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The real problem is those uppity local officials

My God, the Republican playbook is so predictable these days.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Local governments have gone too far in issuing emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic and can expect to have those powers whittled down when the Texas Legislature meets again, key state lawmakers say.

State laws give local leaders broad power during emergencies, but state Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston, a leading Republican in the Texas Senate, said too many local officials have taken it too far.

“We are going to have to look at all these emergency powers and see if they have to be scrubbed down,” Bettencourt said.

In Chambers County outside of Houston, for example, 10 p.m. curfews have been imposed on adults. In other counties, it’s prohibited to have more than two people in a car. In Laredo, people were allowed to exercise, but bicycle riding was barred.

Local governments are accustomed to playing defense against the Legislature. During each of the last two legislative sessions, state lawmakers have tried to curb local authority on myriad issues including tree ordinances, annexations and property tax collections.

Democrats say they’re getting used to this drumbeat of Republicans trying to take authority away from cities and suburbs as they have become more Democratic. They say the cities and counties needed to move quickly because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott waited to issue a statewide stay-home order until 30 other states had done so.

Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has been a consistent target for frustrated Republicans.

[…]

State Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, said the Republicans should be thanking local leaders such as Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner. While Abbott waited to issue statewide orders closing restaurants or requiring residents to stay home, Turner and Hidalgo were moving far faster and helping keep down the spread of the virus, Wu said.

“It’s our local governments that have had to step up and done an outstanding job,” Wu said. “The reason our numbers are so low is because they took decisive action early.”

Hey, remember when Greg Abbott was only too happy to let local leaders do the leading, because “What is best in Dallas may not be best for Amarillo or Abilene”? Good times. Have I mentioned that it’s really important that Democrats win the State House this election? Now you have another reason why.

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36 Comments

  1. The Democrats may or may not win. However, the Democrat party will take out Hildago in the Primary. She is toast.

  2. Jules says:

    Really? Some people like and support her. It is interesting that many who don’t can’t go half a sentence without mentioning her gender, age, or ability to speak Spanish.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    What a hodge podge of rules, from curfews to stay at home orders to no bike riding, to no more than two people in a car. What about people who use a bike for transportation. There shouldn’t be too much praise for the local officials. When citizens were petitioning for the Rodeo to close early, they argued that there were only a few cases in Houston, all from Egypt, soon to be zero. Later, we find out that the Rodeo is where several cases originated. However, the cause of all of this is that the federal government did nothing for far too long, especially when you consider that the head of the federal government had way more information than the local officials.

  4. SocraticGadfly says:

    Jules: Reality is that a couple months ago Texas Monthly took a long and dispassionate look at Hidalgo and found she had some good marks, but also several unforced errors.

    Really.

  5. Jules says:

    Thanks, Gadfly, good article.

  6. Just came back from Galveston. Bolivar Peninsula beach was open and packed. On the west end beach patrol was having to hustle people off the beaches time after time. It will not be long before the government looses control of the lock down. The best they can hope for is to control the manner in which the economy reopens. If they don’t make a move then the free market will do it for them and there will be nothing they can do.

    Just my Opinion.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    Good for you, Paul. People need to start taking civil disobedience to a new level and push back on this madness. I ordinarily would be leading the charge, but I’ve got an elderly person I am directly caring for, and I don’t want to endanger that person in any way. Were it not for that, I’d be joining you and the other patriots that aren’t going to let autocrats take away our freedoms and sink the erstwhile greatest economy in the world.

    America has to live on and be restored to greatness.

  8. Manny says:

    Would not have to be restored to Greatness, Bill, if Trump had not sunk it to such a low level. The Trump Depression!

    https://youtu.be/1LUSfQ3XkQ8

  9. Ross says:

    Paul and Bill, if reopening results in a spike in covid cases and deaths, will you be ready to shut things down again? How many deaths would you find acceptable in Harris County? 500? 1,000? 100,000?

  10. Ross,

    I do not accept the premise of your question. I do not know how you define reopening. Question is bad also. When did you stop beating your wife? Same question. Same answer. Also Bolivar has been open since April 13th.

  11. At least she got a ticket….I wish they were ticketing people here because I need the business.

    https://www.click2houston.com/news/national/2020/04/24/some-businesses-defy-texas-rules-on-virus-related-closings/

  12. Manny says:

    But since you, Paul, used the word reopening, what does reopening mean to you? I am interested how your definition would vary from what most people would consider.

    Paul you suggested that increase in people dying by using the word “reopening”, don’t try to make it a question about beating your wife.

    The fact that the beach has been open since April 3rd has nothing to do with your suggestion about reopening or beating a wife.

    I suggest you watch the same video as Bill, the ad is by Republicans for Republicans.

    https://youtu.be/1LUSfQ3XkQ8

  13. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    People die every day, of the flu, car accidents, cancer, getting killed by felons let go by Kim Ogg, whatever. If you’re afraid of all that, cower in your house forever, or as long as you can afford to. For the rest of us, people want to get back to living. Will some fall on the way from various causes? Sure. When we reopen restaurants, at some point, some poor shlub is going to die from food poisoning that wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been allowed to eat raw puffer fish at a sketchy Japanese restaurant. Life is a risk. Living is a risk, and one thing we can all actually agree on about life is, nobody gets out alive.

    So we’ve all done the cowering and hiding encouraged by our various governments. At some point, people need to just say F it. This is America. These colors don’t run.

    ¡Sin temor!

  14. Ross says:

    Paul and Bill, neither of you answered the question. It is a fact that premature reopening of stores and businesses will result in increased deaths from Covid 19. That’s the nature of pandemics. So, how many deaths above the normal levels is acceptable to you? Would overflowing hospitals be OK? Are you OK with businesses forcing employees back to work? Should employers have to provide PPE?

    Looks like my dad was right. Conservatives don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves.

  15. Manny says:

    Of course Bill is encouraging others to go out, he has an elderly at home so he has to be careful and won’t go out.

    Paul I don’t understand why he would care if the country, county, city or opened up safely when proper testing can be done instead of putting thousands of people at risk.

    As to all that taking liberty away, all I can say that where were all those freedom loving people when the country was drafting hundreds of thousands of young Americans to go fight a war most did not agree with or did not understand. Those people out are frauds and no better than the lemmings that follow the person in front.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52157824

  16. Manny, April 13th not April 3rd. Galveston County total confirmed cases 539, 17 new reported yesterday, 9 total fatalities. Bolivar has been packed and no one has reported an explosion of new cases.

    If we don’t reopen we will have Covid death. If we do reopen we will have Covid death. My definition of reopening would include guidelines like the ones in place at the Federal Grill.

    I don’t see much of a difference between Covid exposure at HEB and at the Federal Grill. So that is my definition of exposure.

    Ross,

    “It is a fact that premature reopening”

    I disagree that reopening now would be premature. No one really knows for sure.

    “of stores and businesses will result in increased deaths from Covid 19.”

    Bolivar Pennisula has been open since April 13th and we have not spiked. In fact we have not spiked anywhere in Houston/Harris County.

    “That’s the nature of pandemics.”

    You assume all Pandemics are the same. They are not. This is not New York City and the East Coast. We are not having the same results.

    “So, how many deaths above the normal levels is acceptable to you?”

    Not a fair question. That is like a pro-lifer asking you how many babies are you willing to kill.

    “Would overflowing hospitals be OK?”

    Overflowing? No one in New York City went without intensive care. No one went without a ventilator. I worried about that at first but it is clear now that we handled the increased hospitalizations even in New York. Army Corp of Engineers built more hosptials that never filled up.

    “Are you OK with businesses forcing employees back to work?”

    Businesses can’t do that. That is called slavery and has been banned by Constitutional Amendment after the Civil War.

    “Should employers have to provide PPE?”

    Maybe? It all depends on the job? Should HEB?

    Looks like my dad was right. Conservatives don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves.

    I will not comment pro or con on people’s relatives. That is out of bounds. It appears you are close with your dad by your comment and I congratulate you for that. Not everyone is.

  17. Jules says:

    Bill:

    “ I ordinarily would be leading the charge, but I’ve got an elderly person I am directly caring for, and I don’t want to endanger that person in any way. Were it not for that, I’d be joining you and the other patriots that aren’t going to let autocrats take away our freedoms and sink the erstwhile greatest economy in the world.”

    Also Bill:

    “ People die every day, of the flu, car accidents, cancer, getting killed by felons let go by Kim Ogg, whatever. If you’re afraid of all that, cower in your house forever, or as long as you can afford to. For the rest of us, people want to get back to living. Will some fall on the way from various causes? Sure. When we reopen restaurants, at some point, some poor shlub is going to die from food poisoning that wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been allowed to eat raw puffer fish at a sketchy Japanese restaurant. Life is a risk. Living is a risk, and one thing we can all actually agree on about life is, nobody gets out alive.

    So we’ve all done the cowering and hiding encouraged by our various governments. At some point, people need to just say F it. This is America. These colors don’t run.”

    Apparently Bill is the only one who doesn’t want his mom to die, everyone else is just a cowering coward.

  18. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    You folks keep moving the goal posts. Originally, we were all working together to “flatten the curve” so that we didn’t overwhelm our hospitals. We built field hospitals, brought the two Navy hospital ships in, and did a Manhattan Project style program to produce meds, ventilators, and masks. OK, we’ve done all that, and now we have, as we have seen in Harris County, hospitals with no patients, more HQC and other drugs than we need, more treatment options, and Trump is talking about sending ventilators to Ethiopia, Italy and other places, etc., because we’ve over produced.

    The hospital here at NRG will close without ever having treated even one patient. The hospital ships treated only a handful of people. So OK, we have flattened the curve and ramped up our capacity to treat sick people. Now allow business to open up and get back to normal.

    Manny is right. People like me specifically, taking care of an elderly person will still be taking extra precautions. I might choose NOT to go see an Astros game, but it would be my choice, not a choice made for me by preventing the Astros from playing. For everyone else, let them get back into the game of life.

    Paul, good post, and you’ve given all of us the example of how to state your position without resorting to personal attacks. All of us, including me, can take a lesson from that.

    I’ve got to admit, this is one of the best discussions had here in a while.

  19. Manny says:

    Paul, April 13 to April 26 is 13 days, don’t you realize that it takes 5 days to 2 weeks for the virus to start showing symptoms? Some times no symptoms but they become carriers which can effect other people.

    MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin-Madison officials have announced that a cluster of students who went to Nashville and Gulf Shores, Alabama, over spring break have tested positive for COVID-19.

    WKOW in Madison reported that UW-Madison’s Health Services issued a statement Friday.

    “University Health Services (UHS) and Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) recently became aware of a cluster of COVID-19 cases associated with a spring break trip organized by seniors,” the announcement said.

    Please leave the problem to the experts.

    Paul buying groceries is kinda of essential, going to a restaurant is not essential. He was not prevented from providing take out during all this time. I don’t know the guy’s motive, but I would not be surprised that he found it to be a good way of getting free publicity.

    Paul when does a fetus become a baby?

    Paul how many people would have die from the virus before you consider that maybe businesses that are not essential should not open?

    By next week we will get to the 60,000 Americans that died from the virus. Yesterday officially there were 54,367 covid 19 deaths.

    We are not New York, we are not packed as tight as they are nor have mass transit, that probably slowed the virus here and in other places. It does not mean that some how we are super men and women here.

    Either you Paul or Bill, explain why China is sending help to Mexico, while we accept help from Egypt? How great are we now after 3 years of Trump and the fools that follow him?

  20. voter_worker says:

    Paul, you’re right, we’re not NYC but the manner in which COVID-19 has presented there is so ominous that it has defined what the worst-case scenario looks like. You said “Overflowing? No one in New York City went without intensive care. No one went without a ventilator.” The articles I read indicated that there were numerous deaths in waiting rooms of symptomatic people not yet admitted to hospital, and even more at home. There are documented instances of triage where patients with no prospect of a good outcome were given palliative care instead of intubation. We in SE Texas clearly have dodged the bullet (so far). Is Federal Grill onto something and showing us a possible route out of the shutdown? I hope so!

  21. Jules says:

    “ “Are you OK with businesses forcing employees back to work?”

    Businesses can’t do that. That is called slavery and has been banned by Constitutional Amendment after the Civil War.”

    I believe part of the closure of businesses is to allow businesses to lay people off so they can get unemployment, which is now supplemented by an extra $600 a week. I do think it is hard to get signed up for unemployment, and that some would prefer to work now.

    Federal Grill employees, if they prefer like Bill to be safe to protect elderly relatives would not be entitled to unemployment if they were asked to come back to work and declined. I believe the owner would possibly have some leeway, don’t really know how it all works.

    So they can’t force you to work, but they can cause you to be denied unemployment.

    It is an issue without an easy or perfect solution. It does reinforce my belief that all jobs are valuable and that all workers should make a living wage, $15 an hour seems reasonable to me as a minimum, but I could be persuaded higher.

  22. Wolfgang says:

    On “folks moving the goal posts” (game analogy) … and the “invisible enemy” (war)

    Agreed.The former is a better metaphor than the martial rhetoric (the purposes of war is to kill people and destroy “vital” infrastructure; — the opposite of what the goal is in contain a pandemic). Still, the invocation of the game analogy implies that their are rules according to which two teams play, and that therefore the moving of the goal posts amounts to cheating by one side to alter the outcome, or at least distort the competition. The current pandemic is not a game, and the so-called enemy is not an opposing group of human beings. There is not a dichotomy of a pro-virus and an anti-virus teams. Not to mention an umpire. Nor is the panemic entertainment. Unlike the pandemic genre of Hollywood productions.

    So the cheating-in-a-game analogy is inapposite on multiple dimensions, at least in reasoned discourse over how the COVID-19 pandemic should be dealt with in terms of governmental actions and individual-level action.

    In the pandemic context, you got moving operational “targets” in the sense of crisis management objectives (such as not exceeding pre-existing hospital capacity and medical equipment supply, or expanding existing capacity and supply to meet surging demand), and the challenge is how to respond to a threat that is not in the nature of an invading army or other purpose-driven actions by a group of people. The operational objectives (“goal posts”) must necessarily be moved to adjust to changing conditions.

    PANDEMIC AS ENEMY

    The notion of an “invisible enemy” is pure political rhetoric. That may be useful to rouse public passions and mobilize the unwashed masses for a “war” effort–and shoot for a rally-round-the-chief effect–but there is no war. We are in peace time and most of use (I dare say) are interested, if not committed, to trying to save lives, not destroy them. In a war, the objective is to kill the enemy and the enemy’s possessions/infrastructure, and to minimize the losses of life on your own side, though it’s assumed that there will be casualties, i.e. a price to be paid for killing the enemy, and that price may be deemed acceptable. That calculus does not apply in peacetime.

    Bottom line: Clear thinkers should reject both the game analogy and the war analogy in relation to COVID-19. Both are rhetorical tools to manipulate those less apt to think clear (rational and logical).

  23. Bill Daniels says:

    Wolfgang,

    You say we are not at war, and that’s patently false. We are still engaged in America’s longest war, the Afghan War. We are still warring in Iraq. There are also different KINDS of war. Make no mistake, we are in another war….an economic war with China, not with bombs and bullets, but with tariffs and manufacturing. It’s not really out of line to point out that China, having the Wuhan virus bomb go off on their own territory, decided that the best course for them was to even the playing field (there’s that sports metaphor again, rearing its ugly head) by exporting the virus to the rest of the world. That doesn’t give China the advantage, it just puts all China’s economic competitors, including the one they are at war with, at equal disadvantage. They freely allowed the infected from Wuhan to gallivant all over the globe, spreading the misery around. Did you ever watch the movie Platoon? Remember the scene when zips were in the wire, the American position was overrun and the Captain called in an air strike on his own position? That’s what China did, called in an airstrike on the US, and the rest of the world.

    Clear thinkers understand that this is both asymmetric warfare, and a game with political implications nationally. To deny both of those things is to deny reality.

  24. Jules says:

    Shut up Bill

  25. Jason Hocman says:

    What I find to be contradictory, is that I can go to Wal Mart, shop around for two hours, meantime, all of the people on their cell phones wandering around not paying attention, meander into my space. They bring their 5 kids 10 and under with no masks running around, handling stuff, bumping into people. The people with their phones handle items and other surfaces, tap on their phone, and then hold it up to their face. The fomite can live for several hours or days on plastic, so the bottled water that you take home may be contaminated for a day or more. Your phone is a corona cafe after you play with it in a store. But, somehow, it is more risky for me to sit in the back booth at the corner bar for an hour?

  26. Wolfgang says:

    THE WATCHWORD IS VIRUS, NOT WAR

    There are limited-scope wars–declared or otherwise–ongoing (to that extent I stand corrected, thanks), but we are not “at war” with COVID-19, and a so-called “trade war” is no war either. Much rather it’s a sloppy moniker of the hype-type genre for public consumption that’s used metaphorically for an international (technically inter-governmental) trade dispute, whether bilateral or multilateral, or even global (WTO).

    A virus is no enemy, visible or otherwise. It is not even an organism to the extent organism is defined as a life form consisting of at least one cell able to replicate on its own (A virus is a submicroscopic infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of an organism.). A virus is smaller than a bacterium and is not blessed with the ability to engage in intelligent reasoning. It doesn’t even have the status of an Amoeba.

    Contra Anthropomorphism

    The use of the term “enemy” with reference to COVID-19 is a mere figure of speech, a rhetorical device used to evoke the associations and emotions that come with the use of the term “enemy” in the normal context. That may be useful and perhaps even effective in the realm of public communication (in a pop-psycho kind of way) but is nothing but a distraction from any serious analysis of the virus as an epidemiological problem, and the efforts to devise the best mix of measures to deal with it. Also, there is nothing wrong with a “hodge-podge” approach that consists of multiple contemporaneous measures. Indeed, such an approach is imperative to both deal with infected/afflicted persons and limit/contain further spread. And time is obviously of the essence in a situation of exponential spread. This all-encompassing effort is called all-to-government and all-of-community approach, not total war.

    To have an intelligent policy-relevant discourse (as opposed to engaging in polemics and propaganda to mislead the unenlightened and mask-less masses), we should mind our words, and the concepts and constructs for which they stand.

    For balance, let me point out that this criticism also applies to hyperboles such as “war against women” on the other side of the polemics divide, as opposed to — say — the war(s) against indigenous North American tribes earlier in history.

  27. C.L. says:

    “People die every day, of the flu, car accidents, cancer, getting killed by felons let go by Kim Ogg, whatever.”

    None of which are highly contagious, BTW.

  28. Jason Hochman says:

    I had been hoping for the correct answer to my question. It is not more risky for me to sit at the back booth of the bar, however, we are not staying home for any one person’s safety. If everyone is going out to more places, lingering for longer times, then there is more chance of exposure to germs. I had hoped that someone would answer correctly.

  29. Voter worker

    No one in New York City went without intensive care. No one went without a ventilator.”

    Those were Governor Cuomo’s words. I was quoting him at one of his press conferences. I watch them all because I don’t have anything else to do.

    “The articles I read indicated that there were numerous deaths in waiting rooms of symptomatic people not yet admitted to hospital, and even more at home.”

    This statement doesn’t negate what Governor Cuomo said. If you are saying logically it does then the logic is flawed. Its like saying a cat has 4 legs and a tail and dog has 4 legs and a tail so a cat must be a dog.

    “There are documented instances of triage where patients with no prospect of a good outcome were given palliative care instead of intubation.”

    Again a Doctors choice. You didn’t say that the “DOCUMENTED INSTANCE” that they didn’t intubate because of a lack of ventilators. New York had over 1,400 in storage waiting for the run up of cases. I am not saying people weren’t sick nor that it wasn’t serous I am just saying the Hospitals handled it the best they could. Clearly there were enough ventilators and intensive care beds.

    “Is Federal Grill onto something and showing us a possible route out of the shutdown? I hope so!”

    I think they might. My point is like it or not the free market is going to open with or without government approval. Government can try to shepherd the reopening in the safest way possible or lose all control of the reopening.

  30. voter_worker says:

    Paul, I responded as I did because detailed accounts by medical personnel of the demise of individual patients stick in the memory. I’m not going to attempt to prove it, but I read accounts in the NYT of the wishes of patients and family for intubation being overridden. I think Gov. Cuomo has excelled. Is there room for qualification of his broad statements? I would say yes, but like you I’m a bystander from afar. As for opening up, I agree with you that we have no other better options and I’m praying for miracles.

  31. Jules says:

    I have read they are moving away from intubating and instead are having better success putting these patients on their stomachs. It helps them breathe better, I don’t know why.

    Reading a lot of scary things about this disease, such as asymptomatic young and middle aged people suffering from blood clots leading to strokes.

    We really needs to ramp up testing, as many people don’t have fevers, but are contagious. Even those that are sick enough to be hospitalized don’t always have fever.

    It is a different thing and drs and scientists are still learning a lot.

  32. Jason says:

    Jules:

    Laying patients on their stomachs leads to better outcomes because the lungs are located more towards the back of the body. As a result, when placed on their backs, patients have more pressure on their alveoli, and more of them remain closed, making breathing difficult. It also increases the amount of fluid that gathers in these alveoli, leading to increased odds of secondary infection.

    As to opening anything, the simple truth is that “flattening the curve” is not a one-time thing. If we don’t maintain the practices that allow it to stay flat, exponential growth will resume.

    In order to prevent exponential growth, one of two paths may be taken:
    1) Extensive social distancing (to reduce the R0, or average number of people infected by each new case)
    2) Rapid identification and removal of new cases from general population.

    This second case can only occur by sufficient testing to be able to manage those cases. Again, there are two options here – be able to test everyone within the window of incubation, over and over again (extremely unlikely to ever occur), or add contact tracing. This means there must be enough testing capability to assess everyone showing symptoms in a given day in a given area, AND all people that have come into contact with a positive case, symptomatic or not.

  33. Wolfgang says:

    Uppity locals just got slapped for doing more to protect us. It almost brought Turner to tears at this press conference immediately after Abbott’s announcement.

    Here verbatim Abbott’s assertion of superior powers:

    “Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but
    no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering.”

    Greg Abbott Executive Order GA18 Relating to the expanded reopening of services as part of the safe, strategic plan to Open Texas in response to the COVID-19 disaster.

    https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/EO-GA-18_expanded_reopening_of_services_COVID-19.pdf

  34. Jules says:

    Thanks, Jason, that makes sense!