Op/Ed: Democracy and Public Service


By David McCall, Candidate for Tillamook County Commissioner Position #2
COVID-19 has brought some faults in our society to the forefront. Facebook is full of memes about hoarding toilet paper, and the closure of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops has shown us just how vulnerable those businesses are. It will be interesting to see which cities come up with the most innovative ways to throw lifesavers to their local businesses in upcoming weeks.
The influx of tourists who chose not to stay home resulted in a Draconian order from our county government, in sync with cities and neighboring coastal counties. Stories of hoarding TP were quickly replaced with stories of harassing out-of-state plated vehicles.

Through this ordeal our leaders have demonstrated whether they feel the need to engage with the public during the decision-making process, or just act on their behalf, “in their best interest.” Less than a month ago citizens were so concerned and involved that they packed the commissioners’ meeting room to protest dead legislation, but where were the crowds when the same commissioners decided to close parks, public buildings, and lodging facilities? Operating under the rules of “emergency meetings” for weeks, the public was informed of meetings and decisions only after-the-fact.
The commissioners now ask for understanding, as they work on solutions to enable better public access through electronic meetings. They have now realized – after multiple protests from various individuals – that clear call-in directions need be provided, rather than expecting everyone to navigate a clumsy website in search of meeting information that may only appear a couple hours before a meeting anyway.
This process is true not only for the county commission, but for some cities as well. How many emergency meetings were called in our cities? Was there public comment at those meetings? How was the public informed, and involved? “Democracy” and “public service” demand that the public be informed, and involved in the process, not just informed of the result.
This time it appears that decisions were made that most of the public agree with. That may not always be the case. That’s why it is important that voters choose wisely on May 19th, so that representatives are elected who realize that the ends do not justify the means. It is their job to serve the public, not just expect them to toe the line following the decisions they make in a vacuum.