The Board of Orange County Commissioners held three Virtual Business meetings (open to the public for comment) in January. Most of the items were general housekeeping but there were two very critical things.
The January 5th and 12th meetings were continuation of the Efland Station public hearings which garnered very large public interest. The January 19th meeting was the presentation of the proposal by the applicant to the Board of Commissioners. By the end of the January 19th discussion, it was evident that at least five of the commissioners were opposed to the development. They really should have just told the applicants to take their investment money, two hundred good paying jobs and sales and property tax revenues to another county which values businesses and jobs. Instead, they told the applicants to come back in February with a response to multiple onerous requests from the board members. It is clear that this proposal will never get board approval so why make the applicants suffer and waste time and money trying.
There were two very important and consequential things that went on in January regarding the BOCC and Orange County government.
The first critical item occurred in the middle of the night (11:02 p.m.) on January 19th. In a matter of seven minutes the commissioners proposed and passed item 6-b, supposedly a “Non-Discrimination Ordinance”. It appears that there were no public hearings on this—according to the agenda the county attorney was requested in early 2020 to write up the ordinance and it was then reviewed by the Human Relations Commission. The general public, which is greatly affected by this ordinance, was not given a chance to weigh in on it. I encourage you to go to pages 92 – 98 of the January 19 BOCC Meeting Agenda to see the text of the ordinance. This ordinance uses the police power of government to coerce citizens and business owners to surrender their First Amendment rights in order to live or do business in Orange County.
The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from (1) making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of a religion, (2) making any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, and (3) abridging the right of people peaceably to assemble. The proposed “Non-discrimination Ordinance” certainly fails the first two of these prohibitions on government actions. As stated in the agenda item extract, this ordinance is intended to prohibit citizens from fulfilling and acting on their religious beliefs relative to a so-called ‘protected class’ and prohibits free speech by all citizens related to so-called ‘protected classes.’
The ordinance is so vague in the definitions of prohibited actions that virtually any action that a ‘protected class’ person finds offensive could be deemed a violation of the ordinance. The ordinance also creates impediments to free commerce based on the same failed definitions and imposes unworkable requirements on businesses that wish to do business with Orange County government. It is highly probable that even Orange County government officials and departments would be liable to charges of discrimination under this ordinance. The ordinance creates an unconscionable burden on citizens and businesses that would be impossible to meet. This ordinance is an example of oppressive and unconstitutional behavior by a government entity and, rather than being non-discriminatory, is a discriminatory attack on the guaranteed rights of our citizens.
The second matter of great interest concerns the Covid-19 “Long-Term Recovery and Transformation Plan”. By the time this bulletin reaches you, the public comment period on the 106-page Covid-19 “Long-Term Recovery and Transformation Plan” will have ended. This consultant-driven waste of money is an example of partisan and special interest groups ‘never letting a crisis go to waste’. Even in the draft form it is stated that “The scope of this plan is focused on long-term recovery actions and is not intended to cover response.” In plain English, this means the emphasis is on transformation of Orange County into some partisan and special interest version of a community. It has virtually nothing to do with Covid-19. Like the ‘Non-Discrimination Ordinance’, it is intended to implement a government-controlled society much like the Communist ‘Five Year Plans’ that have so spectacularly failed through history. Even if you have missed the public comment period, you should read the draft to see what your future in Orange County is going to be like unless you act to put a stop to this over-reach by local government. It is not an exaggeration to say that your Constitutional Rights and Protections are at risk.
I urge you to be vigilant and engaged in the processes of local government. This year is already starting out on a very treacherous path by the BOCC and Orange County government.
Happy New Year!!
- Riley J. Ruske
Orange County Citizen
Editor's Note: The next meeting of the BOCC is scheduled for Feb 2 at 6PM. The agenda may be found here or you may go here to stream the video of the meeting live from home. The Board is scheduled to take up Appointments to the Elections Advisory Group at this meeting.