Houston City Council Passes Long-Term Emergency Health Declaration

The city of Houston is trying to curb the spread of COVID-19, before the number of cases gets out of hand. In addition to shutting down bars and clubs, and limiting access to restaurants, the city council held a special meeting to consider a long term Emergency Health Declaration.        

With a seven day emergency health declaration signed a week ago, the indefinite extension would make the city eligible for state and federal financial assistance, along with giving the mayor the power to suspend certain rules and regulations to meet community needs.        

"This is a crisis, and I hope there's no one around this table that's questioning that," pleaded mayor, Sylvester Turner.        

The only pushback comes from District-G council member Greg Travis, who's been critical of closures of the rodeo, bars, and restaurants. He wants the declaration reviewed weekly. "I would like to see that we actually have a discussion of the necessity of such an extension each week, depending on the facts that have developed over the previous week," says Travis.        

In the end, city attorney Ron Lewis says state law appears clear, in times of emergency, that authority rests with the mayor. "That was done for a purpose," says Lewis, "It was not to put a committee in charge of running the government in an emergency situation."        

City council passed the mayor's emergency health declaration by a vote of 15 to 1. The measure will last indefinitely, as the coronavirus is anticipated to be a challenge for weeks or months.