Oh, my, the very thought of viewing the Salem City Council as, gasp, political, seemed to make the three remaining conservative councilors dab their feverish brows with tidy white handkerchiefs, given the shock to their delicate psyches that Tom Andersen and other progressive councilors wanted to take a stand against Measure 105, which would repeal Oregon's sanctuary state law.
Not having watched last night's council meeting, I base my hearts all aflutter conclusion on a Statesman Journal story, "Tensions flare as Salem City Council takes stand on sanctuary state ballot measure."
Salem city councilors voted 6-3 to oppose a November ballot measure that would repeal Oregon's sanctuary state law — but not before heatedly debating whether nonpartisan, city officials should take any stand on statewide ballot measures.
...In an interview outside council chambers, Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore said repealing the law would have a "chilling" effect on many community members reporting crimes and other issues to the police.
Before Monday's vote, however, Council [sic] Brad Nanke said, "To my knowledge, we have never taken a position on a ballot measure."
...Councilor Jim Lewis said he could not vote in favor of the proposed positions. "I don't believe this agenda item should even be on the council's table tonight," he said. "I think Councilor Nanke spoke to that well."
...Councilor Steve McCoid called himself "absolutely opposed personally to 105."
"I'll vote no on 105. I'll probably contribute money to the campaign to defeat 105," he said.
Still, McCoid said, it's inappropriate for the council to take these types of positions. He pointed to the fact that council posts are nonpartisan, neither Republican nor Democrat.
"When you start taking political positions as a City Council, in effect, you're starting to lobby people for one position or the other," he said. "I don't think that's what we're here to do. We're here to work and run the city. This is setting a bad precedent."
This, of course, is the same Salem City Council whose liberal members were targeted for extinction by the Chamber of Commerce and other conservative members of the Powers That Be in the early 2000's, after the Mayor's office and a majority of council seats had been filled by left-leaning citizens.
And this is the same City Council whose last six newly-elected members have been solidly progressive, with five of the six having gotten endorsements from Progressive Salem, a political action group whose goal was, and is, to wrench the reins of local power out of the hands of conservatives.
So I suspect that a main reason councilors Nanke, Lewis, and McCoid were so against the very idea of the City Council taking a stand on statewide ballot measures was that they knew they were on the short side of a 6-3 vote on the sanctuary city measure.
The City Council is non-partisan only because a "D" or "R" doesn't appear next to candidates running for mayor or a council seat. Maybe city councils in small towns manage to keep partisan politics in the background, but that certainly hasn't been the case here in Salem.
Thus it was totally appropriate for the City Council to weigh in on a ballot measure that would affect how policing is conducted in Salem.
This is the state capital, Oregon's second or third largest city, depending on the latest population estimate that gives either Eugene or Salem bragging rights. Salem is a political town. It makes sense for the City Council to take stands on statewide, or even national, issues that affect our area.