Jeramey Jannene

Shut-Off Proposal Called ‘Dictator Like’

Ald. Rainey wants water, electric shut off for businesses violating shutdown. Mayor, governor disagree.

By - Mar 30th, 2020 05:34 pm
Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Alderman Khalif Rainey‘s proposal to have water and electric service shut off at non-essential businesses that continue to operate doesn’t appear to be gaining any traction.

Rainey, in a press release issued Monday morning, asked for Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik to include shutoff authorization in a directive about how the city will enforce the state’s “safer at home” order. His proposal would mirror an approach being used in Los Angeles.

“I find it incredibly selfish and reckless for any non-essential business to continue to operate during the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency,” wrote Rainey. He noted this his aldermanic district continues to be the center of the outbreak.

But Kowalik said it’s too early. “We haven’t had enough time yet to go in that direction,” said Kowalik during a press briefing. She said the proposal was “very dictator like.”

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” concluded Kowalik.

Governor Tony Evers was also asked about the proposal during a press briefing. “I would rather talk to them in person and convince them to comply,” said Evers. “At the end of the day they’re all good people and we need to comply to keep our state a safe place. That’s the bottom line.”

Mayor Tom Barrett also weighed in. “I have been very, very pleased with what I have seen throughout the community,” he said. “Is it 100 percent compliance? No.” But the “vast majority” of people are complying, he added.

But Rainey warns that a single business could lead to a big spread of the disease. “A non-essential business that stays open could be the source (unwittingly) of hundreds of new COVID-19 infections, and who knows how many possible deaths,” wrote Rainey. “As a city, we need to do everything we can and use every tool at our disposal to stop the spread of the virus, and I believe shutting off the lights and the water to scofflaw businesses is one key option Milwaukee must pursue.”

TMJ4 reported Monday that police in suburban West Allis shut down a Hobby Lobby store for continuing to operate even though the business is non-essential.

Businesses uncertain of their status under the state order can contact the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for a ruling. Individuals looking to file a complaint can call the Milwaukee Health Department at 414-286-3521

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Categories: Health, Politics

2 thoughts on “Shut-Off Proposal Called ‘Dictator Like’”

  1. frank a schneiger says:

    Milwaukee tends to be a cautious, one-step-at-a time place. In ordinary times, that approach often has something to recommend it. These are not such times. Everything we know says that the keys to effectively stemming the pandemic are actions that are fast, aggressive and clearly communicated. We also know beyond any doubt, New Orleans and Mardi Gras, being among the most potent examples, that once you make a mistake, almost invariably a mistake of inaction, there are no do-overs. It is quite likely that, looking back, Alderman Rainey will be a voice that should have been listened to.

  2. Mark Nicolini says:

    Admittedly I am not aware of the legal issues, but I agree with Ald. Rainey on this one. Maybe there could be a warning of some sort, but I think we are beyond the point where “persuasion” is an adequate response to non-compliance. It appears social distancing is effective, but even a small number of violations–especially in a place of business–could generate lots of infection. The last thing we need now is mixed messaging about the urgency of this matter. I found the Governor’s response borderline non-sensical.

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