For months during the pandemic, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, a Democrat, could count on bipartisan support on the county council for extending his authority under a state of emergency, to deal with COVID-19.
But that bipartisanship crumbled during a debate Monday over whether to extend the state of emergency.
Monday’s vote, as well as a previous vote in August to extend the state of emergency, each for 30 days, were along party lines. The three Republicans on the seven-member body opposed it. The state of emergency gives Olszewski broad powers to reinstate certain COVID-related restrictions if he deemed them necessary.
Olszewski said it’s a shame COVID has become political on the county council.
“I just want to applaud those council members who continue to put science first and the health and safety of our residents first,” Olszewski said after the vote. “Our numbers have been better than many other places because this hasn’t been a political issue.”
“And they say COVID’s not political,” said Democrat Cathy Bevins following Monday night’s divided vote.
But Republican Councilman David Marks takes issue with that.
“Now it seems like some Democrats are just saying we’re political simply because we won’t go along with them.”
Marks said he has a history of working with Democrats and that his past votes for the state of emergency came at considerable political risk.
He says he voted no because the COVID numbers, like transmission rates, have fallen. The county’s positivity rate is at 3.75%.
“Certainly, the Republicans are not the ones out there claiming politics,” Marks said. “Republicans have laid out very good arguments for why our current strategy’s working and we don’t need to have a state of emergency.”
Republican Councilman Todd Crandell said in a statement the state of emergency is not a partisan issue for him either.
John Dedie, a political science professor at the Community College of Baltimore County, said there are politics on both sides, and what’s happening in Baltimore County now is a microcosm of what’s playing out in localities across the country. Republicans are more likely to want to back off from restrictive measures. Democrats are more cautious.
“They’re taking an attitude of better to err on the side of caution rather than throw all caution to the wind because if something goes wrong, they have to own it,” Dedie said.
A recent Pew Research Center poll lays out what political leaders are hearing from their constituents. 80% of Democrats surveyed see the COVID outbreak as a major threat to health. Among Republicans, it’s fewer than 40%.
During a county council public hearing, several speakers, including Katie Kimball, said they didn’t want any more shutdowns or restrictions.
“We see the state of emergency as a money grab for federal funding and a power grab so Johnny [Olszewski] can mandate what he pleases without due process in the legislature,” she said.
Under the county charter, the county executive can issue executive orders to protect the health, safety and welfare of county residents. That broad language makes some nervous about what might be to come. But Baltimore County Attorney James Benjamin said the state of emergency cannot be a power grab.
“Constitutional rights have to be considered as well to make sure there’s not an infringement on a person’s rights.”
Benjamin said the declaration is being used so the county can spend money more quickly on COVID.
“The state of emergency allows for procurement measures to be heard and addressed and resolved in a much quicker fashion,” Benjamin said.
Last month, Olszewski also used an executive order to help restaurants and bars continue to offer outdoor dining.
Meanwhile, Republican Councilman Marks is calling for a “cooling off of rhetoric on all sides” surrounding the state of emergency. That likely will be put to the test in about a month when the current state of emergency runs out.
Biden says United States would come to Taiwan’s defense
The United States would come to Taiwan‘s defense and has a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island.
“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has complained of mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.
While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
In August, a Biden administration https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-position-taiwan-unchanged-despite-biden-comment-official-2021-08-19 official said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed after the president appeared to suggest the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.
A White House spokesperson said Biden at his town hall was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and “there is no change in our policy”.
“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson said.
Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,”
“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.
“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”
Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.
China says Taiwan is the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the United States and has denounced what it calls “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, China’s United Nations Ambassador Zhang Jun said they are pursuing “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and responding to “separatist attempts” by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
“We are not the troublemaker. On the contrary, some countries – the U.S. in particular – is taking dangerous actions, leading the situation in Taiwan Strait into a dangerous direction,” he said.
“I think at this moment what we should call is that the United States to stop such practice. Dragging Taiwan into a war definitely is in nobody’s interest. I don’t see that the United States will gain anything from that.”
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Stephen Coates)
Do climate politics really matter at the local level? A Seattle professor thinks so – knkx.org
The changing climate is a topic you’d think would be front and center in local elections – especially after the heat wave that killed hundreds of people in the Northwest this summer.
A professor of politics at the University of Washington noted a lack of attention to the issue – until he and a colleague pushed for a debate about it in Seattle.
Aseem Prakash directs the school’s Center for Environmental Politics. In July, he wrote about his amazement that none of the candidates seemed to care about the climate. Instead, their focus – as with candidates in New York City – is on crime, policing and, lately, homelessness.
And when you ask them how we’re truly adapting to climate change, the candidates either pass the buck and say some other jurisdiction is ultimately responsible, Prakash says. Or they talk about pilot programs for this and that.
And there are lots of pilot programs, he says. But he doesn’t see any Seattle mayoral candidates — or past mayors — following up with data that would help keep them accountable. Instead, he says, most seem to use a local office, like mayor or city councilmember, as a stepping stone at the beginning of a career in politics — or toward something else more lucrative.
“At some point, all of us, we have to call out the B.S. You have to call out the B.S. and force politicians to confront the issues that affect us,” he says.
“Because there’s a program for everything, right? … Is it really helping?” Prakash wonders.
“Do we have data that the heat island effect in Seattle has improved over the years because there are programs? Have we evaluated how effective these programs are? No. … So then what’s the point? This is what you call ‘virtue signaling.’”
Prakash says there are too many pledges and not enough action. Accountability is missing. Most people aren’t getting help with things like cooling their homes during heat waves or getting electric cars that are affordable and reliable.
“Everybody wants to be a global leader, (to) talk about the future generation. It’s a moral responsibility,“ Prakash says, with a note of frustrated sarcasm in his voice.
“But you ask them, ‘OK, can you please translate it in the context of my humble census tract, my ZIP code? What does climate change mean for my ZIP code? Why should I care?’ ”
These are issues that students and professors from departments all over the University of Washington want to come together to discuss and attempt to solve, as they relate to climate change.
This interdisciplinary approach is why Prakash founded the Center for Environmental Politics seven years ago. The debate is co-hosted by the UW’s EarthLab.
“A Climate Conversation with Seattle Mayoral Candidates” is free and open to the public via Zoom. It takes place Friday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. You can register here.
Factbox-Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, spent a night in hospital but returned to Windsor Castle on Thursday.
Here are some facts about the 95-year-old queen:
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 17 Bruton St, London W1, on April 21, 1926, and christened on May 29, 1926, in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace.
After her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 for the love of a divorced American woman, the queen’s father, George VI, inherited the throne.
Two years after World War Two, she married navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a Greek prince, whom she had fallen for during a visit to a naval college when she was just 13.
She was just 25 when she became Queen Elizabeth II on Feb. 6, 1952, on the death of her father, while she was on tour in Kenya with Prince Philip.
She was crowned monarch on June 2, 1953, in a ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey that was televised live.
MOTHER AND WIFE
Philip was said to be shattered when his wife became queen so soon.
Her marriage to Philip, whom she wed when she was 21, stayed solid for 74 years until his death in April 2021.
Their children are Charles, born in 1948, Anne, born in 1950, Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964.
Winston Churchill was the first of her 14 British prime ministers.
As head of state, the queen remains neutral on political matters. The queen does not vote.
Elizabeth, who acceded to the throne as Britain was shedding its imperial power, has symbolised stability. Her nearly 70-year reign is the longest of any British monarch.
A quiet and uncomplaining dedication to the duty of queenship, even in old age, has earned her widespread respect both in Britain and abroad, even from republicans who are eager for abolition of the monarchy.
OFFICIAL TITLE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Her Majesty Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
The Queen is head of state of 15 Commonwealth countries in addition to the United Kingdom. She is also head of the Commonwealth itself, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries.
The 40th anniversary of her accession, in 1992, was a year she famously described as an “annus horribilis” after three of her four children’s marriages failed and there was a fire at her Windsor Castle royal residence.
The death of Princess Diana, the divorced wife of Elizabeth’s son and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, in 1997, damaged the family’s public prestige.
Charles’ younger son, Harry, and wife Meghan said in an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year that one unidentified royal had made a racist remark about their first-born child. The couple had stepped back from royal duties in early 2020 and moved to the United States.
(Writing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Peter Cooney)
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