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Open Letter to Champaign Council Denouncing Extraordinary Powers

The following letter was submitted April 7th, 2020 in response to Champaign City Council’s proposal (and ultimate passage of) to extend the Emergency Order originally passed March 13th, 2020.

My name is Russ Clark and am the chair of the Champaign County Libertarian Party.  I am yet again shocked and dismayed that my city council is ruled by fear.  Yet another motion for emergency orders that allows our mayor and unelected city officials to ban the sale of liquor, wine, beer, gasoline, firearms, 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.  This emergency ordinance needs amendment so city government only takes the actions necessary to deal with a public health crisis, not invasion by a foreign power marching down Neil Street. If there is no need or desire to use them, why take them at all?  We all know the names of leaders who assume these kinds of powers under the guise of an emergency only to later use them when it suits their own ends. We call them many names that we all know.

So I implore the council tonight to vote down this ordinance and direct the city manager to write amendments striking the unconstitutional powers granted under it. The council appears to trust the Mayor. Many in her political party have publicly stated she would never take such rash actions. We cannot be assured that future councils can be worthy of trust nor future mayors would be so inclined to not use them. To leave this emergency order as is would invite lesser people to use their guile and political skill to gain these powers with a populace unable to halt them. The people would be forced to rely on County, State and Federal courts or force to rein them in.  How much damage can be done to our community while we wait for a judge to dither, hear arguments and ruminate on a decision?  If a mayor were to cut off natural gas supplies in winter to halt carbon dioxide emissions under a “climate emergency” declaration, quite a bit!

This ordinance has no delineation for the state of emergency nor does Council’s procedure allow Council to make amendments prior to adoption.  They must be routed through city administration first. This is acceptable for zoning ordinances and personnel policies, not enacting police powers that trample individual freedoms guaranteed by Federal law.

I would hope that this council sees fit to vote down this order and request amendments so that a lawful emergency order can be passed at the next city council meeting.

Russ Clark
Champaign County Libertarian Party