A proclamation introduced at a Chanhassen City Council meeting this week that urged support for Gov. Tim Walz to relax restrictions on local businesses and places of worship was tabled after the city’s mayor led an opposition effort and called the document “partisan.”
Council member Julia Coleman put forward the proclamation at Monday’s scheduled council meeting, which outlined the governor’s executive orders requiring certain businesses to shut down and Minnesotans to stay-at-home.
The proposed proclamation also thanked Gov. Walz for helping the state to better prepare for the effects of the pandemic, and recognized community mitigation efforts that have helped keep infection rates relatively low in Carver County.
The proclamation outlined the significant impact the shutdown orders have had on the economy, businesses, employees and the community, and also encouraged continued measures to reduce the spread of the disease.
The heart of the proclamation urged the State of Minnesota to “relax restrictions on businesses and places of worship,” and allow them to open on May 18, if they choose, while taking continued measures to social distance as well as follow the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Heath for safe operations.
In a Facebook post prior to the meeting, Coleman shared the proclamation and said, “I have heard you loud and clear. You understand the seriousness of this pandemic, but you also need to put food on the table for your families.” Business owners know how to protect themselves, their employees and their families, she said, “and have a right to decide for themselves if they are capable of and comfortable with reopening.”
It was made clear during Monday’s council meeting that amemorandum regarding the proclamation had been sent from City Manager Todd Gerhardt to the council members and the mayor just hours prior to Monday’s meeting, which was the first time most of them had a chance to review it, according to comments made by Mayor Elise Ryan during the meeting.
After Coleman introduced the proclamation, her three fellow council members and the mayor had an opportunity to ask questions or give comments. Council members Jerry McDonald and Dan Campion expressed support for the intent of the proclamation and indicated they would support it.
Council member Bethany Tjornhom did not directly express support or opposition, but asked Coleman questions about which cities had taken similar actions and whether Coleman had authored the document. Coleman replied with names of a handful of other cities that have made similar efforts and indicated that she had pieced together the document after looking at what other cities had done.
Mayor Ryan expressed that she “didn’t like that [the proclamation] came in at the ‘11th hour,’” and then made vague, rambling comments about the authorship of the document and indicated concern that her own “name would be at the bottom of it.”
Ryan said that she’s been in touch with businesses and supports them and stated that she thought it was a “falsehood” to imply that by not supporting the proclamation means you don’t support local businesses.
“If I’m being blunt, which I’m going to be,” Ryan said, “this just seems really partisan to me.”
Ryan made a point of noting the proximity to the May 18 date when Gov. Walz was expected to change or continue the stay-at-home and business shutdown orders and said, “we’re potentially three to four days outside of getting some guidelines from the governor on what’s next.”
Ryan finally stated that while cities are “supposed to represent our residents and our businesses… we also have the responsibility to follow the orders of our governor and make sure we understand what is being put forward,” she said.
On Wednesday evening Gov. Walz delivered a special address to the public via YouTube to announce that he was extending his peacetime state of emergency powers for another 30 days, and that he was making modifications to the stay-at-home and business shutdown orders.
The governor has been facing increasing backlash against the shutdown and stay-at-home orders as demonstrated by several protests held both in front of the Governor’s Mansion and at the Capitol over the last few weeks, as well as several social mediagroups that have popped up to organize and oppose the shutdown and Walz’ actions.
Increasing numbers of cities have written to the governorrequesting relief for businesses. Others have considered or passed resolutions to support businesses opening or declare that they will not expend resources to enforce shutdown orders. Cities that have acted in some manner include Pequot Lakes,Oak Grove, Hanover, Cokato Township, Thief River Falls,Roseau Lakefield, Worthington, and Sauk Centre.
Last week, over 70 chambers of commerce signed a letter urging Gov. Walz to consider a more equitable approach to allowing businesses to open, citing examples of unfairness and hardshipcreated by the shutdown orders.
A number of independent businesses have also stated they’re planning to open on May 18 whether or not the shutdown order is still in place. A group of churches and businesses also filed a federal lawsuit last week claiming the shutdown infringes on their Constitutional rights.
In his Wednesday address, Gov. Walz summarized one of fournew executive orders which states that starting May 18 non-critical businesses including retail stores and main street businesses will be allowed to resume business at 50% capacity as long as they have a safety plan in place.
Restrictions will remain in place for bars, restaurants, theaters, hair salons and other businesses where close physical contact is common or where people tend to “linger.” Walz said his administration is working with commissioners from Labor and Industry, Health and Economic Development to develop a plan for phased opening of those types of businesses beginning on June 1.
Gov. Walz said he’s encouraging people to continue wearing masks, maintain social distancing and avoid congregating in stores or in social gatherings of more than ten.
Following the governor’s special address, the members of the New House Republican Caucus (NHRC) released a scathing statement saying, “Governor Walz’s decision to extend the peacetime emergency order is foolhardy, dictatorial, and self-centered.”
The NHRC, which includes Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), Rep. Cal Bahr (R-East Bethel), Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg), and Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal), said the “legislature could cancel the peacetime emergency order and end the economic shutdown today,” and blamed a majority of Minnesota legislators for being “complicit” in allowing the governor to “maintain total control.”
The statement accused Gov. Walz of creating a devastating recession in the state through his actions during the pandemic and claimed that, proportionally, Minnesota has suffered twice the amount of COVID-19 deaths and twice the amount of unemployment as free states.
“That is not a record which demonstrates leadership, thoughtfulness, or capability,” the statement read. “In the interest of five and half million Minnesotans, it is time for Governor Walz to admit his huge failure and end his destructive shutdown in its entirety. We are beginning to hit the rocks and the ship is breaking up.”