Longtime mortgage banker and civic organizer and volunteer Art Marine was appointed to the Canby City Council Wednesday night, replacing David Bajorin and filling the unexpired term of Jordan Tibbals, both of whom resigned after less than a year.
Marine was selected from a field of seven candidates who applied for the position before the deadline last week.
The 3-2 vote was not without controversy, with one dissenting council member appearing to accuse some of his colleagues of hypocrisy and racism and suggesting the vote was a foregone conclusion.
Marine is a father of five, a mortgage banker with nearly 40 years of experience in the field and a longtime volunteer for the Canby School District and Clackamas County Fairgrounds.
He has served as president of the Trost Elementary Parent Teacher Association and Canby Booster Club and chaired the committee that spearheaded the effort to pass the bond for the construction of Baker Prairie Middle School, something he described as one of his proudest achievements.
“All of my children went to Canby schools, and as a result of that, I feel very loyal to this community,” he said in his interview Wednesday night. “This community has done a lot for me, and I want to give back. That’s why I’m sitting in this chair today.”
He cited interests in the master planning process and promoting greater equity and inclusion for minority groups.
“The citizens need to be represented, and there are lots of ways to do that,” he said. “I feel like it would be really beneficial for the City Council to create some kind of task force or outreach to the underserved citizens of this city.”
Marine’s appointment was moved by Councilor Greg Parker and seconded by Councilor Sarah Spoon, both of whom Marine had listed on his application form as having referred him to the vacancy.
But Councilor Shawn Varwig appeared to prefer another candidate, Herman Maldonado, who admitted he did not have as much experience in the community as some other candidates but felt he could help address what he sees as a lack of cultural outreach and diverse representation.
“The biggest [concern] I’ve seen recently is intercultural,” Maldonado said during his interview. “I think our Hispanic community is 27% of Canby, and I don’t see a lot geared toward them. I’m Hispanic myself — I’m Puerto Rican — so I want to see the cultural integration.
“I want to see our Spanish- and English-speaking neighbors come together and talk. It’d be a heck of a cookout — I can tell you that.”
The council discussion that followed the seven candidate interviews quickly turned personal, with Varwig intimating, without naming names, that several of his colleagues had arrived at a “predetermined decision” and were failing to follow through on valuing diversity and representation.
“To say for years and years and years, ‘We hope our Hispanic community is represented,’ … and then to have somebody from our Hispanic community step up to the plate and say, ‘I would like to serve,’ and … then to say, ‘We want somebody else,’ seems very hypocritical to me,” Varwig said. “Something that drives me absolutely insane is hypocrisy.”
Spoon and Parker took umbrage at the remarks, with the former telling Varwig “you will not find a bigger advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging on this council than me.”
“Two years ago, I started advocating for a diversity, equity and inclusion task force and you haven’t reached out to me to support that or make that happen,” she said. “If that’s something you’re saying that you really value, I would be happy to work with you to make that happen.
“If you want to have a meaningful conversation about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, you have my phone number. I’ll sit down with you anytime and talk about it.”
Making a decision solely on the basis of race without addressing more significant and systemic inequality would be “tokenism,” Spoon said, which would also be harmful to the community’s DEI efforts.
“I think Mr. Maldonado is a fantastic candidate,” she said. “I hope he serves on a board. If he wants to run for office, I would sit down with him and see if he’s a candidate I would want to support. In this case, I’m looking for someone who has more experience in community work, and I think a lot of other candidates have more of that experience.”
She also invited Maldonado to Bridging Cultures Canby’s kick-off event at Locust Street Park on May 21, saying the local nonprofit hosts intercultural cookouts every other week, similar to what the candidate had advocated for.
Parker also referenced the relationship-building group in his remarks.
“I thought we had an agreement that we weren’t going to call each other names,” Parker said to Varwig. “For you to call me a hypocrite, especially on something like this, when I was on the founding group for Bridging Cultures, and have come to you guys every year asking you to participate in it, and for you not to recognize it and say, no, I have no creds when it comes to advancing the voices of the unheard?”
Both men referenced a previous clash between the council’s ideological factions, in which Varwig filed a public records request seeking a slew of communications between Parker, Spoon, Bajorin and Councilor Chris Bangs concerning a controversial slate of Planning Commission appointments, among other things.
The request uncovered a private message thread between Parker and Bajorin that Varwig claimed violated public meetings law, but which the city attorney said was not so cut and dried.
“It wasn’t that long ago that we had some stuff come up and I feel like we’re back in that position again, with a decision that has been predetermined,” Varwig had said during his initial comments Wednesday.
“I’m incredibly disappointed that it seems before our last person was even done making his comments, we are ready to make a motion. It seems like a predetermined decision, and that disappoints me.”
Parker ridiculed the idea as a “boogeyman.”
“Again, we’re back to this boogeyman, where if things aren’t going my way, somebody must have figured this out [in advance],” Parker told Varwig. “You said that before; you couldn’t come up with any evidence. You’re making accusations again tonight without any evidence. I thought we had come to a gentleman’s agreement that we weren’t going to be doing that.”
Marine was appointed to serve the unexpired term through December. The seat will appear on the ballot in November for a full, four-year term. Marine told the Current that he will likely file for the election but will make the decision at a later date.
“It was very attractive to me to have an opportunity to dip my toe in the water before making that decision,” he said. “My expectation is that I will run but let me see how it goes.”
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