May 14, 2020
Dear Governor Pritzker,
Thank you for your efforts during this pandemic. As a leader, it is always a challenge to make the best decisions with many unknowns and limited facts.
I am writing on behalf of the residents of Elburn for two reasons. First, numerous Mayors have written you to request a different approach to opening Illinois. I agree with them that, as drawn, the four-district map unfairly associates many municipalities, including Elburn, with the city of Chicago. Elburn is forty-five-miles due west of Chicago, closer to DeKalb County than to our own County seat in Geneva. The positivity rate of Elburn is less than 10% and increases in positivity have been small. Being part of the northeast region will unnecessarily delay the move to the next phase for Elburn, which, given the numbers, is not only unnecessary but also unacceptable to the people of Elburn. Resident phone calls, emails, texts and personal contacts have consistently been in favor of opening Elburn based on our numbers and not Chicago’s.
The original goal of the stay at home order was to “flatten the curve”. During this time, larger national retail establishments have remained open and the curve flattened. Our local businesses including gyms, barbershops, hairstylists, local retail, and even bars and restaurants should have the same opportunity, and choice, to open or remain closed. The impact of these closures to the businesses, the residents and to the municipalities in not just the loss of income, but for many people, the loss of their livelihood and a loss of a lifetime worth of effort building their businesses. The impact of the closure is devastating, and many businesses may not recover, causing further financial difficulties for the State, for Municipalities and for the citizens of Illinois.
My second concern is the legality of the Executive Orders. One judge has ruled the Executive Order as unconstitutional and other suits are in various stages of filing. I suspect that civil rights lawsuits will become more prevalent as time passes. The right to be free from governmental interference with the practice of religion and the right to assemble peacefully are first amendment freedoms cherished by the citizens of this State and our great Nation. The direction you have given is that local municipalities should enforce your Executive Orders. The Illinois Municipal League, representing its membership, has asked you and the Illinois Legislature to codify the Public Duty Rule, which would provide a safety net for Municipalities against any litigation or future action that might result from your Executive Orders. To date you and the Legislature have not taken any action to protect Municipalities against locally filed complaints nor have you offered any protection against Federal actions. These are your Executive Orders and it is essential that you support their enforcement with more than words. Many towns, including Elburn, are not assuming the liability for the State and are not enforcing the order.
Illinois is a largely rural State with many small towns like Elburn that have not had the impact from COVID-19 that the city of Chicago has had and, based on the numbers, should be allowed to open now. On behalf of the residents of Elburn, whom I have served for eight years as a Trustee and three as the Village President, I request you revise the approach to opening Illinois to allow an opening strategy based on the municipality’s numbers and not arbitrary county lines.
I look forward to hearing from you and can be available for a conversation anytime your schedule allows.
Jeffrey D. Walter
Village of Elburn