Mayor Decries State’s New Covid Posture as ‘Gross Overreach’

Canby Mayor Brian Hodson on Wednesday excoriated Governor Kate Brown’s new posture toward the coronavirus pandemic — particularly her plans to crack down on large gatherings over Thanksgiving, suggesting fines and even jail time may be in store for those who refuse to comply.

Saying he was sharing only his personal opinion, Hodson called the idea a “gross overreach,” and described her plans to push enforcement down to local agencies, including the Canby Police Department, a “wasteful and egregious use of resources and poor judgment.”

“The governor has asked neighbors to be pitted against neighbors, during a crisis when we should be banding together as a community to get through this very challenging time,” Hodson said, reading from a prepared statement. “Who I have for Thanksgiving dinner and how many people I have over is not for the government to know.”

Canby Police’s approach to the new freeze measures will be “complaint-driven,” Hodson said, with a focus on education.

“Our officers will not be out driving around for homes with more cars parked in front of them than usual,” he said. “They will respond to complaints as an educational piece and an educational piece only.”

The plan sounded similar to Canby Police’s approach during the shut-down this spring, in which officers were directed to respond to complaints about non-compliant businesses with an offer of “friendly education.”

Actual instances of Canby officers confronting local business owners over coronavirus-related complaints have been rare, though two responded to Pappy’s Greasy Spoon in early May when the owner briefly reopened for in-person dining in defiance of statewide orders.

“We really are looking to have our officers teach about safety and potential consequences of large gatherings during this pandemic,” Hodson said. “Our goal is to work with the public to reduce risks. … Please don’t make our police officers’ jobs harder than they need to be. They really do not want to be doing this either.”

Hodson lamented the impact the new lockdown — which is expected to take the heaviest toll on restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor recreational venues — would have, just as the holiday season was getting underway.

“Businesses that have not fully recovered from the last lockdown are now once again being out in a position of laying off people,” he said, “further putting their livelihoods at risk and maybe even losing their businesses forever.”

Hodson said he informally polled a number of local restaurant and gym owners and could not find a single case of a customer who contracted Covid-19 from visiting their business — or an employee who got it from working there.

“My question is, ‘Why are we not putting the ownership of the businesses into the hands of the business owners?'” Hodson asked. “Why are we punishing the many vs. the few that are breaking the rules?”

Hodson urged residents to be cautious, and to make informed decisions about how they wish to spend their holiday and protect their loved ones.

“Please try and use common sense,” he said. “We are in the middle of a pandemic as a community and as a state and as a world. And the science and the measurements and whatnot keep changing weekly on how it is spread. That means we have to check and adjust often.

“So, maybe what the governor should have said was, ‘Let’s be thoughtful in how we approach our family gatherings over the next couple of weeks.'”

Hodson plans to practice what he preaches, he said, as his family has elected to forego their usual Thanksgiving gathering of at least 20 people — “not because the governor told us not to, because we’re trying to use our God-given talents and brains on how we approach this.”

Instead, Hodson said he will host a small dinner with one or two local family members.

Hear Mayor Hodson’s complete remarks from the Nov. 18 Canby City Council meeting below:

Hodson is far from the only one to take the governor to task over her latest coronavirus edicts. Clackamas County Chair-elect Tootie Smith made global headlines — and a primetime appearance on Fox News — over her plans to defy Brown by hosting “as many family and friends” as possible for Thanksgiving.

And a number of Republican elected officials sent a letter to Brown this week urging her to reconsider, saying “churches, restaurants and gyms make up less than 1% of all the recorded Covid cases in Oregon.”

“Quite simply, there is no actual evidence that restaurants, gyms or churches are driving COVID in our community,” the letter said. “In fact, because of the adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing, these establishments have been some of the safest in the state.”

“Data shows us that COVID has been spreading at private social gatherings, and we call on our fellow citizens to be careful and social distance when gathering over the holidays, but we cannot and will not support any attempt by any police agency to violate the sacred space of any Oregonian’s home.”

A letter signed by Oregon Senate Republicans, including Senator Alan Olsen, of Canby, was more direct:

“Governor Brown, your latest ‘freeze’ is hypocritical. The people who are most likely to suffer from Covid-19, the elderly, have been ignored during the political pandemic, while all other citizens have been forced to endure months of government overreach and watch their normal lives disappear. … It’s time to end your political posturing at the expense of Oregonians and reopen the state.”

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