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Piece of Mind: End The Petulance Over Masks

The Texan
Commissioner J.J. Koch (left) and County Judge Clay Jenkins have launched a feud over mask wearing.

If you want a crystal-clear example of just how petulant partisan politicians can get, you need look no further than than the Dallas County Courthouse.

That was where County Judge Clay Jenkins ordered a fellow county commissioner on Tuesday to leave a meeting because the commissioner wouldn't follow the rules laid down by the county board's presiding officer. That would be Jenkins.

The county judge, who happens to be a Democrat (that's important in this context; I'll explain in a second) said all persons attending the commissioners court meeting needed to wear a mask to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which is spiking in Dallas County. Commissioner J.J. Koch -- a Republican -- refused to wear a mask. He said Jenkins doesn't have the authority to overrule a mandate by Gov. Greg Abbott (another Republican), who says local jurisdictions cannot enforce mandates that are not spelled out by the state.

Koch resisted requests from Jenkins repeatedly. Jenkins finally had Koch removed from the meeting under escort by a sheriff's deputy. Koch, meanwhile, says he is going to sue Jenkins.

Good grief! I cannot believe this is happening!

The courthouse snit illustrates quite clearly the partisan divide that is driving this discussion. Republicans by and large are refusing to heed government orders to take care against the virus; Democrats are heeding those orders. Thus, the divide widens.

The county judge is seeking to protect his fellow public officials, not to mention the public, from getting infected by a virus that is still making people sick. I just have to wonder whether Koch is resisting the order because it is coming from a colleague who happens to be a member of the opposing political party.

Koch is picking a fight he need not pick, for God's sake!

From my vantage point in the next county over from Dallas County, J.J. Koch is making an unnecessary spectacle of himself and highlighting -- or lowlighting, if you prefer -- the partisan divide that has infected (no pun intended) a matter involving public well-being.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, also is a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is retired but is still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis’s blog for KETR, “Piece of Mind,” presents his views and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.

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