Jan. 8, 2020 — The first Florence City Council meeting of 2020 began with a proclamation but was overshadowed by an apology. The proclamation was delivered by Mayor Joe Henry, recognizing Florence as the world’s premier location for sandboarding; the apology was delivered by Councilor Joshua Greene for what he admitted were some “poorly chosen words” previously directed at some of his critics.
At most Florence City Council meetings, the public comments portion of the evening — while providing a window into the thoughts of the speaker — may have little impact on the community as a whole. That was not the case on Monday evening when Bill and Katie Prosser asked for — and received — an apology for comments made by Greene at a June 2019 Florence City Council meeting.
The portion of the meeting in question was centered on the tumult surrounding the installation of the “Stitching Time, Weaving Cultures” mural. There were a number of heated exchanges between Henry and Greene during the meeting regarding the future of the Public Art Committee (PAC) and the postings made on social media platforms which were related to the mural.
During one of those exchanges, Greene referred to what he perceived as a coordinated effort by supporters of then-city council candidate Geraldine Lucio to unduly influence the outcome of the 2018 election.
Henry and Greene argued about the posts, and Henry stated during the meeting his determination to fundamentally change the relationship between the city and PAC. Henry added that the only way he would support any future version of PAC was for Greene to be replaced as the ex-officio member of the committee.
The lack of decorum on display only worsened as the meeting devolved into a shouting match — and one of the low points of the year for the council.
On Monday, Bill Prosser read a statement that had been written in consultation with the couple’s lawyer, demanding that Greene “cease and desist from making further defamatory statements regarding their political affiliations.” The statement read by Bill also demanded a public apology for the comments made by Greene during the meeting.
“Specifically, at a City Council meeting on July 15, 2019, at approximately one hour and 45 minutes into the meeting, you stated, ‘What you guys did with the Prossers, and a few other people that we know, would start a whole alt-right campaign,’” Bill read from the attorney’s letter. “In making that statement, you also asserted that your accusation was based on facts that were a matter of public record. The truth is that Bill and Katie Prosser are not part of any alt-right movement, do not condone alt-right ideology and do not support the racist and violent agendas often associated with the so-called alt-right movement. … Under these circumstances, my clients are rightfully concerned that you have harmed their reputation and, moreover, your false accusation has potentially harmed Mr. Prosser’s practice as well.”
Greene showed contrition as he responded to the criticisms leveled against him.
“I’d like to address this issue. I spoke with Bill before the meeting and I explained that I was wrong in using the phrase ‘alt-right.’ It was not my intention,” he said. “We have a different point of view on politics, on which he has been very public. But what I said wasn’t appropriate and that’s certainly not what I meant. I really just meant right, ‘far right,’ but not ‘alt-right.’ And I never meant to slander you in any way shape or form, with the interpretations that go with skinheads, Nazism and all that stuff.
“That is not what I know you or respect you to be.”
Greene then stated he would be in contact with the Prossers’ lawyer to provide him with a statement that would satisfy the couple’s request.
The following proclamation preceded public comments and was presented in recognition of the work done by Lon Beale, the owner of Sand Master Park, to raise the profile of sandboarding not only locally, but internationally:
“Whereas, Sandboarding is a fun and unique board sport similar to snowboarding that involves riding across or down a sand dune on a board; and whereas, the world’s first sandboard park, Sand Master Park, was established in January 2000 as an international destination attraction; and whereas, from its headquarters in Florence, Ore., sandboarding as a sport has radiated across the planet, inspiring many locations to embrace this activity on both a recreational and competitive level, and whereas, as the epicenter of sandboarding, Florence’s unique sand qualities, and sandboarding culture attract tens of thousands of sandboarders each year; and whereas, the impact of sandboarding on Florence’s reputation throughout the world, the local sandboarding culture, advancements in related gear, and the founding of the governing body of the Sandboard World Tour, Dune Riders International, have their roots in Florence; and now, therefore, be it resolved that by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the City of Florence, I do hereby proclaim Florence Oregon the Sandboarding Capital of the World and call upon our citizens to celebrate and promote the sport of Sandboarding.”
Sand Master Park owner Lon Beale and Florence Mayor Joe Henry.
Beale was clearly pleased with the recognition and shared his thoughts with the room.
“This is a feather in the proverbial cap for Florence, and along with all of the other ones, it’s starting to look like a peacock. I could not have done this, of course, without the support of various organizations, many of them are represented here tonight,” Beale said. “The community, all the city offices and all of the people that have believed in us since day one — this is a team effort and we do this together. Florence, this is your win — a big win — and it’s something to be proud of and something we can apply to other applications. I know, like myself, you are looking to see what the future holds for the Sand Board Capital of The World.”
Beale received a standing ovation from those in attendance after his brief remarks.
Following this, Florence Area Chamber of Commerce President Neil Ecker then presented a very positive marketing report to the council, which highlighted the increased number of hits on Travel Oregon’s website and other media platforms.
The rest of the agenda for the evening included an approved request for a change to Florence City Code related to parking code violations and a recommendation for adoption of Resolution No. 1, Series 2020, which would amend the budget and food service operations for the Florence Events Center (FEC).
FEC Director Kevin Rhodes received approval at the Nov. 18, 2019, Florence City Council meeting to initiate an in-house food and beverage (F&B) service at the FEC. Information provided by Rhodes at the November meeting indicated the establishment of an in-house F&B program would be “cost-neutral” and provide clients with a more inclusive experience when considering booking an event at the FEC.
Rhodes also stated during his presentation that the increase in funding would be offset by the revenues generated during the next two years through revenue generated by an in-house F&B service.
Resolution 1, 2020, would provide the anticipated $167,500 in funding needed for the next two years to hire staff and to begin offering food and beverages to FEC clients.
The decision to begin to offer in-house F&B was made after a discussion which pointed out, that on occasion, there was an unclear communication between caterers and clients who had booked an event at the FEC.
According to Rhodes, the option to purchase desired F&B directly from the facility where the event is held would make it easier to complete menu and food preparation.
A request from local veteran’s group Deeds of Valor prompted the consideration of Resolution No. 2, 2020, which directed Public Works Director Mike Miller to submit a grant application to the state for support funding for the installation of a new gateway and a small park at the Florence Municipal Airport.
The request for the approval to participate in the grant request was given at a November meeting, and the final wording for the joint request was formally approved on Monday.
In addition, the purchase of an undeveloped plot of land in the Pacific View Business Park was also approved as the council had met in executive session earlier in the day to discuss the particulars of an offer made by Stonefield Investments LLC to purchase Lot No. 22 at the park.
Stonefield Investments is owned by Robbie Wright, who is the chairperson of the Florence Community and Economic Development Committee, and his firm offered to purchase Lot 22 for $130,525, with rebate incentives that would lower the final price by $30,000.
City Manager Erin Reynolds supported the purchase, citing the prices recently paid for similar plots in the area.
Councilors authorized Reynolds to move forward with the sale and there were no public comments offered regarding the sale.
As the meeting drew to a close, city councilor commitments regarding Florence Municipal Court observations and ex-officio assignments were discussed by Reynolds and will be finalized at a future meeting.
Reynolds also announced there will be a change in the 2020 State of the City address. This year, in addition to the annual address by the mayor, there will be a “City Expo” component to the evening, which will include presentations from organizations that operate in Florence.
The State of the City Address and the new “City Expo” is scheduled to take place at the FEC, 715 Quince St., on Thursday, Jan. 30.
The next Florence City Council meeting is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 27 at Florence City Hall, 250 Highway 101. For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us.