This article first appeared here in EyeOnAnnapolis.com.
The strength of America has always been in our respect for the Democratic process. We have always trusted that our elected and appointed officials, regardless of party, would accept and respect the vote of a democratically elected legislative body, on a local, state, and national level.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman have betrayed that trust. Whether one believes a mask mandate is an appropriate policy or not is irrelevant. The issue is their failure to respect and accept the democratic process.
In a democracy, our elected representatives, not unelected bureaucrats, make our rules and laws. In America, appointed officials who are “experts” do not rule; they advise elected officials. Generals and Admirals are military experts, but they only advise and serve our President. The president may have no military experience or expertise, but he is elected by us. The CDC has many experts, but they can only recommend actions to elected officials. The CDC cannot mandate them. A governor and county executive may declare a state of emergency, but they must do it in accordance with the law. Elected officials are accountable to the people; unelected bureaucrats are not.
The County Executive and Health Officer’s claim that an appointed bureaucrat can overturn a legal vote of the county council, and thereby extend the county executive’s mask mandate, is an affront to democracy and the rule of law. Their claim that an unelected Health Officer has the legal authority to initiate a county mask mandate under state law is overly broad and clearly bogus. The state law they cite Section 18-208 :: Maryland Health – General :: 2005 :: Maryland Code :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia is only to be used when the Health Officer “discovers a new disease or Illness” and “reports it to the State’s Secretary of Health.” Covid has existed in Anne Arundel County for two years. It isn’t a new disease or illness. Furthermore, state law doesn’t give the Health Officer authority to overturn the legislative action of an elected body for any reason. The Health Officer’s powers are limited and well defined, as are those of the county executive. Checks and balances are the cornerstone of American democracy.
The disrespect Pittman and Kalyanaraman have shown for the rule of law and democratic process by ignoring the vote of the county council to end Pittman’s executive order is astonishing. If Kalyanaraman actually has the legal authority to mandate masks, and Pittman never intended to follow the law, why didn’t Kalyanaraman simply mandate masks on December 30th instead of Pittman? The answer is self-evident. Kalyanaraman is not acting legally, and Pittman is acting like a dictator again. Barely a year after a judge halted Pittman and Kalyanaraman’s restaurant lockdown, and slammed it as, “arbitrary and capricious, with no basis in fact,” they’re going down the same dictatorial path, and likely headed to court again.
Some might suggest Pittman and Kalyanaraman’s disrespect for the democratic process and rule of law should be accepted, or even applauded, because they agree with mask mandates. Simply put, they believe the end justifies the means.
Dictators have seized power using this excuse throughout history. But for our democracy to endure, this excuse can never be accepted, at any level of government, at any time, for any reason. It is when issues are contentious and the stakes are high that the democratic process is most important. That’s why, as a Naval Academy Midshipman and Navy officer, I took an oath to defend the constitution, and our democratic process. It’s why I did the same as a councilman, and as a state delegate; and it’s why I’ll honor the same oath as your county executive. Because it’s your democracy; because it’s your government; and because it’s your freedom.
Herb McMillan is a Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Executive and served in the Maryland House of Delegates for 12 years. He may be reached at www.herbmcmillan.com