City of Champaign Addresses Concerns Regarding COVID-19 Emergency Ordinance
-City urges accurate information sharing in the interest of public safety-
On March 13, 2020, in a Special Emergency Council Meeting, Champaign City Council approved an ordinance implementing an emergency declaration in preparation to address the possibility of the COVID-19 virus in our community. This ordinance includes a provision in Section 10 – Exhibit A – that outlines Section 12-39 of the Champaign Municipal Code. Section 12-39 contains a full listing of orders the Mayor may make in the interest of public safety and welfare to address emergency situations including natural disasters and public safety and public health concerns. Nothing in the ordinance requires any of these to be exercised.
Understandably, this order has caused many to ask questions regarding its intent. The exercise of any emergency provision is dependent on the nature of the particular crisis. In the best-case scenario, an outbreak in our community would require the activation of none of the emergency provisions identified in Section 10.
“This is a challenging, unprecedented time for our community, and in my 39 years as the City Attorney this is the first time this type of emergency action has been needed. It required prompt and immediate steps in order to maintain essential services required by our community,” said Fred Stavins. “To be extremely clear, only provisions that are necessary to protect the public health in this situation will be enacted. The City Council would never take an action to violate anyone’s civil liberties.”
This section of the Champaign City Municipal Code (12-39) has been in place since at least 1969. It was last updated by City Council in 2006 after the State of Illinois updated 20 ILCS 3305/7(9). Champaign’s list of emergency powers mirror those of the governor and are authorized by those contained in 20 ILCS 3305/7-1 et seq. Champaign’s provision regarding the restriction of the sale of certain items is the same as 20 ILCS 3305(9).
The City of Champaign is not unique in the language outlined under its orders and regulations. Many cities and states provide for similar listings of emergency powers in the event of a declaration of an emergency by a governor or a mayor. This includes the following Illinois communities: Rockford, Aurora, Normal, Naperville, Northbrook, Peoria, Joliet, Glenview, Glen Ellyn, Centralia, Peoria, and Springfield. Additionally, San Antonio, TX; Minneapolis, MN; Syracuse, NY; Seattle, WA; and the states of Georgia and Florida possess similar language in their emergency orders.
It is unfortunate that the action taken by City Council to protect the community has been misconstrued in a time when we need clear, accurate information to protect public health.
The City of Champaign is committed to being proactive and sharing information with its residents as this crisis continues and we would like to thank our community for its understanding and patience during this challenging time. The health, safety and welfare of our residents, businesses and visitors remain our top priority.