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City Council gives mayor the authority to impose curfews in Rapid City
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City Council gives mayor the authority to impose curfews in Rapid City

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The Rapid City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday night that affirmed the mayor's authority to declare an emergency and impose curfews if needed to prevent riots and preserve order.

The resolution is in effect immediately and will last for 60 days.

Mayor Steve Allender said he would only impose a curfew if the situation warrants it.

"I'm not going to walk out of here and (immediately) declare a curfew. I am going to apply it in real time as the circumstances unfold," he said.

The mayor said an emergency operations center has been established in Rapid City with members of law enforcement, the fire department, the governor's office and the South Dakota National Guard.

"We are monitoring about how things are unfolding in Rapid City," Allender said. "Basically, we are using the same intelligence-gathering process that we used and found to be relatively accurate Saturday (with the memorial walk for George Floyd). This is also the same method that Sioux Falls used Sunday. We are staffed up and ready to do this."

South Dakota Codified Law gives the city the authority to prohibit disorders and disturbances. State law also has stipulations on the power of the city to suppress riots, affrays, noises, disturbances and disorderly assemblies.

Additionally, state law gives the mayor the power to suppress disorder and riots, but the word curfew is not found in the laws.

Allender and City Attorney Joel Landeen said that even though state law does not specifically address curfews, a curfew is a tool that can be used to help prevent a riot and keep the peace.

"It's apparent to us that authority exists on the part of the mayor. We want the council to be on board that they're comfortable with that authority and the authority of the city," Allender said.

In other business, the City Council voted 8-3 to extend the emergency ordinance to address COVID-19 and social distancing regulations for businesses until July 31.

The original ordinance was set to expire Saturday. However, the peak for COVID-19 infections in Rapid City is not expected to occur until later in June. The new ordinance preserves the City Council's authority to address the spread of the disease through the projected peak.

The ordinance will allow the City Council to impose additional restrictions or to modify or loosen the current regulations that require businesses to limit occupancy to 50%, maintain six feet of distance between tables at restaurants, and for food service workers to wear masks.

The resolution on the restrictions will be revisited at least every two weeks or more frequently if the need arises. Council members Becky Drury, John Roberts and Lance Lehmann voted against extending the ordinance and resolution.

The City Council also approved the first reading of an ordinance to impose more than $6.6 million in budget cuts for the city as the financial fallout continues from COVID-19.

Allender said lowered consumer spending and reductions in sales tax during the pandemic stem from corporate closures of large stores, voluntary and mandated closures of other businesses, weakened consumer confidence, consumer fear over the impact of COVID-19 and rising unemployment.

The second reading on the proposed budget cuts is set for the City Council's June 15 meeting.

Contact Assistant Managing Editor Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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