Last week, the duly elected Adams County commissioners voted to opt out of the excessive school mask mandate issued by Tri-County Health Department. The week before, Douglas County’s elected commissioners were the first to opt-out. Today, Arapahoe County’s commissioners were set to vote on the matter — but removed it from their meeting agenda. That’s because TCHD pulled the rug out from under them.
On Monday evening, without advanced public notice or any public comment, the unelected bureaucrats at TCHD voted 5-3 to replace the order with a more expansive one — and rescind the ability for each county to opt out.
Let that sink in.
An unelected body of bureaucrats just voted to strip power from elected officials in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties to make decisions on behalf of their county and voters.
Originally, TCHD’s order required mask wearing in “any indoor school setting” (traditional, charter, private or Sunday school) and any “indoor child care setting” for ALL children “2 years of age to and including 11 years of age, as well as all individuals working with or interacting with children 2 years of age to and including 11 years of age.” Rather than one-size-fits-all, each county could vote to opt out if they chose.
In their revised order, TCHD mandates mask wearing for children of all ages 2 and older in all school and child-care settings starting Sept. 1 and removes counties’ ability to opt-out regardless of circumstance. The requirement applies regardless of vaccination status.
What’s especially stunning is how most school districts already have their own mask mandates for students. Most of those orders have exempted vaccine-age students, however. Now, though, districts will have to change their policies yet again. For Cherry Creek Schools, this marks Mask Rule Change #4.
In short, after two counties rejected their wishes, TCHD haughtily overruled elected county commissioners as well as elected school boards.
Talk about hubris.
“The most important thing we can do for children’s mental health and well-being is to assure in-person learning and limit interruptions to this in-person learning by keeping children and the classrooms safe,” said Dr. John Douglas, executive director, in an attempt to mask his order as in the best interest of children’s mental health. Nonsense.
New York Magazine recently explored the shaky scientific evidence for masking children, especially young children, and how most European nations exempt kids from mask mandates because of their “potential academic and social harms for children.” The science of masking 2-year-olds is not settled.
Last week, I explored how school mask mandates “will stifle children’s emotional growth even more” and contended that “TCHD and school boards are culpable for any underdeveloped social and emotional growth of children due to school closures and mask mandates.”
I cited ample scientific evidence for my position. TCHD has failed to provide the people of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties with the slightest bit of compelling, scientific support for their order.
The debate over the efficacy and appropriateness of mask mandates is one thing. A power grab by an unelected board is another thing entirely.
The results of TCHD’s own survey clearly showed that 62% of all respondents oppose mandatory masking in schools under any circumstance. County commissioners in each jurisdiction were simply abiding by the wishes of their constituents.
How is it that Dr. John Douglas and his Tri-County tyrants have dismissed the will of the people, the will of their elected officials, scientific data AND the harmful consequences of their policies all in one fell swoop?
How is it that bureaucrats who have never once put their names on a ballot for public office to TCHD have circumvented those who have — and were voted into office by their constituents?
“We must now take the statutory responsibility and authority given to us by the Colorado Legislature to reduce the spread of communicable diseases and keep our communities safe,” Douglas insisted. More nonsense.
In his Federalist No. 51, James Madison offered a stirring admonition. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” he said. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
The “Father of the Constitution” understood government is necessary because human beings are imperfect creatures who require some oversight. However, Madison’s deep understanding of history taught him that government must have checks and balances. A government without limits inevitably leads to tyranny. Thus, governments require external controls (regular elections) and internal checks, such as three branches of government.
Madison was emphatic about this point. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,” Madison added, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place, oblige it to control itself.”
We certainly know that local governments have no trouble “controlling the governed” these days. But what about controlling themselves? Where are the controls on Tri-County Health Department?
The answer is quite clear: They exist within each elected board of county commissioners.
Will the commissioners in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties allow this usurpation of their authority to go unanswered? Or will they firmly rebuke TCHD for their excesses by refusing to implement the order within county boundaries — or, even better, vote to withdraw from TCHD altogether?
This test is now before each and every one of them — starting with Arapahoe County today.