“We need to stay home if you can. This is not the time to relax … We may have to close things down if we are not careful,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler pleaded in a Facebook live video Nov. 9.
What he failed to mention is that he was filming that video while vacationing in Cabo … after hosting his daughter’s wedding and reception in Austin.
Like many other left-leaning mayors across the country, Adler has been a staunch supporter of strict lockdown policies that have left people out of work, driven small businesses to permanently close and contributed to an increase in anxiety and depression. Despite a lack of evidence that these measures actually slow the spread of the virus, Adler has often sounded the alarm that noncompliance would cost lives.
He had a hand in creating a scale of arbitrary risk levels for Austin, based solely on the discretion of a politicized city council and an interim local health official, rather than a measurable benchmark like the hospitalization rate. Nevertheless, a steep fine of up to $2,000 was established for anyone who violates their rules. Their recommendations included limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer and avoiding non-essential travel.
Hypocrisy in politics, big and small, is nothing new. Congress passed a health care bill from which they conveniently exempted themselves, mayors across the country slashed police budgets while enjoying the protection of full-time police details and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got her hair professionally cut and colored while salons across the country were closed. But Adler’s plea for people to stay home while he was jet-setting in Mexico is a new low.
As someone who served with him on the Austin City Council for four years, I have no problem with Adler’s daughter getting married among friends and family at an Austin hotel or flying a photographer in from Seattle to capture the occasion. I’m sure it was beautiful and memorable. I’m glad he was able to take a convivial group to Cabo on a private jet and enjoy some rest and relaxation. Wow, wouldn’t that be nice? Good for him.
But wouldn’t it also be nice if he came down from his ivory tower to allow everyone else the same opportunity? Despite consistently low positivity rates in Austin, we remain in “Stage 4” of lockdown, which bans non-essential travel, dining and gathering.
If the Austin mayor can vacation in Cabo, can my local library please open so my baby boy can attend story time? If the San Francisco mayor can enjoy an evening out with a large group at French Laundry, can I please have a few friends over for dinner? If the Austin mayor can host a wedding, can we please allow kids to attend school without subjecting them to the confinement of a plastic box?
And can I please stop having to ask for permission?
How quickly we have been reduced to being treated like children, needing approval from our overseers to do the most basic things in life, like spending time with those we love, under risk of steep fines if we don’t comply. If there is a silver lining to this extreme hypocrisy, hopefully it’s that more and more Americans are coming around to the realization that they do not have to live in fear. You too can dine with friends, celebrate a momentous occasion or, yes, even take a vacation.
The election is over, and we are way beyond politics. It doesn’t matter who you voted for — the one thing that we all have in common is that we are exhausted. Thankfully, one of the most difficult years in recent history is finally drawing to a close. While the ball dropping on 2020 won’t magically mean an end to the virus, I hope it will bring a restoration of our humanity — to be respected enough to make educated decisions for ourselves and our families, to have honest representation from those who are in power and to stop living under the oppression of constant fear.
After all, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are (according to Ronald Reagan), “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”
The Honorable Ellen Troxclair is a senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Government for the People campaign. She is a former Austin City Council member and is the author of Step Up!: How To Advocate Like A Woman.