BY TOM WRIGHT
The editorial boards of two major New Mexico newspapers have pointed out the heavy-handedness and lack of openness of our governor in dealing with her orders to shutter businesses and reopen our economy.
Diane Rowe, owner of Papas Pawn and Gun in Grants was cited and is facing a $60,000 fine for disobeying the governor’s closure order. Papas Pawn opened again in April and allowed no more than two customers in at a time and required social distancing. On April 14, she received a cease-and-desist order. After she made a public statement about her right to open, six state police arrived on April 27 and delivered a citation charging $60,000 for twelve days of unlawful operation. Heavy-handed? Yes, mom spanked her pretty good.
Aside from exercising her civil liberties, Ms. Rowe’s defense may be that a pawnshop is a financial institution for many who can’t get bank loans and perhaps exempt from the closure order.
The governor needs public cooperation, but has told us her handpicked Economic Recovery Council is not subject to the open meetings law and therefore the public has no right to know what they discuss. The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has taken issue with this and they make a good point. All citizens of New Mexico are affected by their discussions and advice and we do have the right to know their thinking.
The Second Judicial District Court Judge, Daniel Ramczyk wrote an op-ed on May 1 taking issue with the sealing of court records for two citizens who were essentially placed under house arrest for testing positive for COVID 19. It is the first time this power has been exercised and there is no public explanation.
I am not questioning the governor’s emergency powers, but in her news conferences, she seems to be lecturing us like a mother on how we should think and act. That in itself is not the best way to elicit public cooperation. We are not her children nor her subjects. She serves at the will of the people and she should use caution on how she exercises her powers. Using the Riot Control Act to close down Gallup may have been well intentioned and welcomed by some, but a little extreme in the general public’s eye as no riot existed.
There is also a valid argument from small retailers who complain the big-box stores can sell their products while their smaller businesses can’t open with the same capacity and social distancing rules in place.
There seems to be a disconnect of reason in the governor’s thinking which has causes several county sheriffs to say they will not enforce public health orders. County sheriffs realize they may be the highest elected law enforcement official in the land, but they also serve at the will of the people. The governor has a trump card to play by ordering the state police to enforce her edicts. They serve at her pleasure and at her command.
A phased in order from the Department of Health secretary requiring face coverings for employees of all large grocery, restaurants and essential businesses is now to take place. Face coverings should be considered a courtesy to others, but when will we be told they are no longer necessary? Will we have to be at zero new cases? Will it apply to counties with few cases?
By the way, if you write the governor at the email address on her website, you will get a form answer, we’re too busy to respond, but if your inquiry is about COVID-19 contact the Department of Health.