Hollister City Council members Friday agreed to close parks for Easter Sunday but could not get the necessary, unanimous vote for an idea to require face coverings in public.
Council members voted 4-0 to close city parks for the holiday to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That came after some debate and questioning on the consideration by Councilwoman Honor Spencer, but she ultimately agreed to the move.
Spencer, however, was the one dissenting vote on the proposal to require face coverings in public, including for store employees. Since it was an emergency ordinance, the move required a four-fifths vote. With a vacant seat on the council, the 3-1 vote in favor of the mandate meant the proposal did not pass.
Spencer initially showed skepticism about the park closure as well.
“Everybody knows they’re not supposed to be gathering,” she said. “I’m just kind of concerned. I just think this is a bit over the top right now.”
Questions arose about enforcement and potential fines, but city officials made it clear they would avoid that unless citizens do not comply with officers’ requests.
“That’s one of my biggest problems right now,” Spencer said. “You can’t fine people who have lost their jobs.”
Councilwoman Carol Lenoir, often an ally of Spencer’s, disagreed along with Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilman Rolan Resendiz. Lenoir reemphasized any fines would only come with refusal to leave a given park.
“Then they’re going to get a ticket,” she said, later adding, “If I was unemployed, I would try to avoid fines.”
The consideration for requiring face coverings in public places – similarly to what Los Angeles and Riverside County have done – created the most debate among council members.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez pushed for the requirement and had backing from Lenoir and Councilman Rolan Resendiz.
Spencer questioned whether the city would pay for the public’s face masks. Velazquez replied that essential employers would have to provide them for employees and that there are ways for residents to get them or make them for next to no cost. The mayor also surmised the mandate will likely happen at the state and national level at some point.
Resendiz said he recently went to Costco and felt uncomfortable with so many people without masks and not following social distancing protocols. He said he had on necessary protective gear, with masks and gloves, to follow recommendations.
“It was pretty disheartening to see how many people are not,” he said.
Lenoir said if masks make people feel better, why not wear them?
“Just put the silly mask on. It won’t hurt. It might help,” she said. “We’re trying to squash a pandemic here.”
Velazquez said he is not going to risk the public’s health because “some people don’t like the way it looks.”
“We need to do what’s right,” he said. “We should not be waiting for others to be infected in our community.”
Spencer questioned why the city doesn’t just wait to see if the county goes in that direction.
“After all, they are in charge,” she said, adding that she finds the requirement “very intrusive.”
The mayor responded that council members are in charge of the city.
“We are the leaders of our city,” he said. “Most of the grocery stores are in our city.”