Empower Wisconsin | June 24, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
OSHKOSH, Wis. — Racine’s liberal-led government has no intention of giving back its power, a fact it the City Council punctuated this week in another sneak attack on liberty.
At a hastily called special meeting, the Racine City Council voted (9-5 )to give an unelected health bureaucrat the power to close businesses and lockdown the city at will in response to COVID-19.
Despite public opposition, the council shoved through the new rules and regulations a few days after Racine County Circuit Court Judge Jon Fredrickson issued a temporary injunction stopping the city’s myriad restrictions that have driven businesses to the brink of extinction and kept many of its citizens unemployed.
The judge said there is evidence to suggest Racine’s health department overstepped its authority. Racine Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox fired off a defiant statement asserting, “If the orders I issued kept one family safe or saved one life, it was the right thing.” Her only regret, it seems, is that she had only one life to give for her power-grabbing bureaucracy.
Dottie-Kay’s pals on the City Council backed her up, and crafted new rules to get around the old Forward Racine regs the city put in place.
Racine, like fellow Dem-led Wisconsin cities Madison and Milwaukee, didn’t get the hint when the Wisconsin Supreme Court on May 13 struck down the Evers administration’s lockdown, innocuously named the Safer at Home executive order. The edict effectively shut down Wisconsin’s economy, forcing “nonessential” businesses to shut down, banning travel, and driving the state’s unemployment rate to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
Unlike most of the state, Racine didn’t heed the Supreme Court’s ruling. Instead it doubled down on the state’s mandate until it was originally set to expire on May 26, then it adopted the glacial Forward Racine reopening plan.
Other local governments, too, have tried to quietly pass expanded health orders with “police powers.” Some counties have encountered stiff opposition to the proposals.
David Yandel, the owner of Harbor Park CrossFit on Racine’s Blue River Avenue, sued the city and Dottie-Kay, alleging the the restrictive rules were unconstitutional, and they were killing businesses like his.
Yandel told Empower Wisconsin that he knows he’s “rattled a few cages” in a city that is “trying to impose its power.”
“I had a win last Friday. They didn’t like that,” he said. “I’m a small business playing with a big government. They definitely don’t like that.”
He said city officials intended to sneak through the rule changes. They quietly released the special meeting agenda on Sunday afternoon — when no one was looking.
Yandel said the city didn’t ask for input, and it doesn’t want it. That’s the problem. A one-size-fits-all health order in the hands of an unelected bureaucrat is asking for sweeping abuse of civil liberties, he said.
“My plan is to keep standing up for my rights as long as I can,” he said. “Hopefully more people will stand up and support me. We don’t need the government constantly imposing regulations, rules and laws. We’re not communist Russia or Nazi Germany. Yes, safety is a concern and I take that very seriously, but I’m an adult and I can make good decisions.”
Not under Racine’s health rules.
Proponents of handing over more power to the health officer point to Racine’s coronavirus cases. As of Monday, Racine had recorded 1,435 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 312 of those active, with 23 deaths. It also counted 1,100 residents who have recovered.
“While our infection rate is still four times the state average, we have seen a 33% reduction in infection rates. The judge’s recklessness jeopardizes the public health gains we have made and will endanger the health of our residents,” Left-wing Racine Mayor Cory Mason wrote in a statement following the judge’s decision.
“We need to recognize that we didn’t ask for this virus but we still have to deal with this virus,” said Alderman Jason Meekma, according to the Racine Journal Times. “It is not over even if we are over it.”
Alderman Jeff Coe voted against the measure.
“I know more than anyone else that COVID-19 is no joke. I had it,” said Coe, the newspaper reported. “We trusted our businesses to operate in our city. We have to trust our business owners to keep their customers safe.”
Yandel said the business that he and his wife have worked so hard to build, and thousands of others just like theirs, will be “over” if local governments are allowed to continue to lock down their citizens.
“I told my staff, if they lock us down again, you guys won’t have a job,” said Yandel, who added that he paid his employees full wages during the run of the lockdown, even as he and his wife didn’t draw a salary. “If I’m forced to close again, there is no way to fight back.”