Hood River Mayor Kate McBride opened the regular meeting of city council on Sept. 28 with what she termed a “Community Statement.” It is printed here in full:
I am going to take a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting to address what I see as the extreme polarization of the community and the nation and to ask people to look for commonalities during this difficult time.
Pervasive inequities are real and exist in our local community. Evidence shows that disparities in educational opportunity, medical services, housing availability, and the criminal justice system produce disparate and unjust outcomes for black, indigenous, and other people of color. The city will continue to look inward to affect positive change and to partner with our wider community wherever possible.
An example of this commitment is a top-to-bottom review of use of force statistics and policies that took place in July and which I spearheaded. This resulted in several policy modifications and confirmed that our department uses necessary force rarely and evenly. The results of this review can be seen on the city’s website. Under the leadership of Chief Neal Holste, the police department maintains its commitment to the principles of community policing prioritizing collaborative problem-solving and relationship-building with the community.
I want it to be clear to the community that I embrace a commitment to racial equity and social justice, support our local police department and reject efforts to divide our community and city organization.
As our community goes about the important work of reconciling widespread racial disparities, I urge everyone to maintain passion without indulging in zealotry, assume good intent until proven otherwise, and seek to build coalitions. The insidious problem of racial inequities is too real, too pervasive, and too serious to fall into the usual trap of divisive politics. “Us vs. them” dynamics have characterized our country’s recent discourse but have not demonstrated an ability to generate solutions or create lasting positive change. Our Gorge community can be an example of another way if we accept the challenge and move forward together.
Specifically, I challenge all of our community members and community partners to reach out to fellow community members, especially those with differing views to begin new conversations. It is easy to capitalize on differences, but I invite you to find out about our similarities and our shared values of community, of family, and appreciation for our beautiful Columbia River Gorge and Hood River Valley. Putting away the disagreements in exchange for connection is the only way to emerge stronger from the multiple crises currently facing our nation and community.