© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

The Freedom of Mobility

The thought of having to have a vaccine passport to conduct commerce and engage in voluntary transactions with other free individuals is understandably offensive to myself and countless people throughout this country and the world. This is largely because many of us recognize this for what it truly is—another attempt by power hungry elitists to control everything that everybody else does. And we’re pushing back accordingly.

We’ve always taken for granted the fact that we, as Americans, are essentially free to come and go as we please. That ability is based on the many rights included in this nation’s founding documents. And it’s a fairly easy concept to comprehend—where I travel, as a law-abiding private citizen, is none of anybody’s business, and especially not that of the government.

However, there has been a massive push to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to institute the kinds of heavy-handed measures that Americans would otherwise reject outright.

There’s a popular misconception out there that the rights we’re granted as Americans are somehow derived from the government. It’s simply not true. Because if our rights come from the government, a sudden change in policy could then mean that those rights no longer exist or can be taken away.

Our rights are inherent, meaning that they are an automatic given. Each and every one of us is born free. The purpose of the United States government, as spelled out in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, is to uphold, protect and defend those rights.

Those rights exist, even in times of the most dire of emergencies. They can’t be suspended. They can’t be transferred from one group of citizens to another. Most importantly, they can’t be ignored in favor of mandates that have never had the full and legitimate force of law to back them up or justify them.

This pandemic has been going on for over a year and a half now. The average person has spent this whole time trying to keep themselves and their families safe while trying to continue making a livelihood and keeping the bills paid.

The vast majority of Americans and people anywhere on Earth have not had COVID. Of the ones that have had it, the vast majority got sick for a while, but managed to recover and survive.

From the very beginning of all of this, we’ve been introduced to ideas like contact tracing, in the name of preserving public health and combating the virus. The general public even briefly tolerated the temporary closures of many industries and sectors of the economy because we were told we needed to flatten the curve.

But it’s now impossible to ignore the fact that there are larger forces and agendas at work here. Lines have been crossed, and people have grown increasingly, and understandably, weary of these mandates and orders coming in from on high.

I will continue to fiercely oppose even the suggestion that vaccine passports be implemented as a condition of allowing people to live, exist, work, engage in trade and move about as they see fit. Because even though our rights are a given and should be thought of that way, politicians can decide, on a whim, to stop recognizing them. And once that happens, it becomes very difficult to get them back.

The Tide is Turning

At the beginning of the year, things were admittedly looking bleak. The coronavirus pandemic raged on with no end in sight, prompting many in authority to impose open-ended restrictions and mandates on the rest of us. There was violence and unrest in the streets, especially in Portland, where rioters were allowed to destroy the downtown area for literally months on end without consequence.

It was obvious to some of us that these series of crises were going to be used as an excuse for some to make unprecedented power grabs. Anyone who dared to speak up against any of it was destined to be made an example of.

That ended up including me. I stated publicly that I wanted to have family members over for Thanksgiving. This resulted in me receiving multiple threats from strangers accusing me of wanting to kill people.

However, recent developments are proving what I’ve maintained all along—our systems can work as they are intended and people who stand up for their rights can ultimately win, if they’re willing to keep on fighting.  

The recent Virginia governor’s race saw Terry McAuliffe defeated. A key contributing factor was a statement he made during a debate that what state schools teach peoples’ children is none of their business. Outraged suburban soccer moms flocked to the polls to bounce McAuliffe’s party from office. It suffered multiple other losses that night, including the lieutenant governor’s and attorney general’s offices, as well as its majority in the House of Delegates.

Voters sent a very clear message that a line had been crossed. Their elected leaders overreached and paid dearly through being voted out of office across the board. A sleeping giant was awakened. The people took their power back.

McAuliffe isn’t the only unpopular governor these days. After a year and a half of top-down rule, Oregon Governor Kate Brown has the lowest approval ratings of any governor in the entire United States. Fortunately for her, she’s term limited and cannot run for her position again. Because all indications are that she would lose if she did.

Similarly, President Biden’s approval rating is also in freefall, less than a year after he took office. His vaccine mandates on private employers have been legally challenged, and their constitutionality will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

As 2021 draws to a close, just know that you are not alone. But also be aware that the people who spent the last year trying to strip you of your rights and freedoms are not going to stop any time soon, or ever. You are not without recourse, though, and it is possible to fight back and win.

Honoring our Health Care Heroes

There’s no doubt that the past year and a half has been a challenging time. Countless families around the world have either fought off illness or had relatives succumb to the deadly COVID virus.

Health care professionals like nurses have been on the front lines of that battle nonstop since the pandemic first hit the United States in the spring of 2020. They put on their scrubs for every shift they’ve worked, knowing full well that they could be exposed through direct contact with COVID positive patients.

Even prior to the pandemic hitting, the health care industry had struggled filling positions in key areas, including nursing. Because of the long shifts and demanding physical tasks that nursing entails, it takes a particular type of dedicated individual to devote themselves to this line of work.

The general public has heavily praised our brave nurses for their work during the pandemic. There has never been any doubt that they are absolutely essential.

So imagine the surprise of nurses everywhere when they were told that they would be fired from their jobs if they weren’t vaccinated by a certain date. Many felt understandably betrayed, and several have decided to leave the health care field altogether.

Nurses aren’t alone in being targeted by top-down mandates that threaten their livelihoods and abilities to continue providing for their families.

Like nurses, police officers have one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. Maintaining law and order, while protecting peoples’ due process, property and other rights, takes a specific type of person. That’s especially the case in the current environment, in which activists have seen fit to demonize police as Oregon’s lawmakers and legislators move the state closer to the full legalization of homelessness and drug use.

Public employees of all stripes were browbeaten into compliance with vaccine mandates. Many of the people putting them in that position were the same ones that received huge campaign contributions from the unions that represent those employees.

Even though those same unions opposed my candidacy for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners last year, I never waivered in my support for their members’ rights. I stand by each and every one of them and their ability to make their own private, informed medical decisions.

Nurses have been risking their own lives this whole time in the service of others. They’re obviously aware of the risks being either vaccinated or unvaccinated. I refuse to second guess the personal determinations of health care professionals.

Our brave police officers have put up with so much since the summer of 2020. Literally the entire world has seen what happened after Portland politicians foolishly decided to defund the police there. Violent crime is through the roof and rarely does a night go by without a shooting taking place. Given those circumstances, who on earth would anybody want to do anything to discourage anyone from waking up in the morning and putting on their police uniform?

Nurses, police officers and public employees deserve better than to be cajoled into following edicts issued by people who base all of their decisions on political calculations. I will continue to stand with them and fight for their rights, as well as yours.  

Local Control and the Consent of the Governed

The last year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit have taught us a lot about ourselves, each other and the true intentions of many people entrusted with leadership positions.

Elected officials throughout Oregon and the United States have had the chance to apply their particular political philosophies to direct action in this time. And the results have been telling.

Overall, my stances and statements have been consistent with those that I took when running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners in early 2020. I’m a firm believer in the consent of the governed. The people of this county voted for the commissioners to represent them, and we need to listen to what they have to say. We must remember that we’re accountable to them. They are who we work for.

I’ve also long been a proponent of local control. Heavy-handed, top-down governance is a recipe for tyranny. That’s exactly why our representative system of government grants authority to cities and counties to make their own decisions. If the citizens of those jurisdictions are unhappy with what’s being done, they can easily go down to city hall or the county courthouse to make themselves heard. It’s a whole lot easier than driving several hours across the state to testify for a few minutes at a legislative hearing or flying to Washington D.C. to address the members of a Congressional committee. And that’s how it should be.

I also believe that there has to be a source for authority within the law. We’ve slowly become conditioned, over time, to accept executive and administrative fiat as being more legitimate than they actually are.

But every action taken by a governing body or administrator should be traced back to a decision made by a vote of the peoples’ elected representatives. Those officials, or bodies of officials, vote to direct staff to carry out actions consistent with policies that have been adopted in accordance with proper policies, procedures and public processes.

Conducting government business in any other way undermines that body’s authority in the public’s eye.

Part of the problem we’ve seen this whole time is the perception that “leaders” are making things up as they go along. There’s a growing sense that the goalposts keep being moved. Different tactics have been used to pressure individuals and the general public into complying with mandates. We’ve seen everything from financial incentives for receiving vaccinations to threats of exclusion from basic activities for opting not to get them.

People have now been subjected to over a year and a half of fearmongering, guilt-shaming and every other kind of tactic imaginable. But that fear and coercion still haven’t worked. In fact, they’ve resulted in pushback. All this has done is strengthen the resolve of countless citizens who want the freedom to make their own decisions and have that be respected.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask and will continue to stand with the residents of Clackamas County who believe in such concepts as local control and the consent of the governed.