The Runback: Abuse of Power
Anne Arundel County is what happens when a failed politician who lives in another county gets appointed your Health Officer
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News and Politics
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The Monday Thought
What a mess.
Here in Anne Arundel County on Friday, the County Council took up the issue of the seven-day masked mandate and the State of Emergency issued by County Executive and wealthy horseman Steuart Pittman.
Hilariously, the mandate and the State of Emergency expired before the Council even got to vote on them. One of the reasons that the mandate is expired is because so many people testified in favor of the mandate. The meeting began at 8 AM and the order expired at 12 Noon. Over 120 people verbally testified on the mandate and Order, pushing the vote until 2:30. By the time the Council got around to voting, there was realistically nothing to vote on because both the mandate and the State of Emergency had already expire.
The Council voted anyway, which was almost certainly procedurally invalid; you can’t vote to extend something that had already expired and was no longer in effect. The Council voted 4-3 in favor of the Mandate and the State of Emergency. However, that was not enough since the votes required five council members to vote in favor.
And that still wasn’t the most inappropriate government action of the day.
Shortly after the Council did not extend the mandate and the State of Emergency, County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman extended the mask mandate by fiat. Pittman of course backed him up.
The people of Anne Arundel County, through their County Council, spoke. Pittman did not have the votes to extend the mandate and his State of Emergency. So once both legally expired, Pittman and Kalyanaraman did an end-around of the County Council and did it anyway.
This is the exact kind of response you would expect from an accidental County Executive and his sidekick, a failed politician who lives in Baltimore County who should have been fired after spouting racist ideas last year.
Pittman and Kalyanaraman are basing this order on their interpretation of State Law. However, after speaking with several attorneys, I have a different reading of the law. Under the law, Kalyanaraman can do this IF and ONLY IF he gets approval from either Governor Larry Hogan or State Health Secretary Dennis Schrader. To my knowledge, neither the Governor nor the State Health Secretary have given such approval. If it’s been given, nobody is talking about it.
This is going to end up in court. The County is likely to lose. And the entire thing has engendered mass confusion across Anne Arundel County. In the span of a few hours, we went from having a mask mandate to not have a mask mandate to maybe having a mask mandate but nobody really sure if there is a mandate or not. And anecdotally, most people are not wearing masks in Anne Arundel County right now.
As far as Steuart Pittman goes, this is the kind of failed leadership that makes you lose re-election. Empowering your handpicked unelected bureaucrats to abuse their authority is no way to run a county. That being said, if Pittman believes in this and he knows it's political suicide I'd actually respect him more. But I know that he doesn't because Steuart Pittman lives in an echo chamber of people who only tell him what he already believes. He does not live in the real world like the rest of us
This isn’t even about the mandate at this point. Many of longtime readers know that I have been much more supportive of vaccines, mask, and other mandates early part of the pandemic. But I have also followed the science, which shows that the Omicron variant is small enough to penetrate the fabric masks that most of us are wearing. So what really is the point of a mask mandate at all if, in this instance, the masks are ineffective? That makes this order little more than performative political theater.
Why are Pittman and Kalyanaraman insisting upon exceeding their authority to do this when it doesn’t even work?
(What’s effective in preventing serious illness is getting the vaccine. Get the damn vaccine, if you have not done so already)
What it’s really about is the abuse of power by Steuart Pittman and Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman for instituting a measure rejected by the County Council by fiat. No unelected bureaucrat can override the legislature, even if they weren’t a failed politician who lives in Baltimore County.