May 26, 2022

Whole Community News

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RRCO meeting draws 170+; Harry Sanger seeks public debate over COVID response

6 min read
Over 170 people attended the River Road Community Organization's January meeting, making many eligible to vote in the March board election.

Over 170 people attended the River Road Community Organization's January meeting, making many eligible to vote in the March board election.

Audio

Over 170 people attended River Road’s general meeting in January, granting many the right to vote in neighborhood elections. They heard about a recent letter recommended by RRCO’s board of directors.

[00:00:12] Jon Belcher: it has been our practice to then announce previous board actions as an announcement because our charter provides that, if anyone wants to discuss a board decision for the purpose of deciding whether to overturn it or not, we can make these as announcements.

[00:00:30] We agreed to publish and mail a neighborhood newsletter to all River Road addresses for our February newsletter. We are having a Food For Lane County food drive on Sunday, Feb. 13. We agreed to hold a future board meeting discussion on whether or not Beltline should be widened. And finally, we agreed to mail a public statements to the 4-J School Board, the Eugene City Council, and the Lane County Commission opposing the behaviors of protesters who verbally assaulted parents and children attending the Nov. 30, Howard Elementary school district vaccination clinic, especially because it led to the school board’s cancellation of all future school site clinics.

[00:01:12] So at this point I would ask if anyone wants to discuss any of those decisions. If so, please raise your hand in the chat okay, let me look all the way through. I see no hands raised in the chat, so let’s move on.

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[00:01:24] John Q: Although there was no discussion Monday at the general meeting, there would be a committee meeting on Wednesday. Harry Sanger.

[00:01:31] Harry Sanger: Wednesday, Jan. 12 is the Social Justice Committee meeting, and I’d like to reiterate the request that we discuss the segregation and discrimination occurring in our neighborhood due to unscientific mask and vaccination mandates based on widespread misinformation.

[00:01:46] John Q: At the Social Justice Committee meeting, Jolene Siemsen.

[00:01:50] Jolene Siemsen: Our next item is really an informational item. Our committee discussed at great length the recent COVID pediatric vaccine clinic that was held at Howard Elementary School. And we were quite concerned about the degree of verbal and physical intimidation and harassment that occurred at that clinic.

[00:02:11] There were two individuals who were cited for trespassing, who actually don’t live in Eugene. They live in Roseburg. 4-J school district decided to pull vaccine clinics from their schools as a result of those activities. And we forwarded our concerns to the general membership and to the board for review and discussion.

[00:02:34] And as was noted at the general meeting on Monday of this week, the board agreed to send a letter to the 4-J school district, Lane County, and the City of Eugene, basically stating that we were not in support, that we were opposed to those kinds of activities and that degree of harassment and disruption at the vaccine clinic and that that didn’t represent our community values.

[00:03:02] John Q: Clare Strawn read the letter.

[00:03:04] Clare Strawn: ‘The RRCO executive board makes a public statement, opposing the behaviors exhibited by the protestors who intimidated people attempting to access public health at the Howard Elementary vaccination clinic on November 30th. We especially condemn those who verbally assaulted parents in their presence of their children and are sad to learn that those behaviors have moved the 4-J school board to cancel all future school site clinics, denying parents and students access to important healthcare. The behaviors exhibited by the protesters did not represent RRCO’s values of building community safety and trust.’ So that’s the letter.

[00:03:42] Harry Sanger: So as somebody who proudly participated in this action because what the County and 4-J and RRCO seemingly are signing onto is disgusting. Kids do not need the vaccine and it shouldn’t be promoted in this fashion. … I would ask, did anybody reach out to me to have an earnest conversation before the baseless accusations that you spent two hours of our meeting time wasted at the RRCO general meeting, because you accused me of something I never did?

[00:04:12] You say ‘the degree of verbal and physical intimidation.’ I never saw anybody physically intimidate anybody and no evidence was ever provided by the Social Justice Committee that supported a single claim that you have made. Even your accusation of trespassing. You never, that the criminal filing of that, I don’t know anybody who got arrested. I didn’t see anybody get arrested there. And I didn’t participate in any of the behavior that you’re saying is untoward. There is a problem here.

[00:04:41] … This committee has shown not a lick of interest in this cause except for demonizing a seemingly minority faction for taking direct action to help protect our community. It’s despicable. Instead of attacking our neighbors, we should be supporting them or at least reaching out in good faith and understanding.

[00:04:59] Brenda Wills: I would just like to remind Harry that the letter doesn’t mention any of his behavior. The letter is about the River Road Community Organization supporting families having a right to make the safe and non-interfered decisions about their kids’ health.

[00:05:19] John Q: As the group discussed forwarding the letter to Lane County Public Health, Harry Sanger.

[00:05:24] Harry Sanger: This committee cannot speak on behalf of RRCO.

[00:05:27] Jolene Siemsen: Harry, your time is up.

[00:05:28] Harry Sanger: Point of order. This committee cannot-

[00:05:30] Clare Strawn: Point of order. You’re out of order.

[00:05:32] Jolene Siemsen: You’re out of order.

[00:05:33] Harry Sanger: You cannot speak on behalf of RRCO, that’s in the bylaws.

[00:05:37] Jolene Siemsen: So I just want to set some ground rules because we’re not arguing at this meeting at all. So during discussion, everybody has two minutes. We have 10 minutes for this item, and then we’re moving on. So Harry, you’ve already spoken for two minutes and I would add, you’ve already argued your case at several other meetings. So I’m looking for other people who might have comment, and then we’re going to move on. And I just want to say it’s uncomfortable. Muting electronically is a pretty crummy thing to have to do, but we’re not arguing in this venue and we’re not letting any one person take over this meeting.

[00:06:14] John Q: Later in the meeting, Harry Sanger.

[00:06:17] Harry Sanger: I just see this committee taking on political issue after political issue, after political issue on the left, and then ignoring the ones on the right. …

[00:06:24] Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Let’s have a neutral moderator moderate a debate where we can have two sides with equal time that requires science on both sides and not baseless accusations of misinformation. And we can talk about what COVID is the COVID has degradated our society and what we can do to prevent it from doing anything more harm, whether from the virus or from the response, because that is the issue that is killing our community right now. And we need to come together. We need to have a fair discussion where I’m not the one who’s fighting Jon or Clare for the floor and being able to speak. It should be fair where everybody, each side has an equal amount of time and the same rules.

[00:07:09] John Q: Many in the meeting emphasized the need for a more civil dialog.

[00:07:13] Two board members later told KEPW News that RRCO has asked the City to provide a facilitator. By managing the meetings, a neutral professional third party would provide a safe space to discuss neighborhood issues.

[00:07:26] Jolene Siemsen: There was some email that went out this week about a student at North Eugene High School who was being harassed. Does anybody on the committee or in the community have any information about this?

[00:07:40] John Q: One person did have information, but did not feel safe sharing because of the anger expressed in the meeting.

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