Governor J.B. Pritzker made a call to Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard in an effort to assess the needs and concerns in downstate Illinois.
Mayor Ezard spoke with Pritzker by phone Thursday morning, and says the conversation was very pleasant and very cordial, and that the Governor called to find out what Ezard was hearing from residents in the area, and what the needs are here in West Central Illinois.
“He asked me, what are you hearing? What challenges do you have as a mayor downstate in a rural area? I said I’m sure you have heard this from many others, but things that we are hearing is, it would be good to have a better definition on the gathering aspect. If he is going to keep it at groups of 10, or if he is going to expand that more of, what is a gathering and can there be exceptions made if there is a plan submitted to a local official or a county health official?”
Ezard says he stressed that updated guidelines on gatherings would be beneficial to local municipalities, as well as more specific detailing of what is considered essential during the stay at home order.
“We also talked about non-essential and essential. There are many things that I think falls through the cracks on that as far as needing more definition of non-essential and essential.
I think folks could do some more things if it were more detailed on what he means. That would take a lot of pressure off of the mayors and the health departments and our law enforcement on trying to make that determination, and it also takes the pressure off of the public in trying to figure it out.”
Ezard says the conversation started with the Governor asking Ezard how his family is doing and if they were safe. He says they found they both have children around the same age, and talked about similar issues their families were facing.
Ezard says overall, the conversation felt to him as if it was just two people talking freely, and he was glad the Governor reached out to him about the needs downstate. Ezard says he feels Pritzker understands the differences in areas of state.
“We went back a fourth and had a nice chat about differences within between Chicago and downstate, and that was one of the initiatives I wanted to push with him as far as regionalization. I know he has a big press conference coming up on April 30th, which kind of sets the table for the future as far as his stay at home order.
And he completely understood where I was coming from, that things are different downstate than they are in Chicago and the collar counties, and he made the comment that he completely understands that, and the things that he is doing is not just based on Chicago, he takes the whole state in mind, which I appreciated his saying very much.”
Ezard says he also suggested a relaxation of required payments municipalities are required to make when warm weather projects get underway. He says municipalities like Jacksonville have improvement projects scheduled to start soon, and more time to assess where the city budget will be following the shut down would be a great help to the city, and he was sure other local governments have the same needs.
Ezard says that testing sites for the coronavirus as well as rural healthcare were also topics of discussion during the call.
“We also pinpointed about the public health, that we are in a rural area, and we feel that we need more rural testing sites. And when this is all said and done, there needs to be a closer look taken at how things can be different and how things can be improved. How there can be more help for rural healthcare and the healthcare system to help ease things up. It was a good back and forth conversation that lasted about twenty minutes.”
Ezard says he also asked about outdoor recreation areas such as golf courses. Ezard says a group has put together a plan locally that would allow golfing while maintaining social distancing, and if the Governor would be willing to open state parks and lakes back up, golf courses and other recreational areas should be considered as well.
Ezard says he enjoyed the conversation and felt he and Pritzker found a lot of common ground despite differing backgrounds and hailing from different areas of the state.
“It was a good conversation, I mean I know the pressures he was under, and he kind of knew some of my background, and I explained more that I worked for a Governor, and I understand how their offices operate, and you are the leader of the state. We are going to support you as much as we can, and follow you, and we may not agree all the time, but I certainly respect him and his position and that is how I kind of flow as a mayor,”
Ezard says he will give more details about topics and information shared with the Governor, during the weekly Morgan County ESDA update Friday morning. The video updates are posted on social media platforms each Friday via YouTube.