During the past few weeks, as hospitals remained empty and models are revised downward, Texas’ grassroots citizens have pushed back against and scored victories over local government overreach into their lives during the Chinese coronavirus outbreak. Will our elected officials finally listen and start leading the reopening of Texas?
I first noticed rumblings in our community around the time that Tarrant County Judge—and spokesman for the county’s commissioners—Glen Whitley issued orders closing many small businesses, stopping worship, and authorizing “the County to commandeer or use any private property as provided by law.”
Frustration among the grassroots began to simmer.
In North Texas’ Collin County, McKinney resident Derek Baker sued the city of McKinney for Mayor George Fuller’s “shelter-in-place” order, arguing it conflicted with and should be subservient to the county’s order. The city was also warned by a conservative public interest law firm that some of its prohibitions on religious gatherings violated state law and the U.S. Bill of Rights.
Baker lost—the presiding judge said the city council passed an ordinance superseding Fuller’s—but Fuller promised to work with Baker on getting more people back to work. The city council also struck down some of the religious prohibitions. The first victory.
Then came Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who threatened to extend the county’s shelter-in-place order to May 20. The grassroots exploded, Jenkins backed down and shortened it to April 30, and Dallas County’s commissioners voted to limit his authority, requiring commissioner approval before extending shelter-in-place beyond April 30. The second victory.
That conflict also revealed that the coronavirus prediction model Dallas was using was flawed. Along came more revelations about flawed data in Dallas and Tarrant counties, and word of empty hospitals despite the warnings all of us were given.
The grassroots pressed on. During Passover week, Judge Whitley stated all in-person worship was banned, conflicting with the Tarrant County Commissioners Court order. An uprising of voters contacting the commissioners, led by conservative leaders like Julie McCarty and Fran Rhodes, resulted in the commissioners forcing Whitley to replace his previous statement and only encourage people not to worship together. All within 24 hours.
Fort Worth had a similar ban in place until questions posed by Fort Worth voters led the city to rewrite the language to allow drive-in services in church parking lots, so long as worshippers remained in their cars.
Then last week, having not learned his lesson, Jenkins decided to follow Travis County by mandating that masks be worn in Dallas County. Again, the grassroots took him to the woodshed, mobilizing Dallas County’s commissioners to call an emergency meeting and not only strike down any enforcement of the mandate, but they managed to have craft stores begin reopening as well. All within 24 hours of Jenkins’ action.
That same day in South Texas, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough ended the county’s shelter-in-place order and curfew. Earlier that week, Collin County announced they would make plans for reopening.
This is on top of calls and open letters pouring into Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, which has thus far resulted in him moving—albeit slowly—to take action on reopening Texas.
The point is this: you—the everyday Texan—are winning. Your voice is being heard, and little by little, local government officials across our state are starting to fall back.
Do not give up hope. Keep pressing on in the knowledge of who God made us to be—and that we were destined to be free.
Officials can no longer suspend our Constitution for their own power. Texans can, and will, be both vigilant and cautious as the Chinese coronavirus situation continues to develop.
And to the elected officials: you wanted to be leaders, so now is your time to lead. Don’t wait to be pushed by the voters. Their desire is clear, from the city council to the governor’s mansion: lead the process of reopening Texas. The dam is breaking. Protests are popping up statewide, and if you don’t lead now, you might be washed away by the will of the people come election time.
Press onwards to liberty, my fellow Texans.