Image: Schoolchildren have vast ability to learn. The big question, which Texas citizens must ask, is whether Texas county governments have the cognitive skills to learn from their tragic mistakes one year ago, when they acted out of panic and fear in response to the China Virus?
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, March 18 – A year ago, in a panicked reaction to data-less reports, which were little more than scare tactics, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough began issuing mandates in fear of the China Virus and the possible deaths and illness it might bring. Please see “One Year ago One Man destroyed Montgomery County’s local economy,” The Golden Hammer, March 17, 2021 https://thegoldenhammer.net/one-year-ago-one-man-destroyed-montgomery-countys-local-economy/
Rather than following Texas law, which provides some emergency powers to the Governor, Keough issued illegal mandates, which:
- Shut down local restaurants, bars, gyms, and movie theaters;
- Eventually closed churches and prevented them from worshipping;
- Locked down the free movement of citizens;
- Only allowed certain chosen businesses, such as liquor stores, car dealerships (Keough was in the car business), and grocery stores, to remain open; and
- Imposed a curfew.
In reality, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared on November 3, 2020, “County judges and mayors do not have independent authority to issue emergency orders carrying the force and effect of law, as this is not one of the powers granted to such local officials under section 418.108.” In other words, Keough’s “mandates” actually carried no force of law and, even worse, violated Texas law.
Keough’s curfew order, which he issued on March 27, 2020, was completely out of the bounds of any authority he had, even though Keough threatened individuals with jail time and stiff fines for violations of any of his orders.
Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson approached the circumstances with far greater sobriety in making clear his patrol officers would not enforce the mandates. Nevertheless, Keough’s orders decimated local businesses, resulted in local unemployment above twenty-five percent (25%) by April, 2020, and caused suicides and family violence to spike. Suicides greatly exceeded deaths from the China Virus in Montgomery County, although the County government has now sought to hide the data from the public.
None of the harm came from Commissioners Court action, because the Commissioners Court never ratified any of Keough’s illegal mandates.
Keough’s alarm rose to its greatest level of panic the morning of Friday, March 27, when he reacted to a data report from the Montgomery County Public Health District (MCPHD), which predicted one hundred thousand cases (100,000) of China Virus by April 24 and between one thousand (1,000) and five thousand (5,000) deaths by that time as well. Now, a year later, Montgomery County suffered 261 deaths from the China Virus amid 47,666 cases.
Last Saturday, Chris Grice, a Board member of the Montgomery County Hospital District, which oversees the MCPHD, acknowledged in a public meeting on Saturday, March 13, 2021, “We had no way of knowing what the cases would be.” State Representative Steve Toth noted, “There was no statistical basis for the Public Health District study and it was clear from the face of the study.”
It’s unclear whether Keough destroyed his political future. He’s up for re-election in 2022. He already faces a strong challenger in Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack (who will not officially announce he’s running until December). Keough’s poor handling of the China Virus response clearly has harmed his stature. His own legal problems – he recently pled guilty to DWI (for causing a major accident on September 10, 2020, in which he hit a vehicle and kept driving and then hit a police vehicle and caused substantial injury to two different people, while on high dosage levels of Ambien and amphetamines) and his ineffective style, which failed to address any of the reforms he promised he’d implement if elected as County Judge – may harm Keough’s political fate almost as much as his violations of Texas law during his China Virus panic.
At this point, however, Montgomery County, its citizens, and all county governments should ask: (1) what have we learned from the China Virus panic a year ago and (2) what may we do to prevent illegal mandates from happening again?
What have we learned from the China Virus panic a year ago?
The main lesson learned from the China Virus panic a year ago is that government over-reacted to it. Public health agencies, such as MCPHD and the United States Centers for Disease Control, quickly issued prognostications of tens of millions or even a hundred million deaths in the United States alone. They spoke without any factual basis. They urged action without any statistics anywhere, even from similar diseases in the past. Clearly, government is far from competent when it comes to data analysis or meaningful projections.
The problem, however, was in government’s own reaction to its own scare tactics. Keough ignored the paucity of statistical basis in the public health reports. Instead, he feared that he would become the scapegoat, if he failed to take extreme action. Instead of acting with courage or leadership, Keough over-reacted to protect his stature. His declaration of a curfew, upon which he had no legal authority whatsoever, was solely a reaction to a person situation he has experienced, although he disclosed that personal reaction to very few people in the community out of embarrassment.
What we also learned from the China Virus panic is that government and the liberal news media will not stop at any level of scare tactics in the quest to prod Americans to adopt collectivism, rather than individual liberty, as their fundamental philosophy.
The deaths, the economic losses, the families destroyed, and the individual suffering came more from the government’s terrible handling of the China Virus than it did from the China Virus itself. It was a perfect illustration that what government does, outside of national defense and police protection, government always does badly and in a manner to disrupt the strength of life achieved in free markets.
What may we do to prevent illegal mandates from happening again?
At the state level, the Texas Legislature is attempting to address how to avoid a dictatorial governor’s edicts, as what Texans saw come from Governor Greg Abbott. So far, the Legislature appears on track to do a poor job of addressing that problem and, through the efforts of moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats, may make matters worse by expanding upon the Governor’s powers.
At the local level, such as in corrupt Montgomery County, there are some actions, which citizens and their commissioners court should take:
- In passing annual budgets, Commissioners Courts should make clear that no funds shall be spent on enforcement of mandates under Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code, because those mandates are illegal and in direct violation of Texas law and the Texas Constitution.
- If a County Judge issues even one mandate, no matter how slight, Commissioners Court should refuse to renew their local disaster declaration every 30 days. In Montgomery County, despite Keough’s destruction of the local community (businesses, churches, and families) through his mandates, the Commissioners Court blindly renewed its local disaster declaration every 30 days. Those local disaster declarations were completely unnecessary, because the State and the federal government had already declared a federal disaster, which include Montgomery County. The sole benefit of the local disaster declaration was to give Keough cover (illegally).
- If a Commissioners Court receives federal stimulus funds, as did the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, at least two-thirds (2/3rds) of those funds must go to private businesses to assist them rather than to support government operations. Unlike county governments in many states of the United States, most Texas counties distributed the CARES Act stimulus funds to themselves rather than to the private businesses which required economic stimulus to stay afloat.
- County governments should stay out of the healthcare provision business. The Montgomery County Public Health District is truly the bad actor in the China Virus story, but the Montgomery County Hospital District, which oversees, MCPHD cannot evade culpability. Similarly, Keough and his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps have spent tens of millions of dollars establishing County government-run vaccine dispensaries, when those vaccines should have gone only to private hospitals and healthcare providers who are already ready and capable of rendering those services.
The real China Virus disaster is the one Keough, Montgomery County’s government, and other local governments are seeking to hide: the death, misfortune, and suffering, which government wrought, in its panicked response. We cannot allow that to happen again.