Fisherman and Port Orford Port Commissioner Brett Webb has gathered the necessary number of signatures to get a question on a special-election ballot April 8 asking voters to recall Mayor Jim Auborn.
However, Auborn said the allegations against him are baseless.
“I am saddened that these petitioners have called for my recall based on false and misleading information,” he said. “I rededicate myself to serve all the people of Port Orford for the remainder of my present term.”
In the recall petition, Webb listed a variety of reasons for wanting to recall the mayor, who has been involved in local politics since he moved to the area in 2000.
Primary among Webb’s allegations is that Auborn continues to support imposing a National Marine Sanctuary in the area, and made false statements to generate support for it, which would cause “permanent and unnecessary financial hardships to our community, as well as surrender our local resources and the management of them to the federal government,” the petition reads.
Webb notes in the document that Port Orford is defined as a “fishing community” by the Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976, which assures conservation and responsible use of the ocean resources.
The shrimp economy
The shrimp beds in southern Oregon are the best in the state, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.
And a Marine Sanctuary designation would ruin that, Webb said.
“A National Marine Sanctuary is a regional wipeout,” he said. “The airport at Cape Blanco couldn’t be used again. The (Cape Blanco Country) music festival would likely not be able to continue without heavy-duty restrictions; the new golf course would be at risk.”
Farmers 50 miles inland have been affected by such status, Webb said.
“The effluent from a sawmill in Coquille could be detrimental to a marine sanctuary in Cape Blanco,” he said. “There’s is no limit to the reach of a sanctuary.”
He noted that politicians have been talking about local control of late, and a marine sanctuary would be anything but.
“This is the exact opposite of it,” Webb said. “You end up with a lawyer/politician deciding what to do with our resources in a county that’s 66 percent timber land that we’re already getting hosed on.”
Webb maintains that Auborn’s continuation to obtain the sanctuary designation — Auborn said he dropped the idea after the city council rejected the idea of an exploratory committee — leaves citizens wondering if they can trust the mayor.
“Public trust in city government is not possible as long as Mayor Auborn holds the office intended to represent our fishing community,” Webb said. “He says it won’t affect fishing. The Magnuson Act says we are a fishing community, and he is our leader. Our community doesn’t believe him anymore. He is no longer an acceptable leader of our fishing community.”
Webb said there is a fine line between conservation and preservation, and Auborn has crossed it by pursuing the sanctuary.
Other accusations include that Auborn has put “false information” in council meeting packets, used former and current city personnel to engage in personal projects outside the city, promotes the agendas of special interest groups that “contradict our communities’ history and values,” failed to notify the public following contamination of the city water supply and works against the citizens’ wishes on a county home rule charter.
Auborn filed a Statement of Justification Feb. 27 to defend himself.
“I support both fishing and conservation interests through the Port Orford Community Stewardship Area, the Redfish Rocks Community Team, the Community Fishing Association and the Board of Community Advisors,” he wrote.
In his capacity as mayor, he proposed establishing a committee to explore the advisability of nominating the area for a National Marine Sanctuary; such a committee would have included proponents and opponents of such a move, but the city council rejected it, Auborn said.
The Oregon Trawl Commission and the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission were among those who testified against the designation last October.
Auborn hasn’t pursued the idea since.
Auborn also denies having used city resources for personal projects outside the city, or for personal gain. And in regards to the accusation about contamination in the town’s drinking water, he noted that the Public Works Department reported and corrected a situation involving an oil spill that did not enter the town’s water delivery system.
Another recent attempt to recall Auborn was unsuccessful in that the petitioners could not gather the minimum number of signatures to forward the question to the ballot.
“People don’t like to recall,” Webb said. “And neither do I. It’s something I’ve wrestled with. I’ve been forced to do this. This is not something I was hoping to drag the community through.
“But he is out of touch with the commoner. Who was it who said — Martin Luther King: ‘I stand because I must.’ This is not my forte; I just felt compelled to get involved and try to make a change. It’s kind of the mood in our nation. Citizens are tired of the elite, and he is exactly that.
“They’re trying to put some shiny new wheels on this community but you ending up ripping out the engine and trading it for tires,” he said. “Then you’ve got nothing.”