February 25, 2021

Quite a Month

By Stephen Tuttle | Jan. 30, 2021

Well, that was quite a month for at least some members of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners.

First, Commissioner Brad Jewett introduced a resolution opposing the latest pandemic restrictions issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The totally pointless document claims the orders are unconstitutional because the legislature did not authorize them. But a previous legislature most certainly did give the MDHHS the authority to issue such orders in a health emergency, which is why no court has stopped them. 

Unwilling to stop there, the resolution went on to suggest the Grand Traverse County sheriff's office and county prosecutor should make enforcing violations of the orders their lowest priority and the county should not pay for any prosecutions of those violations. Not surprisingly the sheriff and prosecutor, both recently reelected in county-wide votes, said they would follow the law and didn't really need any help from the county board. 

More troubling was the discussion that followed. You would think that after a full year of information on COVID-19, our elected officials would at least know the basics. You would be depressingly wrong.

The notion that people — in the midst of a highly contagious pandemic moving inevitably toward a half-million deaths — should be “determining for themselves what is best” is daffy enough. Then it just got stupid.

Commissioner Jewett, not exactly on the cutting edge of science, questioned the facial covering requirements because he said there was insufficient data on how many mask wearers become infected. Seriously? We still have elected officials who don't even understand the purpose of masks. 

The thing is, commissioner, we don't wear masks that cover our nose and mouth to protect ourselves. That isn't their purpose at all. We wear masks that cover our nose and mouth to protect everyone else around us since 40 percent of infected people have no symptoms but are still contagious. They help prevent the droplets, large and minuscule, that come out of our nose and mouth when we cough, sneeze, laugh, sing, and even talk from reaching other people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing masks could reduce transmission by as much as 70 percent.  (The anti-MDHHS resolution passed, 5–2, with commissioners Betsy Coffia and Bryce Hundley offering up some common sense and opposing it.) 

Then, during the public comments at the meeting, a woman asked them to pass a resolution condemning the Proud Boys. Commissioner Ron Clous responded by disappearing from the screen — it was a Zoom meeting — and returning, proudly brandishing his beloved assault rifle. He claimed it wasn't to intimidate the speaker but to demonstrate his support of the Second Amendment. That would have been a nice gesture had the Second Amendment been the topic, but it was not. 

Unfortunately, both Clous and board chairman Rob Hentschel decided that would be a good time to defend the Proud Boys. They were, we were told, “decent guys” who “treated us with respect.” Uh-huh.

The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 as a self-described “Western chauvinist,” all-male organization. The FBI describes them as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” The Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as a “domestic terrorist hate group.”

If there's a protest that results in violence, it's a pretty good bet the Proud Boys are there. Members are now serving prison sentences for violent attacks in protests in Portland and have been arrested for similar acts in nearly a dozen locations around the country.

Five of their members, so far, have been arrested for participating in the attempted violent overthrow of our government in Washington on Jan. 6, including one who was recorded screaming, “... kill the b*****, kill all of them...” A former Proud Boy member was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News saying, “Most guys join just to fight.”

Yes, very decent and respectful and certainly worthy of support from Grand Traverse County Commissioners Clous and Hentschel.

They weren't quite done, though. Commissioner Jewett has now proposed commissioner's families should receive health insurance benefits mostly paid for by county taxpayers. Having only recently given themselves a 70 percent raise, they figured this would be an excellent time to get additional benefits for the whole family. It seems this board, most of whom claim to be hardcore fiscal conservatives, aren't quite so hardcore when it comes to feathering their own nests. 

They knew what the salaries and benefits were when they chose to run for office. They should have been willing to accept both, especially during a time of economic deprivation for so many.

Condemn the state for trying to protect our lives, praise the Proud Boys who have little concern for our lives, and then enrich their own lives. Yes, quite a month for some of our county board of commissioners. 


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