In a move that makes him look even more petty and dictatorial than before, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that he’s announcing state parks and beach closures only in Orange County this weekend instead of closing state parks and state beaches throughout the entire state as he’d planned, and which my colleague Kira Davis reported.
The reasoning outlined by Newsom in the press conference was nonsensical and inconsistent. More likely is that Newsom wants to punish Orange County officials, whom he sees as uncooperative (despite his public claims), particularly Supervisor and former Assemblymember Don Wagner.
Orange County was one of the Republican Party’s last strongholds in the state until the 2018 election, in which Democrats swept all seven House seats in the county. Areas around Newport Beach, though, are still heavily conservative, and the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to reopen businesses in the county on a different schedule than Newsom’s. Wagner surprised Newsom during Wednesday’s press conference, stating that Orange County Sheriffs will not ticket people.
Newsom does not handle being challenged very well, and is making sure that any other counties looking to defy him the way Orange County has understand that there are consequences.
Before announcing a “hard close” of state beaches in Orange County, Newsom talked about all of the state parks and recreational opportunities open to Californians and asserted that “we can’t be driven by ideology.”
The images we saw on a number of our beaches [last weekend] were disturbing….I’ve been led by my health directors… that feel we need to address that a little bit more specifically, in a targeted way….So today we want to make some clarifications. We’re going to do a hard close in that part of the state, just in the Orange County area. We’re working with the county.
We’re gonna have a temporary pause on the beaches down there, state and local beaches. If we can get some framework and guidelines to get this right, we can reopen very, very quickly. But we’ve gotta make sure we can get this right….That’s why I hope you take a look at all of the new outdoor activities that are absolutely allowable, things that were already allowable that may not have been as clear.
In other words, Newsom said that because he saw some photos on the news that were incontrovertible evidence that those dumb MAGAts in Orange County weren’t giving him proper deference, he’s going to close their beaches, but it’s totally based on science and not ideology, and hey, here are all of the things on your “approved” list of activities.
That’s not how this works, Governor. It’s okay to practice social distancing on beaches in Ventura or Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo counties but not Orange County? Of course, you didn’t have to implement this in San Diego or Los Angeles County because the officials there on board with whatever you say.
Warden Newsom then launched into the, “It’s for your own good” part of the announcement. One thing progressives are amazingly consistent about is their belief that “normal people” don’t have the brain power to study an issue and make their own decisions.
[I’m] passionate about your right and our collective responsibility not only to give you access, but to keep you safe. That’s an and, not an or. And my job as governor is to keep you safe. When our health folks tell me they can’t promise that if we promote another weekend like we had, I have to make this adjustment.
The health folks can’t promise our safety ANY day, Governor.
Newsom then claimed the closure is a targeted, focused measure to “solve a health problem…to mitigate one that could grow into the future.” But hey, when typhus was spreading in downtown Los Angeles last year and infecting city workers (including LAPD officers), no biggie.
State Sen. John Moorlach, who represents Orange County, issued a statement responding to Newsom’s targeted measure and highlighting the inconsistency of allowing people to shop but not go to the beach.
“Governor Newsom just doesn’t seem to get it.
“Orange County residents have been responsible. They’ve followed healthcare officials’ prudent recommendations and respected the science. The County hasn’t seen the ‘surge’ in its hospitals, and six weeks into this shelter-in-place order, the beach may be the best medicine.
“We need to trust people. If our citizens exercise proper social distancing, then we should allow access to the beaches. If you’re part of a vulnerable group, shame on you for going to the beach.
“Indeed, we allow shoppers to go to the grocery store with proper social distancing. Why not the beaches?
“Let’s continue to allow the science and facts be our guide. With proper social distancing, the beaches can offer an important relief from the stresses of this pandemic. Let people have access to these facilities.”
For reference, here are some photos taken in Newport Beach last weekend.
#Beaches: @NewportBeachPD release 2 photos taken at 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon saying: “What we observed from land & by air was the vast majority of beach goers practicing social distancing. There were, in places, some clusters of people that were not social distancing. @NBCLA pic.twitter.com/oZ7SsUj8fS
— Mekahlo Medina (@MekahloNBCLA) April 30, 2020
During the Q and A portion of the press conference a Los Angeles Times reporter asked Newsom what changed his mind about a statewide closure and what caused him to pull back. Newsom claimed it was always just an Orange County thing:
We never did. This is exactly the conversations we were having. So no, this is consistent with what I’ve been saying.
At the end of the press conference another reporter asked Newsom point-blank about the memo that started it all, a memo that was emailed Wednesday to all police chiefs in the state. The memo, from the California Police Chiefs Association, stated that their Executive Committee had a call with the Chief of Law Enforcement Division of CalOES, the California Highway Patrol Commissioner, and officials from California State Parks, and were informed that Newsom would be closing all state parks and beaches for the upcoming weekend. Newsom’s response?
“That was their memo. I wasn’t made aware of it.”
For LA’s Bill Melugin, who reported on the memo last night after a source provided it to him, called Newsom out on his reply.
Newsom really threw the Police Chiefs Association under the bus and essentially said their memo was untruthful, though it is very, very specific in terms of who conversations were with, etc. I’ve reached out to the association for their response. Did Newsom call an audible? pic.twitter.com/JLw1OguPIH
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) April 30, 2020
So, are there rogue agencies claiming things are going to happen that are not in your plan, Governor? Are you saying they lied? Why would they do that? It makes no sense.
What makes sense is that you pulled back from your original position after seeing that if you followed through you would see civil disobedience on a level not seen in this state since the 1960s. You couldn’t resist the urge to punish Orange County, though, and your singling out could actually be more harmful in the long run than if you had gone ahead with a statewide closure. Now, all Californians who want to resist your unconstitutional and overbroad actions have one place to gather this weekend instead of being spread throughout the state.