In a non-shocking development, following criticism that the Salem Police Department erred in tear-gassing Black Lives Matter protesters and showed favoritism toward heavily armed "militia" members in the downtown area, a review by the Police Department of Police Department actions found that the Police Department did very little wrong.
(Related news: following criticism by my wife that the haphazard way I load the dishwasher will lead to glasses being broken when they bang against each other, I did a review of my dishwasher-loading actions and found that I did very little wrong. Nonetheless, I'll change where the glasses go because I feel like it, and for no other reason.)
Chief Moore (page 3): “The department is a learning organization and we have learned a lot over the past few weeks. We have made changes to the issues we recognize and understand needed changed.
If Salem PD was truly a learning organization, Chief Moore and other leaders would have changed their tune when overwhelming video evidence began surfacing. Instead, they continue to cling to debunked talking points and act as if what everyone is seeing with their own eyes, and in many cases, what people lived through via personal experience, is not reality. It’s absolutely disgusting what Salem PD, including and especially Chief Moore, thinks that they can get away with. Equally disgusting is the lack of those in power holding the Department and Chief accountable. Shame on all of those involved.
So we're left with two starkly contrasting views of the appropriateness of what happened in the downtown area from May 30 to June 1. I don't know which is more correct. At the moment, no one does with convincing certainty.
Defenders of the police will hold up the 10-page report from the Police Department as vindication of the general approach taken by officers, though the report does mention several areas where the department could have done a better job. Defenders of the protesters will continue to point to video evidence that officers tilted the scales of justice in favor of the armed people and against those marching in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Regarding the scales of justice, the rebuttal to Chief Moore repeatedly cites the dismissal of all charges against 14 protesters by the Marion County District Attorney as evidence that the Salem Police Department overreacted. It does seem strange that if some protesters truly were engaged in a dangerous riot, as Chief Moore claims, none of them were charged with a crime.
The Reform Salem Police people are calling for state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to launch a third-party investigation of the Police Department.
A petition in support of this has been signed by 1,628 individuals at the moment. I doubt Rosenblum will agree to an investigation, since the alleged wrongs, though serious, are nowhere near as bad as George Floyd's murder, to offer just one example of extreme police brutality.
It's unfortunate that there's so little capability for effective independent oversight within the City of Salem. Not only the Police Department, but every department, should be held to account for how the public is served, or fails to be served. As it stands, there's no equivalent to the Inspector General that can conduct investigations into wrongdoing within federal agencies.
I made the joking allusion to my reluctance to admit that my dishwasher-loading capability could use improvement because it's human nature to look upon ourselves more generously than a view by an outside observer would consider to be warranted. That's why performance evaluations aren't carried out by the employee themselves, and why students don't grade themselves.
Police Departments are especially resistant to outside oversight. Police unions often put up roadblocks to this. And there's the notion of a "noble cause corruption" at play when attempts are made to question police behavior. Wikipedia says:
Noble cause corruption is corruption caused by the adherence to a teleologicalethical system, suggesting that people will use unethical or illegal means to attain desirable goals,a result which appears to benefit the greater good. Where traditional corruption is defined by personal gain, noble cause corruption forms when someone is convinced of their righteousness, and will do anything within their powers to achieve the desired result. An example of noble cause corruption is police misconduct "committed in the name of good ends" or neglect of due process through "a moral commitment to make the world a safer place to live."
Conditions for such corruption usually occur where individuals feel no administrative accountability, lack morale and leadership, and lose faith in the criminal justice system. These conditions can be compounded by arrogance and weak supervision.
Hopefully the controversy over how the Salem Police Department handled the recent protests will lead to better ways of evaluating the department. The City Council is embarking on a performance audit of the department, probably by an outside person. Part of the audit could be an examination of the "Chief said/Critics said" debate over how the protests were handled.
And the audit should include recommendations for how external reviews of the Police Department could be carried out on an ongoing basis. After all, police and fire account for a majority of the general fund spending by the City of Salem. If those dollars aren't being spent efficiently and effectively, taxpayers deserve to know about this.
If you're concerned about how the Salem Police Department responded to the recent Black Lives Matter protests, or if you want to learn why people were bothered about what police officers did, check out this new web site: Reform Salem Police.
Screenshot of top of home page
I'm impressed with whoever put the web site together. It documents what the Police Department did during the protests from May 30 to June 1, 2020.
Notably, using tear gas and flash bangs against mostly peaceful protesters, while not holding armed militia members in the downtown area to the same curfew that was enforced on the protesters.
Obviously the web site has a mission -- Reform the Salem Police Department -- but it builds the case for this in a reasoned, factual manner. Here's an example of the appealing writing style, the concluding message.
A Very Dangerous Precedent
Trampling on people’s civil rights is wrong. Selective enforcement of the law is wrong. City leaders standing up for white supremacists while acting as if every peaceful protestor should be measured by a limited number of bad actors, some of which may very well have been white supremacist agitators, is wrong.
If this precedent is allowed to stand, and what so many of us had to endure gets buried and forgotten about as time goes by, it will send a clear message to heavily armed white supremacists everywhere that they are welcomed here by city leaders, and “appreciated” by Salem PD. We cannot let that happen. We have to ensure that city leaders are held accountable.
Many Salem residents have contacted several lawmakers that represent the City of Salem in Oregon’s Legislature about the contents of this website, just for the lawmakers to either not respond at all, or to tell their constituents that they should be directing their concerns to city leaders – the same city leaders that are failing the citizens that they were elected to serve.
Many of these lawmakers want to pass new policies, which is perfectly fine, however, we cannot effectively move forward if we can’t even acknowledge what actually happened in Salem between May 30 – June 1, and hold those involved accountable.
The contents of this website were previously shared with Salem City Council members, members of the Oregon Legislature, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office, as well as U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader’s office, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s office, and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley’s office.
This is an issue that is of deepest concern to Salem residents, and quite frankly, it should be to all Oregonians. We cannot become a haven for armed white supremacists. If it can happen in Salem, which is apparently the case based on the substantial evidence contained on this website (and there is more out there), then it can happen anywhere in the state.
It is the Oregon Attorney General’s job to step in when local government officials are not doing their jobs, especially when rights violations are involved. It is Attorney General Rosenblum’s job to ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law (Article 1 Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution), which clearly did not happen in Salem between May 30 to June 1, as the evidence on this website clearly demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt.
This community belongs to all of us. Salem city leaders work for all of us. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum works for all of us. We must continue to demand that Ellen Rosenblum step up and do the job that we elected her to do. Again, please sign and share the petition found earlier on this page with everyone that you know and encourage them to sign and share it.
Wow! Last night, for the first time, I watched a Salem-Keizer school board meeting. It was gripping, almost like a soap opera, filled with emotion, inspiration, and, yes, aggravation.
It was clear that the school board is dysfunctional under the inept leadership of chair Marty Heyen. There were more than 180 people signed up to testify at the meeting, where the district budget was to be approved, including money for the highly controversial school resource police officers.
Yet at the beginning of the meeting Heyen took the time to engage in a pity party for herself, talking about how unjust it was for her to be accused of being a racist and white supremacist by students and others involved in the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
Well, someone sent me this photo of Heyen supporters, with some observations about who those people are.
There’s the guy making the “Three Percent” sign in the lower right corner. There’s Angela Roman who you can Google and see all her White Nationalist affiliations (to the left of the little boy). Marty Heyen is in the very back right in the blue t-shirt. Her husband Jeff is second from the left. I think that’s Denise Quinn Nanke next to Jeff. I think there are other White Nationalists in the picture that I can’t identify, but others have.
Heyen claimed not to know many of these “volunteers” who came out to wave signs for her. Right. it might be true that her husband is more cozy with the White Nationalists than she is, but she’s close enough to deserve the criticism she is getting. Dr. Satya needs to answer for this too.
The good news is that after the low point of Heyen's self-absorbed opening remarks, I was mesmerized by a powerful statement from Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry.
It was amazing.
I've included the entire statement at the end of this post, boldfacing parts that stuck out for me. Perry courageously criticized the school board for their weak-kneed responses to student demands in the wake of weeks of Black Lives Matter protests here in Salem.
Here's a few excerpts to whet your appetite for reading the whole statement.
We have provided opportunities to help understand our own biases. Our board members barely engage in the training. We have instances of social media display of white supremacy, a black face mask and mockery over that mask. All actions I can’t defend.
... I will advocate for Director Blasi as your next board chair because she is one of the few leaders who have at least the embers of trust from our communities of color.
... I am so committed to this, that I will only continue to do this work if I can have will and the strength to do this even if it means calling you out.
... I commit to the vision for creating the conditions for safe and welcoming schools, especially for our students of color, which includes an antiracist agenda and truly listening to our communities of color. I urge you to reaffirm your commitment to my contract as well knowing full well my support for anti-racist learning.
Really gutsy of Perry.
The school board hires and fires superintendents. Yet she was willing to publicly call them out for failing to do their duty to protect and serve students of color and other disadvantaged students. I liked her statement that she wants the board to reaffirm their commitment to her contract.
Here's a You Tube video of the school board meeting that starts with Perry's statement if you'd prefer to listen to it rather than read it.
Perry's reference to a school board member wearing a black face mask is in regard to Paul Kyllo holding up a photo of a Black man in front of his face during almost an entire meeting. Astoundingly, no member of the school board asked him why he was doing this or if it was appropriate.
The community asks for your support in calling for:
1. The District to remove police from schools
2. School Board Member, Paul Kyllo, to resign from his position
3. The removal of any school board members aligned with white supremacy beliefs/groups
4. All the other school board officials to issue a clear apology and indicate their stance on white supremacy
KOIN TV in Portland has a story about this, "Superintendent calls out Salem-Keizer board over blackface." It includes a video and this image of Kyllo. Excerpt from story: (In a very partial defense of Kyllo, it looks to me like he was wearing a black "virus" face covering under the cutout of the Black man, who I believe is ex-Trailblazer Cliff Robinson, rather than actual blackface.)
The black face mask was worn during a 97-minute school board meeting via Zoom on March 30, 2020. In that meeting, board member Paul Kyllo holds up a black face mask for nearly the entire time. When he put the mask down, Kyllo is seen with black face from his nose down through his neck.
When it came time to hear public comments, both via phone and video, I was hugely impressed by the passion and coherence of the student activists who gave the school board well-deserved criticism in the course of calling for the defunding of school resource officers and the resignations of Kyllo and Heyen.
What struck me was how the students had their act way more together than the school board did. They spoke clearly and calmly with a consistent message. That included promises by several students that they wouldn't be attending classes in the fall if the school board didn't meet their demands.
This needs to be taken seriously by the school board, because based on their actions over the past weeks, the students sure seem to be ready and willing to engage in a student strike come September if the board continues to downplay their concerns.
At the end of the meeting, another unusual thing happened.
The board members were blathering on about how to address the controversy over school resource officers, trying to figure out what to do without actually doing much of anything. At one point the attorney for the school district reminded them that they had to approve a $1.5 billion budget at this meeting, so maybe they should get to that at some point.
Then, when the Heyen-led board seemed poised to pass a motion about how to deal with the school resource officer issue, the attorney spoke up, saying he'd never done this before, but needed to do it now -- remind them of board rules specifying that action items are to be part of an advance agenda so the public can be aware of the proposal and have a chance to weigh in on it.
Pretty amazing that the board of a billion-dollar-plus organization is so clueless about elementary ways of doing their business. I didn't watch until the very end of the meeting, but I've read in news stories that the board wants to have the school resource officer issue wrapped up by the end of August, prior to the start of the school year.
That may be, but from what the attorney said, seemingly that desire will need to be codified in a motion at the next school board meeting. Which I'm confident will generate more controversy, since as you can read below, Superintendent Perry says, "You’ve centered every conversation around how we will get the voices in the room who share your perspective."
That was my impression also. The board seems to want to engage in outreach to the Salem community mainly to get input from those who want to keep school resource officers in order to justify what seems to be a clear majority on the school board who want to do this.
In fact, while board member Satya Chandragiri talked a lot about wanting to have a broad community discussion about school resource officers, his recent Facebook post indicates that he's already made up on his mind on this subject.
Here's the statement from Christy Perry. Again, I've added the boldfacing for emphasis.
Full Statement from Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry
Chair Heyen, Vice Chair Lippold and Members of the Board,
On May 28, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I asked every employee in our school district one question: How are you actively antiracist? Our staff responded, and they also committed to growing in their path of antiracism. So, tonight I feel I can no longer challenge my staff without truly demonstrating the same. As the single employee of you, our seven-member board, I cannot sit quietly any longer. On behalf of our 42,000 students and over 5,000 staff members, I must stand up. If i can’t do this and speak truth to power, how can I expect it of everyone else in our organization?
Over the past week, I’ve been asked why I sit quietly. Parents are texting my staff asking why I don’t stand up for them in the Board room. I find myself quietly explaining why a seven-member board who is elected by the people is in charge of my employment. Over the past week, as we’ve met with students from our district who have experienced real traumas in our classrooms because of racism, I’ve shared that my ability to keep the equity work moving means I must keep the real issues out of the Board room. That goes against the very principles that I’ve been sharing with my staff – I am not being actively antiracist. Instead, I tell my team that we are going to show up the next day after a Board meeting to do what we’re here for – the right things for kids. Tonight, the right thing for our students is to use my position of power to do what’s right for all of our kids – our transgender students, our Black students, our queer students, our Latinx students, our Indigenous students, our students with disabilities, our Micronesian students, our immigrant students and every other child that comes through our doors.
And to all of those who are saying, “It’s about time!” I agree. And I’m truly sorry. This moment is a long-time coming, and I’m committed to getting it right. And there are thousands of educators in Salem-Keizer who share that commitment along with me.
As a cis gendered white female, I must first acknowledge that I have all kinds of privilege. While I grew up with alcoholism and a volatile household, I ultimately grew up in a world where white feminism, although new and strange, still was acceptable. I had female white role models, like my mom who was a school board member for many years and my grandmother who fought for full-day kindergarten. I could see myself as a leader because I was white. I saw myself in books, movies, and within my own family. While female leaders still face challenges including challenges in the superintendency, we don’t face the challenges that our leaders of color face.
I have quietly worked behind the scene to help you be better. But I need our community to know publicly the challenges you face as a board and what our community faces as we know better so we can do better. Being antiracist is more than the adoption of an equity lens and then using it as a hammer on district staff. It’s about examining your own biases and how you show up for not all students but specifically our historically underserved and marginalized students whose achievement does not match that of our white students. It’s about understanding racism and what it means to be a student of color in our district. And it’s about actively understanding the culture and community in which you serve, beyond adopting an annual safe and welcoming schools proclamation.
I have a fundamental belief that the best learning happens behind the scenes and that difficult equity work is hard to tackle in the board room. I remember the work session where we listened to our educators of color about their experiences and differences. It was one of the most compelling meetings we’ve had… and then you went right back to work worrying about things like who would be the next board chair and how would you tackle any concerns about policy governance.
As I’ve engaged our students and families these past 10 days, I’ve tried to help you understand the experiences of our students of color, but you have discounted the students’ experiences in a multitude of ways. After 71 comments in public testimony – the most we have ever had in my memory as superintendent – two of our members made it clear that those comments fell on deaf ears. Instead, you asked people who share your perspective to submit comment. Through that process, you white-centered the process and systematically discounted the very real experiences of our students of color even when a black man with a doctoral degree attempted to tell you it was true.
What we’ve seen from our Board in the SRO process isn’t unique. It’s been prevalent, from wanting to rewrite the equity lens to failing to stand up for our transgender students when a small portion of our community wasn’t ready to recognize Transgender Day of Visibility. Even reading the Pride Month Proclamation becomes a hot-button issue, with it always falling to Director Blasi, because she’s the only member who isn’t afraid to say the words.
We saw this systemic failure with our budget committee process, when you almost chose to prevent Levi Herrera Lopez from serving on the committee, despite him having the experience of chairing our budget committee in the past, and doing a really remarkable job of it. The membership of both Levi Herrera Lopez and Adriana Miranda bring perspective and strength to our budget committee that we don’t have when they are not there.
We have provided opportunities to help understand our own biases. Our board members barely engage in the training. We have instances of social media display of white supremacy, a black face mask and mockery over that mask. All actions I can’t defend.
We have worked to understand that when students come to us with experiences of racism in our schools, we listen. And after we listened this week, we have continually had to defend to you the experiences of our students of color. You’ve centered every conversation around how we will get the voices in the room who share your perspective.
On behalf of our students of color and our educators of color who experience racism every day in our classrooms along with their white anti-racist allies, I need you to commit to moving forward with antiracism as your guiding principle. You won’t get it it perfect. You won’t, I won’t. But we can commit to being ongoing learners together. Our youth have initiated a powerful conversation, and we applaud them. Now, together with their support, we need to develop a positive relationship that focuses on constructive results.
I will take on my own views on as a learner and ensure that you also have that opportunity.
I will advocate for Director Blasi as your next board chair because she is one of the few leaders who have at least the embers of trust from our communities of color.
I commit to continuing to learn about racism, the racism our students experience and my own biases, and I will ask you to do the same.
I will learn what antiracist work is and what it requires, and I will create space for you as our Board members to learn too.
I will denounce Board member affiliations to groups that are considered hate groups, organizations that are discriminatory or have a specific agenda that perpetuates systemic racism.
I commit to apologizing specifically for my mistakes and to doing better as I will make more mistakes. But I will tend to this impact every time while centering reparation.
I am so committed to this, that I will only continue to do this work if I can have will and the strength to do this even if it means calling you out.
I commit to the vision for creating the conditions for safe and welcoming schools, especially for our students of color, which includes an antiracist agenda and truly listening to our communities of color. I urge you to reaffirm your commitment to my contract as well knowing full well my support for anti-racist learning.
I know that you want the process of SRO contracts to be yours as a board. I commit to providing you a deliberate community-centered process related to related to SRO contracts that supports ALL students, specifically our Black students, our queer students, our Latinx students, our Indigenous students, our students with disabilities, our transgender students, our Micronesian students, our immigrant students and every other child that we have the privilege to welcome into our schools. Be learners with an open heart in that process.
I want to thank a number of leaders of color who show up in our communities every day from the NAACP, Mano a Mano, the Coalition for Equality, Causa Oregon, PCUN and Latinos Unidos Siempre. Their leadership pushes me to be better. Certainly, we owe tremendous gratitude to our educators of color – licensed, classified and administrators – who experience racism in our community every day but never let that waiver in their commitment to our students. We must all follow their lead.
After remotely watching most of the discussion at last night's Salem City Council meeting about reforming how the Police Department operates, I was left with a letdown feeling even though I generally agreed with what the council did.
During a four-hour meeting Monday night, the council eventually approved the $752 million fiscal year budget, which includes $48.8 million for the Salem Police Department.
But Councilor Cara Kaser said they can still make changes in the budget at their discretion up to 10%.
...Councilors authorized work sessions to include discussions of the use of City funds for non-criminal matters that are handled by the Police Department as well as setting parameters for a performance audit of the police department. The council included discussion of the so-called "8 Can't Wait" campaign into future meetings.
So the Police Department got its budget approved with no changes, though some changes could happen at a later date. Future council work sessions will discuss the possibility of having non-criminal matters handled by other people, such as mental health professionals, rather than police officers. A performance audit of the Police Department is planned. Discussion of the "8 Can't Wait" proposals (one is banning chokeholds) will have to wait for future meetings.
These are good ideas. Why, then, did I have such a blah feeling after watching the City Council proceedings?
I suspect that it is the same reason many others who are concerned about the George Floyd murder and the lengthy history of police brutality against Black Americans will be underwhelmed by what councilors did last night.
There's a big gap between the passion people feel at watching the video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for almost nine minutes, at hearing that Salem police used tear gas against Black Lives Matter protesters, at learning that armed "militia" in downtown Salem were told by a police officer how to avoid a curfew while it was enforced against protesters, at taking part in rallies and marches against police injustice -- and the calm, measured, prudent, let's-take-time-and-do-it-right demeanor of the City Council in response to that passion.
Understand: I'm unsure about how the council could have acted differently.
The deadline for passing the City of Salem budget for the next fiscal year was at hand. There was no time left to dig into nitty-gritty details of how the Salem Police Department does its work. Any attempt to cut a portion of the department budget, such as for school resource officers, clearly wasn't going to get the support of a majority of councilors.
All I'm saying is that last night's meeting felt like a Disneyland ride in reverse.
People are OK with standing in line for a long time to enjoy a ride that makes them go Wow! and leaves them with a feeling of fulfillment. But in this case it was the high energy of the Salem protests that led to a Wow! Black Lives Matter! sensation of optimism about change being possible, whereas now the City Council is saying, "Wait patiently for us to take months, or maybe longer, to figure out what, if anything, needs to happen with Police Department reforms."
Part of the problem is that there's a depressing history of people in this country talking a lot about needed reforms, with little or nothing ever happening. After every mass shooting loud calls are heard to do something about gun violence. Then those calls dwindle to a whisper as political inertia reasserts itself.
Maybe the motions passed by the City Council last night will be an exception. But it's easy to see why the Just wait and trust us approach will be met with widespread skepticism.
For example, I liked how Councilor Nordyke spoke about hiring an outside consultant to conduct a performance audit of the Police Department, since they could look upon policing practices in Salem from a perspective untainted by local politics and special interests.
But it didn't take long for her motion to be amended.
Now City of Salem staff will return to the council with a plan for conducting a performance audit -- timeline, budget, goals, all that stuff. Perhaps that will work out.
But I couldn't help but have a "fox guarding the henhouse" feeling, since the Police Department is part of the City of Salem and has many ardent defenders among city staff and elected officials who would prefer that a close look at the Police Department doesn't happen at all.
Somehow the progressive members of the City Council have to find a way to show citizens that they are passionate about reforming the Salem Police Department during the long slog of work sessions, committee meetings, and the like that will be the link between the demand of protesters for real reform and those changes actually happening.
Otherwise I fear that protesters will feel that their voices aren't being heard. And frustration of that sort can lead to undesirable outcomes.
l understand why "Defund the Police" has become a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter protesters. But it can be misunderstood as calling for the abolition of police departments, which very few people really want to do.
"Reimagine the Police" strikes me as both more accurate and more politically palatable.
“Defund the Police” is candy to the one-liner simpletons. It’s a cry that launched a thousand memes about the lawless anarchy to come. It’s a loping softball to the grumping Trumpers who swat it away with a red hat.
Just like the “Abolish ICE” outcry that followed our nation’s shameful treatment of immigrants meant “Open the borders and let every criminal in” to too many folks, “Defund the police” sounds like “Get rid of all police everywhere and let anarchy reign” to anyone who doesn’t want to figure out what’s really going on.
The needed change isn’t about defunding the police. It’s about reimagining the police.
And that's what two members of the Salem City Council are proposing at next Monday's (June 22) meeting. Here's the motions that Tom Andersen intends to make, as shared in a Facebook post.
Here are two motions I will make at Monday's Council meeting. I believe that the City IT will have arranged a way for citizens to speak via zoom. If not, send an email to the Council and we will read it. The agenda items are 5.a (first one) and 5.b. Each motion is just the starting point for serious discussions on these issues to be shortly followed by appropriate action.
First motion relates to police in schools:
I move that City Council schedule a work session to consider the issue of Salem Police Department officers in Salem schools.
DISCUSSION The work session may include as discussion of the City’s agreement with the District, statistics showing the number of contacts within the school system that result in criminal charges, statistics showing the percentage of officer contract between Caucasian students and students of color, and the percentage of students in each class whose contract resulted in criminal charges, input from the District administration, and any other appropriate issues.
Second motion concerns use of police for non-criminal matters:
I move that Council schedule a work session to discuss the use of City funds for various non-criminal matters that are currently handled by the Police Department.
DISCUSSION The work session may include items such as mental health services, addiction services, and any other appropriate topics, and the potential to shift these and any other appropriate responsibilities to agencies other than the Police, such as a Cahoots type service.
I will be making a motion at the next City Council meeting for a performance audit of the Salem Police Department, to be completed by the next Citizen Budget Committee Meeting. Here’s why:
Around the country and right here in Salem, people are demanding change in policing. Our society faces multiple public health crises, like racism, homelessness, opioid addiction, mental illness, and more. Many times, these trigger 911 calls. But not every 911 call is best handled by a police officer. You need the right tool for the right job.
In places like Eugene, a mental health professional and a paramedic can be dispatched at a fraction of the cost of dispatching a police officer in a program known as CAHOOTS. It allows persons who are too traumatized to talk to police, to talk to someone else. And, it frees up police to focus on higher acuity calls.
The call for change is ringing loud and clear across the city. But how do we do it? How do we involve stakeholders? How do we get buy-in? How do we avoid unintended consequences? In other words, how do we get lasting, positive change? By having a transparent, accountable, and public process. We need time to do it right, and with the benefit of public input, especially from marginalized communities and others who have not been heard.
Change should be informed by a systematic, impartial, evidence-based review of policing in our city. Performance audits can do that. They evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs with the goal of making them work better. We can amend budgets as appropriate once we have reviewed and discussed results as a community.
Change is coming, folks. Let’s open the dialogue and decide, as a community, what we want public safety to look like in Salem.
I'm inclined to prefer Nordyke's approach, though Andersen's idea for City Council work sessions could be part of the Salem Police Department performance audit Nordyke is calling for.
Also, Councilor Jackie Leung said at the previous council meeting that she'd be making a motion to eliminate funding for school resource officers in the Salem Police Department budget -- which is part of the City of Salem budget for the next fiscal year that will be voted on at Monday's meeting.
It'd be great if the City Council approved each of the motions by Andersen, Nordyke, and Leung.
Andersen and Nordyke want to take a measured let's-think-this-through approach to reimagining the Salem Police Department and reallocating funds that currently go to the police. That makes a lot of sense, but it will seem unduly bureaucratic to those who want to see immediate change in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.
After all, for many years there has been a lot of talk about reforming the police but little action. That's why I think the City Council would be wise to take a small chunk out of the Police Department budget -- money for school resource officers -- as a sign that councilors are serious about changing the way policing is done in Salem.
Then engage the community in a year-long Reimagine the Police effort, the performance audit Nordyke is calling for, that would be completed in time to make potentially big changes to the police budget in the fiscal year that follows the one being voted on next Monday.
By and large, I'm no conspiracy theorist. But I'm always ready to believe that when it comes to goings-on with the City of Salem, what appears innocent and boring at first glance may be the tip of a non-innocent non-boring "iceberg" below the surface.
Before getting to the backstory, here's the first outrageous thing that caught my eye when I looked at the appeal agenda item. The staff recommendation to reject the appeal comes from Peter Fernandez, the Public Works Director -- who also happens to be the person at the center of the controversial decision to purchase the Taybin Road property.
Sure, this is common in government bodies. The person who did something that you're upset with, and want to appeal, turns out to be the person who will initially review the appeal. But just because a practice is common doesn't make it right.
Hopefully the members of the City Council understand that when they see a staff analysis recommending denial of an appeal, often, if not usually, there is a decided conflict of interest at play.
Another outrage is that I've been told the City Recorder will not allow the appellant, E.M. Easterly, to appear for his hearing. So the City staff get to address the Council using video but Easterly can only submit written testimony (currently City Council meetings are virtual, being streamed online, with no in-person audience).
This seems crazy. Zoom can handle dozens, or even hundreds, of participants. Other city councils are allowing people to testify online. Why isn't the City of Salem doing this?
NEXT DAY UPDATE: Just heard that the City attorney will overrule the City Recorder and will allow Easterly to speak via video. Good news.
At any rate, the appeal to be discussed next Monday involves whether the correct pot of money was used to purchase the house at 298 Taybin Road NW. More correctly, the house that used to be at this address, since I was told that Peter Fernandez had it torn down before closing on January 20, 2020.
The City of Salem paid $402,000 for the 832 square foot house, which Zillow estimates was worth $215,000. (City paid $375,000 for the house and $26,765 to have the house demolished.) I've heard that attorney Jim Vick bought the house for about $200,000 and resold it to the City for close to twice the price within six months, a pretty darn good return on investment. [NOTE: initially I had a "Bob Vick" as the seller of the property, but someone has sent me documentation that it was Jim Vick, also an attorney.]
(The City Council might want to ask staff why the price paid for this house was so high.)
In October 2019, staff recommended to Council acquisition of this parcel for immediate use as stormwater detention, streambank conservation, and possible future use for Marine Drive NW construction. Given its immediate planned use, staff recommended use of Stormwater System Development Charge funds for its acquisition. Future use of the western portion of the parcel for transportation purposes would require reimbursement to the Stormwater SDC fund for that portion of the property.
That mention of Marine Drive NW leads into the most interesting part of the backstory, as expressed in the following theory.
A key question is why Peter Fernandez, the Public Works Director, authorized purchase and removal of the house, possibly using the wrong source of funding. Well, maybe because the house was in the path of an approach to the Third Bridge that the Chamber of Commerce was promising would be resurrected with a record amount of campaign spending in the May 2020 City Council primary election.
However, the election ended up with the same 6-3 progressive majority on the City Council, which meant that, for the foreseeable future, the dream of the Third Bridge that still holds sway among key City staff, the Mayor, and several city councilors will not come to pass.
Yet in October 2019 that dream seemed like it could become reality, if enough progressives were defeated in the upcoming 2020 City Council elections to turn a 6-3 majority into at least a 5-4 minority.
What I've been told is that on June 10, 2019, the City Council directed City staff not to buy right-of-way that includes 298 Taybin Road when it adopted a motion from Councilor Kaser to buy property for Marine Drive from 5th Ave and Cameo Street to River Bend Road.
So the nearly $3.6 million of 2008 Streets and Bridges Bond Funds could not be used to buy 298 Taybin. Thus, goes the theory, Peter Fernandez reached into his bag of funding tricks and picked a source of funding that, according to the E.M. Easterly appeal, is not appropriate.
Further, the Proposed Budget Book 1, page 204, that is up for final approval at Monday's City Council meeting still states that the approximate $3.6 million carryover funding for Marine Drive is to initiate street improvements from Glen Creek to Cameo, which is counter to Kaser's adopted motion.
This seems to show that City of Salem staff really want Marine Drive to go east of Pioneer Village and along the edge of Wallace Marine Park. It is as if those staff either did not notice the City Council decision on June 10, 2019 to purchase Marine Drive Right of Way between 5th Ave and River Bend Road, or they just want to keep ignoring the role of the City Council in setting policy for the City of Salem.
To me, what's most concerning about the purchase of the Taybin Road house is that on June 10, 2019, as the City Council considered what right-of-way to buy for Marine Drive, reportedly the Public Works Director said that the City will buy whatever right-of-way the Council decides on.
But that's not how it turned out. The City Council picked one route and the Public Works Director bought right-of-way at twice the market value in a different location that had a house on it which could have been available as affordable housing stock if it hadn't been torn down.
Here's some maps that make more clear the issues at stake here.
Below is a screenshot of a Google Maps image, with the Taybin Drive house address shown by the red marker. That address is considerably south of Cameo Drive, which Councilor Kaser's motion said should be the southern edge of the Marine Drive right-of-way acquisition. So why is the Public Works Department buying the Taybin Drive property for a possible future Marine Drive construction?
And here's a screenshot of part of a Salem River Crossing (Third Bridge) planning document that I found on Google Images. You can see that the plan was for bridge traffic to be funneled along Marine Drive, some of which would run close to and parallel to Wallace Marine Park -- right where the Taybin Drive house was located.
I bow down before the glory of this single marvelous sentence which, in eight carefully crafted words, cuts through the thicket of confusion that has prevented humanity from dealing with so many issues that have bedeviled people for millennia.
Trump, though, did expand upon this unsurpassed wisdom in a tweet.
Thank you, President Trump. We now know that not only would there be very few coronavirus cases if testing for COVID-19 infections ceased, also...
Breast cancer would be a thing of the past if women stopped having mammograms. Global warming would disappear if greenhouse gas levels weren't measured. Deaths would shrink to almost zero if obituaries weren't published. Fevers would stop bothering people if thermometers were banned. Obesity would be eliminated if there were no scales. Wrinkles would cease to worry older people if all mirrors were shattered. Bad news would vanish if journalists found other professions. Student achievement would skyrocket if tests stopped being used. Crimes would be negligible if FBI statistics weren't reported.
Of course, I have merely scratched the surface of the marvelous improvements to human life if Trump's genius becomes more widely recognized, as it should be.
My profound hope is that after January 2021 Donald Trump will be relieved of his duties as President, thereby freeing up his time to pursue the many avenues of improvement that build upon his groundbreaking insight that if no attempt is made to recognize a problem, the problem ceases to exist.
Saturday's Statesman Journal featured stories about a couple of spectacularly dumb local people. It took me a while to decide who deserves the "dumb" award in this blog post, and who the "dumber," but I'm going with this:
Dumb -- whoever spray painted two marble sculptures in front of the state Capitol building during the first weekend of Black Lives Matter protests.
Dumber -- Marion County commissioner Sam Brentano, for being so irritated at Governor Brown's pausing of county reopening plans due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Oregon.
Sure, it can be argued that these dumb and dumber awards should be switched, and I could go along with that argument, because each of these individuals engaged in some spectacularly misinformed behavior.
Looking at the spray painter first, who so far hasn't been identified, I wish I could share an online link to this Statesman Journal story. But after two days it hasn't appeared on the newspaper's web site, for some baffling reason.
Anyway, here's a photo of the front page of the print edition.
This is how the story by Capi Lynn starts out.
A pair of massive marble sculptures stand sentinel in front of the Oregon State Capitol. Their heroic figures, carved deep into the history of our state, flank the majestic granite steps leading to the main entrance, acting as both guards and greeters.
But their vulnerability was exposed during the first weekend of protests.
Vandals defaced the 81-year-old sculptures by spray-painting profanity-laced messages on their stone surfaces. Their pedestals are made of granite.
A mason restoration company from Tigard has been working all week to remove the paint with little success, and the sculptures remain covered with tarps.
"It's not working very good because we didn't get on it soon enough," Joe Bryson of Pioneer Waterproofing Co. said Friday. "The longer it sits on there, the harder it is to get off. We keep trying, but I don't know if it will ever come off."
The vandalism occurred between 10 p.m. Saturday, May 30, and 12:30 a.m. Sunday, May 31, the first weekend crowds gathered at the Capitol protest [against] police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
l have no idea how anyone could think that spray-painting graffiti on the sculptures helps in any way to further the Black Lives Matter movement. Actually, it hurts the movement, by distracting attention from the many positive aspects of the protests to this senseless act of vandalism.
Hopefully the vandals will be identified and punished. The story ends with: "If you have information about the incident, contact Trooper Greg Williams at the Capitol Mall Area Command, 503-986-1122."
Now, as dumb as the spray-painting was, it didn't cause physical harm to any people, just the statues. So Commissioner Sam Brentano gets the dumber award because another front-page story, "Marion, Polk, wait for more reopening," shows how clueless Brentano is about the danger reopening too quickly poses to Oregonians.
Here's excerpts from the story by Claire Withycombe.
Bars and restaurants in Marion and Polk counties will still be closing by 10 p.m., and residents still can't go bowling or to a movie theater, for at least one more week due to a recent jump in cases of COVID-19.
Nearly all of Oregon's counties have been approved by the governor's office to "reopen" for some public activities after months of what was practically a lockdown to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Brown's office has laid out a plan that allows each county to apply to reopen in three phases.
Marion and Polk counties are currently in the first phase, which allows limited reopening of restaurants and bars and gatherings of up to 25 people. You can see what else you can do during the first phase on the governor's website.
But no county will be permitted to open up any further for another week at least, Brown announced Thursday. That means Marion and Polk counties' efforts to move into the second phase won't be approved for at least another week.
...On Thursday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 178 new cases, the most in a single day since the pandemic started. On Friday, another 142 cases were announced.
...Local county commissioners expressed disappointment after Brown's decision.
"We're not going to be able to go like this forever," said Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano, reached by phone Friday morning. "All government should be doing is alerting when there's a problem and then let people make their own choices to protect themselves."
Brentano said he was concerned by the uptick in cases in Marion County, which reported 29 new cases Friday.
"Right now is a dangerous time, and that part's right," Brentano said. "But I don't feel I want to continue leaving authority to make decisions to live or operate up to the state."
Spoken like the true science-denier that you are, Commissioner Brentano. He has been an outspoken opponent of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, since Brentano doesn't believe that humans are causing the global warming that is having increasingly disastrous consequences.
So it isn't surprising that just as Brentano wants people and corporations to be able to spew as many carbon emissions as they want, he also wants to allow individuals and businesses to be able to spread the coronavirus in any way they want.
Fortunately, Brentano isn't in charge of Oregon. Governor Kate Brown is. And she is relying on advice from our state's public health experts as she makes decisions about how to re-open Oregon safely, decisions that the Oregon Supreme Court recently has ruled are totally legal.
UPDATE: Just came across this apt passage in a Texas Monthly story that I read vis Apple News.
A version of “personal responsibility” that looks like “I’ll take responsibility for my risk, and you take responsibility for your risk,” though, neglects the reality of a pandemic. Responsibility may be personal—but risk is communal. Everyone can both get sick with the virus and pass it on to someone else.
A person who gets infected while packed into an overcrowded bar can pass the disease to a supermarket cashier who is otherwise steadfastly avoiding high-risk situations. A healthy young person whose sense of personal responsibility leaves him comfortable spending a leisurely evening in a bustling restaurant can infect a roommate who works in a nursing home.
Most people, including me, who favor "Defund the police" aren't calling for no police at all. We just believe there is plenty of room to reduce the amount of taxpayer money that is going into the budgets of police departments.
The first step toward doing this is getting away from the indefensible notion that police are so special, taking a close look at what they do and how they do it shouldn't happen.
Actually, and obviously, police officers are just people.
Their job can be difficult. So are almost all jobs. Their job can be dangerous. So are lots of other jobs. There's no reason to morally elevate police over other professions that also are important to society just because they generally carry a gun in this country.
With that first step out of the way, we can move toward considering the "why" and "how" questions that are basic to budgetary decisions in both the public and private sectors.
Why is this program or policy important? Why is it valued? How are those goals best achieved? How could things be done more effectively and efficiently?
As I called for recently, the Salem City Council needs to take a close look at the FY 2021 City of Salem budget for the police department because that's by far the largest line item in the general fund budget. Black Lives Matter protesters have raised valid questions about whether police budgets around the country should be cut, much less raised, as the City of Salem is proposing.
Here's a graphic shared by local activist Jim Scheppke that shows how public safety, police and fire, suck up about 60% of Salem's general fund budget. Sure, public safety is important. But is it that important?
As far as I know, only Councilor Jackie Leung called for a reduction in the police department budget at the June 8 City Council meeting where the FY 2020-21 budget was on the agenda. Leung said she would propose at the June 22 meeting that money for police school resource officers be removed.
But as a Salem Reporter story says, there were plenty of public comments calling for a partial defunding of the Salem Police Department, with that money being re-allocated to other community needs.
Notably absent from the councilors’ discussion any reference to nearly 30 letters of public comment demanding to shift part of the police budget to community and social programs.
It’s part of a larger call nationwide to defund the police and instead use taxpayer money for other areas of need in cities.
Christine Shanaberger wrote in her submission that councilors should revise the budget to reduce police spending as the department takes about a third of the general fund.
A Salem-Keizer school board meeting about next year's budget was much more heated regarding police presence in schools, as another Salem Reporter story pointed out.
It seems to me that on June 22 the Salem City Council would be wise to defund the Salem Police Department's participation in the school resource officer program for these reasons:
(1) It sends a message that the Council is committed to making changes to the police department in line with the nationwide calls for less militarization of police and more attention to concerns of people of color about how they're treated by police.
(2) Since students are leading the call to do away with school resource officers, and those officers supposedly are there to serve students, it makes sense to end that program.
(3) It appears likely that either the school board or Superintendent Perry will end the school resource program. So the City Council should take a stand before this happens, since taking a stand afterward would be an empty gesture.
Police Chief Jerry Moore announced his retirement at the end of 2019, but is staying on until his replacement can be hired. Some city councilors might be thinking that it would be better to hold off on changes to the Salem Police Department until a new chief is on hand to oversee them.
But a counterargument is that the city needs to hire a chief who is open to change, so any candidate who would refuse the position because some cuts have been made to the police department budget wouldn’t be someone who should be police chief.
Not surprisingly, we (well, I) here at Salem Political Snark adore snarkishness.
That's why I'm eager to share every new issue of Salem Cherry Pits when it hits my email inbox, sent to me by downtown resident and property owner Carole Smith -- the creator, publisher, and distributor of this marvelous mixture of biting satire and solid information about downtown goings-on.
Below I've shared screenshots of the first two pages of the Spring 2020 issue, which deal with a novel approach to homelessness and a heretofore unrecognized way the coronavirus can be transmitted: farts. You can read the whole issue by clicking on these PDF files.
The first is the entire issue minus the centerfold (which, sadly, isn't a provocative unclothed image of a city councilor). The second is a rotated page 4, so you don't get a crick in your neck from perusing details of where downtown urban renewal money comes from. And the third is the oversized centerfold, "Proposed 2021 Downtown Urban Renewal Budget."