Clark County public hearing airs many perspectives on government mandates
A large gathering of over 200 citizens gathered Tuesday evening in a huge tent next to a Battle Ground church. The Clark County Council was holding a public hearing but because of COVID-19 concerns, decided to hold the public hearing on an anti-discrimination initiative via an online Zoom event. These voters and their families wanted to present a united front showing their support to end discrimination based on a person’s health status.
When the evening was over, the mini initiative petition had been rejected by members of the County Council but supporters of the petition were told the fight wasn’t over.
Rob Anderson, creator of the mini initiative, closed out the event, offering a ray of hope to supporters.
“Don’t be discouraged,” he said. “Obviously we wanted them to pass it, but we will not stop this fight. They did not address some of the hard issues. They danced around it. They decided, unfortunately, to follow the Democrat attorneys advice. The Republican ones followed the Democrat attorney opinions. All that was, was opinions.”
“Their biggest concern was about the issue of preeminence or supremacy, ” he said. “For example, will this violate state laws or federal laws? There was a solution. They could have easily amended and passed it; and then let the courts decide.”
The councilors had voted in advance to give Anderson five minutes to speak in favor of his initiative. They would then allow two hours for public comment, with citizens limited to two minutes, so that more people could speak and share their perspective.
The hearing was projected onto a movie screen, with loud speakers placed around the tent, so all could hear. Heaters poured heat into the tent in a couple locations. As the evening went on and the rain began to fall, people were grateful for the shelter and camaraderie.
Overall, there was a fairly good cross section of “yes” and “no” opinions expressed by citizens during the public hearing. The audience in the tent were clearly motivated by those in favor, regularly cheering when comments they liked came over the loudspeakers.
Anderson began by reminding the councilors and the citizens of what this petition is.
“The Petition process is not a political instrument of mass, like elections, but a tool of representation, hence a small number of signatures represents a larger group. For example, 111,000 people voted in the last election. In this petition, we collected 11,505 signatures in less than 2 months. That represents 10 percent of all those that voted. That is no small number and should not be ignored.
“This ordinance would NOT ban all mandates as one on the Council has misinformed the public that this would ban ALL vaccine & mask mandates. If that was the stated goal, there would be no way this could succeed or stand legal scrutiny. This ordinance would only add an extra layer of protection, scrutiny on mandates and challenge, on behalf of the citizens, all mandates that discriminate.”
Anderson reminded the council that last summer, the vaccinated could take off their masks while unvaccinated couldn’t. Up until recently, parents had to watch their unvaccinated students do invasive testing multiple times a week to play sports while the vaccinated didn’t. The unvaccinated were forced out of jobs because companies unfairly refused medical or religious exemptions.
“Honestly, the largest group that has unfairly suffered the most, not by COVID mind you, but by COVID mandates alone, is our children,” he said. “Even though not one child or teenager has died from COVID in Clark County, these mandates have been unfairly placed on our children, and the mental health damage will last for years. Who’s looking out for their rights? Who is going to stop these unending decrees and finally start looking at the totality of the outcomes?”
Anderson said the petition is a political solution to a political problem. “It’s not perfect, but a solution brought forth by the people calling on you to act on their behalf. A solution that is rooted in our Constitution: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
Rob Anderson’s opening remarks to the Clark County Council at the beginning of the public hearing. Video by John Ley
The people speak
“The people of Clark County have the right to make their own medical decisions,” said Sandy Taft. “They also have the right to keep that information private if they choose. Both of these rights are protected by the Constitution and by HIPAA laws.” She went on to mention that many other cities and counties have ended mandates, encouraging the Council to take a stand for freedom.
“It’s time to move on because there’s plenty of data available now to show that the mandates are not necessary,” she said. “If people still want to wear masks, that’s fine. If they want to get vaccinated, that’s fine. But the discrimination and the illegal government overreach with these emergency orders is not realistic anymore. I would ask that you please vote yes to end these mandates. Allow people to make their own health decisions and make their own decisions about sharing our private and personal health information.”
“It’s really a good thing that 11,505 people signed the initiative,” said Glenna. “I agree that there are probably many more people than that who agree with the last caller. However, there are over 488,000 citizens of Clark County, and the last I knew we had not seceded from the state.”
“It’s also legal in times of medical and health emergencies, for the government to step in and put in place limits and procedures that protect people like me, who think that it is not an imposition for me to be considerate of the people around me and ask them to wear a mask, ask them to socially distance,” she said.
Many people shared tales of family members or friends who had been vaccinated and still gotten COVID-19, or who had adverse reactions to the vaccine shots. Others spoke about losing jobs because of the mandates and how wrong that was.
Harlyn Thompson is a grandmother and a nurse who lost her job over the vaccine mandates. She has a background in research and has been awarded two US patents. She’s been working as an advice nurse doing all she can to help people in need.
Thompson spoke about people calling, scared to death. “We’re talking suicide ideation,” she said. “We’re talking parents that are calling in for their children saying what do I do? You have no idea what that feels like to be a nurse, to listen to the fear. Do you know what the fear does to people?” she asked.
She spoke about the fear and stress of the pandemic harming an individual’s immune system. Thompson asked the councilors to take a stand and “do your job.” She later shared many tales regarding the people she has tried to help over the past two years of the pandemic. Her background included over two decades with the military, both as the child of a service member, and later working in military hospitals.
Julie Martin said the mandates do nothing more than segregate and discriminate against a targeted group of citizens who have full body autonomy. She emphasized that it doesn’t matter that they didn’t create the mandates. “What matters is whether you’re going to protect the people’s rights from being abused by other powers at play.”
“These mandates are unconstitutional, for they go against our fourth amendment, the right of the people to be secure in their persons,” she said. “People should not have to choose (between) their livelihood or getting a shot that neither prevents one from contracting nor transmitting COVID.”
Nancy Schultz spoke against the petition. “The initiative flies in the face of the science that we know about COVID and disregards information from our health experts, including Dr. Melnick. It also spreads dangerous misinformation about masks and vaccines.”
She mentioned she had contacted the Attorney General’s office, asking them to watch the proceedings. Schultz said some councilors had been threatened, which was unseemly, inappropriate, and wrong.
Schultz went on to say the councilors may not be held personally liable if they pass “the mandate,” but if people die as a result of them passing it, they would be responsible. She believes the initiative was illegal, ambiguous, and doubts it can be enforced if passed.
Margaret Hunter is a teacher. She had read 120 pages of citizen comments people submitted prior to the hearing. “You don’t have the authority to make this choice,” she said. “Governor Inslee will come in and change the decision” if they pass it.
She spoke about Anderson stating this is a political solution to a political problem. “Community health is not a political problem,” Hunter said. “It is a community problem. COVID is killing people.”
“The only protection school teachers have is a mask between me and the students I teach,” she said.”We are understaffed, hundreds of unfilled positions, because people don’t feel safe already. Removing mask mandates and telling people that they can do what they want, while there are other people whose lives depend on them caring; please do not pass this initiative.”
Terri Niles is a critical care nurse who worked on a COVID-19 task force at a regional hospital. She objects to people saying the mandates are political.
“This is not political,” she said. “I want to tell you that every decision that any politician has made around mandates or anything, they were guided, they were 100 percent guided by medical people. So if you are against mandates, you are just against what the medical community has advised non medical politicians to do. I would love, I would encourage this council to do the same thing. This is not a political issue. Don’t make it a political issue. This is not about tyranny, or taking people’s rights away. This is about protecting public health.”
Battle Ground resident and Congressional candidate Heidi St. John believed the opposite. “Please remember that your first responsibility as an elected official is to safeguard our freedom. There will be other viruses after this one. The founding fathers were aware of illness when they drafted the Constitution and yet their focus was on the liberty of the citizens of these United States. Discrimination is wrong.”
“Our nation is in trouble in part because the government is outside of its jurisdiction,” she said. “Jay Inslee is a perfect example of that. Please stand for freedom when this is over and it will be over. Those who stand for freedom will be seen as trustworthy representatives when the next crisis arises.”
St. John shared that both of her parents were vaccinated for COVID-19, yet both got the coronavirus. Her father passed away from COVID-19 after his vaccination. “My mother who spent most of her years in pediatric oncology said this is never the way we treat a virus.”
Kyle Anson is a US Army veteran. “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety,” he said. “We are going to survive.”
“The mask mandates aren’t working,” he said. “The vaccine mandates aren’t working. I’m also vaccinated, so I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I believe it is a personal choice for you to choose what you want to do.”
“I’d like to go back to normal,” Anson said. “I’m tired of dealing with it. I’m tired of the conflict. I’m tired of the division. I want to go back to normal. Two years is too long. I’m pro choice. I’m pro liberty. I’m pro life. I’m pro freedom.”
Ray Kuvota urged the council to reject the proclamation. He believes Gov. Jay Insee has the authority to issue Proclamation 21.-14.3. He referenced the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard showing historical highs in both COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. This informs the public that we are still in this state of emergency according to Kuvota.
“A federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington denied a lawsuit by first responders who wanted to hold the vaccine vaccination requirements on the grounds that their civil rights were violated,” he said. Kuvota mentioned that the Governor’s Proclamation has exemptions and exceptions available to concerned citizens.
“Vaccine mandates are a result of a minority refusing to voluntarily do whatever is in their power to safeguard our families, neighbors and community,” he said. ”Most of us have stepped up to this vaccine protection, but it requires all of us to do their part to take this virus down.”
The two hours went by quickly. The council shared information and perspective they had received, both from their legal counsel and a letter from Gov. Jay Inslee. They chose to reject the citizens request by a vote of 4-1.
Battle Ground resident Wendy Rush attended the gathering to support her fellow citizens fighting for medical freedom of choice, and to avoid discrimination. She had attended other rallies in support of the mini initiative petition. She expressed her thoughts after the hearing concluded.
“I felt like the people that put some of our conservative counselors in office, got abandoned,” Rush said. “I think that there was legal advice given but not actual legal grounds for this decision. Eileen Quiring really nailed it on the head. There is real discrimination going on. There is real pain and suffering going on, especially to families and children. There is real damage being done by having medical freedoms not acknowledged.”
“They were very worried about the possibility of funds being withheld, seeing what the state has done to the school districts.” Rush said the state has essentially blackmailed school districts by threatening to withhold funds. The county was worried about the same thing happening.
Rush mentioned the back and forth discussions about what was or wasn’t legal. “The Washington State Constitution is the supreme law in the land, especially above a proclamation or mandate,” she said as she pulled out a pocket copy of our Constitution and read.
“We, the people of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the universe for our liberties, do ordain this constitution. All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
“The governed do not consent to these mandates in these proclamations,” Rush said. “They are there to protect and maintain our individual rights and not to make sure that we are healthy or not healthy.”
The group Patriots United helped organize the gathering in Battle Ground. They shared the following with their supporters via email following the event.
“A County cannot take away from something the State has put in place but a County can add precautions in situations that make sense specifically for a County. No Clark County Council Member or State Legislator has put any mandates into law in WA State over the last two years. We don’t have any RCW’s that support discrimination.”
They indicated Anderson and local Constitutional attorney Angus Lee will write the councilors a letter of rebuttal, to be submitted to Clark County Today.
Anderson mentioned that Councilor Gary Medvigy had responded to several citizens’ emails, in which he was advocating that the courts needed to decide this. “Yet he stopped it from going into the courts. Why? Because of the threat of losing money,”
“Let’s digest and pray over it, he shared. “Keep in touch.”