Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Davidson Board to hold Special Meeting on Tuesday to consider more stringent coronavirus restrictions

At the May 12th regular board meeting, Davidson electeds spent 2 hours discussing the coronavirus pandemic. The beginning of the first hour was spent hearing updates from NC Senator Natasha Marcus and NC Representative Christy Clark on the happenings in Raleigh.

About 15 minutes in, the Board members went around the virtual zoom table with each asking questions.  This was kicked off with Commissioner Fort asking right off the bat if Marcus and Clark agreed with the move to Phase 1 of reopening.  Without answering directly if their personal opinions differed from that of Governor Cooper's on the decision to move to Phase 1, Marcus and Clark both indicated that they received updates from NCDHHS and that they trusted the experts there.

After the Senator and Representative left the conference, Davidson's Board spent the next hour discussing the Town's response, and specifically, whether or not the Town of Davidson could/should be more stingy with its own reopening plan - something both senior management and the Town Attorney assured them they could do under its own emergency authority.  Again, this part was opened with Commissioner Fort asking that the Board vote on whether or not it agreed with Cooper's decision to move to Phase 1 of opening.  The Board never voted on this last week, but Fort did say that if the Board was to vote to just accept what the County and State decided it would likely not be unanimous with him voting against such a hypothetical.

During the solid hour of discussion, much attention with no real detail was had around the subject of masks.  Should the Town require them inside businesses?  Could the Town require them in parks?  What and how did Durham implement more restrictive changes?  How would any such requirements be enforced?

The answer to the parks mask wearing requirement idea was that for Fisher Farm and Abersham the Town has no authority since they are owned by the County.  This of course implies it's possible for the Town to require them at Town-owned parks and greenways.  However, making masks required in Town Parks wasn't specifically discussed during the meeting other than in reference to having the possible authority to do so.

In fact most of the conversation on masks centered around possibly requiring them inside businesses and presumably any lines outside them.  This rightfully led to consideration of enforcement and asking the question "what happens if someone does not comply?"  Police Chief Penny Dunn was not on the call to provide her insights.  Mayor Knox glossed over the question saying compliance shouldn't be a problem in Davidson.  Commissioner Fuller did however acknowledge the possibility of having to deal with situations like the one in Raleigh recently where 2nd Amendment advocates protested such public orders.  That protest was around stay at home orders and did not involve protesting a mask requirement, but the idea is worth considering.  What might be the unintended consequences from an enforcement perspective of Davidson going out on its own with added restrictions?

This portion of the meeting ended with staff being directed to come up with some options.  Those can be found here on the agenda for Tuesday's Special Meeting.  A special webinar registration link is also included for those citizens who would like to participate in the discussion.

The options range from the most extreme restriction of staying in Phase 1 when the State and County move to Phase 2 (possibly as soon as the end of this week), to modifying certain aspects of moving to Phase 2 such as opening restaurants but with only outdoor seating, to requiring masks in public places, to moving to Phase 2 when everyone else does.  Much of the attached deck of slides focuses on a possible Town information campaign encouraging mask wearing.

Interestingly, there is no attached resolution or ordinance that might be voted on at the meeting.  Typically, such documents are included in the agenda.  That could be a sign of the fluidity of the situation with no specifics readily available to even draft one, or it could mean no such documents are needed if the actions just include directing staff to conduct a public information campaign.  Per comments at the meeting last week this could also mean a document to vote on isn't really needed because the power to do these things is really vested solely with the Mayor under emergency powers.  This last possibility could mean some document will be pulled together after the meeting for the Mayor to sign.  However, Mayor Rusty Knox did indicate last week that he intended to follow the Board majority and not make any of these decisions alone.

Tune in this evening at 6pm.  It is sure to be an interesting one.

Note to Readers:  This is the first real post in quite a while here at aShortChronicle, and several readers have reached out to ask "where have you been?"  The absence hasn't been because of any health issue, overwork elsewhere, or because of a lack of possible Town Hall topics to discuss.  Rest assured, or maybe not, the number of questions, comments, and information received here at aShortChronicle on Town shenanigans and tomfoolery has not slowed down.  However, for the time being judiciousness in choosing what to cover will be the norm.

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