Op-Ed: ‘Say what you mean, mean what you say, Mr. Governor’

In these uncertain times it is critical that public officials be able to disseminate factual information for the good of constituents. Effective and efficient communication is vital at a moment like this. We are all doing our best to address the needs of the communities we serve, as business owners and employees navigate whether or not they are permitted to open, or if they should lay off employees in hopes they qualify for unemployment compensation until the virus dissipates. Parents are left educating their children from home, as schools have closed with ominous signs ahead for reopening. People are fearful, and rightfully so, of what tomorrow brings as their savings accounts dwindle and the uncertainty of returning to work lingers.

Governor Wolf blindsided us all yesterday with his after-hours announcement that all non-life sustaining industries would have to close in mere hours, with no indication of when they would be allowed to reopen. His initial plan provided no means of due process, until this was pointed out, so his office developed a single email address to request a waiver. One solitary email for every business in the entire state?

This fits a larger theme: Steel production is permitted, but coal mining is not. Coal is used to make steel and also to heat homes. Truck stops were closed, now truck stops are open. Home repair and maintenance businesses were to close according to his spreadsheet, yet, Wolf reversed course and now they can remain open. Businesses were ‘ordered’ to close, in actuality, it was a strong suggestion. Governor Wolf asks us to ‘remain calm’, yet his actions indicate the opposite. With a shutdown as far-reaching and impactful as he has ‘ordered’, communication is paramount. Yet, we were all left blindsided and asking even more questions to which there were no answers.

There is no doubt that we must take this virus seriously, and I understand we are in uncharted waters with no playbook to refer to. Yet, there was no communication or discussion of unintended consequences, or the interconnectedness of industries, with top lawmakers before his ‘order’. Quite frankly, I do not believe he has the authority to enforce such an ‘order’ under current statute.

People need to stay home if possible, that is clear. What is not clear is under what authority the governor is going to enforce his non-mandate of an ‘order’, based on a sprawling spreadsheet of random business titles. Is it ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’, ‘life-sustaining’ or ‘non-life sustaining’? Constituents are confused. Actually, I think we all are.

Say what you mean, mean what you say, Mr. Governor. The people are looking for clear and concise answers. Provide clarity, before it’s too late.