The City of Gonzales met in an emergency meeting Friday afternoon over a teleconference to discuss amending and possibly extending the public health emergency they declared on Monday. The meeting was called to clarify the declaration passed on Monday due to Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order set to go in effect Friday night at 11:59 p.m.
Gonzales Mayor Connie Kacir explained that the verbiage in the declaration tied the city to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation.
“Anytime the CDC changes their recommendations, our ordinance will automatically follow that,” Kacir said. “We did make a media release earlier this week and we reiterated that to the community our limit was at 10.”
Reid Means of the Long Branch Saloon was the lone public comment speaker at the start of the meeting. Means suggested to council that they amend their current ordinance so that businesses may remain open until 11:59 p.m., when Gov. Abbott’s executive ordinance is placed in effect.
During the discussion portion of the action item, Kacir shared to council a conversation she had with City of Gonzales Chief of Police Tim Crow on a business calling in and asking about proper protocol.
“The way it reads, inside a building, you can have a gathering of 10, that would include staff, and that 10 has to implement the social distancing, six feet between each person,” Kacir said. “Outside, if they have property where their business could move outside, then the number would be unlimited as long as social distancing and other measures were enacted.”
Councilman Gary Schroeder suggested they word the ordinance, “so we can allow our local businesses the 50 people until 11:59 tonight.”
Councilman Dan Blakemore later stated that since the 10-person ordinance has already been enforced on another business, that council should stick with their original ordinance and continue to enforce it.
Councilman Bobby O’Neal added, “I understand where Gary is coming from, [but] I also agree with Blakemore because we already set that precedent. If we go back and change it now, it opens a can of worms.”
“We’ve had the rules here in front of us, do not gather in social groups more than 10,” Councilman Tommy Schurig said. “I believe we better continue the way we’re going right now as stated by the commissioner of public health and the governor. I conquer with Councilmal O’Neal and Councilman Blakemore.”
“I see where Schroeder is coming from and Councilman Schroeder, I have deep compassion, and I know all four of you do as well, for our local businesses,” Kacir said. “This is hard. These are not fun decisions that we make, these are not easy decisions.
“Every time someone called me and had pushback to what we did, you know, I turned it and put it back in their court and said we did this for you. This is for the health and safety of you, your family and your loved ones. We have no joy in doing this. This is a pandemic. It’s out of our control and we have followed what the CDC guidelines are. These are professionals in that field and this is the guidance that they’re giving us. For me personally I have to submit to that authority.”
After Kacir called for a vote, Blakemore, Schurig and O’Neal all voted in favor of keeping the limit at 10 people and following the CDC guidelines. Schroeder voted against, adding, “I just want to state on the record that I know the severity of this, but between last night and today’s conversation with local businesses, they’re under the impression that they have got until 11:59, so this is going to change obviously. I’m going to vote ‘nay.’ I just wanted to extend it the extra nine hours. But we have what we have in place.”
With Kacir’s vote of “aye,” the ordinance was passed 4-1.
Municipal elections moved to November
With recommendations from the Texas Secretary of State, city council voted 5-0 to move the municipal elections from May 2 to Nov. 3, for the protection of the health and safety of the general public.
Kacir stated multiple reasons to moving the election, including the health and safety of election workers, the sanitation of election equipment, the prohibition of social gatherings or groups of more than 10 people and the uncertainty as to whether individuals at retirement centers would have transportation to the polling place.
Kacir also added that candidates would have a difficult time campaigning, both in rallies and door-to-door.
Schroeder asked if council had to modify their rules on election signs. Kacir responded, saying that particular issue was not addressed during the election advisory, but that council would follow the recommendations from the Secretary of State.
With a vote of 5-0, the election was officially moved to Nov. 3.