BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD)— A southern Kent County township supervisor’s defiant post about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order has created a stir in the Byron Center area, leading to what some see as a clash between state and local authority.
In a 500-word post on his personal Facebook, Byron Township Supervisor and former Republican State Representative Tom Hooker pulled no punches in a scathing rebuke of the governor’s mandates shuttering businesses and calling for social distancing.
“I believe her goal is to destroy the economy of Michigan and to lay the blame on our president,” Hooker writes. “She sees the purchase of alcohol, pot, lottery tickets and access to abortion as essential, but a multitude of other purchases as forbidden.”
He goes beyond political criticism.
“A landscaper or someone mowing your yard for you is not putting anyone at risk,” he goes on to write. “I encourage those businesses to continue. I will not stop or fine them unless they are doing it against the owners’ wishes.”
This post was shared by others on community sites where there was support as well as outrage and condemnation.
“It kind of shocked me because it basically said the township has the authority to override the governor’s executive order, which I do not believe to be true,” resident Julie Hurley said.
Tim Fidler who posted an ad on the same Facebook page for his lawn care business said in a post:
“We have been notified that we can start providing basic maintenance services in the Byron Center area.”
Since making that post, he said his phones have been ringing off the hook, and he was so busy, he did not have time to go on camera.
Hooker said his intent has been misconstrued.
“It was a personal statement on my part to let the community I represent know where I personally stood,” Hooker said, adding that he wishes he had the ability to override the governor’s orders, but he doesn’t. “It has no ability to protect anybody from the attorney general or the governor or anybody else.”
In the post, he said Whitmer’s executive orders are an attempt to tank the economy and damage the president and oversteps her authority.
“As long as my rights aren’t infringing on other people’s rights, I have the freedom to do what I feel is safest for myself and my family,” Hooker said.
Many on Facebook agreed.
Hurley sympathizes with those impacted, but she says there is too much at stake.
“I just don’t think some of them are really understanding the impacts of what they’re going back out into the community means for all of us,” Hurley said. “There’s really no other mitigation we can do right now besides staying home and limiting contacts with each other.”
Hooker said he has been inundated with support from the community.
After reading Hooker’s post, the Michigan Attorney General’s office provide a statement:
“With all due respect to townships, a township supervisor does not play any direct role in enforcement of (the executive order.) A supervisor’s position on the matter has no effect on the duty of law enforcement to uphold the law.”
Hooker said he has talked to members of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department about not enforcing the act too harshly.
Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young declined to comment.
“It was not meant in any way to say the township or the board is giving license to do anything illegal, according to the governor,” said Hooker, who had a family get together on Easter and believes Whitmer is making a name for herself on the national stage.
He says while the orders may save lives, the costs have to be evaluated.
Hooker also said he stands behind everything he said in the letter and advises people to use common sense, but to be aware that the township has no authority if someone gets in trouble.
“I cannot protect you from that. I can’t use taxpayer to defend you if that happens,” he said.
The full text of Hooker’s post:
From Tom Hooker
As Supervisor of Byron Township, I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the US and the Constitution of Michigan. I believe that the Governor of Michigan has exceeded her Constitutional authority in many ways. I believe that my constituents and taxpayers of Byron Township need clarity in trying to muddle through her edicts. While she has some authority to suggest guidelines for safety during this COVID-19 health situation, she doesn’t have the authority to forbid citizens from assembly as families, as churches or as citizens to assemble or criticize her decisions. Her method of selecting “essential vs non-essential activities is seriously flawed as her models used to arrive at numbers. I believe her goal is to destroy the economy of Michigan and to lay the blame on our president. She sees the purchase of alcohol, pot, lottery tickets and access to abortion as essential but a multitude of other purchases as forbidden. You cannot purchase paint and other home improvement supplies but can purchase beer, wine and spirits. You can’t buy grass seed or fertilizer or seeds for a home garden, or even purchase a lawnmower. You can’t visit relatives or family who live outside your home under threat of fines, while encouraging us to tattle on others. She stops landscapers and outside builders from working but allows coffee shops and fast foods to continue working. You can canoe and kayak or rowboat but you can’t fish from a motor boat. Ordinances in Byron like keeping lawn cut and junk cleaned up are banned by her edicts. In Byron Township, I am encouraging common sense in everything. You may not agree with your neighbors choices but unless they infringe on your right, you can’t stop them. Businesses too, need to exercise common sense. A landscaper or someone mowing your yard for you is not putting anyone at risk.i encourage those businesses to continue. I will not stop or fine them unless they are doing it against the owners wishes. The writers and signers of our Declaration of Independence recognized that when a “ruler” steps over the boundaries of fairness and “ common sense” rule, it is the right and responsibility of the people to throw off that rule. No other state, even ones led by her own party, have such a draconian set of rules. In Byron Township, we are emptying out trash barrels, mowing our parks and cemeteries. You will be able to vote May 5th and still drop off your payments and call if you have questions. Our staff is here to serve you while keeping you and the staff safe.
Blessings, Tom Hooker