Clark County councilors take race talk to Facebook

Clark County councilors discuss many topics throughout the year, and some of them are small enough to not draw comments from them. But when it came to a recent discussion about systemic racism that has fostered numerous headlines recently, several councilors whose named haven’t appeared in headlines not only engaged in the lengthy talk; they expounded their views via social media.

At a June 24 council time meeting, Clark County Chair Eileen Quiring said that she does not believe racism exists in the county. The comment came during a discussion about the meaning of the “Thin Blue Line” flags, which were recently removed from Clark County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles by order of Sheriff Chuck Atkins. 

The conversation started before councilors, except for Quiring, signed a letter approving of Atkins’ decision. 

Councilor Gary Medvigy wrote June 26 on his official Facebook page that he should have written his own letter on the flags instead. 

Medvigy dedicated most of the post to recognizing the difficult jobs that law enforcement officers face, saying that they have been unfairly targeted. He also discussed, as he did at the council time meeting, his original interpretation of the flags and what he has learned about how others view them.

“I signed the letter to show my respect for the office of sheriff and my recognition that this unofficial flag on public vehicles had very negative meanings for some in the community. It was his decision to make,” Medvigy wrote. 

Clark County Councilor Temple Lentz called Quiring’s behavior at the meeting a “temper tantrum” in a video posted June 25 to her official Facebook page. She also said that the chair failed a test of leadership

“But her comment on the record was, nonetheless, a culmination of good community conversation among others in the days prior,” Lentz said.

Lentz expanded on the arguments she made during the meeting, providing a more detailed history of the sheriff’s office flags. 

“It is possible to both support equal justice and law enforcement,” Lentz said. “Claiming otherwise sows division where division need not and should not exist. Police and community members need to work together to create a safe environment. But in order to work together, partners must be on equal footing and maintain mutual respect, and that can’t be achieved with a sticker that encourages a divide.”

During the council time meeting on Wednesday, Medvigy said that Quiring has been singled out. He added that he hoped the rhetoric about the situation would tone down. 

Medvigy said that Lentz’s video contributed to the “divisiveness against the chair.” Lentz disagreed. 

Councilor John Blom posted a shorter note Monday on his own official Facebook page. He recognized the “hundreds” of reactions to the discussion. Blom said that many of the comments provided examples of systemic racism. 

“Despite what may have been said in the meeting and later repeated in the press, please know that it is my belief that the majority of the County Council recognizes we have things we need to address and will continue to work to do so in the weeks and months ahead,” Blom wrote.

Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan is a breaking news reporter and covers Clark County government for The Columbian.

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