djr-2020-03-13-news-tupelo-presser-twp2

City officials listen as Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton holds a press conference March 12 announcing steps the city is taking to help control the spread of coronavirus.

TUPELO • The Tupelo City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted in a special-called meeting to ratify, or approve, Mayor Jason Shelton’s newest executive orders that place safety restrictions on businesses and citizens to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Even though some members previously raised concerns about some of the measures Shelton wanted to enact, many members of the Republican majority Council praised the second-term Democratic mayor and his administration’s efforts to enact the restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

“It’s a very strong statement of our entire City Council that this is something that we’re taking seriously in the city of Tupelo, and that we’re being proactive in the city of Tupelo and we’re going to lead the way,” Shelton told the Daily Journal.

On Saturday, Shelton issued executive orders mandating non-essential businesses close, ordering Tupelo residents to shelter in place and banning groups of 10 or more people from gathering.

Under the shelter-in-place directive, individuals should, in general, remain at home, traveling to essential businesses, buying groceries, purchasing food at a restaurant, or another essential task. For the order shutting certain businesses down, Shelton’s order would allow essential businesses like banks, grocery stores and gas stations to remain open.

Tupelo has a mayor-council form of government, which makes the mayor the chief executive officer of the city and allows him to perform executive functions. According to administration officials, Shelton can issue executive orders of this magnitude during a time of emergency. The order carries the full weight of a city ordinance until the Council meets to either ratify or override the order.

The Council can meet at any point to discuss the order or wait until its next regular meeting. The Council’s next regular meeting is April 7. Shelton said that he encouraged the Council to have a special-called meeting on Tuesday because citizens were getting confused about the city’s form of government and doubting the order had any weight unless formally ratified by the Council.

“Some people in high places have taken the position that it’s not an official action unless the Council ratifies it,” Shelton said. “Even though that's not the case, we did so to avoid any confusion.”

Council President Nettie Davis also said she thought it was important for the Council to approve the newest orders in a special meeting because the orders were already being implemented by city officials.

The mayor’s shelter in place and business closure order will both expire on March 29. The mayor can renew any of the executive orders, which he has indicated he likely would if the virus continues to spread.

taylor.vance@journalinc.com

Twitter: @taylor_vance28

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