HUDSON -- After more than four hours of contentious public comment, the Hudson Common Council voted down both an ordinance requiring masks and a resolution strongly recommending with Mayor Rich O’Connor casting the tie-breaking vote.
A statewide mandate is already in effect, but is currently set to expire on Sept. 28.
Many community members spoke against the mandate Tuesday night, questioning the need for it, the effectiveness and safety of masks and the council’s motives for implementing one at this time, with some calling it a power play.
Others advocated for the mandate, saying health experts recommend masks to protect each other and lower the death rate.
In a July news release, the CDC called for citizens to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, affirming that they are a critical tool that may prevent the wearer from spreading the virus to others.
Council Member Randy Morrissette II moved against the mandate.
“Responsibility for one's health belongs to the individual,” he said.
Council Member Bill Alms seconded because he said the city does not have staff versed in health matters or committees set up on this issue. He said the issue should be handled by the county, state and federal government because they do have these subject matter experts.
Council Member Paul Deziel said he was still in favor of the mask mandate ordinance.
“I've heard the word constitution come up several times tonight and I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution of the United States of America or the Wisconsin Constitution where it says someone has a right to not wear a mask during a pandemic,” he said.
The council heard a lot of bad science tonight, he said, and masks do work to protect other people if you are infected.
Council member Joyce Hall agreed.
“This is supposed to be to protect other people, it’s supposed to be an unselfish act of wearing a mask,” he said. Council member Sarah Atkins Hoggatt said the council was not looking for a power play, but had a duty to discuss the topic. She said she’d be in favor of the ordinance that would encourage everyone to wear masks.
Council member Jim Webber questioned some of the data referenced in public comment, and said people who wear masks don’t spread the disease as readily. He said he would like to see the issue tabled until the next meaning to think it over and work on better language.
Mayor Rich O’Connor said that originally restrictions that were put in place were to keep pressure off health care systems, and both the county and the state have not seen any pressure on its facilities. He questioned if there really was a state of emergency at this time.
“This is an extreme measure and I don’t think it’s warranted at this time, and clearly the county doesn’t think it’s warranted at this time,” he said.
City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said legally the city needs a factual basis to declare a state of emergency, a prerequisite for measures like a mask mandate. With the current death and hospitalization numbers she said it would have a hard time doing so.
The motion against both the ordinance and resolution passed 4-3. Morrissette, Alms, Atkins Hoggatt and O’Connor voted yes. Deziel, Hall and Webber voted no.