On Monday of last week, Mayor Connie Kacir called a special meeting of the Gonzales City Council to set the social distancing policy at 50 people or less. This limitation was pegged to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation at the time which recommended 50 people or less. The message went out to the media, websites and Facebook pages. On Tuesday, the CDC changed its policy from a limit of 50 to a recommendation of 10. When the CDC reduced its limitation from 50 to 10, the reduction immediately became the law in Gonzales—but no one in the general public understood it to be in effect. People all over the community — especially the food and beverage industry--believed the number was still 50 and acted accordingly. For four days the business and social community of Gonzales operated under the assumption 50 was the maximum. There were no reprimands from the city nor was there any enforcement—even many law enforcement officers thought the 50-limit rule was in effect. At that time, the city should have notified city residents of the change because the expectation and understanding in the community — and especially in the restaurant-bar industry — was that the limit was 50. It continued to operate under that assumption Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and most of the day on Friday.
While we agree the city was within its right to officially acknowledge the CDC rule, we think the timing of the meeting was wrong and ultimately should not have changed the social distancing number in the middle of the afternoon — especially since the governor’s 10-person limit was going to take effect at midnight just nine short hours later. It is our opinion that the city should have let the last nine hours of Friday afternoon pass without acting and let the restaurant and bar business have eight more hours to make money, earn valuable pay and extra tips. For those workers, that is all they are going to have for the foreseeable future. If there was such a threat to the public health, then why didn’t they act earlier. We applaud councilman Gary Schroeder for voting against this motion.
The other thing that has been bothering us for some time is the way the city imposed itself on the Economic Development Commission board of directors. The EDC board is an advisory board and is supposed to think independently and without influence from the council. They are to recommend policy and then the council makes the decision to either accept, amend or reject the recommendation. The EDC had been doing a good job under the direction of Genora Young and had put together a fine board of directors.
However, earlier in the year when the EDC sent its two nominations to the council—including former Tourism Director Clint Hill—the council decided to inject its own people into the mix. Mayor Connie Kacir and councilman Dan Blakemore were nominated to fill the vacancies and the council—including Mayor Kacir and councilman Blakemore who should have recused themselves—voted unanimously to approve them to the board.
Later, when Genora Young objected to the actions taken by the council she was suddenly asked to resign.
We think the council got it wrong on both counts. The advisory bodies and boards should be independent to gather information and offer ideas. They should not be influenced by elected officials. This is true not just for Gonzales; it is true everywhere.
We hope we don’t see any more of this.