Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning penned a letter to Brian Kemp Monday, taking issue with his decision to roll back local measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 in favor of a uniform state policy in the form of an executive order.
“We have been hung out to dry,” Browning said.
County commissioners voted last month to close the beaches on St. Simons and Sea islands and to ban new lodging rentals on the islands. The Jekyll Island Authority took similar measures, closing its beaches and banning lodging rentals longer than two nights.
“While we applaud your ‘shelter in place’ directive as the correct move, additional immediate actions are necessary,” Browning’s letter reads. “Many of the suspended local ordinances and orders are more restrictive than your executive order and go further in their efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
This is the time to be tightening restrictions, not loosening them, he said.
“Just yesterday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams stressed the importance of this coming week to the United States and stated that ‘This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized,’” Browning wrote.
The letter also stated that the action of repealing local measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 would impede local governments’ ability to respond to the outbreak moving forward, and called on the governor to allow counties and cities to once again enforce emergency ordinances.
In an interview, Browning said he sees the executive order as just another attempt by the state government to undermine local authorities, also mentioning an attempt by state legislators Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, and Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, to put the future of the Glynn County Police Department on the ballot for popular vote.
When the commission first decided to close the beach, Browning said the governor was in full support, offering help in the form of manpower from the Georgia State Patrol and Department of Natural Resources and supplies from the state Department of Transportation, which put up signs on I-95 warning travelers that the beaches were shut down.
“How can it not be politics when (Kemp) wants the beach closed and then opens them up?” Browning said.
He considers Kemp’s executive order evidence that the governor is bowing to pressure from short term rental advocates, who are pushing for a bill in the state legislature to put regulator control of rentals in the hands of the state and out of local governments.
On the other hand, no one from the state has consulted Glynn County or any coastal community, to his knowledge, about anything in relation to the outbreak or the executive order, Browning said.
“There is no leadership in this state,” Browning said. “I’m almost ashamed to be called Georgian.
“You can print this. 912-574-9150. Gov. Kemp, call me. If I’m wrong, then someone can come tell me.”