ROCHELLE – While many communities throughout the state fight to reopen their economies before Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order expires, Ogle County Sheriff Brian Van Vickle announced his department would not take criminal action against any individual or business violating the governors order.
While the governor’s order was put into effect to limit the spread of the virus, many local business owners within the community think it has been long enough. On Thursday, May 14, Van Vickle took to his Facebook page to inform the public of his position on the matter.
“I fully support the numerous members of our community who have called seeking information and guidance on how to re-open in a safe and responsible way,” Van Vickle wrote. “The Ogle County Sheriff’s Department will not fine or arrest any individual or business violating the governors order. This position is partially based from an April 2020 Appellate Prosecutors Office Opinion stating the Executive Order has constitutional challenges and exceeds the authority of the Governor’s Office.”
Van Vickle is not the only elected official that feels this way toward the executive order. In a letter sent to the Congress of the United States on May 15, U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger expressed his understanding on the severity of this virus, but also his concerns about the negative effects the order has on local businesses and communities across the state.
“As we work to get out country back on track, we must take the appropriate measures to balance the health and economic needs of individual communities that make up our regionally diverse state,” Kinzinger wrote.
“Small businesses across Illinois are struggling to survive and are prepared to take unprecedented public health precautions to reopen in a safe manner for their communities. If these businesses are prohibited from reopening, many will close their doors permanently leaving families without income, workers without jobs and communities with no tax base.”
While the stay-home order itself may have negative effects on communities and their businesses, Pritzker has issued a stern warning of withholding federal aid provided by the state to any local government that reopens its economy ahead of his order expiring. City of Rochelle officials issued a statement to the public voicing its concerns the decision of reopening could have on the community.
“We take no position on Sheriff Van Vickle’s decision not to enforce the executive order,” said Jenny Thompson, Rochelle director of marketing, public relations and tourism. “The community should comply with the executive order, especially those businesses licensed by the State of Illinois. On May 13, 2020, Governor Pritzker explicitly stated during his daily press conference that the state would take enforcement action against all state licensed operations, so there could be far reaching consequences from the state if people open their businesses before the governor allows.”
While government officials and law enforcement agencies have varying opinions on the topic, one local business owner says she would like to reopen but is apprehensive due to confusion surrounding the decision. Naomi Baldwin, owner of Colonial Flowers in downtown Rochelle, has been a local business owner for over 50 years and this is one of the toughest challenges she has had to face.
“I don’t think it is too soon and if I had the option I would probably reopen,” said Baldwin. “I think that it has been a challenge to be a businessperson during these times. I have been in business for so long and this has been a really big challenge.”