Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, left, looks on as Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins speaks about a health care worker who provided hospital care for Thomas Eric Duncan who contracted Ebola, during a press conference at the hospital, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Dallas. Dr. David Varga, of the Texas Health Resource, says the worker was in full protective gear when they provided care to Duncan during his second visit to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Judge Clay Jenkins of Dallas County believes that the coronavirus pandemic is the time to spar with Texas Governor Greg Abbott. It’s a disgusting display that reveals Jenkins’ aspirations more than it reveals anything about Abbott.
The story so far is that the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center in Dallas was prepped to be used as a place for overflow in case the hospitals reached capacity. The KBH Center would house patients who no longer needed to be in the ICU.
Only, Dallas hasn’t got to that point and, thankfully, the city is still at only about 50 percent capacity. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas National Guard, who supplied the medical staff and supplies for the makeshift hospital, is saying that if Texas isn’t going to use the KBH Center for the sick, they need to take it all to where it’s needed most.
According to CBSDFW, Major General Mike Stone from the Army Corps of Engineers apparently had a conversation with Jenkins that left the Department of Defense confused. Apparently, Jenkins had no intention of moving the sick into the KBH Center.
As such, Stone left a message for Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd on Saturday telling him about the conversation.
“If you don’t know, late last night we had a call with Judge Clay Jenkins, he and his PHD have no intention of moving patients into the convention center and the Department of Defense is confused,” said Stone in a voicemail to Kidd.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson also seemed surprised and disappointed about the Judge’s decision.
“I share the Governor’s concerns, and I was stunned and deeply disappointed to hear about Dallas County’s position on the pop-up hospital at the City’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center,” said Johnson
The refusal to use the center prompted Chief of Staff Luis Saenz to publicly ask Jenkins whether or not he was going to use the facility in a letter. Jenkins responded, denying that he or anyone in his office said that they had no intention to utilize the KBH Center.
“I was both surprised and disappointed by your letter… The statement in your letter that says that a person representing Dallas County, or I, suggested that we “would not be using the [KBHCC] for hospital and healthcare use” is completely false…” wrote Jenkins.
He also complained that there were not open lines of communication between him and the Governor’s office and that drafting letters doesn’t compare to giving Jenkins a phone call, adding that his office was open to calls from the Governor’s office 24 hours a day.
— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) April 6, 2020
Jenkins later said that there “must have been a miscommunication” but added that it’s hard for me to understand how this happened.”
Miscommunications happen and if the story ended there, then this wouldn’t be that big of a story. The problem is that Jenkins’ solution to this was to begin publicly attacking Abbott over social media, accusing Abbott of not communicating with him. What’s more, it’s not just attacks about the KBH Center, but about WIC allowances.
Aside from social media rants and publicly released letters, Jenkins has not attempted to communicate with Abbott’s office. As Abbott said in a conference on Monday, he hasn’t had one line of communication from Jenkins about any issue involving COVID-19.
“I checked, and according to my office, we’ve had zero inquiries or phone calls from the Dallas County judge ever, with regard to COVID-19,” Abbott said. “I have hosted multiple telephone town hall conferences for mayors and county judges. There have been, often, at least 1,000 local elected officials on those calls, I don’t know whether the county judge was on there or not, but, bottom line, I’ve never heard from him.”
As I said earlier, miscommunications happen, but Jenkins’ “miscommunications” seem to come with a lot of communications on social media that are designed to make Abbott look like an uncaring, uncommunicative leader. Jenkins could have picked up the phone himself and alerted the Governor’s office after the letter went through, but he settled instead for a social media spat where the court of public opinion would be in session. If Jenkins is trying to look like a brave hero for Dallas, he’s looking more like a politically posturing opportunist in the same vein as San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz, sans the dramatic hats and t-shirts.
It’s understandable that Jenkins would want the KBH Center just in case there is overflow as Dallas is projected to hit its peak later this month. However, at 50 percent capacity and with the curve flattening, it may not get to that point.
Meanwhile, there are places that need those medical supplies and staff now. They don’t belong to Dallas, and where the feds want to take these resources is up to them. Even Abbott has confessed that he’s not sure where the feds will take it all if they move out of the KBH Center.
Jenkins could have acted quickly to clear up any miscommunications, but he clearly isn’t. He’s settling for public squabbles. No matter how you slice it, he doesn’t look good right now. If he wants open lines of communication, then he should begin communicating in a professional manner.