© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fitch Wants St. Louis County Council To Have More Say On States Of Emergency

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch speaks with reporters following a swearing in ceremony for elected county officials. Jan. 1, 2019
File Photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch, pictured here in 2019, wants the St. Louis County Council to approve any state of emergency or public health order after 15 days.

Legislation set to be introduced at the St. Louis County Council next week would give the council some say over the length of states of emergency and public health orders.

Republican Councilman Tim Fitch said Tuesday he wants to change the county’s charter to limit an initial state of emergency declaration to 15 days. Any extension would need approval from two-thirds of the council. The change would also apply to public health orders.

“I think 15 days is a good enough time for the executive branch to make these unilateral decisions, and then let’s have some oversight,” Fitch said.

The county has been under a state of emergency since March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and there is no indication of when County Executive Sam Page might lift it.

“I don’t think we can set a time limit on a pandemic,” said Page’s spokesman, Doug Moore.

Fitch said he does not dispute the authority of the executive branch to act unilaterally to respond to an emergency.

“I wanted to give the county executive a significant amount of time to make some of the executive decisions he needed to make,” Fitch said. “We’re past that point.”

He said Page’s decision to sue a gym owner for opening in violation of the stay-at-home order was a turning point.

The legislation may be introduced next week. If it passes, it would also need approval of the voters to take effect because it changes the charter.

Adjustments for restaurants

St. Louis and St. Louis County are both making it easier for restaurants to expand their seating capacity in order to comply with social distancing requirements for in-person dining.

Mayor Lyda Krewson on Tuesday unveiled a new city permit that will allow restaurants to temporarily put seats on parking lots, sidewalks or even streets. The restaurants must be following all federal guidelines on mask-wearing and disinfection procedures. The extra seating can only be open between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In St. Louis County, Republican Councilman Mark Harder has introduced legislation that would temporarily waive some regulations around parking, signage and temporary structures for restaurants in unincorporated parts of the county. Harder modeled his proposal on legislation adopted by the Chesterfield City Council.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.