Thom Collier head shot

Knox County Commissioner Thom Collier

An open letter to our state leaders in Ohio.

Even though I am an elected official and have been deeply involved in local and state politics for more than 20 years, I avoid posting anything political on my personal Facebook page. Today is the exception.

I begin by saying I know and have worked with both Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted personally and I respect both of them as honorable men who have a long history of stellar public service. In fact, I am proud to call them friends.

I know and respect people on both sides of the current issues. I have close friends who are active in Open Ohio Now movement and those who support the continued Stay At Home order.

I have a very close friend who has suffered with ALL of the symptoms of Coronavirus, including a consistent high fever for more than six weeks (but still can’t get tested so I can’t say with certainty they have it). I have seen the pain, suffering, and misery they have gone through in fighting this battle. I personally know people who have died from COVID-19.

I have close friends who are business owners struggling through this time of closure and others who are prospering under it and many at some point in between.

I know the leaders in the healthcare and public health sectors and believe they have our best interest at heart. I also acknowledge that there is much we do not know about the virus, how it is spread, it’s symptoms, how to treat it, etc. The decision makers base their decisions on the best models, projections, and information they have at the time. I can appreciate that.

I share all of this to say I have not only seen and heard all sides, I have close personal relationships with individuals who are making decisions and experiencing the affects of ALL aspects of this pandemic.

I understand difficult and often unpopular decisions that must be made in public leadership positions. I know the struggle of making the best decisions you can based on the most reliable information you can obtain from the most respected sources. Therefore, my comments should not be construed as simply critical of those who have made difficult decisions on either side.

I believe the current administration started out strong and decisive, weighing the consequences of their actions and originally made difficult decisions we could all get behind even though they were difficult.

Since mid-March, I believe they have lost a great deal of credibility and it makes it more difficult to follow in lockstep with their orders. I site the following examples (although certainly not a comprehensive list) that have impacted my views and I believe many others.

Strike 1 -- Throughout early March, the administration, including the Gov., Lt. Gov., Dr. Acton and Sec. of a State LaRose, spent weeks assuring us how safe the voting process is, and the great precautions they were taking to hold the election. Then, the night before the election they turned it over to a court. When the court disagreed with their proposal they had Dr. Acton cancel the election by order of Public Health early on the morning of Election Day. They could have taken this approach from the beginning but only did so when other, more judicial approaches did not favor their desired outcome sending Ohio into a sea of frustration and confusion.

Strike 2 -- The Gov. added further chaos by picking a seemingly arbitrary date of June 2 for the Primary Election only to have the legislature take a more reasonable approach of April 28, leaving many voters in a tailspin trying to understand why the Gov., who told them voting was safe from March 5 through 15, told them it was NOT safe on March 16, and that the new election date was June 2 (even through he had no authority to set the date) only to ultimately determine the date was April 28 and only by mail.

Strike 3 -- The administration spent weeks telling us that masks made little or no difference in the spread of the Coronavirus and to save these items for our healthcare workers who were in desperate need, only to turn around and mandate their use, oops... recommend them, oops, mandate them for workers but recommend them for customers, oops, I mean ... Most of us don’t know to this day who should wear them, who must wear them and where they must be worn. State, county, and local officials are still giving conflicting information about who can and should do what. Once again the citizens grow more and more weary of indecisive, unpredictable mandates that don’t seem to be based in fact or reason.

Strike 4 -- The Gov. and his administration told us that we would begin a soft reopening on May 1. Until the announcement actually came and we found out, with the exception of hospitals and dentists, no openings were occurring but new mandates, suggestions, and delays were rolled out including the hour by hour changes on mask regulations, store square footage/customer requirements, etc. Again more questions than answers leading to more confusion and frustration.

Strike 5 -- The models upon which decisions were being based proved to be inaccurate and unreliable. But hey, that happens, no harm no foul, we all get it, you have to make adjustments. Let’s rethink the models. NOPE, instead we reconfigure how we come up with the numbers, who we count, how we count, what we count. This lead not only to a distrust of the models, but additional skepticism of the process itself. When the statistics were no longer sexy or proving the point, the daily, informational press conferences which many people previously looked forward to turned into self grandiloquence. Not only was there not new information but the boat of rationale was starting to leak.

Strike 6 -- Long after the daily 2 p.m. press conference (Thursday), the Gov. released another extension to the stay at home order catching many off guard and obviously delaying more openings and events. After weeks of prepping for a soft reopening the bombshell came of yet MORE restrictions and orders. People are now more than frustrated and confused, they are angry and I don’t blame them.

The administration has now led the state into the worst possible scenario. We now have a situation of distrust, inconsistency, and unpredictability. We suffer as a society when those three things are lacking in our government. It doesn’t matter if it is the judicial, legislative, or the administrative arm of government, when any one (let alone all three) of these elements is lacking it is not good for the governed.

I am not pointing fingers at Republicans (although they all are) or Democrats, conservative or liberal, left or right. I am not calling for a rush on the statehouse or a mass rebellion. I simply plead with our state leaders to come together from both sides of the isle, together with all branches of government, to find a more consistent and predictable path through this difficult time to help rebuild trust and faith in our leaders and restore hope for our state and nation.

We can all understand and even forgive wrong decisions, adjustments to a plan, and evolving levels of information altering a path. What people don’t understand and will not tolerate is the constant pulling out of the rug from under their feet or the dangling carrot of hope which is snatched away, for seemingly no reason, just when it’s within their grasp.

I call on the state legislature to put aside politics and bring reason and hope back to the citizenry before it’s too late. Use your power of debate and compromise as well as your political and geographic diversity to reign in the unpredictable administrative mandates and decrees.

This IS the time for us to come together in Ohio and show our strength and resolve but no one branch of government should lead this fight alone. They need balance and you are, by design, the balance and hopefully the voice of reason that is needed.

Thom Collier

Current Knox County Commissioner and former State Representative

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