As over 132,000 Austinites have lost their jobs due to government shutdowns, this week, the Austin City Council is considering enacting a list of new rules on struggling local citizens—and violators could be fined, sued, and labeled a “public health nuisance.”
On Thursday, the city council will discuss two separate ordinances to tighten restrictions on citizens. The first would allow the health authority to create “administrative rules” to “protect the health and persons within the City”; citizens who disobey whatever rules they come up with would be “committing an offense” and could be fined $500 a day.
The second law would force businesses and other property owners to juggle a new set of over 20 rules and restrictions. The rules include requiring face masks for all employees and customers, conducting briefings “reiterating public health requirements” for each worker every day before they begin a shift, and designating a “COVID-19 safety monitor who is on-site at all times” at construction sites.
If citizens do not correctly implement the whole list, the city could designate them a “public health nuisance” and sue them.
“A person who maintains a site that does not comply with minimum standards and, after notice, fails to take corrective actions that comply with minimum standards maintains a public health nuisance,” the draft ordinance reads.
“Upon request of the health authority, the City Council authorizes the city attorney to enforce this ordinance through a civil suit filed in district court,” it continues.
The all-Democrat city council is considering the new rules, fines, and punishments as Mayor Steve Adler is also considering shutting down the entire city again, much like his shutdown orders from March and April that forced at least 132,000 Austinites out of work and into a new crisis of struggling to afford food and housing for their families.
He and other local officials have also tried over the past couple of months to punish businesses who do not track customers and citizens who do not wear masks in public, threatening them with $1,000 fines, public shaming and blacklisting, and even six months in prison. The Texas attorney general called the orders “unlawful” and “Orwellian.”
Ironically, though Adler has repeatedly admonished citizens to social distance, avoid large gatherings, and follow all of his new rules, he was photographed by local news in the middle of a sprawling crowd of thousands at a recent anti-police protest downtown. The mayor was pictured in the thick of the marchers, surrounded on all sides by the mass of people.
Furthermore, Adler has based his shutdown orders on wildly inaccurate projections and data, including a University of Texas report that had 70 to 100 percent uncertainty. The mayor and other local officials have also disregarded dramatic new data from a Penn State study that reveals the coronavirus has already spread to far more people than originally thought (meaning the death rate is far lower, and the safe business reopenings were not a primary factor in its spread).
So far in Travis County, where Austin is located, at least 137 deaths have been reported related to the coronavirus. The county has a population of 1.27 million.
Statewide, 2,630 Texans have died from coronavirus-related illness. This flu season, 6,737 Texans died from influenza and pneumonia.
As Adler and the city council consider new punishments on citizens already crippled from the officials’ shutdowns, Austinites concerned about potentially being prohibited from affording food and rent again can contact the mayor or the city council.