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Sussex councilman: Governor is ruling by fiat

Rieley says citizens are paying high price during state of emergency
May 13, 2020

Sussex County Councilman John Rieley has made it clear where he stands on Gov. John Carney's mandates related to the COVID-19 state of emergency. He cautions the cost of the restrictions, especially to business owners, could be worse than the virus. During council's May 12 meeting, Rieley, who serves District 5 and lives near Millsboro, said he felt obligated as an elected official to read the statement.

“While the vast majority of our fellow citizens have endeavored to comply with mandates coming from the governor in an effort to flatten the curve to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it has come at a cost,” he said.

The Republican councilman, who has served since 2018, said cost can be measured in many ways: financial hardship, delayed medical care, lost school time and depression from isolation. “Nevertheless, our fellow citizens have stepped up and cooperated, and many have paid a price,” he said.

The councilman said the governor should rely on scientific evidence, but it's past time to also seek input from the General Assembly and the courts, which have been closed during the state of emergency.

It is paramount, he said, that the governor not outsource decision-making to those trained only to look at issues associated with their own discipline.

“The governor must also be mindful of the precedents that may be established here with the lack of checks and balances in the decision-making process. For nearly two months now, our General Assembly has been out of session. Our courts have also been closed. This scenario is very troubling as the governor seems to be ruling by fiat with an indefinite timeline. I do not believe the citizens will tolerate this for long – nor should they,” Rieley said.

Rieley said the people of Delaware are intelligent enough to do what is right in limiting the spread of the virus, and those most at risk know they must limit their exposure and act accordingly.

“Our citizens gave two weeks willingly in order to flatten the curve. They gave another month because they were asked. But as the shutdown grinds on – approaching two months now – it becomes less clear what the purpose is,” Rieley said. “Since we have achieved the stated goal of flattening the curve, we, as elected officials charged with ensuring the good of our country and its citizens, should demand that businesses which can reopen safely should be allowed to do so without fear of retribution.

“There must be accountability to ensure that this crisis does not become worse than the disease, by allowing drastic collateral damage to more people than are actually touched by the virus or by undermining the rule of law. Abdicating decision-making to the scientists or specialists is not a substitute for the good judgement of the statesman,” he said.

Councilman Sam Wilson of Georgetown asked whether the letter could be sent to the governor. After he was told a vote could not be taken because the statement was not an agenda item, Wilson requested it be placed on the May 19 agenda.

District 5 includes southern Sussex County, extending from the Maryland line to the Atlantic Ocean, including the communities and areas around Dagsboro, Delmar, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Laurel, Millsboro, Millville, Selbyville and South Bethany.

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