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.

For more information, visit

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

Courtesy photo
The VRFA’s busy night: two fires, same vacant house

Two fires in one night in the same vacant house in southwest… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, who pushed for broadband funding in Washington schools. (Screenshot from
American Rescue Plan Act funding approved for broadband investments in WA schools

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray pushed for the funding, which will benefit several King County school districts.

Courtesy photo
Rollover accident on SR 167 | Fire blotter

Between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16, the Valley Regional Fire Authority responded… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
State offers free at-home COVID-19 tests

You can order the tests through the state’s new online portal.

Police say four boys lit fireworks in stadium concession stand

Auburn Police say four boys with fireworks caused a series of small… Continue reading

John Richardson wages war on a patch of invasive Himalayan blackberries threatening to overrun Fenster Nature Park. Photo by Robert Whale, Auburn Reporter
All for salmon: MLK Day project restores habitat

John Richardson waged war Monday afternoon on stubborn Himalayan blackberry bushes threatening… Continue reading

Sen. Mona Das, D-47
Kent Democratic Sen. Mona Das proposes 1% cut in state sales tax

Starting in 2023; Republicans voice support for Senate Bill 5932

File photo
Non-profit sponsors study on how the pandemic impacted arts and culture in Puget Sound

The study helped identify challenges faced by residents and cultural organizations in Washington

Most Read