A wide range of opinions were presented at a Glendale City Council meeting June 19 on face coverings in public spaces. The mandate was put in place later the same day.
Mayor Jerry Weiers started the meeting wearing a mask. “I’m 6 feet away from anyone and I can’t breathe with this on so I’m taking it off,” he said, shortly after starting the meeting.
Although the it was advertised as a “special voting meeting,” Weiers announced at the beginning that no voting would take place.
At a press conference on June 17, Gov. Doug Ducey said he and other state officials are going to “empower local officials” to require masks in public. “COVID-19 is widespread in the state of Arizona, and Arizonans must act responsibly to protect one another,” Ducey said.
At the Glendale meeting, Deputy City Manager Rick St. John explained that although the city and state anticipated a spike in cases after lifting the stay-at-home order, they did not expect the spike to continue to rise.
St. John was not wearing a mask. Most staff and council members also were not wearing masks at the meeting.
Councilman Bart Turner said he was concerned about the continual growth of cases in Arizona.
“Arizona’s not just leading the nation, we’re leading the world in the increase, and we need to do something about it for our residents. … I don’t think we have time to waste,” Turner said.
Several council members said they supported masks—but not without exceptions.
“I believe it should be places where it is difficult to social distance,” Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff said. “Not outside.”
Councilwoman Joyce Clark, who has been wearing a mask to meetings, had a similar opinion. She shared that face coverings should be worn when social distancing isn’t possible and if people will be together for longer than 10 minutes. However, she felt children younger than 6 should not be required to wear a face covering and no one should be required to wear one outdoors.
Clark said she would support the mandate even though she dislikes wearing a mask.
“You’re not doing it for you, and you can only be so selfish so long before you realize that you have to protect others around you,” she said.
Councilman Jamie Aldama also saw the mandate in a positive light. “Mayor, you should come out with a mandate of some sort,” he said.
Councilman Ian Hugh wondered about enforcement. He asked, “Are (the police) going to go out and enforce face masks in the public?”
St. John explained that the governor has recommended that the mandates be enforced through educating the public on why they are being required to wear a mask.
Among the five community members who came to speak at the meeting, four were against a face covering mandate.
Both Daniel McCarthy and Adam Danks felt that a mandate for masks goes against their rights and freedoms as Americans.
“This is a violation of the First Amendment,” McCarthy said. “You cannot tell someone that they have to wear a mask.”
Community member Joan Abney shared information that she said disproved the effectiveness of wearing masks and said she opposes a mandate.
“I don’t support a government mandating this type of thing, and the reason I don’t mainly is because we don’t know for sure what we’re dealing with,” Paul Bronson said.
The only member of the public to come forward with a positive view was Joe Garcia. He said he had wanted the governor to put a statewide mandate in place.
Some of the council members understood that their constituents were concerned about their freedoms.
“We have to protect individual rights,” Councilman Ray Malnar said. “I am concerned about the inconsistency in our science, not even knowing for sure that it is making an impact.”
Tolmachoff said that she feels like it is more about protecting citizens rather than taking freedoms.
“I think that’s what we’re really talking about here: the right to endanger others,” she said.
Malnar said the response in his district was split almost 50/50.
“It is a very dividing issue for our city,” he said. “Slightly more than half of the responses have been against doing any kind of mandatory, and a little under half have been in favor of a mandatory.”
Hugh said, “I too have been polling my district, and the majority is leaning (that) they do not want to be dictated by the government.”
Weiers concluded the meeting by saying he appreciated the discussion and that all of the information he heard would be considered when he made his decision.
“Regardless of my decision, I beg each of you to continue to do what you can to mitigate the spread of the virus,” the mayor said.
About five hours after the meeting ended, Weiers issued a proclamation requiring face coverings for those 6 or older in public spaces starting June 20.