Written by Edward Smith
The Clovis City Council voted Monday to repeal its own emergency orders closing bars, restaurants, gyms, parks and more, leaving enforcement of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders to Fresno County and the state of California.
The result: Enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency orders will fall to Clovis law enforcement in only the most dire situations.
“The enforcement of the Governor’s orders are going to be primarily the responsibility of the county health department and the state health department,” said Clovis Mayor Drew Bessinger. “We reserve the right to take enforcement action in an egregious situation, but when we get complaints we’re going to be referring them to the county health department.”
Bessinger stopped short of telling people to ignore shelter-in-place orders. He said the city would be publishing guidance this week for businesses that are ready to reopen on what they should do to keep health at top of mind.
Bessinger said the vote was born out of not only redundancy between city and state orders, but also out of concern for business owners and employees who “need to get back to work.”
“This is a government code violation, not a municipal code violation. Obviously, if the state requests our assistance, we will always be helpful, but there may come a point where we say, ‘we’re not doing this.’”
“We have the right as a city and the protector of our citizens to say ‘no, we think this is overreach,’” Bessinger went on to say.
Along with the vote, council drafted two letters to be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The first asks Newsom to accelerate opening businesses. The second asks for financial assistance. Having a population of less than 500,000 kept Clovis officials from applying for funds through the CARES Act. The letter cites the League of California Cities’ projection of a $7 billion revenue shortfall for California cities over the next two fiscal years because of COVID-19 and the response to it.
“In 2006, 2008, it was a steady decline in revenue, but this was like getting pushed off a ledge and we haven’t hit ground yet,” said Bessinger.
“The Governor will see that some areas of California don’t need the level of shelter in place that others do and give us some local control so that we can get some of our businesses back in line and back in business,” said Bessinger.