Ames City Council votes in favor of face covering mandate with no penalty


Jill Even

Mayor John Haila called the Ames City Council for a special meeting Sept. 1 to discuss the city’s response to an increase of positive COVID-19 cases in the past week.

Katherine Kealey

The Ames City Council passed a face covering ordinance with no penalty during a special meeting Tuesday night.

The Council also moved to waive the second and third readings of the ordinance due to the timeliness of the matter.

The first reading of the ordinance was originally set for Sept. 8, but after an increase in positive cases and Gov. Kim Reynolds closing bars in Story County, Mayor John Haila called the special meeting.

“We do not take lightly making changes or changing what we tell people during meetings, but this is an extraordinary situation that I believe warranted calling a special meeting,” Haila said.

The ordinance will go into effect Friday and the Council voted in favor to alter the ordinance’s sunset clause, changing the expiration date for the ordinance from May 31, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2020. This date can be shortened or elongated depending on the current state of COVID-19 cases in Ames.

The Council also amended the ordinance to include masks are not required to be worn in someone’s own house. An ordinance with no penalty is not common, according to the Ames city attorney.

Tim Gartin, 2nd Ward representative, voted against the ordinance with no penalty and the ordinance with a penalty, not because he is against wearing masks but instead for legality reasons.

“I think that should really give us pause, I haven’t heard any discussion trying to explain that we do have the authority or acknowledging that we don’t and trying to explain a rational and the public health measure give us authority to create an ordinance to fill that gap,” Gartin said. “We can choose to not address the issue, it doesn’t nullify the fact that we all swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and we are just sort of ignoring that.”

After the advice from the attorney general and the city attorney stating municipal government would not have the authority under the Reynolds emergency proclamation to mandate masks, the Council amended the draft to exclude any penalty during a previous meeting.

“At the most realistically, what we have done is created a resolution without any teeth to it, and I would join that and we could have had a unanimous vote, but instead we have taken a path that we want to call it something perhaps to give it the appearance of something more serious,” Gartin said. “I think Amber [Corrieri] has a point that if you are really serious about this then you need to have teeth to it. It is hard to tell the public that we are on board and that we are serious on this issue and we have no penalty at all. It is hard for me to understand the seriousness if there is no penalty attached to it.”

At-Large Rep. Amber Corrieri originally opposed the ordinance with no penalty but voted in favor of it during the special meeting.

“I have been pretty strongly opposed to any sort of ordinance that includes no enforcement because I think that the times that we are in really call for some significant action,” Corrieri said. “Only because I have been talking about the need for weeks to take some actions, to try to get back to some sort of normal in the community.”

The ordinance includes accommodations for anyone with medical conditions that restrict them from wearing masks. Corrieri voted in favor of waiving the readings in hopes to see action taken quickly.

“I have been talking for weeks about how we are watching our businesses suffer, we have seen them close their doors due to the governor’s orders, our school district is going online for the first two weeks and we don’t know what other negative consequences will come as a result of our rising numbers,” Corrieri said. “I am going to support the ordinance in the hope that our community will start to step and do the right thing for one another, not just for the sake of public health but for the sake of our economy and community.”