Bid to end Lincoln’s emergency declaration put on hold

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird
Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird(10/11 NOW)
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 9:47 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A measure introduced by a Lincoln council member aimed at rolling back COVID-19 emergency powers from Lincoln’s mayor has hit a pause.

The resolution, introduced by councilor Roy Christensen, would have effectively ended the city’s emergency declaration put in place nearly ten months ago.

That declaration has given Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird special authority during the pandemic.

“Basically [the measure] would end the mayor’s emergency powers on the 28th of February,” Christensen said. “My intention was to be able to extend those powers for 60 to 90-day increments, and use those end dates and opportunities to pass new extension as an opportunity to discuss.”

Christensen said the resolution had nothing to do with ending efforts like directed health measures or powers granted to Public Health Director Pat Lopez.

The effort was placed on indefinite pending status in a 4-3 vote, which means it won’t be up for public comment next week as planned, but it also doesn’t mean that the effort is over.

“It was only on some issues that the mayor stated she had not yet used of those powers granted to her,” Christensen said. “Like giving people a blank check with an open end on it.”

The resolution was met with strong opposition from four councilors Monday over concern with ending the State of Emergency.

“Funding that comes specifically through FEMA, which a lot has, millions and millions of dollars,” Councilor Sandra Washington said. “If we are not in an emergency declaration, we are not in line for that funding. That money is absolutely dependent upon being in emergency status.”

Christensen said given the state of the resolution, there would eventually be a public debate.

“My whole intent here was to get this to a public debate, an open public forum, and help everybody understand what’s going on,” Christensen said. “[To] create accountability to the public and transparency to everyone.”

When reached by 10/11 for comment, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s office said she would not be commenting on the matter at this time.

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