What we witnessed at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was nothing less than a coordinated sneak attack on the Mayor and Clrs. Moran and Duquenne by the Council majority. There can no longer be any doubt that their actions are politically motivated, with a strong dose of personal rancor.
They say the best defense is a strong offense, and the only way it can be improved is to start with a sucker punch. That’s exactly what happened. Council knows that the public has been calling for a hearing on the violations of the newly adopted code of conduct. Instead of requesting that the discussion of the code be placed on the agenda before the meeting, Clr. Hyatt moved to have it added to the agenda after the meeting had been called to order.
This way, the victims were not only taken by surprise, but they had no opportunity to prepare for this underhanded maneuver. Meanwhile, Clrs. Jensen and Graham had prepared speeches that they read into the record.
Jensen immediately went on the offense. He attempted to justify his remarks to the public and the media with the argument that his statements were true. He embarked on a litany of perceived transgressions and improprieties by the mayor, quoting from selected emails and social media posts.
So Jensen did a preemptive strike against the charges that he had violated the code of conduct. He turned it around, attempting to place blame on the Mayor for his statements. It was pure deflection and misdirection.
This was a textbook example of a kangaroo court. Jensen seemed to have no goal other than to distract from the charges against himself, and to intimidate the Mayor with accusations and innuendo. It was a crescendo of the harassment that he has been throwing at the Mayor since she took office.
The newly adopted code of conduct is very clear. For those unfamiliar with it, here is the section labeled “Respect”:
·Respect the role of the Mayor as presiding officer.
·Practice respect, professionalism, and decorum during discussion and debate. Assume good intentions and refrain from impugning motives or professional competency of any meeting participant, including city staff, presenters, and the public.
·Avoid negative personal comments and casting of aspersion either directly or indirectly. One may speak in opposition but do so without personal rancor. Refrain from derogatory or misleading statements about each other, city staff, contractors, and other stakeholders in all public venues. http://www.ashland.or.us/SIB/files/051321_Code_of_Conduct(1).pdf
Many in the community have been demanding that Jensen be held accountable for his media statements that clearly violated the code of ethics. What he did Tuesday night was to claim that rules didn’t apply to him because his statements were true. No one can read the code and come to the conclusion that violations are permitted under any circumstances. By reiterating and amplifying those charges, Jensen increased his violations exponentially.
Although it is painful to watch such a disrespectful attack, every concerned citizen should watch the video. As you listen to Jensen, think of the code of conduct. Is he violating it? Is he defending himself, or attacking others?
The apparent motivation for Jensen’s relentless harassment of the Mayor is to cause her to fail. This is directly analogous to the Federal situation during the past decade. During Obama’s first term, Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell vowed, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Fortunately he did not succeed.
There can be no doubt that this Council is a clear example of the tyranny of the majority. The solid bloc of four is now able to control the conduct of the meeting, and is not afraid to do so. Having a 2/3 majority, they can override the rules any time they wish, as they did Tuesday. They can suspend the rules, they can change the rules, they can extend the meeting, they can overrule the chair– they have unchecked power to control every aspect of Council business.
Does this sound like the kind of government you want in the Council Chambers? Especially during a time of transition for critical positions in City Hall?
What can be done? In November of 2022, we can replace three of the obstructionist Councilors with neighbors who more closely share your vision of the future of Ashland, how to get there, and how to deal with the challenges of the present. But that’s seventeen months away.
There is only one solution, and it depends upon the offenders, Jensen and Graham. Why are these two rogue councilors waging this vendetta?
It is clear that Jensen and Graham will never be held accountable for their statements by this Council. They have the votes to defeat any sanction. They must move past their rancor and attend to the business of the city. They, and they alone, are sabotaging the workings of the Council. Since they have two sympathetic enablers, they control the agenda and the outcome of whatever comes before the Council.
So please, Councilors, get back to work. Stop these childish attacks. You achieved your goal, you circumvented accountability. Let’s see what you do with this power.
We will be watching.