Showdown: Paxton sues Austin mayor and Travis County over lockdown restrictions aimed at New Year's weekend

Austin Mayor Steve Adler imposed new lockdown restrictions on Austin residents and business owners ahead of the long New Year’s holiday weekend. Mayor Adler took aim at late-night dine-in food and beverage services in his orders in the name of coronavirus mitigation. Governor Abbott objects to this action and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has now filed a lawsuit against Adler and Travis County.

Adler announced his new restrictions on Tuesday. They put in place a curfew limiting indoor and outdoor dine-in food and beverage services after 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. These restrictions are in effect from Dec. 31 through Jan. 3. Takeout and curbside pickup are still allowed. When Governor Abbott learned of Adler’s new orders, he tweeted out his objections that night. Not so fast, Mayor Adler.

On Tuesday night, Adler said he wasn’t overreacting or going against the governor’s executive orders on shutdowns. He was just letting his true authoritarian freak flag fly. Ok, that last sentence is my interpretation.

Adler, during his “Got A Minute” segment Tuesday night, said he felt the new orders were in line with Abbott’s executive orders. “I don’t call this a curfew, because in my mind, that gives rise to a lot of things that are much broader than the order we have here,” Adler said. “We are not restricting people’s movements, their ability to be able to travel around, their ability to go to the drug store or the grocery store if you’re out at night. So I think what is more descriptive is, kind of just the modification of operations for restaurants; I think that’s probably the most apt description.”

Wednesday night Paxton issued a statement of his own. He pointed out that such short notice from the mayor shows real contempt for Austinites and business owners. Earlier in the day, he warned Mayor Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown in a letter that the state would pursue legal action if they did not rescind or modify the directive to comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-32. (The office of Texas county judge is not a judicial position. It’s a county CEO position.)

On Wednesday evening, Paxton said local leaders did not have the necessary authority to impose the restrictions and sought to halt their enforcement by filing a petition for a temporary injunction and temporary restraining order in Travis County District Court.

“The fact that these two local leaders released their orders at night and on the eve of a major holiday shows how much contempt they have for Texans and local businesses,” Paxton said of Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown in a statement. “They think breaking the law is a game of running the clock before anyone can do anything about it.”

Let me remind you that Mayor Adler is one of many Democrat public officials who has been caught in sheer hypocrisy over coronavirus restrictions. Just before Thanksgiving, he lectured Austinites to stay home and avoid holiday gatherings with family and friends so as not to potentially spread the coronavirus. Then, just like that, Adler was found to be vacationing in Cabo San Lucas with his own family. As he apologized for his shameless arrogance, he had the nerve to say his family has just sacrificed so much, you know. Yes, he is just that tone-deaf. The rules are for the little people like you and me.

Adler’s order carries consequences for violators. Violations are criminal offenses, punishable with a fine of up to $1,000.

Austin is experiencing a steep rise in coronavirus cases now. According to interim Austin-Travis County health authority Dr. Mark Escott, cases have increased by 80% since December 1 and there is a sharp drop in ICU capacity in the county’s hospitals. Wednesday Escott said, “The City of Austin and Travis County are headed for a dire situation.” As far as empathy for business owners suffering from Adler’s latest restriction, well, it’s just too bad.

Adler acknowledged that local restaurants will take an economic hit with the latest orders and asked residents to continue supporting small businesses over the holiday weekend through contactless services.

But with hospitals in the county quickly approaching maximum capacity, Adler said local leaders are all relying on a sense of urgency to motivate residents to comply with the latest holiday restrictions.

“When you sit across the table from someone not wearing a mask, it’s dangerous,” Adler said, adding that the order is meant to limit community spread as much as possible.

The mayor’s salary isn’t interrupted by closing businesses. The mayor is reaching for excuses to go around the correct process. Instead of waiting for the last minute and issuing his order, Adler should have called Governor Abbott and asked for a change to his executive order. Adler is instead making up his own laws and operating on his own outside of Texas law.

A court hearing on the lawsuit is expected Thursday, on New Year’s Eve.