City Council declares state of emergency

At the beginning of a somber meeting held less than 48 hours after the collapse of the I-35W bridge, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency in Minneapolis.

Mayor R.T. Rybak had already declared a state of emergency in the city, but by law the council had to back up that declaration within 72 hours. A state of emergency gives the mayor the authority — if he chooses to use it — to impose curfew hours on public streets or other public places, close businesses that sell guns or materials that could easily be converted to explosives, and close bars and liquor stores. Declaring a state of emergency also assists in obtaining funding for disaster recovery.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty also declared a peacetime emergency and activated the State Emergency Operations Center. In a state of emergency, the governor has the power to “enter into contracts and incur obligations” without following normal approval procedures. This is so that the governor can do things such as hire temporary workers or get the necessary equipment to the area to provide emergency assistance and protect people and property.

“There is no doubt this is one of the most tragic events in Minneapolis’ history,” City Council President Barb Johnson (4th Ward) said.

Every city department — from the obvious like police and fire to the less obvious like finance — has played some role in assisting with disaster relief, Johnson said. Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward) noted in the hours after the bridge collapse that council members were getting better news from TV than from city employees, Johnson said, noting that the reason is because Minneapolis workers were busy doing their jobs and responding to the tragedy.

The council observed a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives in the bridge collapse.

Public Works will be presenting a transportation plan outlining how to re-route traffic that used the I-35W Bridge at the Aug. 7 meeting of the City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee, according to Council Member Diane Hofstede (3rd Ward).