The June 10 business meeting of the Clackamas County Commissioners devolved into a three-ring circus, and the ringmaster was Commissioner Mark Shull.
At the June 1 meeting, Commissioner Shull placed a "vaccine passport ban," cribbed from an ordinance Yamhill County discarded as too extreme, on the agenda. This ordinance compared being asked to wear a mask if not vaccinated to the Jim Crow laws that led to segregation, lynchings and the systematic disenfranchisement of Black people. After refusing to back down from his absurd and offensive stance, even after every other Clackamas County commissioner expressed their disgust and dismay at his rhetoric, Commissioner Shull was rightfully stripped of his county liaison assignments by unanimous vote, since someone so unable to understand the implications of their speech cannot be trusted to serve as the voice of our diverse county.
It seems that Commissioner Shull plotted his revenge in the background. As the June 10 meeting began, unmasked attendees filled the meeting room, donning face shields that they wore upside-down around their necks in "protest." County staff did not seem prepared to deal with this violation; Acting Chair Paul Savas asked the crowd to don masks but they refused, claiming their face shields were "medical exemptions." Clerk of the Board Christina Terwilliger said her hands were tied due to this.
As public commentary began, speaker after speaker filed up and disgorged an endless stream of conspiracy theories and unfounded rhetoric. One claimed that the board was weaponizing a flu virus to infect the public. Another made the obligatory Nazi reference and stated that we were getting close to issuing yellow stars. Another called for letting elderly people die so that children would not have to wear masks. Some castigated the other commissioners. Some catcalled those who did not share their agenda. Some kept talking long after their time had expired. And all praised Commissioner Shull.
Over an hour later, after they had finished speaking, Commissioner Shull emerged and mingled, shaking hands and congratulating his followers. Acting Chair Savas had to demand that they go into the hall so the meeting could resume.
Once they left, Ms. Terwilliger opened the doors and fresh air flowed in. The business of the meeting resumed; none of the protesters remained to hear it. Acting Chair Savas praised the county commissioners who had not reacted to the onslaught. And Clackamas County Director of Health Philip Mason-Joyner stepped up to deliver the weekly COVID report, re-anchoring the room in the world of facts and reality rather than the charged and fictitious rhetoric that Commissioner Shull and his crowd of supporters had engendered, cementing the board's decision that anyone so out of touch with the public cannot be trusted to serve this county.
Cris Waller is a resident of Jennings Lodge in unincorporated Clackamas County.
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