Helotes News routinely receives questions about Helotes MarketPlace/Market Days. This past weekend was slightly different as we received multiple emails and private messages via social media regarding the November 7th, 2020 Helotes Market Days.
The influx of questions prompted us to reach out to the City of Helotes for more information. We are sharing our findings with the public to help explain what hurdles remain in front of the City before they can host Market Days.
On October 1st, 2020 the City contacted the Texas Attorney General’s Office with this question according to Andrea Wazir the Public Relations Specialist for the City of Helotes, “The City of Helotes is seeking clarification regarding GA-30 and Bexar County order NW-15. In the City of Helotes, does our Mayor have the authority to grant permission for an outdoor gathering in excess of 10 people, even though we are located in Bexar County?”
According to the September 16th, 2020 Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff Executive Order NW-16, numbered paragraph IV:
“Large Gatherings Prohibited. Large gatherings or events estimated to be in excess of 10 people outdoors are prohibited.
Exceptions from this prohibition are listed below in (1) through ( 13):”
It appears an event such as Market Days is not in the list of exemptions.
According to the September 17th, 2020 Governor Greg Abbott Executive Order GA-30, numbered paragraph 6:
“For any outdoor gathering in excess of 10 people, other than those set forth above in paragraph Nos. 1, 2, 3, or 5, the gathering is prohibited unless the mayor of the city in which the gathering is held, or the county judge in the case of a gathering in an unincorporated area, approves of the gathering, and such approval can be made subject to certain conditions or restrictions not inconsistent with this executive order.”
The above excerpt appears to give the “…the mayor of the city…” authority to authorize outdoor gatherings in excess of 10 people for an event such as Market Days.
As stated above, the City of Helotes sought legal clarification on October 1st. Rightly so, because in one order the Governor appears to bestow a specific authority to Mayors. While Judge Wolff’s order prohibits a gathering such as Market Days.
Andrea provided the Texas Attorney General, “According to Texas Government Code 418.108 (h)(1) and (2) the mayor may not supersede the order of the county judge.” Andrea explained further to Helotes News that in state and county executive orders there are exemptions relating to events on private property or exempted because they meet other executive order criteria. “Unfortunately, the Helotes MarketPlace doesn’t meet any of the exemptions,” said Andrea Wazir.
While it is not the response many of us would like, it is the letter of the law established by previous State legislative sessions.
Of the many inquiries we received this weekend, one stands out. Councilman-elect Craig Sanders sent us several questions and photos of the Bandera Market, the event located in the parking lot of Bandera Pointe shopping center across from Lowes.
Several of his questions aligned with ours and we incorporated others into our discussion with Andrea. We held off publishing last night because we had unanswered follow-up questions to Andrea after business hours and Councilman-elect Sanders sent an email as we were drafting that we wanted to incorporate into the article.
Confirming what Andrea already stated, Councilman-elect Sanders informed Helotes News, “If I understood her [City Administrator Marian Mendoza] correctly, the Mayor doesn’t have the authority to waiver the gathering of 10 people at events if the event is held on public property. However, he could do it if the event was on private property.
The sad news is the hands of our City are tied in terms of hosting Market Days as many of us experienced that event in the past. However, there are positive aspects of this situation to reflect on. There is a growing number of citizens reaching out to different organizations such as Helotes News, as well as the City letting us know this event is always on your mind. We see based on the City’s responses to our questions that City Staff is being proactive as new executive orders are published. Lastly, we also see that Councilman-elect Sanders who has not even been sworn in yet, is out performing his own due diligence on the issue.