A Mobile resident who routinely speaks on city issues was given the choice to put on a face covering or leave Tuesday’s Mobile City Council meeting, highlighting some ambiguity in the new ordinance’s enforcement.
When City Council President Levon Manzie asked Reggie Hill to put on his mask or leave the meeting, Hill cited a section in the ordinance that exempted residents from wearing face coverings in public if they had a medical reason that prevented them from wearing one. Despite this assertion from Hill, Manzie did not back down. Hill eventually put his mask on and was allowed to speak.
“So, you’re not going to go by the ordinance?” Hill asked. “We’re going to ignore the ordinance.”
Hill mentioned the ordinance had been improperly enforced earlier by Manzie, when a member of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration answered council questions at the podium without having a mask on. He told Manzie he was being “biased” when it came to enforcement.
Councilman John Williams, who was the only councilor to vote against the ordinance, told his colleagues and others masks are worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19-infected droplets. Therefore, masks are only needed when proper social distancing cannot be achieved, or if someone is speaking or singing.
“If you’re not talking and you’re not within six feet of someone who is, it’s just an act,” he said. “We have to make sure we do things for the right reasons.”
Velma Jackson also spoke out against masks, but mentioned God and the eventual death of those who voted for the ordinance. Again, Manzie took exception to her comments.
“I’m not going to let you proclaim a death sentence on anybody here because you have a difference of opinion,” Manzie said.
Manzie threatened to ban Jackson from future meetings if she used God and the allusion to a death penalty together again.
The council did pass an ordinance that would replace the word “race” with the word “ethnicity” on all city documents not needed for the state or federal government. As it turns out, there are currently no documents the city uses that contain the word “race” that aren’t needed for state or federal government purposes. Therefore, the new ordinance changes no current forms.
Councilwoman Bess Rich stopped just short of calling the ordinance “empty” as she abstained from the vote. Williams also abstained, saying he wasn’t prepared to vote on an amended version of the ordinance he hadn’t yet seen.
In other business, councilors approved an amended ordinance that would add one staff member to the city’s supplier diversity office. The extra staff member would work to get more disadvantaged, or minority, business enterprises qualified to work with the city.
The council also voted to approve a name change for Ladd-Peebles Stadium, as the facility looks to rebrand as an entertainment venue. Going forward, the facility will be known as Ladd-Peebles Sports and Entertainment Complex.
Stadium manager Joe Mishkin told councilors Ladd would still continue to host sporting events, but wanted to host concerts as well, and actually has a concert scheduled for September.
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