BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Any future Coronavirus-related mandates may soon become “unenforceable” in Bakersfield– but it all depends on the City Council’s vote on a resolution, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Ward 3 Councilmember Ken Weir proposed the resolution, which was then drafted by City Attorney Virginia Gennaro and her office. Gennaro told 17 News the office modeled its resolution after those of other cities like Odessa, Texas, where it was adopted, and Huntington Beach, California, where such a resolution is pending.
Councilmember Weir said banning mandates is all about personal choice, and the belief that they are “injustices” by an “overreaching government.”
“People have a choice, they’ll make the decision for themselves, the best decision for their family, and choice is the best decision for our community, in my opinion,” Weir said in a Zoom interview.
Weir, however, repeatedly avoided answering whether all mandates are off the table for him, only to say, “That’s what I’m trying to get away from, mandates. This is about choice.”
A choice, especially, on one’s medical decisions.
The resolution states “unquantifiable damage was done” to Bakersfield residents, as well as businesses and commerce, when mandates implemented during the height of the pandemic.
When asked where he got evidence of such detrimental results, Weir said the remaining closed downtown businesses spoke for themselves.
“[During lockdown] restaurants were closed, small businesses were shuttered all over the place,” Weir explained. “It was it was a tragedy. But nobody was taking the look at, well, if they had a choice, what would they do? And that’s what we’re trying to say [with the resolution].”
Some councilmembers, in the meantime, are questioning the timing of the proposal.
“It had been a while since we had a conversation about COVID, so it definitely caught me by surprise,” said Ward 1 Councilmember Eric Arias.
“Frankly, this is a wedge issue that has no place in city government,” Arias added.
Arias chuckled when asked about any possible benefits of the proposal. And on the resolution’s use of certain adjectives on pandemic mandates, such as “injustices,” he described them as “buzz words.”
Arias said such a policy is a distraction from other city challenges, like homelessness and public safety, and he argued the very mandates Weir opposes, are the same precautions that helped us recover from the pandemic.
“It’s because of those precautions that we took early on that we’re able to go out, hang out socially, get work done without wearing a mask,” Arias said.
17’s Jenny Huh had a full conversation with Weir regarding the guidelines of the proposed resolution.
Huh: “So what about guidelines? Doctors and medical experts, what role do they play in all of this?”
Weir: “I can tell you guidelines are where people should go when they make choices. They should do their research, they should do their homework, then they should make their own personal decision.”
Huh: “So there can be guidelines, but nothing should be forced upon people is what you are saying?”
Weir: “There are already guidelines out there. If people choose to read those, that’s fine. That is their choice. If they choose not to, that’s fine too.”
17 News spoke with Dr. Glenn Goldis for medical insight.
“I would recommend lawmakers consider the importance of the science behind the recommendation, the doctor said. “While sometimes it’s hard to prove, I think most of the time you want to err on the side of human safety.”
Dr. Goldis noted it’s hard to tell how many more lives could’ve been lost without statewide mandates.
Huh questioned Weir on the possible liabilities of the resolution.
Huh: “For people who might be worried what liabilities a resolution like this might bring, I’m curious as to whether any of those concerns are on your mind.
Weir: “I’m not exactly sure whose liabilities you’re talking about, but choice should never be a liability.”
Weir is requesting the resolution take effect immediately if passed.