Sunday, January 20, 2019

Welcome to Summit, by Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones

Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones Opening Remarks INCO 1/19/19

Thank you Laurie. Good morning, and on behalf of the City of Astoria, welcome to the beautiful, unique, historic and vibrant place we call home!

If you’re not from here, you should know Astoria has no professional politicians, or lobbyists. There is no upward mobility or payback for those of us who serve at the local level.

Each of Astoria’s City Councilors is motivated by a deep passion for the community, and a desire to use their talents, experience and energy to serve, to the best of their abilities and with the best intentions. The same motivations that brought many of you here today.

And I am just a guy who happens – much to my own surprise – to be Mayor now. I’m not an expert at it, and Lord knows, I make mistakes, from which I try to learn.

The divisiveness and vitriol that permeate national politics, and social media, can seem hopelessly entrenched, as each side digs in to paint the other as the enemy.

I believe that LOCAL community action, government, nonprofits and neighbors offer our best hope for healing the tears in the national fabric. Starting from the bottom up.

Linda and I chose to make Astoria our home because there were so many opportunities to get involved, so many people who volunteer their time in dozens of organizations which collectively make our community more livable, more welcoming and more supportive of those in need. It’s a genuine community. I don’t see divisions of red or blue or purple in organizations like the United Way of Clatsop County, I just see thoughtful, caring people trying to build and nurture community.

This is generally true in towns across America. There’s so much good happening, but it’s buried in the 24 hours news cycle. And while many of you are focusing your energy on critical, national level policy, it’s good to remember that supporting the good and ongoing work of building bridges and reaching out to the less fortunate at the local level is equally, if not more, important.

In preparing for this morning I thought about what issues have been most on my mind over the last week. Because I know literally hundreds of people directly affected by the federal government shutdown, that rose to the top. Last Saturday, I was guest speaker at a memorial service for the few dozen Coast Guard rescuers who have lost their lives attempting to save others on the Oregon Coast over the years.

In attendance were active duty Coasties who within the past two weeks have gone out in atrocious weather, in the dark of night, to assist disabled crab boats. Coasties with families at home relying on paychecks which did not arrive on the 15th.

The Coast Guard used to have a saying, “you have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” In other words, when someone calls for help, you go, even at risk to your own life, because of a devotion to the concept of Service over Self.

Service over Self. Those who accept positions of public trust are rightly held to a higher standard. We are expected to subordinate our own personal desires and agenda to our duty to serve the public.

There’s another issue which has been on my mind. I had a long conversation with a constituent, Maria. Maria is a U.S. citizen married to a Mexican national, Ruben. Ruben came here illegally 24 years ago. He’s been married to Maria for 21 years. Ruben works two and sometimes three jobs to support his family, which includes 3 grandchildren living with them. As most of you know, local employers can’t find enough workers to meet the need around here, and a hard worker who shows up on time and can pass a drug test is a valuable commodity.  

Ruben screwed up last year. He got a DUI. Shouldn’t have done it. But, up until a few years ago, it took a felony or violent crime to trigger detention and deportation. Ruben got picked up by ICE just a few blocks from our courthouse in December. He’s now in a holding cell in Tacoma. His family’s source of income is gone. I don’t see how deporting Ruben, who has been contributing to our economy and supporting his US Citizen family for so many years, is in the national interest.

As I thought about these two issues – the federal government shutdown, and the lowering of the threshold for targeting and detaining those in our country illegally – I began to see them through the lens of the word RIGHT.

On the one hand, the right to do something, and on the other hand, doing the right thing.

Millions of parents every day try to teach their children to do the right thing. Choosing most of the time to do the right thing is the foundation of a civil society.

Our national elected leadership has the right to shutdown the government. But it’s not the right thing to do. The Justice Department has the right to deport Ruben – but it’s not the right thing to do.

Justice, boiled down, is really about choosing to do the right thing, rather than what you CAN do. 

Wouldn’t the world be a more just one, if we all made it a point of pride, to choose first, not what we have the RIGHT to do, but what is the right thing to do?

Thank you.