A group of seven former Salina City Commissioners and Mayors have signed off on a statement urging voters to vote “no” on a ballot question in the upcoming general election. The proposed ordinance would limit the commission’s ability to enact public health legislation during a state of emergency, social distancing and limiting crowd sizes, mask mandates, and altering hours when businesses can be open.
The following is their statement:
The ordinance on Salina’s ballot November 2 would remove the City’s ability to take action to protect public health and safety.
The 4% of voters who petitioned this ordinance claim to be against Big Government. Ironically, if passed and ruled constitutional, it would instead pass more local governance to the next bigger entities, the County and the State. Not only is City Government closer to the people, its elections are less likely to be biased by party loyalty.
City elections remain non-partisan, so citizens choose Commissioners on the basis of qualification, not party, therefore hopefully less partisan. Yest this is the body the petitioners want to strip of power. It seems illogical.
In addition, Commissioners can change over time, but if passed, this ordinance could not be challenged by citizen petition for 10 years.
The petitioned ordinance calls for formal County or State Declarations of Emergency, which are not instantaneous and bogged down by procedure. We don’t have days or weeks, when action is required in 1-5 minutes.
The ordinance term “emergency” is unclear and uninformed. Such vague language puts all citizens at risk. Future emergencies could be, but are not limited to, tornado, flood, jet crash, fire, industrial accident, or another pandemic. On its own property (parks, etc.), elected city commissioners could neither set nor enforce rules regarding group size, curfew, or restricted behavior.
In such cases, especially, it would create law enforcement confusion. For example, will the sheriff’s office dictate the actions of the Police Department?
Finally, this petition is allegedly to protect individuals and businesses from mandates. Yet at least one small Salina retail business is now closed for several months, its owner out of hospital but fighting ongoing complications. Whether for or against vaccine and masks , the owners were unlucky enough to be Covid victims. They got it, eliminating at least temporarily a valuable service to the community, now possibly in its death throes. It could have been avoided with 80% vaccination and mask wearing.
The key issue is government’s ability to keep all businesses and citizens safe and healthy. Whether we like it or not, we are under attack by a global pandemic. Local action has global consequences. We cannot allow this petition’s threat to public safety and health.
Former Salina City Commissioners and Mayors