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Elvis Clark: Officials allowed them to vent their frustrations, conduct a prayer before they left

Former Clackamas County Commissioner Ken Humberston mischaracterized the Jan. 13 meeting as part of his opinion piece recently published by Pamplin Media Group.Elvis Clark

I attended in person the Jan. 13 business meeting of Clackamas County commissioners. My intention in attending was to testify about flaws in the proposed tolling of I-5 and 205. To my surprise, a large group of folks also showed up in person.

I know this group, having attended two of their first meetings late last year. These impassioned freedom-loving patriots wanted to testify against the mask mandates, evolving proposals for vaccine "passports" and quite possibly their concerns over "election integrity."

Having attended this group's late 2021 meeting, I believe these folks are rather new at providing public comment. I am pretty sure most of them knew nothing much about either Chair Tootie Smith or Commissioner Mark Shull. Nor do they know much about the supposed rhetoric Humberston attributes to these two commissioners. I later contacted Commissioner Shull to ask if he knew of this group beforehand, and he said no.

The Jan. 13 meeting got off to a rough start, as some in the group at first were somewhat lax on wearing face masks, but they did comply with Chair Smith's subsequent call for wearing masks per state law. Then the group, anxious to be heard, began talking over the commissioners as the meeting got underway.

Chair Smith tried a couple of times to quiet the group before finally becoming seemingly exacerbated by the interruptions from the group; she adjourned the meeting almost as soon as it got started. Commissioners left the room to reconvene briefly in their nearby offices.

The Jan. 13 group also left exacerbated, because they came to air their grievances to their local government jurisdiction and were now without a venue to do so. So, as I left the boardroom after the meeting adjourned, this group remained in the room to discuss their "rights" to be heard (this was my impression anyway).

From what I am being told, in the aftermath of adjournment, Administrator Gary Schmidt asked Commissioner Shull to go back to the boardroom to engage the group, to end their presence in the room. This, to me, would make sense, as Commissioner Shull is an Iraqi War veteran who received the Bronze Star for his service, which includes negotiating with Iraqi tribal leaders to lessen tensions between their people and the occupying U.S soldiers.

As it turns out, I am told, both Administrator Schmidt and Commissioner Shull engaged the group, allowing them to vent their frustrations and grievances — and to conduct a prayer — just before they left the room to head home.

I'll end by saying that it seems ironic to me that Humberston states in his opinion piece we can disagree without vilifying others; but then in the same article, he labels Commissioner Shull a "prodigious spreader of hateful speech."

Elvis Clark is a resident of Milwaukie's Ardenwald neighborhood.


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