“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
— Thomas Jefferson, letter to Col. Edward Carrington, Jan. 16, 1787

“And as Justice William Brennan wrote in New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964, the First Amendment provides that “debate on public issues … [should be] … uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”

Almost 20 years ago, when I first saw the sad, destroyed, logged off stump ranch mess that was to become my future rural paradise outside the Molalla city limits, I knew that if I took the plunge and moved from a robust, diverse, free thinking urban center like Portland to a tiny ingrown town like Molalla there would be culture shock – both for me and for the people I would encounter.

After all, I was making the transition from a place sporting bumper stickers saying “Keep Portland Weird” to 1991 Molalla with storefronts that said “Save a logger, Eat a spotted owl” and, even worse, posters in store windows with hate speak shouting down gay rights.

I bit the bullet and took the plunge. I found cultural differences galore, but as the years rolled along I found common ground and even friendship with long time local residents willing to engage in spirited debate. Ultimately, common love for basic American freedoms and our love for the privacy and the beauty of the hills we share helped build bonds and build trust. I treasure those friendships.

That sense of trust and privacy was irrevocably broken in 2007 when the dirty back door dealings of Molalla lead to the ongoing struggles over pipeline siting, accountability, transparency in government, and land use. The deeper I dug into the “workings” of Molalla “government” the more incensed I became. I was incredulous that at the end of the 20th century, any “American” town could sport such closed and abusive to the citizens “government”.

The hard work to expose the lies, the lack of transparency, the lack of accountability and Molalla’s ugly behind door dealings can’t end until the citizens of Molalla wake up and understand that it is not the big cities like Portland that are “weird” – the REALLY WEIRD AND SCARY PLACES are places like Molalla – places where citizens have given control to people who care not at all about the greater good, but only about feathering the nest of the local good old boy cabal or tiny special interest groups who have no regard for the falling state of the economy.

Molalla “government” presents as  the worst kind of feudal village. Maybe that comes from the past timber boom days when the economy was rolling and the tiny town didn’t need to worry about anything but hacking down trees in the summer, shooting deer in the fall and  enjoying the bounty around the winter wood stove. Life was easy, life was good – and most of all, life was insulated from the outside world.

That changed when timber crashed forever. The false economy created in Molalla by low SDCs and the “stuff it in without professional planning” mentality now has created Molalla’s second crash in a decade. Molalla isn’t competitive in today’s real estate market and it is grappling for life. Quality of life in America only comes by engaging and respecting the needs of a DIVERSE COMMUNITY. That isn’t happening here.

Molalla is still only interested in promoting the “needs” of small special interest groups – like TEAM which ONLY promotes the greedy wants of the merchants, and “planning” (choke!) that ONLY promotes the greedy wants of a few good old boy influential landowners, and the hidebound “Molalla” CPO that just voted to continue draconian restrictive membership rules to insure it continues as the “personal cred club of 3 or 4 people” (quote from failed self-serving would be politician Jim Gilbert) and the “we need a new school” group that  ONLY promotes the wants of the shrinking student body before it vets the facts surrounding the demographic future of the schools and the reasons why the district has failed miserably at maintaining public owned infrastructure.

The days of sweeping the facts under the carpet and looking the other way have to end here – facts have to prevail, public records must be opened, diverse opinions and debate must be respected and encouraged and the lessons of past bad practices exposed if Molalla is ever going to be taken seriously.

As it is, Molalla is a laughing-stock to the outside world.

Quality has to replace quantity – there is no future in building low quality of life towns into even bigger low quality of life towns – and we CAN’T AFFORD IT  ANY LONGER. The buck needs to stop at the feet of those who refuse to institute realistic economic plans – we can’t afford to fund pipe dreams of extended infrastructure without careful oversight.

Molalla has ZERO idea of what a sustainable Molalla might look like. Molalla is dead in the water until it accepts the need for a rational vision of how it really fits in 21st century America. Molalla has ZERO ideas about what real citizen involvement or a community generated vision might be.

In fact, Molalla just proved again that debate and dissent is subject to a big hammer – no matter what, the “shut off the mike” or “pull the plug”, run scared, old lady school teacher’s “civility” above debate mentality prevails here when opinions differ. That’s sad, that’s counterproductive to change and, most of all, that’s counter to the First Amendment rights to free speech and free press.

Until Molalla gives up “faith-based” baloney and old lady school teacher “civility at all cost” dictates it will fail. When Molalla promotes needs based on wishes instead of reality it can expect to continue to sink.

Twenty first century America is moving ahead with compact growth, respect for diversity and spirited debates about what to do about our ongoing and apparently here to say financial disaster.  Molalla is being left in the dust.

Molalla will continue to fade and fail unless it accepts the writing on the wall that it can no longer pretend to be a stand-alone community that depends upon keeping the lid on dissent. That’s truly pathetic!

About the First Amendment

By Brian J. Buchanan
First Amendment Center Online managing editor

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The First Amendment was written because at America’s inception, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms.

Our blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.

Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the government might well establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not mobilize for social change.

When the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, it did not contain the essential freedoms now outlined in the Bill of Rights, because many of the Framers viewed their inclusion as unnecessary. However, after vigorous debate, the Bill of Rights was adopted. The first freedoms guaranteed in this historic document were articulated in the 45 words written by James Madison that we have come to know as the First Amendment.

The Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the Constitution — went into effect on Dec. 15, 1791, when the state of Virginia ratified it, giving the bill the majority of ratifying states required to protect citizens from the power of the federal government.

The First Amendment ensures that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein,” as Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the 1943 case West Virginia v. Barnette.

And as Justice William Brennan wrote in New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964, the First Amendment provides that “debate on public issues … [should be] … uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”

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