(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has criticized local governments for not enforcing his COVID-19 orders, placing blame for increased cases at their feet. Local governments are looking for more collaboration from the governor.
In Springfield and Sangamon County, officials are issuing fines and suspending food licenses. In a neighboring county, Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard said they don’t have the capacity to enforce.
“With our numbers with our police department, there are four or five officers on duty each time, they just can’t sit at a business and check masks,” Ezard told WMAY “So we’ve just been taking the approach from the most part that people are going to do the right thing.”
Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole said enforcement results are mixed.
“I’ve heard from communities from Metropolis to Bloomington and north that they really don’t have the support by either the county or the state to do the enforcement,” Cole said.
Cole said it’s time for the legislature to engage instead of settling with top-down direction.
Pritzker downplayed his power to call lawmakers back for a special session. He also downplayed calls from a growing number of legislators who want to engage in managing the pandemic with public hearings.
State Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, said it’s time for lawmakers to re-engage, even if it’s remote.
“We can agree or disagree whether or not the governor has done a good job, I think the governor has done a fantastic job,” Martwick said. “But that being said, we should be playing a role in this process.”
“Long term policy is our purview. Managing the crisis in the immediate nature, that’s his purview, but we should be setting the long term parameters for how we deal with the long term nature of this crisis and we should be setting the policy of once we’re past this how we get out of this and how we recover.”
“It’s been seven months since the General Assembly has convened and there are real issues, not the least of which are the state budget which will impact local budgets, but obviously the issues dealing with the coronavirus mitigations and how those steps are undertaken either by the state or other entities, other local units of government,” Cole said.
The IML issued a statement Monday calling for the governor to form a convene a working group that includes local elected officials.
“Confusion over how data is analyzed by the state has also made it difficult for mayors to explain to residents why additional mitigation efforts are required and why they are only applied to certain professions or specific aspects of the service economy,” the IML said.
In Springfield, where county and city officials are issuing citations and suspending business licenses for violators, Mayor Jim Langfelder said there still needs to be more transparency from the Pritzker administration and the legislature.
“I think it’s important to show that government is operating when people need them the most,” Langfelder said. “It gives a sign of strength, it gives a sign that you’re working towards a solution, I think it’s important to show the general public that”
Legislative leaders canceled the fall session this week. Lawmakers aren’t expected back until January, just before the new General Assembly is seated.