Localities Increasingly Pushing Back Against Governor Newsom’s Lockdown Order

Written by Nicholas Vetrisek

Last Thursday, Governor Newsom closed Orange County beaches and has since begun receiving pushback from localities.

Soon after he announced the closure, Huntington Beach and Dana Point sued and are currently challenging the state in court. Newsom has repeatedly claimed that he is working with localities, but the results are looking to be quite the opposite. He has emphasized his “partnership with local leaders across the state” and mentioned that 200 state parks currently remain open, but local leaders do not see it that way. 

For example, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Chief of Staff Aimee Faucett tweeted:

In addition, a top Newsom administration official told reporters that the governor’s advisors originally requested a statewide closure, but after hearing local leaders’ concerns, Newsom decided to focus on Orange County.

Further underscoring the lack of cooperation at the state and local level, many officials are now refusing to obey the state. When initial reports came out stating that Governor Newsom would close all beaches, many officials refused to submit and the Humboldt County Sheriff even stated that he wouldn’t enforce the rule because it was unconstitutional.

Furthermore, many counties that have had no cases or a miniscule number are already beginning to open, further defying the governor. Modoc County, which thus far has had zero positive coronavirus cases, is easing restrictions in defiance of the state order.

Other counties, including San Luis Obispo, Tehama, Yuba, Stanislaus, Butte, Glenn, Sutter and Colusa, have also requested that the governor loosen their restrictions. There have also been numerous protests against the shelter-in-place order, including at least two in the state capital.

If Governor Newsom wants to show true leadership and cooperation, he should adopt decentralized command. Decentralized command is when a leader chooses to delegate to his subordinates and allow them to make decisions for themselves because they are on the ground and know the situation best.

Governor Newsom may have a good deal of information regarding the coronavirus, but he is not omniscient. What works for Los Angeles County, an area with over 24,000 cases, may not work for Modoc County, an area with zero. To better resolve the crisis, the governor should allow individual counties to decide whether or not they can reopen because—as evidenced by the defiant officials in Humboldt and Modoc—his statewide approach is not working.