Brookfield Village President Michael Garvey on Jan. 9 recommended that a law giving him sweeping powers in times of dire emergencies be curtailed, saying he didn’t believe several of the provisions written into a draft version of the ordinance were necessary.
Brookfield trustees are expected to pass a revised version of the law at their next meeting on Jan. 23 after Garvey moved to strike nine paragraphs from the proposed ordinance – ones which would have given him the power to prohibit the sale and distribution of alcohol, to limit the sale of gasoline, prohibit the possession of any container of liquid in a public place, to prohibit the sale and possession of firearms, to close places of public assemblage and to control prices of goods and services during times of emergencies.
“I understood that when this ordinance was brought forward, the attorney drafted it with all of the possible powers put out,” said Garvey. “However, I do think there, in my personal belief, that some of these are not necessary at this time.”
Brookfield officials prepared the new law, they said, after Cook County asked municipalities to draft such laws in order to have consistent laws under which municipalities operated in the event of a catastrophic event.
The law states that the village president or another person designated as the president pro-tem at the time of a catastrophe can declare a state of emergency and invoke the powers contained in the ordinance.
The specter of such sweeping power has at least some local residents jittery. Kelly Masek, a resident of the South Hollywood section of the village, feared that officials would use the law to force residents to evacuate their homes when the area is threatened with flooding.
For example, in 2008, officials did request that residents of Hollywood leave their home when flooding threatened to cut off the neighborhood from emergency services. There was never an order given to do so.
“I don’t think this is right,” Masek said. “I think you’re overstepping your bounds.”
Village Manager Riccardo Ginex said the declaration of a state of emergency would not be entered into lightly, and that the reasons for doing so would be truly catastrophic.
The ordinance itself contemplates that such a state of emergency would arise from an attack on the Chicago area, the “threat of widespread or severe damage, where extraordinary measures must be taken to protect the public health, safety and welfare from injury or loss of life or property.”
“We’re talking about serious, very serious issues” said Ginex. “We’re near Midway Airport. What happens if we have a plane crash? … Those are the issues we’re talking about. We’re not talking about simple floods. We have a train derailment with gas, toxic fuel. Yes, we’re going to tell people to leave or people will die.
“Those are the incidents we’re looking at. We’re not trying to kick people out of their homes.”
While taking several powers out of the draft ordinance, Garvey felt that the provision calling for the mandatory evacuation of residents in the event of a state of emergency was important to retain as well as a provision to set a mandatory curfew.
“If a tornado comes through and levels an entire portion of Brookfield, and there’s a mandatory evacuation order we want to be able to impose a curfew so that nobody can be in that area so we don’t have looters or people coming to take advantage of situations like that,” Garvey said. “I think the curfew and the other powers listed are necessary. … I do think the evacuation power is a necessary power to have after the appropriate finding of disaster.”
Such a state of emergency is expected to be brief, according to the proposed ordinance, lasting until the first regular meeting of the village board after the state of emergency was declared.
On Jan. 9, Garvey suggested that the law be amended to read that the state of emergency would last until the next regularly scheduled or specially called meeting of the village board, in order to shorten the duration of such a state of emergency, if possible.