in a continuous cycle of forced business closures and travel bans?
What about our convention center? We just completed a $15 million dollar remodel and expansion of our convention center that we are only using at a fraction of its capacity — the majority of events canceled. The Seaside Civic and Convention Center is funded by bed tax revenue from hotels and overnight stays. If overnight lodging is once again closed down, how can we afford to pay for this facility?
The past is history and serves primarily as a teachable moment. With the advantage of hindsight how do we move forward continuing to protect lives and livelihoods of our residents?
How do prevent our citizens from once again being labeled “non-essential” when, together, we all contribute in our own way to this great community?
Finally, how do we ensure that future actions we take to safeguard our community from the threat of COVID-19 don’t turn out to be more detrimental than the virus itself?
Seth Morrisey is a member of Seaside City Council.