Opinion: There has been a lot of talk about government overreach and control recently. Government overreach and control was especially seen during the three months of “shutdown” and “stay at home” orders of the pandemic. People debated, discussed, and worried that the government was exercising excessive overreach and control. Like many, I believe in some areas; officials did overreach the limits of their power. I also think those instances of overreach will need to be discussed, reviewed, and someone will have to deal with the consequences of overreach. I am watching as the city of Richmond, Virginia, systematically removes Confederate Statues and Monuments based on an “emergency powers” rule the mayor has implemented. Apparently, 50-100-year-old statue/monuments are now considered an “emergency” regarding the debate to remove or keep them. The news has made a big issue regarding the fact that the city council did not vote on the subject. The city decision to remove the monuments has come from the desk of one official, the mayor.
This post is not about where you stand regarding removing or keeping the Confederate Statues or Monuments. The debate about the monuments and statues is not the reason for this opinion article. My concern here is in the “emergency” actions this mayor is taking. He is declaring an emergency over 50-100-year-old statues. Now stop and think about this and consider it in a broader context. An elected government official meant to represent all the people of Richmond, is taking action based on an opinion that may or may not be shared by his fellow council members, there has already been a lawsuit filed over the issue, and the question has not been put to the vote or review by the population of Richmond. It appears that this mayor is using these “emergency powers” solely for political reasons, and that should not be tolerated. First, these statues have been there 50-100 years; second, there are various opinions about them, and third what actions have the statues taken which warrants an emergency order to remove them? The use of emergency powers by any elected official should only be secured during an actual emergency. It will be complicated to prove that the removal of 50-100-year-old statues/monuments constituted an emergency.
Again, the statues themselves and their meaning, or placement, etc. is not the point. The point is they have been there 50-100 years – so how are they now suddenly an emergency? If a 50-100 year, non-moving, no action, piece of metal, concrete, and rock, can suddenly be used as an excuse to implement emergency powers, then what next? What will be the next emergency that requires immediate action by an elected official? Will it be the removal of your home, your right to drive, your property, your business, or even…you? How far do we continue to allow the government to use these emergency powers to control us as a society and as individuals? The actions by this mayor and others across the country are starting to show a clear sign of testing limits. Start small, push more, and more, and eventually, you will have the lines on your limits pushed to a range where the rights of the people no longer need to be considered. That outcome should concern all of us.