We fully understand the intent of a proposed city ordinance that received support Wednesday from the Public Works and Safety Committee. But the proposal is a bit far-reaching.
The proposal, which will be considered by the Minot City Council on Monday, allows the mayor to declare a disaster and begin emergency procedures. The mayor could, for instance, order the closing of public facilities and utilities, close roads, order evacuations, establish curfews and order quarantines, among a long list of other powers. The mayor could also purchase or lease items for the city or enter into contracts for services without city auditor approval, provided the cost is $30,000 or less, and convene, reschedule, relocate or cancel meetings of the city council or city committees as needed.
Again, we understand that some of these powers are necessary at times. We saw during the flood of 2011 that certain decisions must be made quickly, and this ordinance means that in the event of a disaster or emergency, the mayor is in charge. But we question some of the powers listed in the proposal, by which the mayor could:
- Require the closing of business establishments.
- Control, restrict, allocate, or regulate the use, sale, production, or distribution of food, water, fuel, clothing, and/or other commodities, materials, goods, services and resources.
- Temporarily suspend or modify, for not more than 60 days, any regulation or ordinance of the city.
- Suspend or limit the sale, distribution, dispensing, or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, and combustible products.
The ordinance would certainly clear up any confusion as to who's in charge during a city emergency, and that's a positive step. And we understand the closing of roads, ordering evacuations or other similar powers that are deemed necessary during an emergency. But taken as a whole, the proposed ordinance grants virtually unlimited power to the mayor in declared emergencies. That's an awful lot of authority given to one position, and we have serious questions why some of the listed items are necessary.