Good evening and welcome to what's sure to be a raucous episode of #sgfcouncil
. Mandatory masking is on the agenda tonight. We have a record number of speakers signed up to give their input. Should be a long one, but I've got a fresh pot of coffee and some snacks, so let's go!
We're passing through the city manager's report and apparently not doing an update from the health department, which has been customary since the coronavirus outbreak. Looks like we're trying to save time in what's going to be a looooong night.
Since I'm sure I'll have people following along who aren't used to paying attention to this (like @WyattWheeler_NL
), here's a copy of the agenda. Right now council is doing 'second reading' which is the step in the process where they take a final vote. https://www.springfieldmo.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_07132020-3745?html=true
We zoomed through those second reading bills, all of which were mostly housekeeping items.
Now, we're on to resolutions. The first of which is about a retail liquor license for a former Kum & Go in north SGF across the street from Campbell Early Childhood Center.
Council doesn't usually approve liquor licenses, but since this one is within 200 feet of a school, it would require a variance. Hosmer and McGull aren't particularly keen on the idea, it seems.
A West Central neighborhood resident said she opposes the location because she's worried about the type of things that might happen near the school if there is a convenience store here. She says it wouldn't be in the best interest of the neighborhood.
The pastor of a nearby Baptist church says he's also concerned about the license. I guess churches are also part of a 200-foot buffer from liquor stores, but his church is just outside of the area. He said "It introduces an increased threat to public safety"
And that fails 0-9.
Next, an amendment to the health department's budget to pay for 37 additional staff to deal with coronavirus response. They have a LOT of new cases. Today adding a record single-day total of 49. I wrote about this issue last week https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2020/07/07/covid-19-springfield-missouri-council-consider-mandatory-masks-coronavirus/5391081002/
Health dept director Clay Goddard says the goal is to add some lab techs, bolster testing, add epidemiologists, etc. and to have the cost reimbursed by the CARES Act.
Lear asks if Goddard is satisfied the request will meet needs.
Goddard says yes given current conditions
And that passes unanimously.
Now, for the moment we've all been waiting for: MASKING
Goddard says this ordinance could help us turn around the trend of increasing case numbers.
He says there are still a lot of people out there in the community participating in high-risk activities that put them in large groups for long periods of time.
But, he notes, masking is not a "silver bullet." It doesn't mean we shouldn't be physical distancing, washing hands and STAYING HOME IF YOU'RE SICK. (I've seen a lot of notifications lately about folks going out while sick)
Now we have Dr. Robin Trotman from CoxHealth who is wearing a suit and not his customary white coat. Almost didn't recognize him.
He says right now health care systems are "stable ... stressed, but not overwhelmed." They're treating a lot of patients from further SW of here.
He said while they have treatmentsthat look positive (Remdesivir, convalescent plasma, steroids), those are about to run out.
"This virus has taxed our public health. That's the cornerstone of limiting the spread ...once you overrun the capacity of that, you're out of options."
He said in light of that, we have to do something else.
We can't rely on a vaccine. We can't rely on so-called "herd immunity."
He says the unique thing abt COVID-19 is that this disease is "highly contagious." The scary thing is asymptomatic spread, he says.
Trotman makes an interesting point: ppl shouldn't just look @ deaths for major consequences. "These people have serious financial complications, medical complications that are lasting and they're not captured in deaths. ... We have to keep our eyes on a metric other than death."
Trotman also announces SGF's experience with Great Clips will be published in a major medical journal tomorrow. It's a BFD that will inform the whole world about how effective masking is. Neat! Lil ol' Springfield MO on the map.
The consequences are dire, but infectious diseases are FASCINATING. I could listen to ppl talk about them all day (luckily I've done that a lot lately).
Trotman addresses symptomatic v asymptomatic spread. If just ppl w/ symptoms spread it, "the health dept could handle this"
Hosmer asks him to address the argument that "it's not that bad bc we've only had 9 deaths here."
Trotman says the death rate is low rn, but the thing that determines death rate is: 1) the bug 2) the hosts. Rn hosts are young n healthy, but that won't always be the case.
"Our resources will be tapped out at the current rate (of disease growth)," Trotman said.
Now we have the prez of Mercy SGF Craig McCoy, who debunks the argument that we're seeing more growth bc we're testing more. The fraction of ppl testing positive is growing.
He says Mercy now has 3 ppl in their 50s in the hospital on ventilators. That's notable bc, if I remember correctly, just last week they had zero.
"Please do the right thing. Know the health systems are standing behind you," he said.
Now, McClure is moving to amend the bill. It would exempt "speakers and performers" from wearing a mask as long as they can maintain a distance of six feet from others. It'd apply to event speakers, musicians, pastors, etc
Looks like we've had several speakers drop out. As of last week it was 100, now it's 61.
They are currently in two locations. Some at city hall, some at the art museum. Both groups will be giving testimony via Zoom and are separated into rooms to maintain distancing.
The first speaker is against masking. He faults "government regulations" and policies like required masking and business closures have ruined the economy.
He says masks give ppl a "false sense of security," impede social interaction, make it hard 4 hearing impaired.
Now we have local physician Dr. James Blaine, he says shutdowns were necessary bc it bought us time to study the virus. He says the science now shows that masking works, cites the Great Clips example.
"It's unfortunate that this public health issue has become so politicized."
Next speaker is anti mask. She says many things that have been debunked, including that herd immunity is happening.
She is very passionate about this. She gives the example of when her son had cancer, she did not force the other ppl around her to wear masks.
Next speaker is also anti-mask. He was in the military and cites his experience dealing with chemical agents, diseased detainees, etc.
Says he was told with profanity to wear his mask by fellow students at a welding school or "go home." Says imposing rules will cause "chaos."
Another anti-mask speaker who is a survivor of domestic violence. She says putting things over her face may cause her to have flashbacks.
"You say it is just a mask, it is my freedom being taken away."
Another speaker is pro-mask. He says he works a high-volume service desk. He says the stakes are high and every person who he comes into contact with could put him at risk. It's scary, he says.
Was a bolo tie on your council bingo card? Because this speaker has one. He thinks council should put the ordinance on hold to "innovate" and come up w/different solutions. He gives examples of our innovation here: diverging diamond and 66 among them.
One anti-mask speaker: "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I am a coincidence skeptic."
I'm not sure what that means, but it stuck out and I'm here to provide a chronicle of the meeting and I felt it should be included.
Woman says masks don't work when they're not worn right and they may give people a "false sense of security." That seems to be a common argument against.
Man says mask requirements hurt wedding, other industries bc ppl don't want to go to gatherings if they have to wear them.
CDC recently added pregnant women to "at-risk" category, and this speaker says she mostly stayed home, worried about her unborn child and herself. "I'm not sure how requiring masks to protect our health is any different than requiring us to wear shirts or shoes."
One man says basically he WANTS to wear a mask, but he can't if this mandate passes. I'm not following that logic, but I think he means he won't out of principal.
He calls council "human rights violators" and calls the mask mandate "Orwellian."
Things I have never before heard in city council testimony: "I'm sure we all remember the Titanic."
This speaker says we're in the attitude that "this ship won't sink," and yet we're at the precipice of a dire situation. He encourages them to pass it.
Now we have a nurse who notes ppl literally allow health care workers to inject poison into them when they have cancer and yet won't wear masks. He says health providers will treat ppl, "but if this virus gets out of control, that ability is going to be drastically hindered."
This woman says she doesn't support masks because she cares about people's "spiritual health."
"I'm not a medical expert or a medical one ... but what I see is fear, despair, and people losing hope. These are tools are the devil ... you are supporting evil."
She goes on to compare a masking mandate with Nazi Germany and the oppression of the Jewish people.
"I'm not a slave, and you're not my masters," she says.
A woman who works in infection control says this is a "disaster" and says she's seen things with this COVID pandemic "that I never thought I would see. And I worked after the Joplin tornado."
She speaks about the risk to pregnant woman and their children.
Now, we have a biology and pre-vet student who says "masks are worn to help others. It's a sign you care about other people you come into contact with."
Next speaker wearing a Trump 2020 shirt. He does not support masks and says experts can be found on both sides of the issue. He is also concerned about people wearing masks ineffectively.
"This is all about politics," he said.
I think the last speaker was saying there's no emergency to warrant the ordinance, but I'll be honest I didn't quite follow. The next person also is warning council not to "act so fast" they create a real emergency:
"a real and present threat to liberty."
This speaker makes a wholly new argument: He's pro mask, but he thinks people are going to have such a negative reaction to it that it won't be worth it.
This speaker is a local doctor wearing a tool that measures her oxygen levels. She says she's been wearing the mask since 7:30 and her oxygen levels are still high.
"I want to see SGF thrive during COVID19, not just survive ... I don't want to see this city shut down again."
PHEW we're going into recess. I'm going to grab another cup of coffee. See ya'll in a bit.
Alrighty, I have switched to the hard stuff now (iced coffee) so we're good to survive this meeting. I already missed one speaker and I apologize. Let's buckle up and get ready to go.
Another speaker goes before council urging them to wait another week and rethink it.
He's part of this "everybody wins coalition." This is the fourth or fifth person from that group.
And on the delay: health care providers say we really can't wait that long.
Interesting speaker: We have a nurse who traveled to NYC in the heat of their outbreak in April. She said "death was everywhere."
"Bed after bed after bed were dead people. They probably died weeks ago."
There were refrigerator trucks out back full of bodies, she said.
She said she wore an N95 mask the whole time and didn't get exposed at all.
"New York is not isolated anymore. It is happening everywhere. I think that we are very naive to think it's not going to be here."
Now is Chris Miller, the pastor Trinity Presbyterian (I'm a member so I am a lil biased). He urges council to be "courageous" and pass the ordinance amid "overwhelming evidence." As ppl of faith, "It is our calling to do all that we are able to serve the least of these," he says.
Another speaker is talking about the ordinance putting pressure on the police department. She says it will erode trust in police in a time when they are already struggling with negative public perception.
Now we have a rising senior at Kickapoo High School! We love to see young people participating in government!
She speaks about the disparity in which POC and the poor are suffering the worst effects of the virus. She says masks will help protect them and the community.
Another speaker from the "Everybody Wins" coalition. @CoraJScott
says we have 18 or 19 more speakers to go on this topic. I'm going to keep listening and start working on writing a story, so I may update a little less frequently since this is getting somewhat repetitive.
Along with the "everybody wins coalition" we've had several people with the weddings and events industry, who say they should be trusted to use best practices and not required to make guests wear masks.
This current speaker says that "there is not a pandemic," citing, in part, the fact that he hasn't seen anyone drop dead in Walmart. He also says local physicians are "biased" and experts "fear mongering."
This new speaker, Melanie Taylor, is basically saying that the health department is lying to get $2M in grant money to hire more people. She told me in an interview that she thinks this is all a political power grab.
All speakers should note that they are, in fact, speaking into a microphone and do not need to yell.
Seems like here at the end we're in all opposition. This woman says people are looking for a "nanny state," defined on The Internet (TM) as "the government regarded as overprotective or as interfering unduly with personal choice."
Mark Struckhoff, co-chair of the Have Faith Initiative, says it'll take some courage for council to vote in favor of it, but they should do it "out of love."
He says it won't secure "a COVID free space ... but we can still reduce the risk"
"I think if you go with the mandate, you're not showing leadership at all," this speaker says.
He said not many people have died yet and so "it's just not right."
It really seems like a bunch of these people on both sides of the issues are first-time speakers, and I really appreciate that they've taken the time to come out and voice their opinions. This has been realllyyyyyyyy long and yet they're still sitting there.
This speaker says she has 8 ppl including babies and an asthmatic in her house and she traveled to Florida, traveled to Texas multiple times, have gone to casinos, Walmart, Menards and none of them wore a mask and none of them have gotten the virus so it's not necessary.
Our final speaker brings God into the debate once again, saying that the ordinance would violate her freedom and urges council to listen to "the people" instead of doctors in making their decision.
PHEW we're in front of council, team.
Councilman Simpson says this ordinance is based on "clear science." He calls comparisons to the Holocaust and slavery "deeply offensive."
Ollis asks if masks would be required in private offices that don't come in contact with the public, and health director Clay Goddard said those spaces are subject to employer policies.
Councilman Hosmer addresses constitutionality, noting the US Supreme Court has upheld state's rights to enforce public health practices.
"We've been told we shouldn't listen to Drs.," he added. "In a public health crisis, we should be out of office if we don't listen to Drs."
Lear and McGull speak in favor. Lear calling it "the compassionate thing to do."
McGull calling the meeting a "brilliant display of democracy. We all have to take a moment and be proud of ourselves for what happened here."
McGull tells a story from his time in the military that is very inspiring but wont'f it into the character limit. The point is, though:
"We are Americans. We stand for each other. There should be no expense or no measure that we could put forth that would not save a life."
Councilwoman Fisk and Councilman Schilling both speak in favor. Looks like we may be unanimous. I know the mayor supports it.
Looks like councilwoman Ferguson is recusing herself, and I'm not quite sure what conflict she might have, but nevertheless:
8-0 it passes.
Mayor Ken McClure on a point of personal privilege:
"This is a time of health crisis. This is a time to be pulling together and not a time of civil disobedience."
He warns they will have to shut down if things get bad again.
Standing in recess until 11:50. Thank you all for following along. I'll still be here for the rest of the meeting, but if you're tired, go to bed! You've got stuff to do tomorrow
Alright, we've had three CID proposals. I had to take a quick break to play with my cat, who was very pissed at me for ignoring her. The third is for The Ridge at Ward Branch, a HUGE project by the Library Center.
This proposes a 1% sales tax. This is proposed to generate $250,000 a year to pay for CID projects, like streets and sidewalks, utilities, sanitary sewer, community gathering spaces, landscaping, public space and trails, other 'professional services'
Now somebody stuck around in petitions and remonstrances! WOW! That's dedication.
This speaker is encouraging council to implement measures to ensure accountability when they institute body-worn cameras, which they've committed to do. https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2020/06/16/springfield-police-department-could-soon-getting-body-cameras/3198898001/
Another speaker, who is the VP of the local NAACP chapter, wants to address a police vehicle stops report that shows African-Americans are far more likely to be stopped by police than white people.
"I bring this to your attention because I love Springfield," she says. "This is why I fight for racial equity in our city ... this is why I'm here today way past my bedtime. I love Springfield and I want us to do better."
Toni Robinson, president of the local NAACP, also stuck around. They say they're demanding "truth, justice and equality that is long overdue."
"In the 8 years I've resided in SGF, never I felt safe or assured in the SPD," they say.
They are demanding a reduction in disparity, demanding reform to the police review board and demanding they ban chokeholds and other potentially lethal restraints, Robinson says.
Next is Cheryl Clay, former NAACP prez. She says the police review board was created to provide oversight, but she says 20 yrs later it hasn't helped bc members are "handpicked."
"In order to put some skin in the game, we must address the systemic roots of racism and bias."
Right now, the PD only allows chokeholds in "lethal encounters," but Clay says they need to ban it altogether.
"We are all aware of the negative of using this restraint and the potentially deadly consequences."
McClure says that the group should start by meeting with Chief Williams before going to the City Council.
Clay says the city manager and the city appoints members of the police review board.
'We've met with him for several years,' she says.
Now we have Jamille Jones says she wants to unite the community and increase participation in city council "to fight for justice."
She wants officers to be held accountable in various ways. She says ppl feel intimidated into not reporting misconduct or questioning police
Last, we have local advocate Tim Havens, who has been calling on council for weeks to ask for more accountability from police. He says they're "abdicating their responsibility" by not taking action.
He called for a retreat for council to consider policing reforms (they've mentioned doing that in the past, if I'm remembering correctly, though I could've dreamed it bc I'm really tired and who knows what's reality at this point?).
Alright. We're done.
Thank you all for tuning into this historic meeting. It warms my heart to see all this participation in local gov't. If you liked these tweets and you want more coverage like this, please subscribe to @springfieldNL
. I wouldn't be here without your help.
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