In the midst of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Forest Park has officially declared a state of emergency.
Mayor Rory Hoskins signed the declaration after he was given authority to do so at the March 23 village council meeting during which commissioners voted unanimously to grant the mayor temporary executive powers. Doing this allows Hoskins to make decisions quickly, decisions that might require faster action than assembling enough commissioners to vote would allow.
The meeting was attended in person by Hoskins, Village Administrator Tim Gillian, Clerk Vanessa Moritz and Commissioner Dan Novak. Commissioners Joe Byrnes, Ryan Nero and Jessica Voogd conferenced in from home. Department heads were discouraged from coming due to social distancing, but Bob McDermott was in the audience with the only other audience member, the Forest Park Review.
According to the ordinance granting executive power to the mayor, standards for determining whether a state of emergency exists include two factors.
First, there must be federal, state or county disaster proclamations, executive orders, directives or advisories on COVID-19, which would impact village activities or specific incidences of COVID-19 within the village. Second, there must exist the need for immediate, emergency action that must occur before the next regular meeting of the village council.
The state of emergency will extend until the next regularly scheduled village council meeting.
River Forest declared a state of emergency and gave village President Cathy Adduci executive power on March 16. Trustees there voted to give the president “such power of the Village President and Board of Trustees as may be reasonably necessary to respond to the emergency.”
On March 13, Oak Park’s village board voted unanimously to declare a local public health emergency.
“Other communities have done it,” said Hoskins in an interview. “We want to follow suit.”
According to Forest Park’s ordinance, under a state of emergency the mayor is authorized “to exercise extraordinary power and authority, by executive order, during the possible state of emergency, to ensure that the effects of COVID-19 are mitigated and minimized and that residents and visitors in the village of Forest Park remain safe and secure.”
Hoskins said this authorization will allow the village “to move a little more nimbly” in response to emergencies.
“It’s a tool we can use, one we will prepare to implement in case we need to,” said Hoskins.
Temporary powers given to Hoskins during a state of emergency extend to the adjournment of the next regular meeting of the village council and include:
- All actions reasonably and expeditiously necessary to respond to the local state of emergency
- Approval of previously appropriated expenditures of the village for the purpose of continuing the operations of the village
- Canceling meetings of any board or commission to which the mayor appoints members.
- Suspension of licenses or permits for special events or any other licenses or permits issued by the village. This would be done if the mayor thinks the public’s health or well-being could be jeopardized.
- Authorization of any purchases related to the local state of emergency and for which funds are available
- Authorization to close village facilities as is reasonably required to protect the health of the public and employees of the village.
According to Gillian, granting Hoskins executive authority during a state of emergency is a way of “removing the red tape” temporarily to make sure the village can act quickly if needed.
“It’s using power to act in the best interest of the community without direct council approval,” said Gillian. “It allows us to act in the best interest of Forest Park as quickly as we can.”
At the meeting, Hoskins said something he’s hoping to use executive power for is to approve a new liquor licensing measure that would allow restaurants to sell packaged alcohol as part of dinner meals for consumption off premises.