Normal Town Council members removed a controversial provision of the town’s emergency code Monday before unanimously adopting the guidelines during an emergency meeting scheduled in response to McLean County’s first confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The code, which the town first created in 1969, had given the mayor broad powers such as setting curfews or banning the sale of alcohol, gasoline or firearms over a 48-hour period.
Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McCarthy presided over the meeting in the town council chambers while a majority of council members participated virtually for social distancing purposes.
During public comment, McCarthy read aloud several dozen emails from the public expressing displeasure over authority the ordinance would give the mayor, considering it government overreach.
One email said “Do not abridge, curtail, suspend or postpone any of our constitutional rights. We are not under martial law and you do not have the authority to do as you please.”
McCarthy proposed that portion of the code, Section 11, be removed. The council agreed in unison, 7-0.
“The only intention behind the ordinance tonight is to make sure that we can respond quickly, so if we can do that without Section 11 and that doesn’t unduly burden the town’s response in taking care of the community, that’s why I made that proposal,” McCarthy said.
Mayor Chris Koos responded to those concerns by saying the bans listed under the original code are “on nobody’s horizon, certainly not on my horizon.”
“I heard the concerns tonight and there were a lot of concerns about personal freedoms and rights,” Koos said. “I will say that the Town of Normal has no authority to supersede the state of Illinois Constitution or the federal Constitution.”
The emergency ordinance gives the city manager the ability to make emergency purchases, close facilities, halt public events, adjust paid leave and other benefits to staff and extend deadlines for paying ordinance violations and other payments owed to the town.
“We are moving into uncertain times,” Koos declared. “I don’t think any of us have a good idea where this is going to go.”
The town has already closed public facilities in response to the coronavirus and has scaled back some public works operations until further notice.
“Bluntly, this is a health crisis that has already caused a loss of life in our community and will likely cause more,” McCarthy said.
Bloomington Cancels Meeting
The City of Bloomington was expected to adopt its own emergency ordinance on Monday but was forced to cancel its regular city council meeting after it encountered technical difficulties for its virtual meeting.
Still no live video yet on the @cityblm City Council meeting. At the end of the Township meeting, Scott Black said the audio issues were "unbearable" and added, "We can't conduct business like this." ... Have not seen any live video since.
— Joe Deacon (@JoeDeacon71) March 23, 2020
The meeting will be rescheduled at a later date.
The city later announced Mayor Tari Renner extended the city's 48-hour emergency order allowing package, curbside and package delivery of alcohol for businesses forced to shut down following Gov. JB Pritzker's closing of all bars and restaurants on March 15.
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