Kingman City Council removes mask mandate
KINGMAN – After a lengthy discussion regarding perceived benefits and consequences of repealing the city’s mask mandate, Kingman City Council voted 4-3 to repeal the measure at its Tuesday, Oct. 20 meeting.
The original proclamation requiring persons over age 6 to wear face coverings when entering businesses in Kingman went into effect Wednesday, July 1, and was later extended through August. Then in late August, Mayor Jen Miles extended the proclamation, which is designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, through 2020.
Councilman David Wayt expressed interest in potentially converting the mask mandate into a resolution that would encourage the wearing of masks. He also inquired as to the civil liability of the city in regards to “neglecting to enforce the mandate we have imposed,” in the event a person is able to track their infection to a city function. He posed a similar question in regards to small businesses.
“What we’re listing is an educational campaign,” City Attorney Carl Cooper said of the proclamation. “The idea is to strongly urge and educate those individuals out in public to wear the mask. We’re not looking at making any type of an attempt to charge anybody criminally; that was not the intent of this mandate. The idea was to encourage people to wear this mask.”
The attorney did note that law enforcement has talked with several businesses in reference to compliance, but added those discussions mainly dealt with state requirements stemming from executive orders of Gov. Doug Ducey.
“Trying to look at the civil aspect of it, I don’t see an increased level of liability towards the city having or not having a mask mandate,” Cooper said.
Mayor Jen Miles said the mandate works to provide a consistent policy alongside schools, health care facilities and businesses that have their own COVID-19 policies.
“It gives a uniform, consistent policy that people don’t have to wonder about what’s required, we just are all together on the same page protecting each other and helping each other get through this,” she said.
Councilman Ken Watkins was receptive to Wayt’s proposal to replace the mandate with a resolution. He said even though the city’s mandate has “no teeth in it,” people still “worst case it and consider it law.”
“So maybe we ratchet it down to either a strong resolution, strong encouragement, so that way people don’t feel like we’re taking away their civil liberties,” Watkins said.
Vice Mayor Travis Lingenfelter said he believes emergency mandates must be “as narrowly tailored as possible, as short as possible, and they have to be explicitly tied to clear criteria for the end of the emergency mandate. Right now our mandate doesn’t have any criteria at all …”
The vice mayor also noted the governor’s executive orders remain in effect as do individual store policies, and therefore he said removal of the mandate would not change much practically.
“I am very worried for our little town, very worried,” said Councilwoman SueAnn Mello Keener. “I just strongly encourage the community to continue with the hand sanitizing, the hand washing, the wearing of the masks, and then also to be respectful. Those that don’t choose to wear the mask, those that do. Kingman needs to be Kingman again and that is a very strong community, and I just hope we can get there again.”
Councilwoman Jamie Scott Stehly voiced her concerns about downgrading the mandate to a resolution. Having recently spent time in Lake Havasu City after the repeal of the sister city’s mask requirement, she said she didn’t see many masks on faces. And she said if cases rise due to a lack of mask wearing, businesses and even schools may suffer the consequences.
“Not only from those increases will we see more cases, sickness, death, but we’re also going to see businesses being shut down again, which I know none of us want to see and we don’t want to have a hand in that,” she said. “And we’re going to see our schools shut down again, and these kids just got to go back to school. I would just ask everybody to think about whether or not we want to take that chance right now.”
Councilwoman Deana Nelson said people want to have their voices heard, adding that local shoppers are taking their business elsewhere, such as to Lake Havasu and Bullhead cities.
“Those are things on an economic level that we have to think about,” she said.
Following discussion, Nelson made a motion to remove the mask mandate, which was seconded by Mello Keener. Along with Nelson and Mello Keener, Lingenfelter and Watkins voted to remove the mandate. Miles, Scott Stehly and Wayt cast dissenting votes.