Following a unanimous vote by the City Council on Wednesday, Dallas’ disaster declaration will remain in place through at least May 12. The declaration, which gives City Manager T.C. Broadnax emergency powers during the novel coronavirus pandemic, will now be tied to Texas’ disaster declaration. If Gov. Greg Abbott extends the state’s, the city’s will also be extended.
Council member Jennifer Gates said tying Dallas’ order to the state’s would make things easy to understand for Dallas residents.
“Aligning ourselves (with the state) makes it clear and easy so that we’re not having to change our orders locally or having the confusion that when our emergency orders are changed, it’s associated with all the restrictions,” Gates said.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson took his time during Council discussion of the ordinance to rail against the media, who he said has misled the public about which coronavirus restrictions were in place and where they came from.
“The media … has had a very difficult time reporting on this issue accurately, I think,” Johnson said, before asking City Attorney Chris Caso to explain just what was in the ordinance.
“Let’s say the governor decides not to extend after the 12th and we as a city realize that we need more time. What is the process that happens then?” – Omar Narvaez
Johnson wanted to make it clear that the Council was not voting to extend the city’s shelter-in-place order, which was issued by Broadnax under the power given to him by the disaster declaration. To the Observer‘s knowledge, local outlets have actually done a decent job of delineating between the myriad orders that have been issued by Texas, Dallas County and the city — perhaps with the exception of the universally confusing order passed by Dallas County Commissioners earlier this month.
West Dallas council representative Omar Narvaez expressed concern about the possibility that Abbott might let off the quarantine gas before the city is ready.
“I do like (the idea) of matching somebody,” he said, “because I think that’s the most confusing part for the general public. … I’m cool with matching, but my question is: Let’s say the governor decides not to extend after the 12th and we as a city realize that we need more time. What is the process that happens then?”
According to Caso, it would then be up to the Council to decide whether it wants to put a new emergency ordinance in place, either at an emergency meeting or its scheduled meeting on May 13.
Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He’s a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.