March 23, 2020

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Latest News, Missouri

Roundup: Editorial Boards of Missouri’s Two Largest Papers Skewer Parson for Weeks of Inaction

This weekend, as more states across the country took drastic measures to stem the spread of coronavirus, Missouri’s two largest papers delivered scathing criticism of Gov. Mike Parson’s previous decisions to sit on his hands.

Throughout the ever-growing crisis, Parson has refused to show decisive leadership, leaving Missouri to fall dangerously behind states across the country and right next door

Now, patience and time are running out. After both business leaders and health care advocates begged him to take action last week, the editorial boards of the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch are calling him out for weeks of inaction: 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Editorial: Parson ends the guessing game and finally closes schools 

Originally, “Lacking leadership from the governor, Missouri schools await next steps,” as Gov. Parson had yet to call for schools to close and did so after the editorial was published.

One of the main justifications typically cited by Gov. Mike Parson and other Republican politicians for revoking municipal governments’ powers to, say, control guns or regulate large pig farms is that a patchwork of local laws is simply too difficult for Missourians to navigate. A single state directive eliminates ambiguity and brings clarity, they assert.

School districts across the state were crying out for uniform guidance as they grappled with local limitations on gatherings while fearful of losing federal and state funding if they failed to stay open and maintain the minimum student attendance levels required by law during the coronavirus crisis. But Parson inexplicably argued that guidance at the state level was too burdensome. Embracing patchwork leadership, he punted responsibility to the schools to make the big decisions on whether to stay open or close.

Late Thursday, he tweeted an announcement that all public schools had closed. It wasn’t the governor finally making the kind of command decision leaders are expected to make. He was simply making a casual observation. On Saturday, three hours after an early version of this editorial appeared online, Parson finally announced that he was ordering schools to remain closed until at least April 6.

His hesitant, hand-wringing approach came in sharp contrast to the take-charge decisiveness of governors in other states such as Ohio, California and New York.

Parson’s lack of clarity contributed to decisions by some schools and other facilities to stay open far beyond a reasonable safety limit.

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Parson did, however, seem to understand the importance of taking charge to keep grown-ups from gathering in close proximity. He previously had ordered all municipal elections statewide to be postponed from April 7 to June 2.

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If Parson thought voters need a clear command decision to stay away from the polls, what took him so long to offer the same clarity for children, parents and teachers?

Kansas City Star, Editorial Board: Editorial: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas just saved lives with new shelter-in-place order

A few days ago, we said a total lockdown was coming as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic — even if, because of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s reluctance to take any drastic action, it was likely to arrive here dangerously late.

Fortunately, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and other leaders in Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties are not waiting any longer. Late Saturday afternoon, Lucas announced that in all of these counties, a stay-at-home order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

“It’s real, and it’s here, and we can’t hold tight” and pretend otherwise, Lucas said in an interview with The Star Editorial Board. “It’s time, and Lord knows we can’t wait on our governor to do it.”

He said that all public health officials are indicating that if we buckle down and shut down, many fewer lives will be lost, whereas “with this laissez-faire approach we’ve been seeing,” the reverse would all too clearly be true.

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No elected leader ever wants to have to order citizens to stay at home, given the obviously devastating economic repercussions. But this was a choice between awful and far, far, worse.

Better to be fleetingly blamed for overreaction than to be judged far more harshly, and forever, for failing to act sooner. Lucas said that some officials seem to confuse their job with that of running the Chamber of Commerce, and he’s not doing that.

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One of the most frightening aspects of this global pandemic is the partisan divide we’ve seen in reaction to the risk here in the U.S., both from officials and among the public. If that divide persists, it’s going to leave red states and rural areas far more vulnerable. To wait until the number of patients has already overwhelmed our health care system is to wait too long, especially when hospital beds and protective equipment are already in short supply.

An exception has been Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican who along with Democratic governors in New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey has been out in front in protecting his constituents.

Parson keeps talking, even now, about the role of personal responsibility in stopping the spread of COVID-19. But “government has significant responsibility,” Lucas said, and we’re grateful he feels that way.