Go Team Sherwood...!

Paul Evans

Once upon a time there was a great newspaper called the Oregonian - it is now history - an ironic twist given the increased need for "independent referees" in the information age.

In case you missed it, yesterday's editorial from the Big "O" was an interesting argument in favor of big business (aka Wal-Mart in this case) against the rights of a community to determine its future...

Truth in advertising, I'm not a resident of Sherwood - although I know some folks that live there - but I'm impressed with the absolute clarity of the position asserted by the corporate-leaning "New Oregonian" that has emerged from the tragic loss of its leader and a large number of the folks that used to help balance the place.

Like most of us, I used to get frustrated with some of the decisions but I could at least understand the logic. Since the death of Bob Caldwell (and the purge soon thereafter), I can hardly recognize the so-called "paper of record."

At any rate, the op-ed asserted three points:

1) Sherwood City Councilors are "ducking" the issues associated with the potential location of Wal-Mart through giving the voters a chance to vote on worker rights issues;

2) Wal-Mart should have the right to locate pretty much where it wants, regardless of its policies; and

3) the ongoing struggle between Sherwood and the YMCA (once a model program) over the apparent failure of the YMCA to keep faith with its contractual obligations (and potentially flow money out of the community for other priorities) is a waste of time.

It was an interesting piece to read; fascinating when you take the time to read between the lines.

In simplest terms, the Big "O" thinks the Sherwood City Council should shut up and color in their coloring books...

Whatever ethical, legal, moral, and procedural issues may or may not be playing out between a family with very much to gain from the development of certain/specific properties in association with Wal-Mart are evidently irrelevant - at least according to the wisdom of the Big "O."

And while I am not close enough to the situation to know what is or what isn't really going on, the fact that the council appears to be split (following a contentious election in 2012) suggests to me that there is far more going on than most of us realize.

Local government is a tough gig. People often "go-along" in order to facilitate harmony. When people care enough to cause a "thing" between family, friends, and the public - somebody somewhere believes there is a real problem (and they are usually right).

On top of the potential intrigue hinted at in the editorial, there is the most obvious point: a question of "standing." As a former city councilor, mayor, and school board director, I resent the implication that a major industry - whoever it might be - is above the law, ever.

My own community successfully fought back Wal-Mart. We didn't hate Wal-Mart but we didn't (and still don't) approve of the practices they pioneered in terms of vulture pricing, part-time staffing, and the push of health care obligations for workers to the government.

We were fortunate that another community nearby became more favorable for their interests; it could have well gone the other way.

I believe the strategies involved in Sherwood (from what I can determine) are the best path forward: an innovative package of policies associated with livability, safety, and worker's rights - that provides clarity of expectations for Wal-Mart and others that may choose to locate there...

It would be easy to implement such policies by fiat, but the Sherwood City Council made a conscious choice to give the voters an opportunity to decide which of these potential tools are the most salient for their aspirations for their community.

That decision was many things, but a cop-out (or a punt) it wasn't. I respect the decision as an honorable and sustainable strategy for success.

The ironies abound here. It isn't like Sherwood is anti-business: it's population is overwhelmingly Republican. The population is a high-earner community that largely works within the tech industries and the businesses that support it.

There are "good business practices" that can be modeled: Costco, Les Schwab, and Target are representative of growing businesses that take care of their customers, communities, and workers - it's a best option solution.

And as far as the rights of a small community to assert the language of contracts... that one is kind of self-evident (at least for those of us that have stood for election and kept faith with our duties to protect the public interest).

Here's the bottom line: Sherwood isn't representative of most small towns in Oregon, we all know this. It is relatively affluent, well-educated, and a place with sufficient economic vitality that it can afford some of the structures and systems we all wish we could as well.

However, Sherwood is also a small city government seeking to navigate the challenges of change. If the Big "O" is willing to attack Sherwood, just imagine what they might do or say to smaller, less powerful communities.

I'm truly saddened by the decay of the Big "O" and its apparent slouching march towards insignificance. There was a time when the leadership and the opinion-makers at the Big "O" might have applauded the creativity of finding a path for business to prosper - in partnership with improved worker's rights - but that day seems to have past.

Once upon a time there was a great newspaper called the Oregonian - it is now history - an ironic twist given the increased need for "independent referees" in the information age.

Not so long ago, I remember considering the editorials from the Oregonian (from all ideological perspectives) as a helpful perspective: I didn't always concur in the end, but I could at least use the arguments as a framework for discerning progress.

That value is now largely lost (with the exception of Francis, Nesbitt, and Sarasohn and their small but tireless news crew).

Whatever the outcome of the people's choices this election in Sherwood, I put my trust in the wisdom of the public to determine a future they will help support and sustain.

Go Team Sherwood! Whatever it is that you're doing, appears to be stirring up the right opposition. And to my friends working this issue (and others) - don't let the bastards get you down!

Your council has the ability to crusade for policies that may well help the rest of us shape our long-term community development. Ignore the naysayers, "drive on!"

Welcome the Sunday Editorial; when written as blatantly pro-corporation anti-local government as this one was, you should frame it and hang a light to shine on it in your city hall...

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