TROY — Troy Council President William “Bill” Lutz on Tuesday read a statement on a resident’s behalf related to the past two city council meetings, which lacked social distancing and turned into debates regarding the city’s mask mandates and ignoring public health orders regarding group gatherings.
Council members John Terwilliger, Todd Severt and Bobby Phillips were not present.
At the past two meetings, dozens of city residents and others from the Miami Valley region supported Mayor Robin Oda’s stance on making masks “requested” instead of “required.”
Lutz said he received the message from Troy resident Carrie Walters and added he would be willing to share statements from the public if they are unable to and/or uncomfortable attending council meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walters wrote that the last two council meetings had many maskless attendees in close proximity at the Bravo Room at Hobart Arena.
Walters stated in the letter, “This dangerous assembly prevents many of us from attending council meetings to express our concerns in person. Plus, the city’s election not to use web-based meeting technology to enable remote viewer comment and participation prevents us from participating in real-time to dispute disinformation that has proliferated during public commenting in recent meetings.”
Walters’ letter continued, “The absence of voices from people who care enough to stay out of the crowded room gives a mistaken impression. It wrongly suggests that the passion you are hearing from those who have come to rail about perceived injustices is unmatched by those who understand the extraordinary circumstances we are in and respect the small sacrifices that are being asked of us.”
Walters said while expert global health organizations like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control’s message was “muddled” early in the pandemic, she said, “the nature of science is to reveal better information with every passing day and improve decision making accordingly.”
Walters said while she understands there are those who cannot wear masks, she said they are “a minuscule minority who can be accommodated now in many effective ways without entering public gathering spaces.”
Walters said there are times “individual liberty and civic responsibility brush abrasively against one another,” but “liberty and freedom are not points of debate here.”
“The Constitution is not going anywhere,” Walter’s letter stated. “Everyone’s rights and needs are being accommodated in the usual and now sometimes unusual ways. For example, in reading my statement aloud now, you are also demonstrating that people who can’t wear masks and want to be heard by council do not need to be allowed to pack into council’s meeting chamber for that to happen. Permitting people to mob this meeting space in defiance of social distancing guidelines is irresponsible. Furthermore, if personal appearances are imperative, there is plenty of room in Hobart Arena for people to wait in a safely distanced line to enter the room and address council one at a time.”
Walters said the city of Troy can provide its services to residents and businesses as well as model responsible practices and quash misinformation.
“The message, in word and deed, from all members of council, from city staff, and from the mayor now should be of one voice, undivided, on the side of facts, safety, and civic responsibility,” she said.
Walters said while the council is compelled by the First Amendment’s right to free speech, they are able to discern who is a Troy resident and taxpayer and who is not. She also noted that while the council broadcasts meetings via live stream, “it amplifies voices that are at times trafficking in blatant scientific and legislative falsehoods. This at a time when mistaken belief in such falsehoods can quite literally end lives.”
Walters provided two COVID-19 related facts, one from Johns Hopkins University Medicine regarding the difference of flu-related deaths to COVID-19 deaths and another statement regarding mask wearing and how it reduces the spread of the virus from Science Daily, which publishes articles from universities, scientific journals,and research organizations.
Walters said, “Mask wearing is the very definition of civic responsibility right now — if nobody in the community spreads it, then nobody gets it.”