Bad decisions have consequences. Daniel Rollings, a member of Salem's Human Rights Commission, resigned his position today after City officials ignored the unanimous statement of the Commission calling for a location other than the Capital Press building owned by the Salem Alliance Church to be used as a temporary public library.
Rollings testifying against using the church-owned building
The Human Rights Commission took that action because the church denies LGBTQ rights, and members of the LGBTQ community have said they won't use the library if it is housed in a building leased from an organization that considers them second-class citizens.
Here's the resignation email that Rollings sent:
Mayor Bennett & HRC Chair Meyer,
I admire Rollings for standing up for LGBTQ rights.
I wish I could say the same about the Salem City Council, but I can't, since the council voted 6-1 to approve a lease that funnels almost half a million dollars of taxpayer money into the bank account of the LGBTQ-unfriendly Salem Alliance Church.
Councilor Jackie Leung was the only council member who did the right thing and voted "Nay." The "Aye" Hall of Shame consists of Mayor Chuck Bennett and Councilors Chris Hoy, Cara Kaser, Matt Ausec, Jim Lewis, and Brad Nanke.
(Councilors Tom Andersen and Sally Cook were absent; their representatives said they would have opposed approving the lease agreement.)
This episode has been a well-deserved public relations disaster for the City of Salem. Willamette Week ran a story with a right-on headline.
Daniel Rollings was quoted in the story. Here's a screenshot of an accompanying Facebook post.
As I noted in a blog post about the disturbing wrongness of the City Council decision to go along with the horribly flawed choice of the church-owned building for a temporary library, even though virtually all of the written and verbal testimony from citizens was in opposition to leasing the Capital Press building, no one on the City Council asked any obvious questions of City staff.
Like, since the lease for the Capital Press building will cost less than what was budgeted for a temporary library, are there other locations in Salem that would cost more, but wouldn't carry the baggage of the library being in a building owned by an organization that opposes LGBTQ rights?
I talked with two commercial realtors who told me that, of course, other viable locations exist for a temporary library. But apparently nobody on the City Council thought of doing the same thing, even though I told the council in both written and verbal testimony what I learned from the commercial realtors.
In his resignation letter, Rollings alluded to a public records request I've filed (and paid $476.80 for) that has resulted in exactly zero records being delivered after two weeks. Worse, I've been told that City of Salem staff have to review over 2,700 emails to decide which ones relate to the choice of the church-owned building for a temporary library.
I've been told that it will be at least another two weeks before that job is done, and it could end up costing me more. So it sure seems like either City officials are hoping I'll give up on my public records request (which isn't going to happen), or record-keeping by the City of Salem is astoundingly inept.
Here's one more bit of weirdness. Today the Statesman Journal ran a lengthy story about how the Salem Alliance Church has been buying up a lot of property surrounding its church, which includes the Capital Press building that will house a temporary public library.
What's weird is that the story by Tracy Loew isn't on the Statesman Journal web site, even though it was prominently featured above the fold in the MidValley section. I wanted to share a link to the story on Facebook, so searched for the story both on the Statesman Journal web site, on the paper's Facebook page, and via Google News.
Nothing. I emailed Tracy Loew and her colleague Jonathan Bach, asking for a link to the online story. No response. It sure looks like the Statesman Journal doesn't want this story to be accessible online via Google or Google News. Which is too bad, since this part of the story calls out for sharing.
NEXT DAY UPDATE: There's finally a link online. But the headline changed.
Today the church considers the neighborhood, including its schools, part of its ministry.
As it's grown, the church has faced criticism.
Some neighbors say taking down buildings to create parking lots isn't helping the neighborhood.
They complain that some of Salem Alliance's properties are dilapidated, boarded up and targets for crime. Conversely, they worry about neighborhood gentrification.
And they object to mixing religion with business and city affairs.
The latter came to a boil last month when the city of Salem leased the former Capital Press building, which the church bought a few months ago, to house its public library while the library building is renovated.
Critics say members of the LGBTQ community, or others uncomfortable with conservative evangelical religion, won't feel welcome in the church-owned building.
That's exactly what the Salem Human Rights Commission said in its statement condemning use of the church-owned building for a temporary library. But as Rollings noted in his resignation letter, Councilor Jim Lewis' attitude was, if someone supports LGBTQ rights and doesn't want to use the temporary library, too bad.
And with the exception of Jackie Leung, the rest of the City Council in attendance at the July 22 meeting went along with using the church-owned building -- knowing full well that some members of the community won't use the library for the two years or so it will be housed in that building.
They knew full well, because of the Human Rights Commission statement, plus written and verbal testimony at the July 22 meeting.
Here's what Rollings told the City Council. Other videos are in the preceding blog post link. Thank you, Daniel, for your heartfelt honest testimony, and for having the courage to resign from the Human Rights Commission in protest of City officials and the City Council denying LGBTQ rights.