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Champaign LP Calls for Curtailing City Emergency Powers

The following letter was submitted May 5th, 2020 in response to Champaign City Council’s proposal (and ultimate passage of) to extend the Emergency Order originally passed March 13th, 2020 to again implore restraint in government authority.

My name is Russ Clark and I am the chair of the Champaign County Libertarian Party.  Our members are concerned that another month has gone by without any changes to Ordinance 2020-022. I would hope council members are concerned as well.  It is time yet again for the Mayor and unelected city officials to be granted the power to impose a curfew, ban the sale of liquor, wine, beer, gasoline, firearms, and ammunition, as well as cut off a citizen’s utilities, ban entry or exit from the city, take possession and title of a citizen’s personal property without compensation.  The regular study session on April 28th was cancelled without discussion.  This would have provided the perfect opportunity to craft and amend this ordinance to provide for the safe operation of the city during this public health emergency.  

I ask yet again for the council tonight to vote down this ordinance extension and direct the city manager to write amendments striking the unconstitutional powers granted under it. It is not necessary for a municipal government to take powers not granted or authorized by either the Federal or State constitution.  There is no impending destruction of the city nor have our medical facilities been overrun with COVID-19 cases.  If the ordinance is not extended, the ordinance 2020-039 for overtime and other COVID-19 costs would need to be continued.  An agenda amendment could be added to approve funding to pay overtime costs for police, fire, and city employees if necessary.

The city has encouraged people to wear masks but it has not proposed nor passed any resolutions pressing the State of Illinois to reopen the economy.  Many citizens would happily wear a mask if it meant they could get a haircut, shop for clothing at Marketplace Mall, workout in a gym or play with their child at our playgrounds. Council has not requested for such a quid pro quo, at least publicly, but has deemed fit to seize unconstitutional powers to take from the people with only promises to never use it.

Leaving this ordinance unchanged will leave the door open for future councils and future mayors to overreach and take drastic unnecessary measures.  I would encourage any new emergency ordinance to have clear delineations for authority and allow council to amend it prior to implementation.  Routing bills through the city administration is perfectly acceptable for zoning amendments, not for the restriction of civil rights.  Council should be allowed to amend emergency ordinances at the emergency meeting, not wait for a study session which could be cancelled out-of-hand.

I, on behalf of the Libertarian Party, ask that this council sees fit to vote down this ordinance and request amendments so that a LAWFUL emergency order can be passed at the next city council meeting.

Russ Clark
Champaign County Libertarian Party