CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. — Clackamas County commissioner Mark Shull can no longer speak on behalf of the board of commissioners at public appearances or events, after his fellow commissioners voted to strip him of his liaison duties Tuesday.
The decision came after they condemned him for his comparison of vaccine passports to the discrimination and segregation of Jim Crow-era laws.
Shull submitted a draft of an ordinance to discuss at Tuesday's board of county commissioners meeting. In the draft, Shull conflates the use of vaccine passports as creating “the conditions of a new Jim Crow 2.0" by creating segregation, discrimination and infringing on the civil liberties of the constituents of Clackamas County.
The draft also says vaccine passports unwillingly enroll participants into "the next generation of a ‘show me your papers’ totalitarian technocratic regime."
Shull insisted the draft of the ordinance was never meant to be considered for adoption but was "intended to stimulate discussion."
"Well, commissioner Shull, you’re getting your wish because this sure has stimulated concern right across America and you will answer to this and you will answer alone to this," said Chair Tootie Smith. "I am prepared to make a motion, I am going to move that Commissioner Shull be stripped from all liaison committee assignments where BCC (board of county commissioners) influence is assumed."
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Martha Schrader.
"I do find this very deeply disturbing and it makes me very sad that that kind of comparison has been made with what we are trying to do in the middle of a pandemic in terms of public health safety and somehow comparing it to the institutionalization of racism essentially in our country," Schrader said. "I don’t think there is a comparison. I think they are qualitatively different issues. I am very upset by this, as you are, and I cannot support this."
Shull at no point during the meeting backed down from his stance and comparison of vaccine passports to Jim Crow laws.
"For the citizens of Clackamas County that are hearing this today: We must not be afraid to refer to mistakes in the nation’s history in the past," Shull said. "I refer to the Jim Crow laws as a mistake because they restricted civil liberties based on race. I would ask the people of the county who are hearing the proceedings today to consider what partisan motivation might have come from some of my constituents. Second, read the draft, and you will find that it is devoid of bigotry and racism."
He said he believed communities of color in Clackamas County would be the most against the restriction of civil liberties in the form of vaccine passports, which only require people who are unvaccinated or cannot provide proof of full vaccination continue to wear masks indoors.
Shull's colleagues did not agree the ordinance was free of bigotry and racism.
Commissioner Sonya Fischer called the comparison of vaccine passports and Jim Crow laws reprehensible.
"I want to be very clear, I don’t believe it is this, the perspective of Clackamas County, or this commission, on the whole, to support such insensitive and volatile comparisons and comments and it is deeply disturbing," Fischer said. "... I am sure that there are some people who would defer to the expertise of Mark Shull who has demonstrated himself as racist and bigoted and you know what? There is a fine line between ignorance and hatred and it’s a blurry line and I am just so concerned about the confidence that Mr. Shull has in making such blatantly offensive statements and I urge you, Commissioner Shull, to just work harder to constrain the bigotry that comes out of your mouth."
She went on to say perhaps more action needed to be taken against Shull. She suggested perhaps an additional censure, on top of the censure from earlier in the year, when the commissioners asked Shull to resign following the unearthing of many racist and Islamophobic social media posts.
Commissioner Paul Savas suggested Shull use this experience as one he can learn from, he encouraged Shull to speak to communities that comments like this may impact most and to use staff to go over his writings before they become public record as this draft ordinance did.
Both Commissioners Sonya Fischer and Paul Savas voted to strip Schull of his liaison privileges as well.
Chair Smith said she believed there would be support against the use of vaccine passports but that the language in the proposed ordinance may have damaged the ability of the board to bring this issue to the table again.
"Mark Shull you have been through so much and at times my heart has bled for you. I have given you allowances, I have supported you and you should know better," Smith said. "I find this resolution, as originally submitted, abhorrent and irresponsible. And I do not believe the references to Jim Crow, regardless of history, support the greatest good for Clackamas County."
Smith said commissioners do not get to throw gasoline on the fire and then expect to retract statements. However, this is not the first time in the past year that the Clackamas County board has dealt with issues regarding racism and its reputation.
Smith found herself in national headlines after going on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Today" where she balked at Gov. Brown's plea to keep Thanksgiving gatherings intimate due to the pandemic.
She said she wanted to invite as many friends and family as she could find to her Thanksgiving gathering. On Carlson’s show, she stated, "I think our people have the intelligence, the education and the independence to make their own decisions. We are adults, we do not need to be treated as second-rate slaves in our own homes."
Smith, Savas and Fischer all expressed concerns about what this could do to the reputation of the board moving forward.
"Chair Smith, I am very concerned about the perception of Clackamas County," Fischer said. "I agree with Commissioner Savas that this is a tremendous stain on our reputation. I am not quite sure what to do about that."