Commissioner Bonnema gives public comment
Published March 24, 2023
Written by Madison
Photography by Simply American
Commissioner Jacob Bonnema has been busy setting the record straight. He’s been informing the community about happenings in Ottawa County by giving public comment at board meetings around the county. He also gave public comment at one of his own meetings.
During the March 2023 Health & Human Services meeting, Commissioner Bonnema left his board seat to take his position at the public microphone. This time he spoke about a resident. “She is very knowledgeable in her space. I realize that some of my comments were very direct, and could be taken as disrespectful to you or your husband and I just want to publicly apologize because that’s not my intent.”
The chair reminded him, “Mr. Bonnema, you need to address the board.” Commissioner Bonnema turned back toward the board and proceeded to again work on setting the record straight.
Earlier in the same meeting, Commissioner Bonnema was attempting to clear his name on a different matter. He had previously championed the creation of a “Bipartisan Pandemic Panel” comprised of health professionals and community leaders that would be in charge of making mandate decisions for future pandemics. After the Interim Administrative Health Officer finished her report about the public health department, the board members were invited to ask questions. Commissioner Bonnema took the opportunity to speak about a pandemic panel.
“Addie, thank you for coming in front of us again today,” Commissioner Bonnema began. He then alluded to the fact that it was her idea to create a panel and that he was willing to explore the idea. “It’s been attributed that that idea was mine. And I think if anybody watches the video from that meeting, they’ll see that I clearly stated that that was something that you brought to me with Ms. Stefanovsky—that you thought had value.”
Despite insisting that creating a pandemic panel was not his idea, on his social media account he stated, “Health Officer Hambley welcomes my suggestion (for a pandemic panel).”
Commissioner Bonnema’s statements advocated for the pandemic panel idea when he believed the public might support it. But after 250 Facebook comments in which the idea was widely criticized by GOP leaders and the public, he began to backpedal.
No Mandates Without Informed Consent
Has Commissioner Bonnema been inconsistent in his statements? On his social media page, he made the comment, “No mandates without informed consent.” A local citizen responded saying: “That statement then makes no sense. A ‘medical mandate’ would mean a required action, like a mandatory vaccine, as in it is required someone gets a vaccine regardless of their choice. So, if it is contingent on informed consent, it can’t be (a) mandate.”
On Monday, March 20, 2023, Commissioner Bonnema attended the Zeeland school board meeting where he gave public comment. He informed the board and the public of three items he is working on as part of the Board of Commissioners: constructing new bathrooms at the Macatawa Trail Head, purchasing fire-fighting foam with ARPA money, and providing childcare in partnership with local business. He also mentioned part of his job is to keep the public safe. After he gave public comment at the school board meeting, he left to give public comment at a municipal meeting.
Between giving public comment, issuing press releases, and interviewing with the media, Commissioner Bonnema appears to keep himself busy. Is he setting the record straight? Or is he doing damage control?