Illinois mayor's attempt to use COVID-19 as an excuse to be dictator thwarted by City Council
Updated: Mar 15, 2020
Champaign, Illinois Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen has declared a town emergency over the coronavirus that includes the power to violate individual property rights and another that will allow her to issue a ban on the sale of firearms and ammunition.
The mayor’s executive order is broad and weeping in the “extraordinary powers” it grants solely to her. The order includes these provisions allowing her to:
Violate the Illinois Open Meetings Act
Ban the sale of firearms, ammunition and alcohol
Close down indefinitely all bars, taverns, nightclubs
Order utilities’ cutoffs to any customer within the Champaign city limits
Take possession of private property and obtain the title to it
Restrict travel into and out of the city.
Feinen issued the order despite the town and surrounding area not having a single case of the disease. As of Friday morning, Illinois had 32 confirmed cases of the coronavirus but no cases in central Illinois. On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a disaster proclamation as the state prepared to address the coronavirus.
An emergency Champaign City, Illinois City Council meeting was called Friday night to counter efforts by the mayor to giver herself extraordinary powers through an executive order. (Photo: WAND17-TV)
Champaign City Manager Jeff Hamilton told ACV Reports, "The executive order allows the city to be flexible to properly respond to the emergency needs of our community. None of the options will necessarily be implemented but are available in order to protect the welfare and safety of our community if needed."
Not everyone is pleased about the mayor’s actions. City Council members responded to public outrage within hours of the edict being signed, holding an emergency meeting to address concerns about the powers Feinen granted herself Friday.
Deputy Mayor Tom Bruno rammed through a new ordinance that requires council approval for any order Feinen attempts to enact. Each action considered under the executive order would need to be ratified by two=thirds of the council.
The city also released a statement claiming that the council and the mayor would only take steps "necessary to ensure the health, safety, and welfare" of the city.
"The City will keep the public's best interest in mind as we continue to work alongside public health officials and countywide leaders," the council said in a statement. "We understand this is a challenging time but working collaboratively as a community is the best approach to combating this virus."