MUSCATINE — While Mayor Diana Broderson’s proclamation requiring people to wear masks now has no teeth, the Muscatine City Council’s vote to defund any work on it may have had an unintended side effect.
During a discussion on the proclamation during the Muscatine City Council’s in-depth meeting Thursday, council member John Jindrich made the motion to not allow any time or money from the city to be used in regard to working on or enforcing the proclamation. The motion was approved 5-2, with council members Osmond Malcolm and Kelcey Brackett voting against it.
“I am opposed to the mandatory face mask proclamation,” Jindrich said. “Our governor has said the proclamation is inappropriate. Our county attorney disagrees with the proclamation. Many citizens believe in choice. Of all the questions surrounding the facemask proclamation and the current state of our budget, and considering the difficult nature of enforcement, the costs to this proclamation, I would like to as the city council to approve a motion to direct the interim city administrator and the incoming city administrator to not allow or approve and funds or staff time to be spent or utilized following or enforcing the facemask proclamation unless the proclamation is consistent with the governor of Iowa.”
On Sunday, July 5, Broderson issued a proclamation requiring people wear face coverings in public to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proclamation included allowing officers to give tickets for municipal infraction if the order was not followed, which would result in a $500 fine. Since the proclamation was issued, the Iowa Attorney General’s office, the Muscatine County Attorney’s office and Gov. Kim Reynolds have said they did not believe Broderson had the authority to make such a proclamation.
After the vote, Bracket said Jindrich's motion means the council cannot have any further meetings or discussion on the proclamation because it would use staff time.
“You have effectively shut down all communications on this unless we initiate something new,” he said. “We can do absolutely nothing at this time in regards to the proclamation. We can’t adjust it or make changes or anything along those lines.”
During the vote, Broderson said the proclamation would still stand, but enforcement utilizing staff time would not be done. She urged everyone to continue to wear masks in public.
“I’m not prepared to rescind the proclamation at this time,” Broderson said. “I have a couple of different things I am weighing and discussing with area professionals. We are in the middle of a global pandemic as you well know and I listen to the health experts when it comes to the health and safety of all of us.”
She said since the pandemic began she has been involved with daily meeting, sometimes several per day, with health experts. The proclamation had not come up “willy nilly,” she said, but was formed in conjunction with area health care experts.
She said it was unfortunate the proclamation had been leaked to social media before the press conference.
She also said she had been in communication with Muscatine City Attorney Matthew Brick to make sure the proclamation was legal. Brick has not returned several calls from the Muscatine Journal for comment.
“We are in new territory,” Broderson said. “I know there are different opinions with the attorney general saying he doesn’t believe cities and counties have the opportunity to do emergency proclamations that aren’t necessarily in line with the governor. However, this is adding to hers and isn’t doing anything to retract from hers.”
She said more people have been wearing face coverings and paying attention to social distancing since the proclamation was issued. She hopes as things move forward the city can put together a group to examine the proclamation and determine where to go from here.
On Thursday the Scott County Board voted to “strongly encourage’ people to wear masks and held off voting on whether to require it.
Muscatine Council member Dennis Froelich had requested a discussion of the mask mandate be included in the meeting.
In Muscatine County on Friday, 11 positive cases had been reported since Thursday morning, for a total of 687 cases. No new deaths had been reported, making the death total in the county 44. Also in Muscatine County 557 people have recovered.