Know the facts

To the editor,

I am writing this letter to eliminate confusion and highlight the truth regarding the effort to remove Gearhart’s mayor, Dianne Widdop, from office. The goal of this letter to the editor is to be as factual as possible, and I will state when facts can be checked and where to fact-check them.

As some of you may know, a petition was circulated, mostly door to door, by approximately eight people in Gearhart, asking for signatures to recall our mayor.

The gist of the reasoning to remove Dianne Widdop was that she violated a Gearhart business owner’s right to freedom of speech. Note: 108 people signed the petition. If you want to know everything the petition stated, it is public record at the office of the Gearhart city manager.

Dianne Widdop has served Gearhart for almost 20 years as a city councilor and mayor. She has worked very hard all these years to keep Gearhart a great place for all of us to live…she does this without pay. She, at the very least for all she has accomplished, deserves a basic level of respect and due process by the voters. She is being accused of violating a business owner’s freedom of speech, which is a terrible thing to do.

But did she really do that ? It is our responsibility as voters to ferret out the truth before casting our ballots and not allow ourselves to be swayed by a small group of people that I feel strongly, in this case, are aggressively tainting the truth to further their needs, whatever those needs may be.

Gearhart business owners in the past have not put out campaign signs. The sentiment has been that business owners do not want to politicize their business. A new business owner, however, did put up a sign for a candidate named Kevin Willett. Kevin Willett is not the issue here.

Dianne Widdop used to work in the store location which the new business owner now occupies. Dianne reached out to the business owner with advice as she was opening her new store earlier in the spring of 2014. Dianne thought of her as a friend. On Oct. 17, Dianne talked to this business owner friend about the campaign sign in front of her store. Dianne, per transcripts on record with the city, has stated that she told the business owner “…it’s a bad idea to put out campaign signs at shops in Gearhart and that none of the merchants put out signs as it is a no-win situation.“

The business owner said that Craig Weston, her landlord, had said the same thing, but that she could put up a sign if she wanted to. Dianne stated (per transcripts) she never told the business owner she had to take down the sign. The business owner did leave up the sign for Kevin Willett. On Nov. 5, at a City Council meeting, the new business owner confirmed that Dianne never told her to take the sign down. This can be fact-checked by Gearhart City Council meeting minutes.

So what is the issue? Do you Gearhart voters think that Dianne Widdop violated the business owner’s freedom of speech? If not, then why is she being accused of doing so?

At some point after Dianne talked to the new business owner about the Kevin Willett sign, the new business owner apparently talked to a few Gearhart residents and business owners about her conversation with Dianne. These people included Joy Sigler, a past city councilor and the owner of a shop in Gearhart. It is Joy and about seven other people who went after Dianne Widdop by misstating what she said. Note that Joy has been the most vocal.

It is these eight people who asked for the recall petition using their emotionally charged freedom of speech violation claim to get signatures. They seem to be angry people who see Dianne Widdop and anyone who does not agree with them as their enemy. They have been very aggressive and inappropriate and bullish at City Council meetings. It is unclear why they are angry, but some part of their angst is tied to Gearhart’s historic barn.

The transcripts of all Gearhart City Council meetings are public record.

The historic barn on Pacific Way is home to an issue that has been going on for several years, starting when the barn was bought as a venue for weddings and large parties. The barn was not in compliance regarding safety issues as determined by the fire department, city inspector and county electrical inspector’s office. The owner, to date, has not accomplished what the city has asked her to do. The Gearhart city manager and Gearhart building official are responsible for making sure these compliance issues are taken care of.

Several of the eight people who are going after Dianne Widdop would benefit from the barn having a wedding business. They have fought back saying the compliance requirements are not fair, and all eight of these people have been very hostile towards Dianne, the mayor and the city manager. Keep in mind that all businesses have to be in compliance on safety issues…it is one of the costs of doing business. Note also that the barn owner has sued the city and that we as taxpayers are paying thousands of dollars for the city to defend itself…we will also spend around $7,000 for this recall election.

Everything regarding the historic barn’s compliance issues and the lawsuit against the city is public record.

This is what has happened and why we are where we are now. The struggle to defame and remove the mayor has cost us all money, time and energy. This has been going on for five months, a period of time where the people that we all elected could have been getting other things done besides talking about making the historic barn safe and what Dianne Widdop said about a sign.

Eight people in our town have an aggressive agenda to go after and depose anyone in the Gearhart City Council that does not agree with their agenda. That’s just toxic, it is not right, it’s a waste of time and it is not what Gearhart is all about. And now we need to take the time to deal with their claim of a freedom of speech violation by a mayor who has worked hard for us for almost 20 years.

Suggesting that someone take down a sign as a matter of business protocol, but not saying they had to, does not mean legally or logically that a person’s freedom of speech was taken away. But in this case, unless we all understand and react to the truth, it could unfairly affect all the good that Dianne Widdop’s long public legacy has been about and send the message that the voters of Gearhart can easily be deceived and bullied.

Wilson Mark

Gearhart

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