Bexley council considers policies for state-of-emergency declarations
When the Bexley mayor, police chief or council president declares a state of emergency in Bexley related to a natural disaster, a riot or another event that affects the safety of people and property, that emergency declaration will need the approval of Bexley City Council to extend beyond 45 days if council approves Ordinance 36-20.
Ordinance 36-20 states "the existence of an emergency should not be used beyond the immediate needs of the emergency to bypass the normal legislative process, or to give on-going extraordinary powers to the mayor or designated officials declaring the emergency."
The ordinance's purpose is to ensure there are checks and balances when the mayor or another city official declares a state of emergency, said council member Richard Sharp, who introduced the legislation at council's Aug. 25 meeting.
Sharp cited the example of council's 5-1 vote on June 26 to express approval for Mayor Ben Kessler signing an executive order that went into effect July 3 to enforce the wearing of face masks at indoor businesses to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
"True emergencies that require prompt action are basically short-term in nature," Sharp said. "If the situations would require an extension ... similar to how the mayor asked us ... to consider his mask mandate, which was totally appropriate, that it be affirmed by a majority voice vote of council."
If council approves, Ordinance 36-20 would:
* Enable the mayor, the police chief or council president to declare a state of emergency "when there is a tumult, riot, mob or body of people acting together to commit a felony or to do or offer violence to any person or property, or by force or violence to break or resist the law, or in the event of a flood, fire, snowstorm or any other disaster affecting life and property and which substantially affects its ability to protect the lives and the property of the people."
* Limit the state of emergency to 45 days or less.
* Allow certain provisions of the state of emergency to be extended by an additional 45 days through a voice vote by the majority of council.
* Allow certain provisions of the state of emergency to be extended beyond 90 days through an ordinance approved by council, or until council can establish a quorum to hold a meeting and vote on whether to continue the state of emergency.
Council's third and final reading and a vote on the ordinance is tentatively set for Tuesday, Sept. 22.
For more information, go to bexley.org.