Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Racine Council OKs extension of emergency declaration; Mass gatherings restricted through July 31

From The Journal

RACINE — The City Council and city staff spent quite a bit of time Tuesday night clarifying the differences between Safer at Home orders, the city's emergency declaration and the order from the Health Department restricting mass gatherings.

While all three initiatives were discussed at length, the only one up for a vote at Tuesday's City Council meeting was the extension of the emergency declaration.

The council approved the emergency declaration extension by a 13-2 vote. Aldermen Jeff Coe, Mollie Jones, John Tate II, Edwin Santiago, Jennifer Levy, Jeffrey Peterson, Maurice Horton, Marcus West, Trevor Jung, Mary Land, Natalia Taft, Jason Meekma and Melissa Lemke voted in favor of the extension while aldermen Carrie Glenn and Henry Perez voted in opposition.

Emergency declaration

The declaration of emergency was first enacted on March 18 and extended on April 9 then ratified by the City Council on April 20.

An emergency declaration affects the city's ability to apply for financial resources pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other resources made available through the CARES Act. The declaration also affects municipal operations, such as allowing the city to quickly enact declarations, for the council and committees to continue to meet online and restricts visitors to city offices.

Glenn, who represents the 10th District, asked why the emergency declaration was extended to the end of July and asked that the extension instead end on June 30.

Tate, who represents the 3rd District and serves as council president, stated that "it doesn't make sense" for a declaration of emergency and a public health order — the recent ban on mass gatherings, which is also set to expire July 31 — to have different timelines.

Glenn's proposed amendment was voted down 12-3 with Coe, Jones, Tate, Levy, Peterson, Horton, West, Jung, Land, Taft, Meekma and Lemke voting in opposition and Santiago and Perez joining Glenn voting in favor. 

Several aldermen said they have heard from business owners who are concerned that extending the emergency declaration will open the door for extending Safer at Home orders, barring them from re-opening. Jones, who represents the 2nd District, asked if the emergency declaration would permit the Mayor's Office to extend the Safer at Home order. Mayor Cory Mason stated that no, it does not; that is a decision that would be made by Racine Health Department Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox.

Bowersox confirmed that Safer at Home is set to expire on Tuesday morning and stated her department plans to release recommendations and expectations for re-opening by the end of the week.

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