Not everyone was pleased with Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan’s emergency declaration on Friday, Nov. 20 that the city would begin enforcing the COVID-19 restrictions mandated by the executive orders from Gov. Roy Cooper.
City Councilmember Justin Outling said, “It is appearing to do something and in reality it’s doing nothing.”
Outling said that prior to the emergency declaration, people who violated the order could be charged with a misdemeanor. He said, “A misdemeanor is stronger than a civil penalty.”
Outling said, “What we are doing with this other then appearing to do something when in reality you are not. The staff is enforcing a civil penalty which the staff could already enforce.”
He said, “It’s not adding anything new. You could already give them a $100 penalty under the fire code.”
One part of the rationale for the emergency declaration is that the staff will attempt to educate people about the regulations, and Outling said, “The reality is that city staff can always go in and talk to business owners and educate business owners about the law.”
The City Council constantly talks about involving “stakeholders” in the decision making process. Outling asked why the stakeholders weren’t called in and consulted about how the mandates could be made more effective before the emergency declaration was made.
Outling did say that there was an effort to contact councilmembers about the emergency declaration before it was issued, but he didn’t see it as being asked for input, but simply being informed of the decision that had already been made.
Outling said, “It’s heavy, heavy symbolism with little or no substance. On matters of public health that’s just not the way to lead.”
He said, “The language around the civil order is that we are not going to fine you unless you are really, really horrible and then only after we remind you of that fact.”
Outling added that in his experience, “the vast majority of the people are already following the order.”