As an early New Year’s present, New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a renewed face mask mandate for all public schools. Numerous upstate counties with more conservative officials immediately announced that they would not be complying with the order, while New York City quickly embraced the idea. But not all of the Big Apple is quite as blue as it was prior to the last set of local elections. This week, Nassau County on Long Island also bucked the trend. Newly elected county executive Bruce Blakeman announced that schools in his county would not be subject to the mandate and each local school board would be left to decide whether the policy should be implemented or not. At this point, a majority of New York counties are simply ignoring the Governor’s order and there doesn’t seem to be anything she can do about it. (National Review)
Nassau County’s newly sworn-in Republican county executive issued an order on Thursday allowing school districts to decide whether to institute mask mandates, in defiance of New York State policy.
“School boards are comprised of elected officials who make decisions based upon the unique circumstances of each district,” county executive Bruce Blakeman said at a press conference. “They are in the best position to make these decisions, not an autocracy in Albany.”
Blakeman signed three executive orders on Thursday, including one that allows the county’s school boards to get rid of mask mandates that Governor Kathy Hochul has implemented statewide. He expressed confidence that the order provides sufficient legal grounds for schools to go against Hochul’s mandate.
It’s important to note that Blakeman isn’t banning face mask mandates. He’s adopting one of the more conservative positions he took when running for office last year. The level of government that resides closest to the voters is the most responsive and best suited to make individual decisions. In this case, he’s leaving it up to the school boards as to whether they want to impose a mask mandate.
Nor is the county executive banning masks for anyone. Even at schools without mandates, anyone who wants to wear a mask is free to do so. It’s a question of individual choice.
Bruce Blakeman was part of the red wave that swept over Long Island in November. He ran on a platform of law and order, rejecting the “bail reform” initiatives that led to spiraling crime rates in all five boroughs of the city. Democrats had dominated Long Island politics for the previous 15 years, but they lost every county-level seat that was up for grabs in the last election, including the county executive’s office. Now Blakeman is bringing more conservative policies into play than just a renewed focus on combatting crime.
Long Island is only one of the spots in New York that seems to be undergoing a bit of a conservative revolt. Following some significant election victories in November, the normally docile and vastly outnumbered New York Republican Party has launched a Take Back New York campaign in recent weeks. They are highlighting the failed bail reform laws and other anti-police policies put in place by the Democrats and the rising crime rates that came about as a result. They are also reminding the voters that the Empire State is bleeding residents, experiencing a net population loss for the past several years, resulting in the loss of yet another congressional seat following the last census. I don’t expect this drive to result in a new GOP majority in the assembly or a Republican governor in 2023, but all they would really need to do is flip about five seats in the state Senate to slow the Democrats’ agenda to a crawl. And reminding everyone about the failed Democratic agenda is probably a good starting point to do that.