The Provo Municipal Council met tonight to reconsider an ordinance passed unanimously on Tuesday, August 25, and vetoed today by Mayor Michelle Kaufusi. On a 6-1 vote, Councilors voted to override the veto and enact the ordinance which amends Provo City Code regarding civil infractions and requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance requires face coverings or social distancing in publicly accessible spaces with specific requirements that vary depending on whether an individual is indoor or outdoors and whether an individual is attending a large public gathering. It also requires businesses to post signage.
Passage of this ordinance came after several Council meeting discussions and input from thousands who participated in an online survey as well as those who reached out to the Councilors by email or phone. More than two-thirds of responses to the online survey and of emails received by the Council supported a mask mandate. The Council previously passed a resolution calling on Provoans to “accept personal responsibility to … follow public health guidelines,” and on the Mayor to expand education efforts to spread awareness and increase compliance with those public health guidelines.
The face covering and social distancing ordinance was originally passed at a special Council meeting held just two days ago. Following that vote, Mayor Michelle Kaufusi informed the Council that she would veto the ordinance. In her letter delivered today to the City Council, Mayor Kaufusi cited common ground with the Council wanting “a safe and vibrant Provo through coming months” and a shared “desire to see the highest possible rate of compliance with state health guidelines.” Her veto comes because of “difference over the right path … to get to that destination.”
Council Chair George Handley expressed appreciation for the Mayor and Administration, stating that “nothing about our strong and honest difference of opinion about the need for a mask ordinance has changed that relationship. There is not a rift in the City leadership.” He also committed to seeking improvements to the ordinance and the City’s efforts if needed.
The Council’s goal in passing this ordinance is to increase the number of people in Provo complying with health guidelines in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. It does not ban public gatherings as some feared, rather it places requirements to wear face coverings as appropriate, with exemptions for a variety of medical and other issues. With an influx of university students arriving in Provo, there was a sense of urgency to have consistency between the mask requirements on the campuses as Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University and the off-campus areas in Provo where students and the community interact. BYU, UVU, and the Provo School District all have enacted mask mandates as part of their COVID-19 responses.
As this mask requirement goes into effect, this should not be seen as an invitation to start reporting those who aren’t wearing masks. This is a request that people in Provo wear a mask in public because it is the right thing to do and, now, it is the law. There are exceptions provided in the ordinance for many legitimate reasons for not wearing a mask and the public is encouraged to be understanding of those situations. The ordinance has a sunset clause that would cause this ordinance to expire effective November 15 unless extended by October 20, 2020.
Handley also expressed appreciation to the administration, staff, and others for their extraordinary effort in recent weeks. “And we thank this community,” said Handley. “We know you care and we value your voice and input, even if we sometimes disagree. I am proud to be a citizen of this great city.”
The full text of the ordinance can be found here: https://documents.provo.org/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Documents/ViewDocument/Supporting%20Document%20-%20ORDINANCE%20-%20COVID-19%20FACE%20COVERINGS%20FINAL.pdf?meetingId=1972&documentType=Agenda&itemId=7022&publishId=15181&isSection=false
More information about the ordinance is on the Council’s blog: http://www.provocitycouncil.com/2020/08/provos-covid-19-mask-ordinance.html#more
The full text of George Handley’s statement follows:
The City Council has enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Mayor Kaufusi ever since she was elected. We have achieved a lot together and it will continue. Nothing about our strong and honest difference of opinion about the need for a mask ordinance has changed that relationship. There is not a rift in the city leadership. We know and trust and respect each other and as she said the other night, we are unified in our desire to minimize risk and promote the health and safety of this community during the pandemic. I am saddened by the anger directed at the Mayor. I haven't enjoyed much of the anger directed at me either for that matter. But my point is simply that I know the Mayor and my fellow council members enough to know that we see things differently and sometimes we agree, but we are good and honest people trying to do the right thing. If only all good people would agree all the time, things would be a lot easier. But we don't. So we have to practice the art of disagreement with great care. And in my experience, I sometimes fail at it, but I keep working to get better. As city leadership, we commit to model civility about this and other issues as we move forward, and If we can get along despite our differences, we hope that sends a signal to this community that we can all get along. There are strong feelings about this on both sides and we understand why. I think it is fair to say that we have spent more time listening to both sides than just about anyone. It has been a real education. What I find most valuable are the thoughtful and well reasoned responses that don't assume those who think differently are enemies to all that is good and right. My plea is that we can all commit to ongoing civil dialogue, to show kindness, patience, and forbearance. It is more important than ever. And that we can do our honest best to follow the health guidelines without fear, anger or division getting in the way. I know. Some people think this ordinance is wrong because it sows seeds of division. I hope that they are wrong. I plead with everyone to take responsibility for not only the physical but emotional health of the whole community, and that starts with a commitment to avoid pointing angry fingers of blame. If you feel strongly about something, reach out and engage in dialogue.
We commit as a council to continue the conversation with the administration, to identify all of the common ground we can to work in harmony, to identify effective strategies, potential areas of improvement in the ordinance, and to support important and ongoing educational outreach. We have already placed further discussion of this issue on our agendas for Tuesday for the express purpose of maintaining those open lines of communication and of ensuring that we have the very best ordinance and its implementation we can.
We thank our staff for all of their extraordinary effort in recent weeks. They have been remarkable. We thank the administration. They are top flight, thoughtful, smart, and decent people. And we thank this community. We know you care and we value your voice and input, even if we sometimes disagree. I am proud to be a citizen of this great city.
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