By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record
The COVID-19 police were out over the weekend. They were seen patrolling local businesses for compliance of Gov. Scott’s “Stay Home” directives.
The watch is overseen by Attorney General T.J. Donovan. Last week he outlined punishments for non-compliance of stay-home and stay-closed orders. They include an escalating series of steps that can culminate in $1,000/day fines and and up to six months in jail.
As we’ve written a number of times, we understand the public health mission to flatten the coronavirus curve. We’ve embraced the science and diligently followed the social distancing prescriptions.
At the same time we cringe at the side effects, including injuries to personal liberty; wholesale economic destruction; and the creeping license government is taking on little matters like due process, open records, and public meetings.
We’re obediently taking our bitter medicine for the promise of better public health. And we realize that, until the government comes up with some reliable and accessible method for testing and tracking the disease, social distancing efficacy is a “where we go one, we go all,” proposition.
Not everyone, though, buys the science and/or is convinced that public health should wholly subjugate economic health and personal freedom. Since the coronavirus makes no exceptions for late rent or loan payments, we can’t wholly begrudge these folks from trying creatively to pay the bills amid calamitous economic circumstances.
But Donovan is a special breed of government operator. We’ve come to know him as someone who bristles at the notion of government restraint. It strikes us as fitting that he would be the guy at the front, devising a system to criminalize decent folks trying to eke out an existence.
There is one thing that befuddles us, however. What happens after Donovan turns decent citizens into criminals? After all, just two days before he outlined procedures for police to criminalize local business owners with threat of jail, he held a press conference in which he said he would move mountains to incarcerate almost nobody in Vermont.
It’s unclear why, on Wednesday, Donovan thought violent thugs and repeat offenders were inappropriate for lodging, but by Friday mom-and-pop storeowners were a scofflaw too far.
One thing that is clear, knowing Donovan, is that he’ll be sure to bury any public records derived from his war-on-proprietors. The man never met a FOIA exemption he didn’t like.
Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.