Will O’Neill, the mayor of Newport Beach, California, is accusing Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) of abusing his powers by closing down beaches in Orange County in the state’s effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Orange County had not closed its beaches, and many flocked to the shore last weekend because of warm temperatures. Photographs published by news agencies, taken near ground level, suggested crowding, but ,any photographs taken from above, or by beachgoers themselves, suggested people were more spread out.
In response to controversy, Newport Beach decided last week to keep the beaches open, but to increase law enforcement efforts to patrol social distancing. Newsom responded by closing all the beaches in the county.
In an op-ed published Saturday at RealClearPolitics, O’Neill argued that Newsom had exceeded his authority:
Los Angeles County, which has implemented the most draconian beach closures in the country, has in excess of 1,000 coronavirus deaths. Orange County, which has consistently taken a less restrictive approach, has had 45 deaths going into this weekend. Orange County’s population of 3.3 million is larger than 22 states. If it were a state, Orange County’s death rate of 0.0014% would be the 49th lowest in the country.
Against this backdrop of public health – and in favor of placing data and reality over politics and hysteria – the Newport Beach City Council voted this week to keep its beaches open.
However, 428 miles away in Sacramento and without consulting with a single Newport Beach official, Gov. Gavin Newsom decided to substitute his will for our judgment, shutting down the entire 42 miles of Orange County coastline, including Newport’s. He did this in part based upon widely disseminated and wildly misleading media photographs taken to give the false impression that Newport’s beaches were packed with people that were declining to use distancing. Local fire and police authorities reviewed this media depiction and agreed that it was misleading. What they “observed from land and by air was the vast majority of beach goers practicing social distancing.”
The fundamental question is whether Californians going to the beach is dangerous. A governor who shuts down beaches in the name of health and safety when open beaches do not actually threaten health or safety exceeds his Constitutional authority. The idea that Californians are in greater danger at the beach than they are when visiting Costco or Walmart, or for that matter, an open marijuana dispensary, is preposterous.
Read the full op-ed here.
Separately, in the Wall Street Journal, Allysia Finley noted in an op-ed titled “The Road to Surfdom” that Newsom’s beach closures disproportionately affected poorer California residents:
This isn’t only a fight between county conservatives and Sacramento liberals. It’s also an example of how progressives hurt the low-income people they claim to help. Mr. Newsom says he doesn’t want people coming to the coast and spreading the virus, which has hit inland counties harder. Riverside County has three times as many fatalities per capita as Orange.
But beach closings are much easier on people who can afford backyard pools. Because it’s hotter inland, those who live there have to pay more to cool their homes. Electricity prices in California are among the highest in the country because of the state’s green-energy mandates. But let them bake.
Further, while many suburban hiking and biking trails remain open, the parking lots are closed, so only affluent neighbors can enjoy them. Parks and playgrounds are closed, but kids whose families have large backyards can run around. Those in apartments are stuck inside.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.