Simi Valley City Council renews city’s local emergency status

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The Simi Valley City Council begins its meeting on Sept. 21, in Simi Valley, CA.

By Aleea Evangelista

On Sept. 21, the Simi Valley City Council voted unanimously on its proclamation of renewing their local emergency status in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, the Ventura County Public Health Department and the Director of Emergency Services (DES) declared a local emergency in response to the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. The five members of the Simi Valley City Council voted to renew this local emergency status to comply with the increasing COVID-19 cases in West Ventura County and seek further intergovernmental aid.

Councilmember Elaine Litster discussed the importance of the proclamation and its benefits to the city’s response to the coronavirus.

“There are three reasons [for the proclamation], one is the speedy response through the DES. The second reason is the financial assistance from the federal and/or state system,” said Litster. “Then the third reason is prosecutorial immunity.”

Much like other cities, Simi Valley’s local emergency status has been ongoing for the past six months. Renewing the proclamation would grant the city emergency authority from the DES and monetary aid to the city. Also, Simi Valley would be protected from claims of failing to perform duties on the behalf of local agencies under the Emergency Services Act.

With the local emergency renewal, evictions and water service for Simi Valley residents will be impacted. The DES ordered the moratorium on evictions and sought to protect the rights of tenants. The proclamation seeks to uphold this demand per Governor Newsom’s executive order to ensure housing in the pandemic.

Simi Valley City council members
Simi Valley City Council members unanimously vote on the proclamation of renewing the local emergency status in Simi Valley on Monday, Sept. 21.

Section seven of the order states that “water service will not be shut off due to lack of payment during the duration of this Local Emergency.” In addition, all late and penalty fees for water service will be waived as well. In light of the major unemployment, this motion would guarantee water service to residents and promote the overall public health in Simi Valley.

As of Sept. 24, Ventura County has 12,437 total cases and Simi Valley has 1,662 positive cases. Simi Valley has one of the highest records of coronavirus cases in Ventura County and legislation must be enforced to reduce the positivity rate.

The proclamation states that Simi Valley will “follow and impose all directives, mandates, Executive Orders, and any other emergency related restrictions issued by the State of California and/or the County of Ventura, including social distancing and other preventative measures.”

However, Councilmember Ruth Luevanos expressed her concern about local business owners losing customers due to the lack of compliance amongst residents with the state’s mask mandate. Unlike other cities within Ventura County, Simi Valley is not actively enforcing a mask order in businesses and there have been many complaints of residents refusing to wear masks.

“People instead are going to restaurants in Thousand Oaks where masks are being enforced or they’re going to LA County,” said Luevanos. “They’re going to other places to shop because they know that the orders will be enforced there and they are not being enforced here.”

Simi Valley Mayor Keith Mashburn starts the City Council meetong on Sept. 21, in Simi Valley, CA.
Simi Valley Mayor Keith Mashburn starts the City Council meetong on Sept. 21, in Simi Valley, CA.

In response, Simi Valley Mayor Keith Mashburn expressed his belief that the Simi Valley Police Department is satisfactorily enforcing the mask mandate to the Ventura County Sheriff’s standards. When there are disputes of wearing masks in businesses, Mashburn assures that the Simi Valley Police will provide assistance.

“If we are called, we will respond. But we do not have the police force nor the co-enforcement personnel to be going into businesses to check to see if people are wearing masks,” said Mashburn.

Luevanos then went on to point out that the city will not break up large gatherings, despite many residents gathering together for Labor Day. The upcoming Halloween holiday also raises concerns for future group gatherings.

With a unanimous vote, the Simi Valley City Council passed the proclamation to renew the city’s local emergency status. Councilmember Dee Dee Cavanaugh expressed her eagerness to pass the renewal and noted the urgency that the proclamation requires from the City Council.

“It [the proclamation] is something that we need to do to ensure that we’re doing our fiduciary responsibility to the community,” said Cavanaugh.