Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 04-23-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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8 OPINION APRIL 23-29, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION Despite the herculean job that Gov. Gina Raimondo has done, she has been criticized for alleged viola- tions of the Constitution for some Executive Orders. Ed Achorn of The Providence Journal, the ACLU, the state Republican Party, and vet- eran attorney John Grasso in an opinion piece have criticized one or more of her actions. First of all, kudos to them for trying to call into question some of her actions since they are performing a vital function in preserving the constitutional rights of all of us. They may not be right, however, in citing her decisions as unconstitutional. A pandemic is an unusual situation and in a class of its own. Case law is yet to be developed in this novel situ- ation. Reference, however, to analogous case law prec- edent may give an insight into whether the governor is acting within the law. Take Raimondo's order to stop out-of-state automo- biles to inquire of the driver whether they are staying in the state (and, if so, to self- quarantine for 14 days), or passing through. The U.S. Commerce Clause allows for free travel so the governor has aptly allowed free passage to another state without quarantine. Perhaps the closest prec- edent is the body of case law around random sobri- ety checkpoints where cars are pulled over to check for drunk driving. When police pull motorists over, they must have probable cause. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, upheld the legitimacy of these stops as non-violative of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. (Personally, I think that the Fifth Amendment's right to not incriminate oneself and Sixth Amendment's right to counsel may come into play, however.) The Supreme Court decided that the stops were only minimally invasive to drivers but are important to the state's "grave and legitimate" inter- est in reducing drunk driv- ing. This rationale would apply for the public health and safety in a pandemic. Yet, Rhode Island Fourth Amendment protections are more expansive than those of the United States. According to the 2013 Governor's Highway Safety Association, DUI check- points are illegal in R.I., which is one of about a dozen states that treated ran- dom stops as illegal. Since that time these pull-over of vehicles are characterized as "mobile roadblocks" and, therefore, as a traffic stop. As long as the officer acts in accordance with certain guidelines preset by the state and following those guide- lines it is legal. Raimondo has a clear-cut plan. The guidelines do provide for an advanced public notice of a checkpoint and it is set up in "problem" areas, i.e. borders, and are not an arbi- trary selection process. Another order involved the distribution of palms on Palm Sunday, which was forbidden based on the apparent transmission of the coronavirus on the surface of the palms. This prohibi- tion brushed up against the First Amendment, i.e. freedom of religion. Any potential constitutional infir- mity was averted when state religious leaders agreed to the prohibition. Other states avoided a problem by not banning services but posting notices for self-quarantine on parked cars at church congregant settings. Cellphone tracing almost became a problem but the governor "walked the line" by making the cellphone tracing program "volun- tary," with information only for public health purposes. So far, so good. Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general. So far, Raimondo 'constitutional' I'm glad to see – as many people are – that in the last week we are beginning to see some glimmers of light at the end of the COVID tunnel. Last week, I wrote that government officials were offering little hope to small businesses, with men- tions of very lengthy shut- downs into the fall. Now, things are improving. My concerns were based on economic figures and what I was reading about our country's huge accelera- tion in joblessness, now on its way to Great Depression levels. While pandemic- based unemployment began with the hospitality and retail sectors – restaurants, travel, hotels, malls, and those vendors who serve them – it was rapidly grow- ing to others. Wrote The Wall Street Journal on April 15, "A second wave of job loss is hitting those who thought they were safe. Businesses that set up employees to work from home are lay- ing them off as sales plum- met. Corporate lawyers are seeing jobs dry up. Government workers are being furloughed. ... And health care workers not fighting the pandemic are suffering." My concern is that the longer this goes on, the more government revenue will suffer. And the longer that lasts, the more indebted our children and grand- children will be. We have not even begun to discuss the state's economic fallout from this disaster. What cuts may be coming to state and local government services? What taxes will be rising? Will state retirees face a sec- ond round of pension cuts? All of this could be on the table, but for now, no one dares speak of it. I understand the delicate balancing act now going on between the medical experts who might want to elimi- nate all risk before re-open- ing, versus those who are jobless – as well as small- business owners – struggling as they watch their dreams die, perhaps forever. I also understand that employees will have to be kept safe as they return to work. This suffering will have huge implications on society, with reverberations we haven't even thought about yet. If I may, I'd like to put Rhode Island's number in perspective. In this, I'll ask that we all pretend to be at the 15,000-seat Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, filled to capacity with scream- ing basketball fans as PC battles Villanova. Assuming there are about one million Rhode Islanders, this ratio amounts to about 67 resi- dents per seat. According to state figures on April 20, 4,706 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. In the hospital are 254 resi- dents, with 70 in Intensive Care. Since the start, 150 have died. Also, since March 9, 162,582 initial claims for unemployment have been filed in the state. Likely, that number is still growing fast. So let's draw the picture. If every Rhode Islander is in "The Dunk" at the same ratio as the population, here is where we stand as we look around the arena: Since the outbreak began, 71 fans have tested positive for COVID-19. Today, four are in the hospital, and one is in Intensive Care. Two- plus fans have died. Finally, 2,439 of the fans – one-sixth of the arena – have filed for unemploy- ment in the past five weeks. I'm pleased that Gov. Gina Raimondo began to speak in the past few days of re-opening beaches and businesses. When we do, we know employees will need to be kept safe. We'll have to move gradually, and act with great care. But begin we must, or I'm afraid we'll suffer in ways few of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze Virus logjam breaking From the Publisher TOM WARD Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET Founded in 1956 by The Burgess Family Volume LXV, Number 8 April 23, 2020 @ Observer THE VALLEY BREEZE & ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally operated group of free weekly newspapers serving the people of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster, Glocester, North Providence, Pawtucket, R.I., and Blackstone, Mass. Each Thursday, 58,500+ copies are distributed to retailers, banks, offices, and restaurants and other busy spots. Circulation is audited by the Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis, Mo. and has earned its "Gold Standard Award." OUR MISSION It is the Mission of The Valley Breeze to facilitate a positive sense of community among the res- idents of Northern Rhode Island by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to provide information of local events and neighbors. It is our further Mission to provide the highest quality advertising at the lowest possible cost to retailers, professionals, tradespersons, and other service providers in order to enhance the economic well-being of our community. Thomas V. Ward, Publisher James Quinn, Deputy Publisher Jack Birolini, Director of Sales Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor Barbara Phinney, Controller

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