We're glad the Minot City Council is taking the time to consider carefully the ramifications of a proposed ordinance that would give the mayor unnecessary authority in times of emergency.
Aldermen voted Monday to have city staff further study the proposal, which was recommended by city attorney John Van Grinsven and modeled after an ordinance adopted by Grand Forks after its 1997 flood. Further study of the proposal should lead to changes, because portions of the ordinance as written would be unacceptable and unnecessary.
We agree that some of the powers in the proposal are needed. Van Grinsven explained Monday that Mayor Curt Zimbelman had no ordinance to lean on when he ordered mandatory evacuations during last year's flood event. The mayor also should have the authority to waive parking restrictions to allow trailer parking on city streets in time of need, as Van Grinsven described at the council meeting. There are other things the mayor should expressly be authorized to do in emergencies, including closing public roads, establishing curfews, ordering quarantines and closing public facilities.
But giving the mayor of any city the authority to regulate or suspend the sale of certain products, including alcohol, food, water, clothing and fuel, during emergencies is troubling to say the least. We also question why the mayor needs the power to require the closing of businesses and temporarily suspend or modify any city regulation or ordinance.
We're not opposed to the elements of this ordinance that would truly be necessary to protect and benefit the public in times of emergencies. It would clearly spell out who's in charge in such times, and that's generally a good thing. But we'd hope further study leads to significant changes before the ordinance is considered again by the full council.