• Open the States

In the News: Many California businesses will not survive long shutdown

The following was written by T.H. Lawrence and originally published on California Business Daily.

The pandemic shutdown of the United States is being felt across the country, and even California is being rattled by the sharp economic downtown, said California Convention of States Action district captain John James.

“As with many parts of the United States, differences vary upon region. For myself, my job has close ties to entertainment, tourism, and conventions,” James told California Business Daily. “We saw a 90 percent decline in reservations and business starting the first week of March when the Natural Products Expo West canceled at the 11th hour. Our business and dozens of surrounding establishments were in freefall and saw a significant reduction in revenue. Three of four people in my household are unemployed.”

He said he witnesses pain across the region.

“In general, small businesses are getting crushed,” James said. “I have spoken with dozens of friends and associates that saw deep declines in revenue in March, but April has been catastrophic. There is significant anxiety and frustration developing in this group.”

He says the number of cases in the state has caused concern. As of April 25, there were 42,164 positive cases and 1,710 deaths in California attributed to COVID-19, according to the California Department of Public Health.

But James said the statewide shutdowns and closures that are intended to increase safety and reduce the spread of COVID-19 have had other detrimental consequences. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay at home order March 19 and has said there are several factors to consider before he will lift the order.

“In my opinion, absolutely, I understand the desire of local officials to protect the health and welfare of constituents, but they have surpassed prudent measures,” James said. “For example, two weeks ago, I traveled to Anza Borrego — California’s largest state park containing over 600,000 acres. Numerous signs were out to remind us that state parks are closed to all vehicles.

“They had placed temporary fencing along all side roads, trail heads, and parking lots. Additionally, dozens of San Diego County sheriffs and U.S. game wardens were out and patrolling the roads — something I have never seen in my trips to the high desert. In the vast open spaces of California, it is easy to socially distance without being compelled to avoid our public lands.”

He said another example of overreach is that restrictions have been tightened in recent few weeks. Los Angeles County has extended the lockdown to May 15 and Ventura County has just recently closed the beaches. Orange County is as of April 24, requiring facial coverings for essential workers. Orange County has also blocked access to the Cleveland National Forest.

“As more information about the coronavirus has been gathered, the increase in restrictions on liberty is a significant overstep,” James said.

California is also unable to process dealer record of sale (DROS) applications in a timely manner, he said, since a normal 10-day background check currently takes 12 days or longer. James said he is speaking out to protest these high-handed actions.

“As a Convention of States volunteer, I believe that a self-governing people is essential for a civil society," he said. "During past COS meetings, we have held discussions about what we the people can do to demonstrate that belief. We have held local community cleanups, advocated for greater self education, volunteered at local events, and encouraged self-reliance. We plan to continue to advocate for these principles and encourage actions that demonstrate these principles.

“Last week I sent out an email to the supporters in Southern California. I encouraged them to send handwritten letters to our governor and their local representatives asking for prudent measures. I personally spent over an hour handwriting multiple letters to all my representatives. I have also made calls and texts to local contacts encouraging the same. I believe Mark Meckler has said it best, we should practice “commonsense compliance, with an attitude of defiance.”

Dean Henderson is the California COS Action communications coordinator. He works with a real estate company doing photography and maintenance while also freelancing doing other construction-related work. Henderson said the statewide shutdown has been hard on many companies.

“I can only speculate on what is happening statewide but locally we have seen a huge drop in tourism, which is one of the lifeblood industries for many businesses here both directly and indirectly,” he told California Business Daily. “Many businesses will not be returning. Does this virus warrant a complete lockdown? How many negative unintended consequences will result from this? Citizenry involvement at the grassroots level is the only real long-term solution to fixing our broken government.”

Henderson said COS members are urging government leaders to loosen restrictions.

“In some cases we are reaching out to our local representatives with encouragement and advice on best practices for a sensible return to getting things back on track,” he said.

There is one positive development.

“Traffic is somewhat reminiscent of 25 years ago which is good for getting around but that is the extent of the benefits,” Henderson said. “We will long be paying for this major halt to economic activity.”

He said much of the problem was caused by local and state governments overstepping their bounds.

“In my opinion, without question, when states exercise their power in such a way they have something called a compelling interest to keep their citizenry and communities safe,” Henderson said. “They have authority under the Constitution to do so, but it’s a two-part test. The second part is that it must be done in as ‘narrowly tailored’ a way as possible to avoid violating constitutional rights.

“The narrowly tailored part has been anything but that. It’s been more like a one size fits all application of power. Behaviors and economics are much more complex than that, that is why our system of governance is broken down into local, state and federal areas to ‘tailor’ the representative decisions depending on those areas’ needs.”

Henderson joined the Convention of States in late 2015. He is one of nearly 100,000 members in the state.

“We have been growing at 25 percent per year and in the last six to nine months, I have noticed considerable interest in volunteering, support, and event participation,” he said.

James signed the petition to call for an Article V Convention in 2015.

“In January 2019, after listening to Mark Levin give a passionate argument about ‘What are you doing,’ I signed up to be a volunteer,” James said. “I believe that we have a systemic problem of government overreach and overspending. We have trillions in debt and a government that controls virtually every aspect of our lives. I cannot allow our great country to be another failed central planning experiment.”

Henderson agrees, and said a lot of other people do, too.

“This whole COVID crisis seems to have activated more volunteers into taking action and we’re definitely receiving more attention now, especially because of the way some of our representatives have overstepped their mandates,” he said. “This crisis is a good illustration of why our involvement in Convention of States is so important because it seeks to bring more control back to our local communities away from the federal government so we can make better decisions about what is best for our individual communities.

“I have felt for a long time there must be more that one could do besides just vote and be passive otherwise. I will assume that might be the reason for a lot of volunteers’ involvement. In my opinion things have been getting really out of hand with governmental overreach in all areas and this vehicle gives me a way to effect positive change towards that end.”

James is a certified financial planner with a background in finance and accounting. He previously owned a small financial planning practice and recently was working at a restaurant near Disneyland to cover expenses.

James, 38, is single, as is Henderson, 53.

“I feel terrible for those poor families that have lost their jobs and businesses,” Henderson said. “It’s going to be a very rough ride for a long time to come in my humble opinion.”

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