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OPINION | ‘I will do it in a heartbeat’

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The following is a transcript of a privileged statement made by Rep. Luis John DLG Castro during a House of Representatives session on April 16, 2020.

FOR the last month, everyone, our constituents, all of us have been dealing with what some have called “the new normal.” Covid-19 arrived and completely changed the landscape of how we go about our everyday lives. Yes, social distancing has been tough in a community dependent on being social with each other. Having to do our routines earlier than usual in the day might make things nerve wracking from time to time, but we are learning to adapt to it. Being told to be home by 7 p.m. might seem extreme for some, but this just like all of the directives implemented in this emergency have been put in place to keep us safe. And so far, we are adjusting and keeping on as best as we can.

I’d like to say “Thank you” to those who have been at the forefront of this whole effort. Our Covid-19 Task Force, our federal partners, our first responders, our medical professionals, the doctors, the nurses and their staff, those who have provided essential services, our storekeepers, business owners who despite the risks offer their goods and resources to help us continue our regular lives despite the irregular circumstances and of course those who in their own creative ways have tried to put smiles on our people’s faces in the face of days where we all worried of what tomorrow will bring.

However, I want to address something that has bothered me personally. It was sometime in March, when the governor called for enhanced measures for social distancing in a directive placed in his executive order declaring a state of emergency, a provision was added in the beginning to shut down business that are open to the general public to be shut down after 1 p.m. True, that directive was made to limit interaction but from the start it proved that it needed some oversight. When you would go to stores and other businesses who were affected by it, the first thing you saw were large groups of people. An elderly lady who I talked to while in line at a supermarket in my precinct a couple of days after that directive came out vented out her frustrations to me not because of the limited time given to carry out her routines but because she was worried about being around a lot of individuals and putting herself in danger of being infected.

Due to that, some of us, myself included, started pointing out certain provisions of that directive that seemed to make things a little difficult more than easier. Several days later, it was indicated that changes were going to made to that directive, and for me as one of those who spoke up about it, I was satisfied with that decision. However, at the end of that chat the administration seemed it was in their best judgement to belittle some of us for going out and speaking out about it. One of the things picked up from that action was a paraphrased quote that sort of went, “If you need to say something, let us know before you let the media know how you feel.”

Correct me if I’m wrong colleagues, but as officials it is our duty to speak up when something doesn’t feel right. When limiting operating hours for businesses was completely making the mandate of social distancing pointless I and a few others spoke out. When I heard a constituent mention seeing officials going around asking business owners which hours would they prefer to be opened after the government made that decision for them two days earlier, and seeing others talk about it on social channels made me feel I had to say something about it.

I didn’t do what I had to do because I wanted to vent out my personal frustrations but I felt I had to use my voice to speak out for those affected by this. Thankfully, things were changed, and for the most part our community has learned to operate within these directives. I for one, have not criticized or nitpicked how the governor or the task force have been going about fighting the war against this pandemic, as a matter of fact I’m grateful for the steps taken to combat Covid-19.

But to be told to run things through certain individuals before using my voice, what I’m supposed to use in this job I was elected for, that’s something I can’t figure out can be justified. There have been many instances where their actions have been done without direct dialogue with us or those that those decisions affected even though that’s something we as branches are supposed to be doing. And the one time where one of us felt that something needed to be addressed because it was affecting our constituents we get scolded?

This disaster has brought about a lot of problems we as leaders need to come together and square out. Calling out somebody because they said something they didn’t appreciate shouldn’t be one of those solutions. If we are ever to see ourselves out of this situation, we must work collectively instead of individually to solve the dilemmas this pandemic has brought out. If what I had to say will bring out some ill will from certain individuals, my apologies. And yes, these words may get me blacklisted, but being scolded after doing what I felt needed to be done is something I cannot tolerate. And if I feel I have to speak out on something that needs to be aired out, I will do it in a heartbeat.

All I’m saying is that if we’re going to get out of this, more dialogue is needed then finger pointing, more patience and compromise should be shown than scolding, and more collaboration should be exercised than dictation. Yes, we are going to disagree, but it needs to be done. Hopefully, after this session adjourns, the other branch will get the point.

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