I listened intently to my colleague Seth Morrisey’s statement at the close of the Council’s workshop last Monday addressing his “deep concern for the future of or city and our great State of Oregon.”
I have the greatest respect for Seth and he has been a great contributor to our work on the Seaside City Council.
Having said that, I have to say that I completely disagree with Seth’s premise that all the problems of the last several months of the pandemic have been caused by the government’s response to COVID-19, not the virus.
Seaside City Council member Seth Morrisey delivered these remarks at Monday's council meeting.
The steps that the City Council took to close our beach, hotels and short-term rentals near the beginning of the pandemic were clear steps to try to decrease the influx of tourists of metro hotspots of the virus. The council unanimously voted to purchase electronic road signs to warn tourists that they should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines (wear masks, wash hands and observe social distancing).
My belief is that all of the steps that local residents took and that the council adopted are part of the reason that we were able to avoid the pandemic coming into and devastating our community.
It makes logical sense that wearing a face mask in public settings is a powerful tool to slow the spread of the virus. I wear a face covering whenever I go to the post office, grocery store or any public gathering place. I do it for two reasons: I am a person who is at risk if exposed to the virus and if for some reason I have the virus and am not exhibiting symptoms, I do not want to expose persons who may not be wearing face coverings. This seems to me to be the basic thing all of us can do to protect our community’s health and welfare. (I know that there are persons who have conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering, and those persons should not be questioned or harassed).
In our state and nation, our governing bodies have always stepped in from time to time to pass laws that take into consideration the overall health and welfare of individual citizens. (It is a part of our oath of office). These laws or ordinances are often considered by some citizens as an infringement of their constitutional rights. Examples are seatbelt laws, helmets for motorcycle riders, bicycle helmets for underage riders and on the extreme fringe the requirement to pay income taxes or obey traffic laws.
I have heard this same objection to the governor’s order for citizens and visitors being required to wear face coverings in public places. In my opinion, during a statewide pandemic the governor is well with her power to hand down such an order.
Seth’s statement or question at the close of his remarks, “Does the threat of COVID-19 rise to the level of destroying our entire economy, our charities, our families, and our entire way of life?” His question needs to be answered and my answer is that the very steps we have taken in Seaside is standing against the long-term destruction of our tourist based economy, the support of our local charities and the health and welfare of our families.
The City Council allocated over $1 million in economic relief to our hotels, short-term rentals, retail businesses and all water/sewer customers and we lifted restrictions on lodging in late May to help those businesses to get back and be ready for the tourist season. Our recent budget adopted for the next fiscal year allocated over $100,000 to nonprofits in our region.
Community leadership must stay the course. We are making progress, tourists have returned to the beach and we are doing everything we can to keep them, their families and all of us who live here safe.
We will recover from this pandemic if we continue to care for one another.
Jay Barber is mayor of Seaside.