Open Letter to Champaign Council Denouncing Extraordinary Powers

The following letter was submitted April 7th, 2020 in response to Champaign City Council’s proposal (and ultimate passage of) to extend the Emergency Order originally passed March 13th, 2020.

My name is Russ Clark and am the chair of the Champaign County Libertarian Party.  I am yet again shocked and dismayed that my city council is ruled by fear.  Yet another motion for emergency orders that allows our mayor and unelected city officials to ban the sale of liquor, wine, beer, gasoline, firearms, ammunition, as well as cut off a citizen’s utilities, ban entry or exit from the city, take possession and title of a citizen’s personal property without compensation.  This emergency ordinance needs amendment so city government only takes the actions necessary to deal with a public health crisis, not invasion by a foreign power marching down Neil Street. If there is no need or desire to use them, why take them at all?  We all know the names of leaders who assume these kinds of powers under the guise of an emergency only to later use them when it suits their own ends. We call them many names that we all know.

So I implore the council tonight to vote down this ordinance and direct the city manager to write amendments striking the unconstitutional powers granted under it. The council appears to trust the Mayor. Many in her political party have publicly stated she would never take such rash actions. We cannot be assured that future councils can be worthy of trust nor future mayors would be so inclined to not use them. To leave this emergency order as is would invite lesser people to use their guile and political skill to gain these powers with a populace unable to halt them. The people would be forced to rely on County, State and Federal courts or force to rein them in.  How much damage can be done to our community while we wait for a judge to dither, hear arguments and ruminate on a decision?  If a mayor were to cut off natural gas supplies in winter to halt carbon dioxide emissions under a “climate emergency” declaration, quite a bit!

This ordinance has no delineation for the state of emergency nor does Council’s procedure allow Council to make amendments prior to adoption.  They must be routed through city administration first. This is acceptable for zoning ordinances and personnel policies, not enacting police powers that trample individual freedoms guaranteed by Federal law.

I would hope that this council sees fit to vote down this order and request amendments so that a lawful emergency order can be passed at the next city council meeting.

Russ Clark
Champaign County Libertarian Party


Under emergency ordinance, Mayor Feinen and unelected City Manager David more powerful than Governor Pritzker or President Trump

Champaign, IL — The Champaign County Libertarian Party today denounced the unanimously passed emergency ordinance as a backdoor power grab due to the COVID-19 virus.  The ordinance does not stipulate timelines nor causation for suspending property rights or elimination of commerce.

“This ordinance grants Mayor Feinen and our unelected City Administrator Dorothy David, the power to seize property and take title, prohibit the sale of firearms, gasoline, and alcohol, ban meetings, cancel events, enforce a curfew, prohibit the movement of free people in and out of the city and direct the shutoff of utilities and water.  I would have assumed this city council would defend an individual’s private property rights, even in times of emergency.  The ordinance does not stipulate the emergency conditions this ordinance can be enacted under or even stipulate that the actions of the Mayor must be relevant to the emergency at hand.”

Even under a Congressional declaration of war, a government may commandeer or seize property but the property owner is required to be compensated for such seizure under the 5th Amendment.  The emergency ordinance passed today makes no provision.  Detention without reason is rarely used outside of wartime as well.  Most court decisions on firearms and ammunition sales stipulate that it is firmly under control of Federal and State laws, not municipal ordinances, and outright bans on firearms or munition sales have been found unconstitutional.  Many cities have enacted ‘Climate Emergency’ ordinances.  Combined with this ordinance, the Mayor’s office could ban the sale of gasoline and diesel and shut off natural gas supplies to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

“Outside of being invaded by a foreign power, there is no reason for such an ordinance to be written, much less enacted.  People should be concerned about the spread of COVID-19 but should not sacrifice their rights to a government so keen to tell them what they can or cannot do. Our government should be encouraging public spacing and personal hygiene, not creating pretexts to grow the power of government.  This ordinance should be repealed at the next city council meeting.”

Russ Clark
Champaign County Libertarian Party

From the Chair: IL DCFS Needs Accountability

A recent report from the Inspector General found that the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS) played a role in 102 children deaths in the past 3 years.  102 deaths that don’t include Tanaja Barnes of Decatur, 2, in 2019.  She froze to death in her home as her mother’s boyfriend refused to pay for heat.  102 deaths don’t include AJ Freund of Crystal Lake, 5, who died being beaten at the hands of his drug addicted parents.  Those parents had repeated contact with DCFS from Tanaja’s and AJ’s births.

JB promised to expand DCFS role in child upbringing during the campaign.  He promised to increase the birth-to-three services of the during the campaign.  This includes expanding home visits because it “increased school readiness, reduced child maltreatment and reduced lifetime arrests and convictions.”  He also promised to create a mobile and online portal to provide information from the state so the state can reach all new parents.  This will require ever increasing budgets for a state agency that consistently fails its mission today.

DCFS staffers face high workloads and, unfortunately for the children, it can result in the death of those in their care.  The majority of DCFS workers are not evil, thrive on forcing drama, or incompetent.  The ones that are cause dire consequences.  The majority of children who come into contact with DCFS will not be taken from their parents.  The ones that are face peril not only from our legal system but also those charged with their care.  This agency is in drastic need of reform and formal policies that will guide a good working culture.

The agency contractors who were in contact Tanaja and AJ will not face criminal charges for their actions.  In these cases, the contractors didn’t attempt to falsify reports.  They did falsify reports in the case of Semaj Crosby in 2017.  This contract employee, to date, has not been charged with any crime.  This is wrong.  If a prisoner dies in custody and a police officer falsifies the report, that officer is accountable of any number of offenses at the very least, filing a false report.  The DCFS worker who falsifies a report and a child dies, faces being fired but no jail time.  Given that current employment law prohibits employers from given information as to why a former employee is released, this seems like a small consequence for doing such an important job so poorly.  The contractor will likely not face any financial harm at all for a 17 month old baby that is crushed under the living room couch.

This agency needs reform, not more contact with more parents who will fear their children being taken away.  The agency needs to be accountable to those it assumes the care of, not a union that protects those who cannot be trusted to tell the truth.  The agency needs a stable director, not a political flunky who is unwilling to make tough choices fighting that union or worse, do their bidding.  If the agency is unwilling to do so, it should be dissolved and its charge handed back to law enforcement with full capacity.  102 lives and no agency employees being held to account.  One can only imagine the cost for expanding DCFS’ reach into every Illinois family.

From the Chair: Mahomet Annexes Outlying Subdivisions

On April 23, the Village of Mahomet annexed three subdivisions against the wishes of a vocal contingent of homeowners in those subdivisions.  The Briarcliff and Summit Ridge subdivisions were developed outside the existing limits of the village explicitly for a country feel and lower taxes.  Many of those residents attended study sessions explaining to elected Mahomet trustees that they purchased their home, in part, because it was not in the Village.  Village officials have been concerned with increasing revenues and increasing the Village’s population count for the upcoming 2020 Census.

A Federal Census should NEVER be a reason to annex property into a city or village.  Nor should property owners be forcibly annexed into a city or village.  These homeowners are now facing increased property taxes and fees that they didn’t want.  These homeowners are now forced to purchase services from a provider they didn’t choose. These homeowners are now taxed without elected representation as the homeowners couldn’t vote in the 2019 Village of Mahomet election.  These communities would have been better served to be annexed after a referendum vote on annexation.  We doubt this would have passed given the large number of negative comments given in public meetings.

This is taxation without representation.  We believe the annexation statutes should be changed to require subdivision annexations to go to a direct vote of the proposed annexation residents.  These residents should be allowed to have their say at the ballot box, not railroaded in a village hearing or ask for relief in a court of law.  The statutes should also be changed to require cities and villages to annex properties PRIOR to a municipal election so newly annexed residents can elect their officials, not have them foisted upon them.