City Council ratifies state of emergency, suspends some of its own meeting rules

Actions come from the growing public health impacts of the pandemic; city venues to remain closed

On March 5, Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus proclaimed a local emergency for Auburn to stem the growing public health impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19), closing the Auburn Community & Event Center, the Auburn Senior Activity Center, the REC Center, Auburn Avenue Theater and White River Valley Museum.

And, following recommendations by Public Health – Seattle & King County for social distancing, the city postponed until further notice city-sponsored events and gatherings, among them the mayor’s State of the City address, which had been scheduled for March 12 at the Avenue Theater.

On March 12, six members of the city council ratified that emergency proclamation, all via call-in to a city council chamber empty but for Backus, City Clerk Shawn Campbell and Assistant City Attorney Doug Ruth.

How long will the emergency last, asked Councilmember Larry Brown?

Until Gov. Jay Inslee determines there is no longer an emergency, Backus responded.

Would Backus as mayor, asked Councilmember Chris Stearns, have the power to end the emergency proclamation?

“I would have the ability to end the emergency proclamation for the city of Auburn,” Backus said. “However, for the reasons that we determined the emergency declaration, it wouldn’t make much sense, in many cases that I can think of, for us to end this emergency proclamation prior to the governor or the federal government doing so.”

Later, in consideration of future remotely-conducted meetings, council likewise approved temporary modifications to its own rules and procedures that allow:

• Council members to be telephonically or virtually present at meetings “as situations arise” through April 5, 2020;

• Audience members to participate in meetings by telephonic system and by comments up to 350 words long, as long as they submit their comments to the city clerk by 7 p.m. on the days of the regular city council meetings;

• Audience comments and participation in public hearings by virtual or telephonic means; and

• Council members to attend council study sessions, and members of committees and citizen advisory boards to attend their meetings, virtually or telephonically through April 5.

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