North Texas Daily

Denton City Council postpones May elections, limits gathering sizes at Friday meeting

Denton City Council postpones May elections, limits gathering sizes at Friday meeting

Denton City Council postpones May elections, limits gathering sizes at Friday meeting
March 21
13:45 2020

The Denton City Council voted Friday to tighten restrictions on public gatherings and postpone May elections in a series of amendments to the city state of emergency originally issued on March 13.

The new restrictions prohibit “Community Gatherings” or events bringing together 50 or more people in a single room, except for in environments where people are typically not within arm’s length of one another like grocery stores and office spaces. The declaration also strongly recommends against gatherings of 10 or more people.

Denton officials recommended the amendments after health workers identified more cases of the coronavirus in Denton and Denton County, and similar recommendations from Texas Governor Greg Abbott last Thursday. City Attorney Aaron Leal said the adjustments to the Denton state of emergency declaration would help streamline city demands with Abbott’s declarations and help any confused citizens.

Councilmembers also approved another motion to postpone special city elections previously scheduled for May 2 to November 3, conforming to state suggestions, unless they later decide to choose an alternative date. Although some councilmembers and cities in the Texas Municipal League said they would lobby the state to seek an earlier date than November, Councilman John Ryan said Denton should not consider voting in early August because many citizens would be out of town.

The declaration extends to April 30, during which Denton utility providers will not shut off services for lack of payment and restaurants, breweries, distilleries and wineries may offer delivery or drive-through services. It includes provisions for a total of $550,000 for the City Manager’s office to cover expenses and offer financial relief, $50,000 of which will go to assist Denton citizens and families who experience job or income loss due to COVID-19.

A majority of public comments for the amendments called for rent freezes in Denton during pandemic quarantines Councilman Jesse Davis said constituents have repeatedly asked city councilmembers about providing rent freezes in Denton, but said the council could not deliver on that goal or promote a “false hope.”

Councilmember Deb Armintor said she would still like to explore the options of rent forgiveness or assistance, though Watts said constituents should make rent freeze requests to state officials instead.

Throughout the meeting, councilmembers discussed what role city government could play in enforcing city and state quarantine recommendations. City Manager Todd Hileman reminded the council to refrain from stressing the Denton Police Department with added enforcement duties while police departments across the area endure officer quarantines.

“At some point, people need to take some responsibility for their actions,” Hileman said, regarding enforcing gathering sizes. “We can play an education role …   If we lose 25, 30 percent of this force due to quarantine, you’re going to find yourself back in here unwinding this decision.”

Image by North Texas Daily

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