In Case You Missed It: Rural areas have a message for Newsom: One size doesn't fit all in reopening California

By George Skelton, Capitol Journal Columnist
Monday, May 4, 2020

SACRAMENTO — Rebellion is infectious. Rural people are in revolt against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide virus-fighting rules, which make little sense in burgs such as Bieber.

Bieber has hardly anything in common with the likes of Burbank or Balboa.

“There’s a bar, a restaurant, a hardware store, market, post office, school and a gas station with one pump,” says Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle of Bieber in Lassen County. “No stop light.”…

In four of the senator’s counties — Modoc, Lassen, Sierra and Alpine — there hasn’t been one case of coronavirus, he says. Zero. …

Modoc, on the Oregon border six miles north of Dahle’s farm, with a population of only 9,570, didn’t wait for the governor to set it free. The county reopened itself Friday….

Good for Modoc. Its “big city” is Alturas, the county seat, with a population of 2,826. Alturas hardly equates with Alhambra or Anaheim in virus risk.…

Closing parking lots inconveniences motorists, but it doesn’t deter every recreation seeker. Definitely not along Highway 49.

“The governor said it’s OK for people to go out and exercise for their physical and mental health, so people are doing that,” says El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini.

“But the parks are closed and people can’t get into the lots. So they’re parking on the two-lane road. With a lot of traffic, somebody is going to get hit.”…

El Dorado County — population 193,000, including South Lake Tahoe — is letting its stay-at-home directive expire and has asked Newsom to loosen restrictions on business. The county has been lightly touched by the virus, with no deaths. ...

Bakersfield Republican Shannon Grove is the Senate minority leader. She keeps stressing that north of the Tehachapi, the virus hasn’t been as vicious as in densely populated Southern California…

“The governor should realize that L.A. County is different than Kern County,” Grove says. “We need to open up county by county. We’ve had only a handful of deaths. Our hospitals are empty. We definitely have to reopen the economy.”

“We’re not saying all of California is ready to open, but we are,” Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), said.

Yuba and Sutter counties in the Sacramento Valley plan to reopen businesses this week. They and four other nearby counties — Butte, Glenn, Tehama and Colusa — have asked Newsom to exempt them from his stay-home order.

“Local businesses can’t survive week after week with no business,” state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) says. “After a while they throw up their hands and quit, and there go the jobs.

“Given the low infection rates, we have to open up our local economy. It’s always struggling anyway.”

Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), a rice farmer, says: “We’re not saying all of California is ready to open, but we are. We’ve met the [governor’s] criteria. The dynamics have changed a lot. This doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Newsom keeps hinting at loosening his reins. He shouldn’t dawdle. Rural folks are beginning to cut the reins themselves and head in another direction.

To read George Skelton’s column in its entirety in the Los Angeles Times, please click here.