For the second meeting in a row, Evanston aldermen extended the State of Emergency, with one alderman questioning the basis for the arrangement, which grants Mayor Stephen Hagerty special powers.

Aldermen voted at their City Council meeting on April 13 to extend the State of Emergency until May 11.

Staff on April 13b recommended in favor of the extension, noting that Governor J.B. Pritzker recently issued an Executive Order extending the State’s disaster proclamation through the end of the month.

Mayor Hagerty, who professionally runs Hagerty Consulting, an emergency management consulting firm, initially declared a State of Emergency due to the Coronavirus on March 9, following the Governor’s initial declaration of that status for the state on March 9.

Under Evanston’s Council-Manager form of government, the mayor is a presiding officer over Council meetings, and has the power to break tie votes. But in almost all cases, unlike Chicago, mayor decisions are subject to Council consent or review.

Since the declaration, the Mayor has been the City’s point person on the issue, regularly issuing status reports and presiding over a task force of representatives from various sectors of the City, reporting on response to the Coronavirus.

In discussion of the issue April 13, Alderman Thomas Suffredin, 6th Ward, asked the basis for extending the State of Emergency and why it is superior over the City just returning to its regular course of government.

“I think the biggest thing right now is if we disband the declared state of emergency I don’t want anybody to get the false opinion that somehow we’ve defeated Covid-19, that would be one,” replied Mayor Hagerty. “Second, I think it’s really important that

Everybody around here understands that there’s still a state of emergency, so a lot of work to do. Secondly, I think we want to have the flexibility as we are consistently sort of monitoring the data if we need to make some additional moves, closing certain things and we want to move quickly on this.”

Pressed for an example by Ald. Suffredin, the Mayor replied cited a case, “where you might be considering closing the lakefront, for instance.”

“So that would be a decision you would make unilaterally?” Ald. Suffredin asked.

“I understand we would have to ask the City attorney,” said Mayor Hagerty. “My understanding is under this declaration such a decision could be made.”

Ald. Suffredin asked if there is anything that is not covered under Governor Pritzker’s State of Emergency.

“We have not taken any additional actions,” Mayor Hagerty said. “People have emailed us and said you should be declaring this business non-essential, this or that. We have not. The Governor has an incredible amount of intelligence and information with his whole public health staff and all the experts that he is consulting for information [and is] a reliable source to continue to follow that.”

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.