How to lose your way in 30 days
Published March 14, 2023
Written by Jefferson
Photography by Simply American
Well, that didn’t take long.
Barely thirty days in office and Commissioner Jacob Bonnema had already lost his way. There were hints here and there, but it seems as though Mr. Bonnema has completely abandoned his constituents and those who supported him.
As an Ottawa Impact candidate, Mr. Bonnema signed a contract with the citizens of Ottawa County. This concept has been greatly mischaracterized as a “contract with Ottawa Impact.” But in fact, it is a contract the candidates entered into with the county and its residents. With one silly idea, Mr. Bonnema violated that contract in at least four ways.
During the January 31, 2023, Ottawa County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Jacob Bonnema asked that the Health Department create a panel to help make future mandates.
On February 5, Commissioner Bonnema posted a follow-up to the Health and Human Services Committee meeting on his Commissioner Facebook page:
‘Worth exploring: I am hearing broad support for the creation of a bipartisan “Pandemic Panel” compiled of health professionals and community leaders. The magnitude of these decisions affect all 300,000 of us, and it is important that all sides are heard to build consensus in the community for an informed decision to be followed for this health officer and future ones. Health Officer Hambley welcomes my suggestion saying, ‘I think it’s always good to have more people weighing in. …I certainly think that would be valuable.’”
Well, that was a short-lived honeymoon. That example is one of many concerning actions Mr. Bonnema has taken as commissioner, up to the point of separating from Ottawa Impact. While all of the Ottawa Impact newly elected board members have come under fire from far-left activists, Mr. Bonnema decided to put himself at odds with those who just elected him as well. It’s an interesting strategy, to alienate both sides of the aisle so quickly. We’ll see how that works out for him.
The idea of a “pandemic panel” is nonsensical in so many ways, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start by showing one of the replies Mr. Bonnema used many times in the comments to this Facebook post.
Common sense would tell us that if another group of commissioners were to be elected and fire the health officer, they also would re-populate the “pandemic panel” with like-minded individuals. And, most likely, they would ensure the recommendations coming from that panel to the health officer align with the next group of commissioners.
To reverse this, would the Ottawa Objects Facebook group be satisfied with a pandemic panel comprised of hand-picked selections from the current board? If the current board created and populated a pandemic panel, and that panel recommended zero mandates to the health officer, would the “Objects” be accepting of that panel’s recommendations?
This also points to the impossibility of creating a “bipartisan” pandemic panel. Those selecting the panel members will bring their biases to the selections. And this isn’t inherently bad; it’s what the voters voted for. Currently, the voters want what Ottawa Impact campaigned on.
At the January 31, 2023, Health and Human Services Committee Meeting, Commissioner Sylvia Rhodea stated: “Collaboration is amazing, and it’s always a good thing. But collaboration aimed at mandates would never fly.”
While the health officer is the person responsible for issuing potential mandates, he or she isn’t operating alone. There is an entire department that works together to develop the recommendations the health officer eventually makes. This is enough of a “panel” as is needed, whether there’s a pandemic or not.
And what about the details? Would those on the panel be paid members of the government? How long would they serve? Would the panel be disbanded and brought back whenever a new pandemic comes along? Or would we have a permanent albatross of a panel that has no way to justify its existence except for once every 100 years? If so, how would this panel provide value to the organizational structure of the county? Common sense would say, to provide “value” and justify their existence, they would need to occasionally produce regulations, mandates, or recommendations to the health officer, which would increase government overreach into citizens’ lives.
Depending on who appoints the members of this panel, this could be quite the scary proposition. A panel may indeed last longer than an election cycle, and we should be very worried at that thought.
How did this proposal violate Mr. Bonnema’s contract with Ottawa?
The Contract with Ottawa states, “Promote and protect liberty and freedom by valuing The People of Ottawa County above the interests of government, corporations, or special interests. I will boldly take action to thwart tyranny, government outreach, and injustice in Ottawa County.”
With Mr. Bonnema’s proposal of a panel, he is allowing the potential interests of special interest groups to outweigh the personal liberties and freedoms of individuals in the community. But the bigger issue in the violation of this point of the contract is the potential tyranny and/or governmental overreach this panel could create. Currently, yes, one person in the health department makes this decision. But that one person is accountable to the board. If the health officer makes poor decisions or oversteps with issuing mandates, the board can replace that one officer.
What a panel does is allow for cowardice, for elected officials to throw their hands up and claim “my hands are tied,” as a panel filled with people with their own special interests recommends actions that become mandates. A panel insulates the health officer from responsibility and accountability by the board. Worse, it insulates the elected county commissioners who were elected in part due to the overreach of the previous administration. And maybe that’s the point. When running for re-election, claiming a large “panel” recommended a mandate works to absolve a candidate who can still claim to be anti-mandate.
The Contract with Ottawa states, “Govern with the least force and least authority required, allowing citizens maximum opportunity to make their own decisions for their families, businesses, employees, churches and schools.”
This raises simple questions. How does a panel, in addition to the health officer and his department, equal “least authority required”? If the default position is to allow citizens to make their own decisions, how does a pandemic panel accomplish that when the entire purpose of the panel is establishing guidelines and potential mandates on the county?
The Contract with Ottawa states, “Defend the moral responsibility of parents and legal guardians to maintain control of the care and upbringing of their children, which must not be usurped by local government or the government school system. The government’s moral responsibility for children must remain subservient to parents’ rights.”
Abdicating your responsibility as a board member to the decisions of those who haven’t been elected does the exact opposite of this point. It takes control away from the parents and gives it to an unelected panel, who influences an unelected health officer, to issue a mandate controlling what the people can or cannot do.
Lastly, the Contract with Ottawa states, “Use common sense, courage, and the Constitution when making decisions in my elected role.”
Common sense would tell you a panel is a poor idea. Common sense would tell you a panel goes against the contract Mr. Bonnema signed with the citizens of Ottawa County, who contributed to his being elected to begin with. Using courage is standing on your principles as the elected official. Mr. Bonnema was put in this role by The People, to lead in the way he promised during his campaign. Giving up his authority to a panel goes against all of that, and insults those who supported him. He was voted in largely due to the previous board’s inaction to show any courage in fighting against the infringement of personal freedoms and rights at the hands of unelected county officials.
Back to Mr. Bonnema’s response about putting in measures that address the issue for a longer term than the current group of commissioners. Here’s a novel idea–serve in your role, live up to the promises you made during your campaign that led to you being elected. Show that you won on the battlefield of ideas and that the implementation of those ideas are beneficial.
If you are successful, run for re-election and continue to ensure that your solutions last longer than one cycle. Or prove that the ideas and promises you ran on, that the people wanted, are so good that the next group of commissioners will need to run on the same, continuing to serve in similar fashion to satisfy the voters of the county. If you are questioning the ideals you ran on and were elected to uphold, it is good to know now. Voters can plan accordingly in the future.
Still, it is quite impressive to watch a Republican elected official be harangued by the far-left activists and then find a way to also alienate his voter base, just outside of thirty days. You could almost consider it an impressive feat, if it weren’t so frustrating.
Ottawa Impact PAC Ends Resources
On Monday, March 13, Jacob Bonnema issued a statement and made the rounds with the Democrat Activist Media, announcing his separation from the Ottawa Impact PAC. It had already become clear Mr. Bonnema was not aligned with the remaining commissioners who ran with the PAC.
Ottawa Impact PAC provided the following statement:
“On Friday, March 10, 2023, Ottawa Impact PAC informed Jacob Bonnema that it would no longer provide resources to his campaign. The decision to discontinue resources had been made weeks prior, and was not influenced by any statement Mr. Bonnema may have made to third parties in the days preceding this action. The separation followed repeated requests to do so from concerned community members.
Ottawa Impact PAC did not release the private notification to Mr. Bonnema to the public. On Monday, March 13, 2023, Mr. Bonnema took to the media circuit to notify the public that he had split from Ottawa Impact.
Mr. Bonnema’s actions, comments, and voting record have demonstrated he is not aligned with the Ottawa Impact PAC or the Contract with Ottawa he signed. Ottawa Impact PAC believes he may be happier operating independently, and wishes him well. We encourage Zeeland residents to hold Mr. Bonnema to his promise to defend and protect the individual freedoms, parental rights, and American values he ran on.”
Today, Mr. Bonnema is in search of a constituency. Is he courting the vote of the left, or does his claim to be a conservative hold up after rejecting his voters’ wishes and the commitment he made to them? The left may view him as useful, but whether they would vote for him remains to be seen.