Trusting local officials to lead during the crisis
The first responders in any emergency are the local officials at the site, whether they are police and fire, or mayors and county officials. They are the ones most up-close-and-personal to those in need, and they see with their own eyes the impact that a disaster—and the response to the disaster—have on the community.
I was reminded of this the other day when I heard a commentary by Larry Baughn, the chairman of the Vermilion County Board. Chairman Baughn spoke of his frustration at having a blanket, statewide order imposed on local communities without his input or the input of any other local official that he knew of. He mentioned that local officials were initially told to step up and take the lead in the coronavirus response, because “they know what’s best and right for their areas, now only to be told just the opposite.”
Chairman Baughn gave voice to a frustration I hear a lot from local leaders in our area. They are seeing on a daily basis the kind of damage which the continued shutdown is inflicting on their communities, while the state policy is enacted and extended by executive order without input from the people who know the conditions in those communities best. They are also seeing that “neighboring states all around us have found safe and unique ways to get things going,” while Illinois remains stuck.
He added that he planned to introduce a resolution to the county board expressing support for local communities in this crisis, a step already taken by a growing number of city and county governments in downstate Illinois. “When they hurt, we hurt,” he said of the small businesses who keep these communities going. “And this cannot be ignored.”
Illinois Sheriffs recently spoke out about their displeasure at the lack of consultation. Data from the Department of Public Health shows that our area is within the parameters for a safe re-opening of some businesses and workplaces. Our local officials and community leaders are calling out for help. We need to listen to them before it is too late.
What are our neighboring states doing?
So what does Chairman Baughn mean when he refers to safe and unique things our neighboring states are doing?
While the stay-at-home order continues to drag on in Illinois, our neighboring states are moving toward phased re-openings under strict guidelines. Indiana has shifted to the second step of its recovery program. Indiana restaurants are reopening at up to 50% capacity. Businesses such as hair and nail salons, as well as barber shops, are now open by appointment. Stores and shopping malls are reopening with rules that allow as much as 50% occupancy.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down that state’s stay-at-home order. Local stay-at-home orders are still in effect in some counties and local areas in Wisconsin, but within those communities eligible stores in stand-alone locations and strip malls are reopening.
More news from around the state
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For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: coronavirus.illinois.gov or my website at repbennett.com and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at email@example.com.
My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).