(Update: Redmond Mayor George Endicott disagrees with defying governor's order)
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- At least a dozen mayors and mayors-elect across the state, including Prineville's mayor-elect, have joined in a coalition that is urging small businesses to reopen Jan. 1, despite state COVID-19 restrictions.
The Main Street Mayors said the organization and its political action committee represent communities whose business owners are ready to reopen safely.
They are urging business owners in the 29 counties labeled by the state as "Extreme Risk" due to high COVID-19 case counts and positivity rates to follow the somewhat looser guidelines in the "High Risk" category, which would let restaurants and gyms reopen for dining in and working out, at a reduced capacity.
"Not a lot of big box stores in Prineville," Mayor-Elect Jason Beebe said Wednesday. "So it's very important for our small business to fight and stay open."
"A lot of families are going to unfortunately lose their business if this doesn't change quickly," he added. "I don't want to see that.
"I have friends that have businesses, I want to see them stay open. I don't want to see anybody lose everything they have over this."
Redmond Mayor George Endicott said he could not attend the video meeting, but understood what the mayors who signed on were trying to achieve -- and did not agree with it.
"I wholeheartedly agree that our businesses should be given the option of making their own decisions on whether to open, and our citizens should be able to make a personal decision on what their risk level is, and whether or not to frequent those businesses," the mayor said in an email to NewsChannel 21.
"My wife and I do visit local establishments for 'outside' dining. (You have to be pretty intrepid to do it in Central Oregon!) I have heard stories of local establishments having a 'whistleblower' turn them in, and subsequently get a visit from either OSHA or OLCC," Endicott said.
But he added, "Local governments have no control over the actions of the governor or state agencies (OLCC, OHA, OSHA). I think that defying state-mandated restrictions comes with risk.
"If businesses keep defying the state, they are susceptible to fines, the loss of their business licenses or liquor licenses. If I condone this practice, and the state comes down on the businesses, the reaction can be, 'Well, the mayor said we could open.' I do not want to put our community in a worse situation then we have currently. The vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, and no one wants this to be over more than I do!"
Here's the news release issued Wednesday by the group:
Main Street Mayors Coalition Forms
United Effort Will Fight to Keep Local Small Businesses from Forced Closure
SANDY, OR – Yesterday afternoon, Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam hosted a virtual meeting of Main Street Mayors across Oregon who represent communities whose business owners are ready to open safely in a way that strikes a balance between slowing the spread of COVID and preventing irreversible economic destruction of Main Street.
“People are packing into malls and grocery chains supporting corporate America, and yet we can’t sit down at a locally owned restaurant to support a local business owner and their employees while enjoying a meal with our families in a safe and responsible way,” stated Mayor Pulliam. “The double standards must end.”
The coalition is a peaceful, non-partisan organization with a political action committee dedicated to supporting candidates and measures that stand up for the Main Street small businesses threatened by government overreach.
“A sales tax on gross sales, huge increases in the minimum wage, excessive wage & hour requirements and now a full stoppage of work are decimating community Main Streets around Oregon,” said Bess Wills, Director of Main Street Mayors PAC. “As someone who has dedicated my life to propping up my local community, I’m proud to be part of this effort to give these communities a voice to fight back.”
Main Street Mayors is supporting members of the coalition operating in counties labeled “Extreme Risk” who will voluntarily comply with state requirements for “High Risk” counties starting on January 1, 2021. This will allow restaurants and gyms to open at significantly reduced capacity.
In yesterday’s meeting, Oregon mayors discussed their roles in this environment and brainstormed solutions to assist small businesses that may soon close permanently. Such pending economic devastation will greatly harm Oregon’s cities smaller than those the size of Portland, Salem, Eugene, and Bend.
Main Street Mayors will have more information on the January 1st business opening at mainstreetmayors.com.
Beebe provided NewsChannel 21 with a list of the mayors and mayors-elect who are currently willing to be identified in the coalition:
Paul Aziz, Lebanon Mayor
Jason Beebe, Prineville Mayor-Elect
Brian Cooper, Fairview Mayor
Rod Cross, Toledo Mayor
Sean Drinkwine, Estacada Mayor
Kelly Grassman, Mt. Angel Mayor
Brian Hodson, Canby Mayor
Scott Keyser, Molalla Mayor-Elect
Randy Lauer, Troutdale Mayor-Elect
Rich Mays, The Dalles Mayor
Stan Pulliam, Sandy Mayor
Mary Schamehorn, Bandon Mayor