Residents react to Nevada City face covering fines
Urgency ordinances passed by the Nevada City Council makes noncompliance with any state public health guidance or emergency order of the state or county a public nuisance punishable with a fine.
What that means in practice is people who fail to wear a mask could have to pay a penalty.
The council on Wednesday voted unanimously for four ordinances meant to promote businesses adhering to COVID-19 orders while giving the city civil enforcement of state and county mandates.
The fine amount for the first violation is $100, the second violation is $150, and the third violation is $200.
The council stressed the urgency ordinances, effective immediately, would give more teeth to the state orders, but will only be used as tools for enforcement against the most egregious of violators.
“I don’t see how we can educate any more,” Vice Mayor Duane Strawser said. “We’re way past that.”
On Broad Street Thursday, Harmony Wind and Tina Lynn said they will not follow the order on principle, despite already wearing face coverings in public most of the time.
“It seems like it should be a voluntary thing that they’re going to do out of respect for each other and a love in their heart, not because they’re scared of fines,” Lynn said, adding more fear would only divide people. “It’s slowly breaking down the economy and the community here.”
Both Lynn and Wind said they wear masks out of respect for others and when they feel it’s reasonable to do so.
“I feel like if you’re indoors, that’s one thing, but to be outdoors, that seems a bit ridiculous,” Lynn said. “If you would compare our rights last March to today… and nothing happened overnight. You know, every three months or every six weeks, they decided they needed to enforce new, more stricter guidelines.”
According to the council, the enforcement would be used sparingly.
Also on Broad Street Thursday, Patrick Kavannaugh said he wouldn’t affected.
“If I’m, like, within six feet of someone, I wear it out of respect for them, but I’m gonna use my own discretion,” Kavannaugh said. “I’m gonna make my own mind up about when I need to do that.”
Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis said warnings could be given first, like with any other ticket. He emphasized that most law enforcement agencies statewide are still in educational stages, and constitutionality is also a concern for agencies.
“For the most part, law enforcement deals with penal code and different vehicle codes, now we’re dealing with different government code and different public health orders that are not commonly dealt with by law enforcement agencies,” Ellis said. “There’s a lot of personal responsibility that has to come into play here for people to get us through this pandemic and this crisis. I don’t know if law enforcement is the best option on the forefront of this.”
The urgency ordinance enforcing county and state emergency orders would also use the city’s nuisance abatement process to deal with any violations. That could include revoking any conditional use permits, civil action or criminal prosecution.
“If you don’ t like our mask mandate, don’t go downtown,” Council member Doug Fleming said. “It’s as simple as that, go some place else where they don’t require masks.”
During the council meeting, most comments read were opposed to the fines.
According to Reinette Senum, former Nevada City mayor, she was involved in organizing a “pots and pans” protest that could be heard during the meeting.
Protesters were heard outside of City Hall, the home of Strawser and Mayor Erin Minett.
“(T)hey were on my private property not only trying to intimidate me but disturbing my poor neighbors,” Minett said in an email.
According to Strawser, his neighbors were also disturbed by the protest.
Senum said the protest was to call attention to what she called “draconian decisions” which she feels were made without enough public input.
“I think it’s only fair that if we’re going to have leaders making these kind of draconian decisions that are having such a huge impact, such a huge repercussion into our own lives, they need to show up and prove to us the hard data that they’re making and basing these decisions upon,” she said. “And if they do not play by the rules, I’m not playing on their playing field.”
She said people are prepared to continue living their lives “without permission.”
NEVADA CITY SAFE
At the meeting the council also approved “Nevada City Safe,” a program designed to promote businesses complying with COVID-19 orders.
“This is really about putting forth the businesses that are safe for our constituents and townspeople to go,” Mayor Erin Minett said. “We have gotten so much feedback from residents asking us to pass this so they know which business is safe to go to into.”
The program would have businesses self-certify that they have performed a risk assessment and site-specific protection plan, trained employees to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and implemented control and screening measures for employees and customers.
Businesses would then receive a poster to display identifying them as a safe business.
At the meeting the council also determined it would leave encroachment permits for businesses operating outdoors intact, unless they violate pubic health mandates.
City-owned tables would also be removed from downtown.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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