Sheila Kuehl, Called Out for Her Hypocrisy, Gets Snippy; Meanwhile a Judge Strikes Down County Ban on Outdoor Dining
[guest post by JVW]
A bad day indeed for the (mono)Party of Science.
Fox News 11, the local Los Angeles affiliate, has been following-up on the story reported last week about Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl choosing to partake in allegedly highly dangerous outdoor dining shortly after casting the deciding vote to place a moratorium on the practice and just hours before a countywide ban was set to go into place. Two Fox 11 reporters, Bill Melugin and Elex Michaelson, have done excellent work in hounding Supervisor Kuehl to provide an explanation as to why outdoor dining is so dangerous that it needs to be suspended, yet not so dangerous that she herself thought nothing of engaging in the practice just before the order went into effect.
The Supervisor, an elected official who receives an annual taxpayer-funded salary of $214,601 while overseeing an office with a budget of approximately $85 million and a staff of 40*, has declared this a “non-story” and refuses to make herself available to answer these sorts of questions. Whereas it would appear that most other news outlets here in the Southland have been content to file an initial report on the story and then accept Supervisor Kuehl’s lame explanation that she dines at the restaurant Il Forno in Santa Monica “virtually every night,” (seriously? every single night at the same restaurant?), the Fox 11 team has begun questioning the Supervisor on her rationale for voting to shut-down outdoor dining, specifically what scientific studies have indicated that outdoor dining is causing the spike in COVID cases throughout the county. Ms. Kuehl initially tried to weasel her way out by claiming that she and her colleagues have been privy to six studies proving that outdoor dining was hazardous, but for several days she refused to share the details. Meanwhile, a judge ordered Los Angeles County to justify the shutdowns, and the evidence the County cited in defense of its orders didn’t seem to comport to what Supervisor Kuehl’s office was telling Mr. Melugin:
Remember when L.A. County Supervisor @SheilaKuehl claimed to have "six studies" showing evidence of outdoor dining risk? Curiously, none of it appears in the "County evidence" section of this ruling. Actually, it says studies show COVID is less likely to spread outdoors. @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/Eq9AJr32P3
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) December 8, 2020
Well darn. So having been called out and exposed, Supervisor Kuehl’s office went into overdrive to make the case for their boss’s vote. Naturally, they used the snide language of the self-declared Party of Science, even while serving up a steaming heap of failure:
Yesterday, I reached out to @SheilaKuehl's office to request the "six studies" she claimed to have highlighting outdoor dining risk. They told me they're "so glad FOX 11 is interested in science" & provided me these 12 studies. None of them analyze outdoor dining. @FOXLA https://t.co/kLNo47pwac pic.twitter.com/pJhFdnGxKK
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) December 9, 2020
Yesterday afternoon, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled that “[b]y failing to weigh the benefits of an outdoor dining restriction against its costs, the county acted arbitrarily and its decision lacks a rational relationship to a legitimate end.” The ban on outdoor dining here will remain in effect thanks to a similar decree over the weekend from Governor Hair-Gel (D – French Laundry), but once that order (which is also being challenged in court) expires on December 27 the county could theoretically reimpose its own ban, according to the judge, provided that they first undertake an adequate risk-benefit analysis and make it available to the general public.
Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association claims that 110,000 dining establishments across the nation have closed since the pandemic hit. I have noticed since Thanksgiving that two more places in my neighborhood are boarded up, apparently for good, bringing the total by my count to at least six since March. Yes, we need an effective vaccine, but we also need the people who continue to be employed throughout this pandemic to spare a thought as to how their actions and decisions affect those whose livelihoods have been grossly curtailed. Sometimes the shouts of “Don’t just stand there; do something!” are better left ignored than acted upon.
* Just try to find the break-out of the actual spending for each of the five Supervisors. The county buries those numbers in an overall $817 million “General Government” budget category, but then shows a chart where the Board of Supervisors allegedly accounts for $433 million (by the way: that final figure is up from the suggested allocation of $418 million, because of course it is). I reached the $85 million per Supervisor estimate by dividing the $433 million roughly by five.