By Dwayne Yunker
Sara Bristol would like the citizens of Grants Pass to believe she has no power. This is false.
Sara Bristol’s mayoral term began in 2021, and it was very apparent she had aligned herself with nonprofits that make their money directly from the tragedy of homelessness. These include UCAN and AllCare, two nonprofits that receive millions of dollars to help the poor and homeless, for example. UCAN’s former director, who no longer lives in Oregon, stated that UCAN would cure homelessness in Grants Pass in 10 years. Thirteen years later we are worse off.
Bristol spent her first two years in office trying to give a million-dollar grant out of Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services (DAS) dollars to UCAN or AllCare. When the council voted to approve the money for drug treatment, the mayor refused to sign the resolution. This alone demonstrates the mayor has power to affect the homelessness in Grants Pass, but refuses unless it is money given to nonprofits that, incidentally, have already failed us as noted above.
The mayor has orchestrated several attempts at building urban campgrounds and shelters in Grants Pass since taking office in 2021. Her attempts have been shut down overwhelmingly by residents saying they do not want them. In the fall of 2022, the mayor attempted to conceal from residents an offer to purchase the old Elks Lodge before the city’s intentions were exposed. Mayor Bristol would like us to think she has no power, but that is a flat-out lie.
When the council did not add a shelter to the 2023 Strategic Plan, the mayor exercised her veto power and bullied everyone into its inclusion. Sounds like someone with authority to me.
Despite the residents’ overwhelming opposition in neighborhoods where the mayor wants shelters. She is still pushing for a shelter to be established in Grants Pass. The mayor needs to respect the residents’ wishes. Again, Bristol would like you to think she has no power but is very instrumental in getting her favorite nonprofits to the table to collect more taxpayer dollars. The mayor has always prioritized the establishment of a low-barrier shelter in Grants Pass and remains committed to this objective as she continues to advocate for state and federal dollars to place a destination spot for the homeless in the city of Grants Pass. Apparently even now, the mayor is working with nonprofits to establish a navigation center/shelter/urban campground at the old DMV on F Street but has not been successful obtaining the funds to acquire that property.
The mayor has been told by legal counsel who represent the city in the continuing lawsuit that it is not true that if the city had a shelter the parks would be free of the homeless. The shelters are not the solution; because the drug-addicted want the freedom to come and go as they please. Our city has attracted many homeless people from other states because of the mayor’s unwillingness to see that it’s not a housing problem, but a people problem.
The legal counsel informed the mayor that constructing various types of shelters wouldn’t help, because relocating all homeless individuals from the parks would be impossible. Still, she pushes forward with her idea of providing government-funded shelter for the homeless.
Mayor Sara Bristol has used her authority to intimidate council members, preventing them from expressing their opinions and asking questions to experts who support the homeless.
The mayor claims to have no authority, yet she issues commands to the city manager, who is accountable solely to the city council. And yet again, Bristol would like you to think she has no power.
Unfortunately, city personnel took more than two years to address the behavioral issues in the parks, because they followed the mayor’s lead.
Regarding the city’s budget, Sara’s input is limited to asking questions and giving suggestions, which she does on most topics. She is not allowed to vote on the budget unless there’s a tie.
The mayor’s leadership failed when she allowed her favorite councilors to push their wishes to allow the city to overpay with taxpayer money for the future water treatment station. The previous council had agreed to pay just under $3 million for a larger portion of land. All that changed when Bristol took office and the council shifted to paying $4.78 million for a smaller portion. And yet, again, Bristol would like you to think she has no power.
The mayor is refusing to heed the concerns of the city’s residents and plans to resist the effort to recall her. Unfortunately, this will result in a cost of $30,000 to the citizens for a special election. This could have been allocated to other needs, especially since the city had to reduce its budget by $2 million due to financial deficits.
Sara Bristol’s dishonest statements to the residents of Grants Pass need to stop, and she needs to do what is best for the city of Grants Pass and exercise her authority to resign.
Dwayne Yunker is a real estate broker and a retired military veteran. He serves as a Grants Pass City Councilor in Ward 3.