Last night the Rexburg City Council met to discuss and possibly vote on a mask mandate.
However, no vote actually took place and the council decided to delay the vote for now. No exact date and time for reconsideration of the mask mandate was given during the meeting.
The meeting was disrupted numerous times during the mask mandate discussion and that ultimately led the mayor to say that they were going to move on to another topic.
Prior to the meeting starting, approximately 200 protesters gathered outside of the building according to several witnesses who were on the ground in Rexburg.
While city council meetings are normally open to the public, this one was not. At the city council meeting yesterday the doors were locked and citizens were not permitted to enter the facility.
The meeting was broadcast on “GoToMeeting” and this particular setting is what ended up causing some of the problems the Rexburg City Council had last night.
When you use “GoToMeeting” the individual, in this case, the city of Rexburg, has the ability to “mute” all of the other “participants” who are on the electronic meeting. During the discussion portion of the meeting, the city council could then “unmute” a participant to testify or make a presentation.
It does not appear that at any time the citizen participants were “muted” as numerous interruptions were made throughout the meeting.
Most of the interruptions occurred during the “Mask Mandate” proposal that was on the agenda. Several times one individual could be heard saying “Fu** you” to the city council.
Chants of “let us in” could also be heard over the audio.
At one point during the meeting, Councilmember Tisha Flora said that they had to be escorted into the building when they arrived. Idaho Dispatch emailed Flora and asked her specifically why they felt they needed to be escorted into the meeting.
Flora emailed Idaho Dispatch and told us the following message:
I think Bryanna called the Chief because of violent comments on Facebook towards us. Here is an example:
Idaho Dispatch asked Flora if she was aware of any email or phone calls with direct threats against city council members. Flora responded by saying,
I don’t think so.
Idaho Dispatch also reached out to Representative-elect Ron Nate about the comment sent to us and here is what Nate told us:
Most of the time on my page I do not edit or delete people’s comments. When Ken made the comment, another commenter told him that it wasn’t appropriate to say what he did. I thought it was a good teaching moment for others to see what was said and that other citizens do not agree with what Ken said even if he was just being hyperbolic.
The real focus of this story is that the citizens of Rexburg were shut out of a meeting where our local officials intended to pass harmful restrictions on our local businesses. The people outside were upset but they weren’t threatening or being violent in any way. The citizens in Rexburg just wanted to come inside and be a part of the discussion.
Nate also explained that during the urban renewal portion of the meeting, citizens who wanted to speak about that issue were let inside but for the mask mandate issue, citizens who are opposed to it were not. Additionally, Nate said that a local hospital official was allowed to come in and speak in favor of the ordinance.
Flora spoke against the proposed ordinance saying that a mask mandate was already in effect in Rexburg and the new proposal would do harm to local businesses who would be forced to enforce it. Councilmember Chris Mann also spoke against the ordinance but said he is in favor of a mask mandate.
Idaho Dispatch did ask the mayor why citizens were not allowed to come in at just a few people at a time to speak on the ordinance. We have not yet heard back from him.
It should be noted that the East Idaho Public Health District passed a mask mandate which does cover the city of Rexburg. Flora pointed that out in her comments as well and part of the reason she opposed a new mandate.
Idaho Dispatch spoke with Maria Nate, wife of Representative-elect Ron Nate about what was going on outside of the building where citizens were gathered in the 30-degree weather.
Nate told Idaho Dispatch that she did not witness anyone in the crowd threatening the city councilmembers. She said that the crowd was very frustrated that they were locked out of the building but they were peaceful and didn’t harm or threaten anyone and that most of them simply wanted to go inside to observe the meeting.
Ultimately, a vote on the ordinance never took place and the mayor indicated it likely didn’t have the support of the council anyway.
The mask mandate may be taken up again at a future date and Idaho Dispatch will try to keep citizens informed about a potential meeting.
Tags: Flora, Maria Nate, Rexburg, Rexburg City Council, Ron Nate