The Austin City Council is poised to extend its controversial COVID ordinance at a meeting this Thursday.
As Texas Scorecard first reported in July, the ordinance enables the City to fine residents up to $2,000 per violation of the city health department’s “reasonably necessary” administrative rules, which presumably would include mask mandates.
Indeed, in previous iterations of these restrictions, city officials have subjected citizens to mask requirements, travel restrictions, and gathering prohibitions at the peril of the aforementioned $2,000 fines and even up to six months in jail. In addition, the city has threatened businesses with civil lawsuits, fines, and blacklists for not following city hall’s laundry list of COVID rules, which have included requiring businesses to keep a contact log to track every customer that walks in their doors.
What is most troubling about these restrictions is that nobody in the public knows what’s coming next; the ordinance essentially gives the city health department a blank check of authority to adopt any “administrative rule” they deem “reasonably necessary.” At best, this level of uncertainty makes it impossible for businesses to plan.
U.S. Representative Chip Roy quickly denounced the city for extending their arbitrary rules and broad power:
People will stop doing business in Austin if this is adopted. Businesses should revolt & start telling ATX to #poundsand. And if the police enforce this nonsense, they will lose currently loud & strong support against the Marxist city council. cc: @Chief_Manley @Austin_Police https://t.co/xZAsNgeUlH
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) November 24, 2020
In the months since its original enactment, the ordinance in question appears to have been sparsely enforced. Nevertheless, vague ordinances such as this are always ripe for selective enforcement based on political considerations.
Austinites concerned with this policy can contact their city council member.