OCEANSIDE — As California slowly begins to reopen businesses following the governor’s stay-at-home order, some North County elected officials continue to push for the county to fully reopen immediately.
For over a month, Councilmember Chris Rodriguez has been one such elected official, expressing his support for a full reopening and his concerns for city businesses.
Earlier in May, Rodriguez wrote a letter addressed to the city encouraging businesses labeled non-essential to open immediately despite county orders.
Mayor Peter Weiss responded to Rodriguez’s letter by distancing the city from the councilmember’s position, as The Coast News previously reported. Rodriguez said he anticipated it.
“The city manager and the city attorney asked the mayor to write that letter,” Rodriguez said.
The Oceanside Police Officers’ Association also wrote a letter in response to Rodriguez’s May 9 letter.
OPOA acknowledged in its response that many citizens share Rodriguez’s viewpoint, but noted the officers cannot let “personal viewpoints dictate how we do our job.”
“No member of the OPOA wants to enforce shutting a business down,” the letter states, adding that the OPOA has sponsored several local restaurants over the last two months as a means of supporting local businesses.
The letter states that the OPOA took issue with Rodriguez’s approach, saying that though Rodriguez may have good intentions, his “potentially inflammatory rhetoric places officers on the frontlines in a lose-lose situation” and “adds confusion and fuel to the fire of this already highly politicized and controversial issue.”
“The bottom line is we are in a difficult situation which was made worse by Councilmember Rodriguez,” the letter states. “We would encourage Councilmember Rodriguez, and any member of the community for that matter, to use more appropriate avenues to implement change to lawfully challenge any laws they believe are unjust.”
Some local business owners have been arrested for opening their businesses against the county’s health orders. On May 10, Lou Uridel, the owner of Metroflex Gym in Oceanside, was arrested for opening his gym.
Rodriguez responded to the OPOA’s letter.
“The heart of my letter addressed to the people of Oceanside on May 9th 2020 was not about defiance, it was about survival,” Rodriguez writes. “Oceanside’s hurting and businesses have no other choice but to operate and survive, before it’s too late.”
Rodriguez then called for Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy, County Sheriff William Gore and all county law enforcement officers “to prioritize the survival of San Diego County residents and their God-given freedoms to work and provide for those they love.”
In addition to his letters, Rodriguez spoke at a May 16 rally at the San Diego County Administration Building calling for the county’s complete reopening.
Rodriguez said he has an overwhelming amount of support from the community on his position. “For every-one upset email, there are 10 positive emails,” he said.
Rodriguez said residents are also growing angry that there aren’t more elected officials standing up like he is. He acknowledged County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who represents parts of North County and is also pushing for full reopening.
Recently, Desmond claimed on the Armstrong & Getty Extra Large Interviews podcast that there were only six “pure” coronavirus deaths out of the county’s more than 200 deaths linked to COVID-19.
For Rodriguez, it doesn’t make sense why retail stores like Walmart can be opened but not other stores like Kohl’s or Ross.
“The environment is exactly the same if not safer than a Walmart,” he said.
On May 12, the county updated its public health order allowing the opening of office-based businesses, car washes, pet grooming businesses, landscape gardening businesses, outdoor museums, open gallery spaces and businesses in malls or strip malls for curbside pickup only. The state estimated that 70% of the California economy had reopened.
The county has also relaxed restrictions on recreational activities. Campgrounds are now able to reopen but must operate at half of their capacity and individual campsites must include only members of the same household.
Businesses that rent bicycles, surfboards, boats, kayaks and other watercraft can reopen as well.
All businesses that are allowed to reopen must first prepare a Safe Reopening Plan for county approval.
In Oceanside, the beach is currently open for active recreation only. All beach parking lots and piers in the county are still closed.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son