EDITORIAL: Virtual meeting, Hard Reality

April 5th, 2020 - An observation of this moment, from the WATCH Camas Editorial Board. The Corona virus is feeding on the future we’d imagined while the economy adjusts and neighbors lose their jobs and their lives. In that inescapable light, Camas will again convene a meeting to exclusively discuss "non-essential" city projects this Monday night - this time to approve nearly $20m in land purchases. With an $8m roundabout followed by a nearly $20m land purchase while some neighbors struggle to breathe, we don’t ask IF these purchases are valid, we ask HOW can we even consider them now? Days ago, Mayor McDonnell and the Camas City council proclaimed we would build an $8m roundabout on the morning of April 1st - making an argument on the city’s home page that it was an “Essential Public Infrastructure Project” and the intersection was “soon to reach failure” suggesting inevitable chaos should regular life resume. By that same evening, the project was put on hold with a separate press release. Back on March 16th, when Council had approved the roundabout project unanimously, the United States already had nearly 10,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 (with a lack of available testing). Two weeks forward to March 31st, now with 186,101 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed, up more than 23,000 from the previous day and about to jump 27,000 more the next day on April 1st, Mayor McDonnell officially signed the construction contract to proceed with the work - a decision that was his alone at that point. WATCH Camas received reports from citizens who’d contacted the city throughout the day of the 1st to object. By the evening of April 1st, the city fully reversed and stated they’d now place all city construction projects on hold for two weeks “In order to focus all efforts on fighting COVID-19”. If you saw a neighbor, confused and frantically making bold, contradictory points loudly in the middle of town, panicked declarations that potentially threatened the safety of themselves and others, you’d act. WATCH Camas urges neighbors that they need to act now, and they need to get neighbors involved. Monday, April 6th is the next day Camas’ 90% spirit will be asked to show its face in southwestern Washington. In that meeting tomorrow night, Greg Anderson, Bonnie Carter, Ellen Burton, Don Cheney, Steve Hogan, Melissa Smith and Shannon Roberts, all led by Mayor Barry McDonnell, will say the pledge of allegiance as Camas’ first virtual city council meeting in memory begins - that pledge will end, “with liberty and justice for all.” A citizen that doesn’t survive this moment sees neither liberty, nor justice. Some who read this are potentially days away from the hardest phone calls of their lives. As council will sit for this meeting, we will have entered what many fear to be the most devastating week we’ve seen since “the virus” became a common phrase we could communicate without further explanation. Single earner households in Camas may lose that single income source as this crisis claims more casualties. Medical bills may overtake mortgage payments. And those who already struggled before this moment, may look back at bare cupboards and overdrawn bank accounts and cross their breaking points. The cries for help these neighbors will no longer have a choice to hold back can be heard locally long before they may be addressed nationally. But a city unwilling to listen, can’t hear it’s people. Even when they cry. The question to ask ourselves with any non-essential city expenditure in this moment is no longer IF we’ll do this, but only HOW can we do this now? This land acquisition will come with a conversation of, “we’ve already come this far, we must continue”, but can you actually remember a project in Camas that didn’t come with that argument? It’s built in as a defensible position and it’s a tired tactic. Parks, roundabouts, gymnastics weeks - these may be noble efforts, but IN THIS MOMENT, they are now entirely meaningless discussions for a different, healthier day in the indefinite future. We know that the city has a version of each of these stories to tell us that sounds reasonable enough. Their presentations don’t always make a splash in Camas, but the point is that we have these discussions in broad daylight with all included - but these times are decidedly dark, and we’re losing neighbors as we now climb to 304,826 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in America as of April 4th. We suggest that every dollar spent today that doesn’t support failing non-essential businesses not able to operate regularly, feed the hungry, comfort the sick or console the families of the dead and dying is tantamount to an official proclamation that the city cannot or will not consider your family’s lives against the balance of years long plans for “regular” growth from a “regular” time. As the many that sent the few to city hall, are the citizens of Camas prepared to let them spend another dollar that they don’t responsibly tie to COVID response? Could their decisions threaten our collective chance to exercise that liberty and justice that they pledge every two weeks in city hall? We need to stay in our homes, but our voices can still venture out beyond our front porches. WATCH Camas urges our neighbors to log on to the virtual meeting tomorrow night and be heard. If you’re not ready for this council to decide your fate, raise your hand and tell them what you think the next several months are going to look like and why we need to plan. The Pool Bond was a serious moment, many of you stood and spoke, many more of you followed along silently and voted when it mattered. At this moment, there is no vote to silently cast unfortunately. Camas needs your voice. If you have your health today, and dinner will be on your table tonight, we feel it’s time to speak this Monday for your neighbors that can’t and for the undetermined future of Camas, Washington. Signed, Your Neighbors, The WATCH Camas Volunteers

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