Bob King, 62, is a little bored these days.
That’s because his business, B & R Lawn Care in Ferndale, has been shuttered since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first stay-at-home order last month. King, who runs his company with his son, has about 100 clients and four full-time employees — more during peak summer and winter months.
This is the time of year when he’s usually busy cleaning up the vestiges of winter and prepping yards for mowing.
No such luck this spring.
King, like hundreds of other small business owners around Michigan, had been hoping the governor would ease some of her restrictions on business operations in the latest iteration of her executive order, especially for jobs done largely outdoors that inherently comply with social distancing measures.
“If I’m working outside, I’m not working next to the other guy — we are apart,” King says. “We are not working side by side. This doesn’t make sense to me. It’s a little ridiculous.”
He’s right. And this is true of all kinds of businesses, including construction, auto dealers, landscaping and golf courses.
When Whitmer extended her shelter-in-place order Thursday — it’s now effective through April 30 — she not only ignored common sense changes and the concerns of financially hurting business owners, she doubled down on her initial decree.
Whitmer was right to act quickly last month to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Michigan. Drastic times call for drastic measures. And she didn’t have much time to tailor her executive order.
Three weeks into the first stay-home order, however, Whitmer has had time to hear feedback and make adjustments. Even the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidelines, on which the governor modeled her initial order, have changed and broadened to include a wider swath of “essential” workers.
Yet Whitmer hasn’t budged. She would rather be obeyed than compromise.
Jordan Ballor, a senior research fellow at the Acton Institute, recently wrote about how Whitmer should open Michigan golf courses as other states like Ohio have done, while adhering to safety precautions. As he noted, “While it cannot be argued that recreational activities such as golf are ‘critical infrastructure,’ a uniform approach to all non-essential services risks backlash and creates unnecessary harms, economic and otherwise.”
That’s an excellent point. And business owners who stray face real penalties — a $1,000 fine and additional sanctions. Attorney General Dana Nessel has enlisted employees to spy on their bosses, encouraging them to call the police if they suspect any violations.
Business owners should be concerned.
In the latest order, Whitmer added arbitrary restrictions. For instance, “large stores must also close areas of the store that are dedicated to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries, or paint.”
What’s wrong with picking up a plant from Home Depot?
The Michigan Farm Bureau had already pleaded with the governor to allow greenhouses and gardening centers to open their doors. The industry, with an estimated retail value of $580 million to $700 million and 9,000 employees, faces a complete loss this year if these businesses can’t start selling their plants soon.
Gardening is a popular activity, and it seems needless to cut off that source of enjoyment for residents stuck at home.
Preserving safety is key right now, but Whitmer’s latest actions will do unnecessary harm to the economy.
As Michael Warren, an Oakland County Circuit Court judge and staunch defender of liberty says, “It is in times of crisis that asking challenging questions, probing into the necessity of governmental reactions, and pushing back, if necessary, is most needed to keep us free.”
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