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Road Map to Reopening, Disruption to the Economy, and June 2nd Election

May 17, 2020

Dear Constituent:

The Columbia/Boone County Plan for Response and Road Map to Reopening is our data-driven guide for a safe roll-back of the restrictions imposed previously to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

On May 4th, we moved into Phase 2, Step 1 of the plan (Reopen businesses and organizations with occupancy limitations, no mass gatherings) with the enactment of Public Health Order #2020-05. As soon as it is known whether this relaxation has been accomplished without a spike in infections, a decision will be made about progressing to Phase 2, Step 2 (Reduce limitations for businesses and organizations, reintroduce limited mass gatherings.) Since it takes up to 21 days to allow for a full incubation cycle of the virus and evaluate the data on new cases and hospital capacity, an announcement during the week of May 25th is likely.

In the last two weeks, I have heard from many constituents about the terrible economic impact the restrictions are having on local businesses and workers, and I share these concerns. In order to bring the economy back, we have to create an environment in which consumers feel safe going to restaurants and participating in activities. A spike in illnesses would cause more long-lasting damage to consumer confidence, and so the Plan for Response and Road Map to Reopening has been carefully designed to lift the restrictions in steps and evaluate each step before moving to the next one. More details are provided in this press release, which was issued on Friday.

I realize how difficult this is for so many people but a rapid re-opening could be much more disastrous. I believe Public Health Director Stephanie Browning has the balance right, and I endorse everything Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson says in her recent commentary article in the Columbia Missourian.

Disruption to the Economy

In the last two months, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs. Restaurants and retail businesses, which were thriving at the start of the year, have been forced to close in order to keep people safe. While some are re-opening, consumer demand will be reduced for the foreseeable future, and many will not survive.

The global pandemic has rendered the travel and tourism industries largely idle, caused farmers to dump milk and leave crops in the field while creating food shortages in other areas, and turned the stock market into a roller-coaster. Some groups are suffering more than others - while I have the economic security that allows me to "shelter at home," thousands of Columbia residents are putting themselves at risk while continuing to work for low wages, and thousands more have lost their incomes and face a terrifyingly uncertain future.

This unprecedented disruption has laid bare some of the problems and deep inequities in our economy:

  • Tens of millions of American workers have no health insurance;
  • Tens of millions of American workers are paid so little, they live "paycheck to paycheck" and have no savings;
  • Many "essential workers" in healthcare, nursing homes, and food service are apparently not valued by our society - they are paid the least and have no benefits;
  • All of these disadvantages disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities.

How can we create a more resilient and a more equitable economy? None of us benefits from a system which forces hard-working people to live without medical care on the brink of hunger and homelessness. It is almost impossible for millions of families to climb out of the poverty trap which has been created by historical injustices and an insufficient safety net. It will take political will to build an economy in which all adults can experience the dignity of fairly compensated work, and all children have the opportunity for a fulfilling, healthy future. But I believe it can be done and there's no time like the present!

I have enjoyed email conversations with many of you on this topic, in response to my questions:

  • What is your personal definition of “the economy?”
  • What would you say are the characteristics of a successful economy versus one that doesn’t work or creates undesirable outcomes?
  • What are we, as a nation, striving to achieve with the economy?

Please continue to share your thoughts. I will include them (anonymously) in an upcoming newsletter, as part of a forward-looking discussion focusing on ways we can emerge from the pandemic stronger than before.

June 2nd Elections

Local elections, originally scheduled for April, will go ahead on Tuesday, June 2nd. There are school board elections, a school bond issue to decide, and a City Council race in the First Ward.

If you are ill or concerned about getting infected when you go to the polling station, you can request an absentee ballot but you should do so no later than this Wednesday, May 20th. Simply go to the Boone County Clerk's website and either complete the online form or download a PDF version, which you can print, fill in, and mail in. You will have to give a reason for requesting an absentee ballot, and if your reason is "incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability," your request will not need to be notarized.

If you have any concerns or need clarification, call the Boone County Clerk's office at 573-886-4375.

Constituent Conversations

I will hold Constituent Conversations online and on the phone this afternoon (May 17, 2020) from 2-4pm, using the following videoconference/dial-in links:

Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/99360231538 or phone 1-312-626-6799, Meeting ID: 993-6023-1538

Upcoming dates are always available at my web site.

Cheers, Ian