Evansville Courier & Press
EVANSVILLE — A citywide mask order by Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and a City Council ordinance mandating masks may be in the pipeline — but whatever happens may not happen quietly.
As is so often the case in politically polarized America in 2020, protests are planned. Petitions are being signed on both sides of the mask mandate issue, which has become a flashpoint in Vanderburgh County’s recent COVID-19 explosion.
A protest called, “Stand against forced masks in Vanderburgh County” was slated for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Civic Center in Downtown Evansville — the same time the City Council was to meet inside the building to consider its ordinance. Another dubbed, “Maskless Protest in front of the Civic Center,” is set for 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
The latter event’s Facebook page colors the endeavor in defiance.
“Tyrant Winnecke ordered the Mandatory Mask Law without the Evansville Residents approval!” it screams. “Lloyd Winnecke is not above the law!”
Dueling change.org petitions also are helping people choose sides.
Encouraging residents to mask up voluntarily but opting not to require it outside the city, Commissioners Ben Shoulders and Cheryl Musgrave reminded the Courier & Press last week that local hospitals have said they have plenty of room for more patients.
That was too much for Kristen Strandberg, who started a change.org petition expressing disappointment in Musgrave and Shoulders — and Commissioner Jeff Hatfield and Winnecke, who at that time was saying he preferred continuing to try to convince residents to wear masks.
“The fact that we can put more people in the hospital seems like a ridiculous reason to essentially say that that’s OK,” said Strandberg, a professor of music history at the University of Evansville.
Strandberg’s petition goes further.
“In addition to pain, suffering, and potential death, a hospital stay or even outpatient care would leave many local citizens in financial ruin,” it states. “Using testing and hospital availability as justification — when health care is not financially available to many — sends a clear message: the health of the economically disadvantaged members of our community is not as important as that of the wealthy.”
By mid-day Saturday, the pro-mandate petition had 822 signatures, although there didn’t appear to be a way to look at the signatures or ascertain how many are local. Strandberg herself said she couldn’t see them. The Courier & Press left a message with change.org but got no reply on Friday.
Residents who oppose a mask mandate have at least one outlet on change.org, too.
A petition started by David Politano, who describes himself as “a strong-hearted Libertarian and lover of the United States constitution,” calls the mandate idea overreach. By mid-day, Saturday, Politano’s petition claimed 1,236 signatures — again with no apparent means of checking them.
Politano declined comment Friday, but his petition calls the proposed City Council ordinance “an egregious abuse of power on the part of the Evansville City Council towards the liberty of the individual citizens of Evansville and people who do business within the city.”
“We the people do wholeheartedly support individual liberty and believe that it is the government’s first and only job to protect the individual and their liberty. Allowing them natural rights to govern over their own bodies in a way that they see as responsible and accountable for themselves,” it states.
The City Council ordinance may be discussed at the council meeting on Monday, but it likely won’t be passed or rejected then.
Ordinances generally require two readings for passage, and the face mask ordinance is scheduled only for first reading. Having both readings during the same meeting would require a vote to suspend the rules — but the ordinance’s primary author, Third Ward Councilman Zac Heronemus, has said he will not try to fast-track it in light of the recent explosion in cases.
Musgrave, Shoulders and Hatfield won’t be left out of the debate over what action to take. The three county commissioners have a resolution to offer — one that, unlike Winnecke’s measure, doesn’t call itself an order.
During their regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting, the commissioners will consider what their agenda calls a “resolution recommending citizens to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Vanderburgh County.”
The commissioners will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Room 301 of the Civic Center.
SOURCE: HSPA InfoNet