JEERS ... to Nez Perce County Sheriff Joe Rodriguez and Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz.
They’re among a handful of county law enforcement leaders across the state who have abdicated their duties. Rodriguez and Goetz told Freedom Man PAC, a right-wing, coronavirus-denying political action committee, that they will not enforce Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home order.
Sure, there is such a thing as discretion. But here’s how that works: A cop can decide how to enforce the law. To assure that a speeding driver will obey the traffic laws in the future, an officer may decide a warning is sufficient.
That same cop has no authority to decide what laws he will enforce and what laws he will not. Otherwise, he becomes a king.
Rodriguez and Goetz can’t say Little’s order isn’t lawful. On the governor’s side is the U.S. Constitution, state statutes and even a U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
Neither can they say the governor is shutting his ears to the public voice. A poll commissioned by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry says 75.5 percent of Idahoans support him.
And while the shut-down order is economically painful, most people are complying — voluntarily — because they know social distancing is the most effective tool they have to fight a deadly, contagious virus.
So who are Rodriguez and Goetz looking after?
Each has a primary election challenge next week — Rodriguez faces Patrol Sgt. Patrick Santos while Goetz is running against James D. Garrison and Don Denison.
This couldn’t be about winning votes, could it?
JEERS ... to Pullman City Councilor Al Sorensen.
Whitman County had gone three weeks without a new COVID-19 case and can apply for more leniency under Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan.
But last week, Sorensen suggested a positively Trumpian approach: Stop testing.
“And honestly in my opinion, this three-week waiting period of no new cases makes me think that maybe we shouldn’t get tested,” Sorensen told his fellow councilors and Mayor Glenn Johnson. “Let’s get to 21 days and go.”
Now you can argue whether the absence of new cases is the right metric for reopening the economy. Perhaps the lack of newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients among the vulnerable populations would be a more accurate standard.
But to game the system by abandoning testing — especially in a university town located on a major highway to Spokane and eight miles away from the Idaho border?
What happens when a woman with suspicious symptoms is ignored? And what about the people she came into close contact with? If you can’t track them, you have a recipe for a new outbreak.
How would that help rejuvenate the economy?
CHEERS ... to Clarkston Police Chief Joel Hastings.
On Monday, he outlined a plan to give Clarkston High School’s class of 2020 a worthy send-off.
This pandemic and the shut-down it generated has robbed graduating seniors of their last few months in classes, proms, social events and farewells. Given social distancing requirements, a traditional commencement exercise is out of the question.
But at least in Clarkston, those students will have a June 6 graduation ceremony they’ll be able to tell their own children about.
Much like the approach envisioned for Lewiston High School’s commencement, this procession of automobiles will involve students and first-responders. Launched at Lincoln Middle School, it will pass each of Clarkston’s elementary schools and arrive at the high school.
Graduates will arrive by separate vehicles and obtain their diplomas while a drone overhead captures the moment.
Good for them.
CHEERS ... to the people at the University of Idaho, the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre and the city of Moscow.
All three converged on the same great idea — if the COVID-19 pandemic means you can’t bring people to the movies, bring the movies to the people.
In other words: recreate the drive-in theater experience.
Beginning Saturday and each week thereafter through June 6, the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center parking lot will offer what the Moscow-Pullman Daily News’ Scott Jackson described as a “reasonably new movie” to people in about 140 cars properly spaced about 12 feet apart.
First up is last year’s “Yesterday,” a must for any Beatles fan. Showtime is 8 p.m. It’s free, but it’s first come, first served.
How’s that for ingenuity?
JEERS ... to state Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston.
The Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council has included Kingsley as among those who are urging Congress not to pass a bailout package to help states cope with the worst economy since the Great Recession of 2009, if not the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In Idaho, Gov. Little already has proposed a 5 percent holdback and almost $99 million in cuts to the public school budget. In the background are questions about how long the state can rely on its rainy day accounts and the wobbling finances of its institutions of higher learning — especially if student enrollment slides sharply next fall.
But the state is stuck. Its revenues are tied to consumer spending and incomes — both of which are volatile. The state constitution mandates a balanced budget. Given the conservative leanings of its elected officials, the budget will be balanced with cuts.
Standing as an alternative to hacking away at schools and other programs is the federal government’s ability to borrow money in an emergency and distribute it to the states.
Without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the cuts to Idaho’s public schools would have come sooner and would have been deeper. The extra money expanded benefits for the unemployed, helped the state cover its Medicaid costs and stimulate the economy through public works projects.
Who would reject that idea out of hand?
Besides Kingsley, the only Idahoans signing the ALEC statement were Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens and former Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden.
But Kingsley represents Lewis-Clark State College and the Lewiston School District, among others. Why is his name on that letter? — M.T.