Hearing on shelter is the right call


Last updated 8/29/2023 at 9:56am

The Sisters City Council’s decision to hold a public hearing on the proposed emergency homeless shelter at 192 W. Barclay Dr. is the right call. Click here to see related story..

A decision of this magnitude, with the degree of public interest and concern that has been generated, deserves a public process — and the final decision should be made by elected officials who represent the community. That’s not what the governor and state legislature of Oregon wanted — the legislation under which the Sisters Cold Weather Shelter (SCWS) application was filed (twice) was crafted to get around land use procedures and to limit public input, because shelters are controversial. Dodging a public process is wrong. The decisions that affect our community should be thrashed out in public at as local a level as possible.

HB3395 allows for a hearing, though it doesn’t require one. The law offers no guidance for who should hold such a hearing or what form it should take. So the City Council has determined on a direction and is charting its own course.

They could have punted. They could have simply allowed City staff to make a decision one way or another on the Sisters Cold Weather Shelter (SCWS) application, and let the courts sort it out. Instead, the Council stepped up to their responsibilities. They are to be commended for that. Councilors will surely face accusations of bias and conflict of interest, and either way the decision goes, it’s likely to wind up in litigation. But if you’re going to end up in court regardless, it’s better to end up there for an open decision, openly arrived at.

The decision may not be a unanimous one — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What matters is that SCWS will have an opportunity to make their case to the community and its representatives that an emergency homeless shelter is beneficial in the community, and that they are capable of operating it in a safe and effective manner. Opponents can make their case that the shelter is not an appropriate facility in Sisters and/or that SCWS isn’t the organization to run it. And the whole community can watch their elected representatives deliberate to a decision based on the record, in public, instead of a decision being made behind a closed office door.

It’s bound to be messy, but that’s the nature of self-government. It’s good to see the Sisters City Council take this angry, snorting bull by the horns. Hats off to ’em.

Jim Cornelius

Editor in Chief

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit www.frontierpartisans.com.


Reader Comments(2)

Greg writes:

A relevant question for Mr. Blanchard at the coming meeting - should SCWS successfully open this shelter and, for whatever reason it fails or closes in the next two years, who ends up owning the building? SCWS? And what would the building be valued at if put up for sale? And who would receive / split the money from the sale?

Greg writes:

It is expected Mr. Blanchard / SCWS will appear, in person, to contribute to the discussion on the 5th. As president of a newly incorporated organization facing application challenges he has a leadership responsibility to appear and make his case. And to answer, with facts supported by evidence, those questions and concerns the community has. Zoom won't cut it - nor will walking out of the meeting if he becomes uncomfortable. A legitimate, experienced, trained charity non-profit board president will stand and deliver for the benefit of All Concerned. A No Show is unacceptable.


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