March 8, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Column: Time for Newsom to Get Tough on Virus Scofflaws

It became plain during the July 4 holiday weekend that Los Angeles County has at least a partially scofflaw sheriff. So do several other California counties. They’re essentially enforcing only laws and rules they like.

As coronavirus hospital admissions neared capacities just before the nation’s 244th birthday, doctors readied rationing schemes deciding who would get ventilators in case of a shortage. Then Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered beaches and their parking lots closed in most coastal counties to slow the contagion.

When similar orders prevailed during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva stationed deputies at regular intervals along his county’s vast strands, their mere presence warding off would-be surfers and others who merely wanted to lounge on the sand. California bent the COVID curve.

But not this time. A holiday drive along more than 20 miles of beaches revealed shut-down parking lots and plenty of “Closed” signs – but no deputies. As a result, wherever roadside parking was possible along the Pacific Coast Highway, beaches were crowded, surfers clambering down bluffs and cliffs headed for the unusually high waves that prevailed.

No deputies could be seen trying to hinder them, let alone write citations. If the pandemic revival of late June and early July continues into August, this will likely be part of the reason, just as big, mostly unmasked and un-socially-distanced Memorial Day beach and protest crowds helped cause the state’s second onslaught of COVID-19.

Newsom, who almost daily issues edicts governing business and personal behavior, did little. Yes, before the holiday, he threatened to take some state funding from counties that wouldn’t follow orders on mask use and beach closings. The threats were paper tigers.

This was also true of his response when Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke refused to enforce state orders in May and June, claiming they meant “economic slaughter.” Now cases are surging in Merced County and Warnke is recanting.

Through all this, the scofflaw sheriffs continue commanding their corps of deputies as if they were tough law enforcement officers. They have not been penalized, making a mockery of state authority.

It’s not unique to California. Hours after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered his state’s residents to mask up in public, the sheriff of rural Lewis County told a crowd to go barefaced. Carrying a megaphone and wearing his uniform to prove he spoke officially, Sheriff Robert Snaza exhorted constituents, “Don’t be a sheep.”

This amounted to an endorsement of risking death for themselves and others.

It’s essentially a rebellion by local sheriffs against governors trying to save lives by using their emergency powers, one of the highest duties of any public official.

But at least five California sheriffs and a couple of mayors have told constituents Newsom’s orders are “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

Given what’s happened around those counties, with caseloads and death tolls rising daily, it’s high time Newsom did more than just talk.

It is politic to urge citizens to be responsible, as the governor continually does. But the Memorial Day beach scenes, the unmasked protest marches and the actions of countless restaurant and bar customers demonstrate he must do something more dramatic.

Newsom has dispatched several hundred state inspectors to enforce rules on businesses, but they sometimes work unpredictably and even at odds with his orders. One example: restaurants in Morgan Hill that followed the pre-Fourth of July order to close indoor operations were told to shut down outside tables – not part of the state order. Overall, inspectors issued at least seven citations on their first day out and hundreds since.

Newsom says he hopes persuasion will be enough to get Californians to follow his orders. It has not worked well enough, leniency most likely costing at least some lives.

Which makes it high time Newsom put teeth in his orders. Yes, some localities fine face mask recalcitrants hundreds of dollars when they persist after being warned, but no one has punished scofflaw sheriffs and mayors.

If they won’t uphold rules they’re sworn to enforce, those officials should either be removed from office or see their agencies lose major state funding. The carrot plainly hasn’t worked well enough; it’s time for the stick.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Related Posts

Trader Joe’s Eyes Another Santa Monica Space

March 5, 2021

March 5, 2021

Grocery store interested in space across the street from new Target By Sam Catanzaro Another major retailer may open in...

More Coastal Housing for the Westside?

March 5, 2021

March 5, 2021

More affordable housing may be coming to Westside coastal neighborhoods. Learn more in this video made possible by School of...

Edify TV: Westside High-Rise Nears Completion

March 5, 2021

March 5, 2021

A Westside high-rise checking in at over 30 stories is nearing has topped-out, the first building of this size built...

Police Union Considering Suing City of Santa Monica Over Lack of Citizen Commission Inclusion

March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

By Toi Creel ] The City of Santa Monica’s Police union is fighting to be included in a committee meant...

Video: Indoor Dining Close to Returning in LA County?

March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

Indoor dining could return to LA County very soon. Learn more and hear what diners have to say in this...

Food Review: Venice’s Newest Burger Stand Sticks to the Basics

March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

Checking in at Adrift Burger Bar By Kerry Slater I, like so many, have fond memories of eating burgers as...

Santa Monica Teachers Begin Receiving COVID-19 Vaccinations Ahead of Campuses Reopening

March 2, 2021

March 2, 2021

SMMUSD partners with Providence St. John’s Health Center to vaccinate certain educators and staff By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica-Malibu Unified...

‘Safe Camping’ at the VA is Open To All Homeless Veterans

March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

The “safe camping” program is geared toward getting homeless Veterans off the streets and provides a way to transition from homelessness to...

Santa Monica Police Warn of Thieves Targeting Seniors Near Palisades Park

March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

Two elderly woman robbed along Ocean Avenue recently By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police are investigating two thefts targeting senior...

Santa Monica’s Zero Emissions Delivery Zone Pilot Has Begun: Santa Monica Beat – March, 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Santa Monica’s Zero Emissions Delivery Zone Pilot Has Begun * City...

Video: Closing Down Westside Oil Field?

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Officials are discussing closing a Westside oil field sitting on hundreds of acres of prime coastal land. Learn more in...

Pico Neighborhood Affordable Housing Project Breaks Ground

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Over 70 units of affordable housing come to area near Woodlawn Cemetery By Sam Catanzaro A 70-unit-plus affordable housing development...

Large Properties Drive-up Santa Monica Home Sales Amid Pandemic

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Annual report shows single-family home sales rising By Sam Catanzaro Interest in large properties with five-bedrooms or more helped drive-up...