Canby Mayor Announces Reduced Number and New Policies Regarding City Proclamations

The city of Canby will see far fewer proclamations next year than it has in previous years, and there will be new and clearer policies concerning which ones are approved and why.

Saying he wished to “close the loop” on a discussion that has been ongoing since at least April, Mayor Brian Hodson announced the new policy in a statement he read at last week’s Canby City Council meeting (starting at approximately the 1:20:21 mark).

The review process, initiated after the controversy concerning a request for a proclamation recognizing International Transgender Day of Visibility that Mayor Hodson denied, included a working group of three councilors: Tracy Hensley, Shawn Varwig and Tracie Heidt (who resigned several months ago, for unrelated reasons).

The problem most councilors have with proclamations, according to Hodson, is simple: There are too many of them.

The city of Canby has issued around 25 proclamations each of the past two years. This averages to about one every meeting, though the actual number varies wildly. Some meetings have no proclamations, while others have two, three or as many as half a dozen.

Most of them are annual proclamations coinciding with state and national observances like Iwo Jima Remembrance Day or the anniversary of 9/11 (Patriot Day). Others highlight local events or achievements, like the annual Kiwanis Food and Toy Drive.

But two dozen is “just too many,” according to Mayor Hodson and some council members, including one whom Hodson quoted as saying, “They are handed out like candy.” Their concern is that so many proclamations takes away some of the significance of those honoring certain national holidays or historic observances.

Should Walk and Bike Challenge Month, for example, be held on the same level as POW/MIA Recognition Day? That was the difficulty Mayor Hodson and his appointed working group of councilors faced: Trying to recognize the importance of all of the city’s organizations and endeavors, while balancing the special significance certain observances hold for many people.

Hodson said the process by which proclamations are presented and approved is not something covered in the city charter, so the mayor has traditionally assumed responsibility for them at his or her discretion. Hodson has kept the practice ever since he was first elected mayor seven years ago because of the significance they hold for him and many other Canby residents.

So, the proclamations will stay, but they will be treated differently starting in 2020. Mayor Hodson said he has pared down the list of the city’s proclamations and will limit them to approximately six to eight per year.

Any organizations or groups that have enjoyed standing proclamations in the past will be notified of the new policy, and they will instead be invited to speak at city council meetings to share announcements about events, campaigns or achievements.

Mayor Hodson also said he will not consider any proclamations that recognize groups based on race, sex, gender, age, religion, nation of origin or sexual orientation.

While this policy would preempt a future request for a proclamation recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility (or any other LGBTQ-inclusive holiday), it does seem largely in line with the proclamations Mayor Hodson has approved in the past.

There have been a few outliers, such as a Women’s History Month proclamation in 2018 (which coincided with the Canby Heritage and Landmark Commission’s completion of its local women’s history walk) and one recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day earlier this year (which honored King’s legacy to the civil rights movement, but was really more directly aimed at promoting local acts of service in Canby).

But the vast majority of proclamations the city has seen in recent years have either been broadly inclusive, or if anything, limited only on the basis of military service or civic achievements.

Mayor Hodson concluded by inviting anyone who has questions about proclamations or the new policy, or who wishes to request one, to email him at hodsonb@canbyoregon.gov.

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