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Eau Claire City Council postpones public health ordinance

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EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - A proposed public health ordinance with has been the subject of plenty of debate over the past few weeks has been postponed by the Eau Claire City Council.

The decision was made on Tuesday, a day after hours of public testimony was heard on Monday.

The vote was 10-1 with Kate Beaton voting opposed.

The Eau Claire City Council is calling on Lieske Giese, public health director, and the city manager to bring a revised "engagement plan" and recommendations to form a task force to the council by January 25, 2021.

Council member Emily Berge questioned what cost the ordinance would have. She worries the ordinance would politicize public health at a time when people should be listening to health experts for guidance. She stressed it is not a black or white issue. She voiced favor of a postponement on a vote.

Catherine Emmanuelle, council vice president, said she doesn't see enough evidence that the public health department has taken the lead on this. She went on to stress the importance of having health leaders in the driver's seat during a health emergency. She, too, said she was in favor of a postponement.

Council member Mai Xiong thanked the community for reaching out and voicing opinions. She said her family has health issues and she has worked with people who have struggled with COVID. She said she believes the community is doing its best to keep one another safe. Xiong said the health of the community is becoming a political agenda. She became emotional as she talked about how torn the community has become.

Another council member, Kate Beaton, said this is the most community engagement she has seen on a topic in her five years on the council.

Lieske Giese told the council she is concerned about the fall. She said she will support and work with the council on next steps. She said she will not back off her job to protect the community.

She said there may be a need to come forward with direct legislation.

On Monday night, Eau Claire City Attorney Stephen Nick said the order establishes a local procedure for local orders and ensures oversight by the Eau Claire City Council at all times. He added it does not expand the scope of current state law authority or continue mandatory orders if the council or Eau Claire County Board say no.

Most of those who called into the meeting on Monday night were against the proposed ordinance. There were a handful of others who supported the measure.

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details.

Clint Berge

Clint Berge is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager for Eau Claire’s Own WQOW News 18.
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