Officials also declare executive orders by governor as law in city
By Ryan Horton
With a 5-2 vote, Choctaw City Council moved to extend the mask mandate within city limits until April 20, 2021.
Council also opted to add a citation fee schedule to give the ordinance “some teeth” during the Dec. 1 regular meeting.
Choctaw police and code enforcement now have authority to issue citations to citizens and businesses violating the ordinance.
Fines start at $25 and court fees for the first offense, $150 for second offense and $250 for the third. A business would also be subject to the revoking of their Certificate of Occupancy.
City officials say the action was taken to give the city some authority to enforce the existing mask mandate that has been in effect since early September.
“I’ve been getting requests for enforcement. I do what I can and send a letter to the entity saying further action will be taken, but we have kind of been getting a nose thumbed at us,” said city manager Ed Brown. “I’ve gone to corporate headquarters on one entity, and haven’t gotten a response. We’ve been trying to have people do the right thing, but if we’re going to continue this, I need some way to enforce it.”
Several citizens were in attendance to once again voice their concern over the local government getting involved in public health mandates.
Among those in attendance to speak up against the action was longtime Choctaw resident Cody Brewer making his third visit to oppose the city’s mask mandate.
“I don’t know Chad Williams, nor have I ever met him, but I do want to commend him on his continuous efforts to recognize and admit the pillars of our great nation. Individual liberties should be at the forefront of every decision made, and I applaud him for that,” said Brewer. “I have nothing against a mask mandate or someone’s choice to wear a mask, but it should be a choice. You see federal, state and county government overreach, but our city government should be the most efficient form of government with the least amount of overreach. To see this overreach from a local government is absolutely terrifying. The general trend of government is to take rights, and it’s very seldom that government relinquishes those liberties back to the people.”
Brewer went on to point out a typo in the city’s ordinance that was amended along with the fee schedule before the council’s vote.
“This is such an important issue we’re passing emergency ordinances for the immediate health of our city. My tax dollars are paying for a city attorney to make sure we don’t have legal problems, and he can’t even proof read this thing,” said Brewer. “You guys wonder why people don’t trust you, why the road tax didn’t pass and why people second guess everything you’re doing? We’re passing emergency ordinances and we can’t even proofread them.”
The vote was 5-2 with Chad Williams and Jeannie Abts in opposition, while Mike Birdsong, Randy Ross, Roger Malone, Steve Krieske and Dale Gill supported the action.
Williams argued the action was an attack on personal freedom and responsibility that threatens the proven success of a free market.
“You don’t have the absolute right to go into a business and mandate what they do. Now we’re saying if a corporate office doesn’t make their employees wear a mask, we’ll pull their business license. That’s not the way we should be operating,” said Williams. “If you see a business not wearing masks, and you don’t like it, don’t go there. Personal responsibility goes both ways.”
Additionally, the council passed an ordinance making it a violation of the City of Choctaw Code of Ordinances to violate or not follow an executive order of the Governor of the State of Oklahoma.
Meaning Choctaw police officers can now enforce mandates from the governor’s office as law within the city.
“If a bar in Choctaw refused to stop serving at 11 p.m., as mandated by the governor, our officers would have to file charges at the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office. With this ordinance, it’s now an offense in Choctaw, so our officers can write them a ticket,” said city attorney Ray Vincent.
Williams, who has repeatedly proven himself dedicated to preserving personal liberty, found the action to be unconstitutional.
“The Governor is not the Legislature of Oklahoma. He doesn’t write the laws. This ordinance is saying whatever comes out of his mouth is law in Choctaw,” said Williams. “Executive orders have no standing over the citizens. It’s just a recommendation by the governor. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt recently released three executive orders.
All restaurants must ensure tables are spaced six feet apart, unless tables, booths and bar areas are separated by sanitized dividers.
All bars and restaurants must close nightly by 11 p.m. This does not affect curbside pickup or drive-thru windows.
All state employees must wear masks in common areas or when around others at work. Masks will also be required for anyone visiting a state building.
Stitt also made a proclamation declaring Dec. 3 as a statewide day of prayer and fasting for all Oklahomans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe we must continue to ask God to heal those who are sick, comfort those who are hurting and provide renewed strength and wisdom to all who are managing the effects of COVID-19,” said Stitt, who has said repeatedly that he opposes a statewide mask mandate.
According to state health department data, the 73020 zipcode, which is about twice the size of the Choctaw municipal boundary, currently has 160 active cases of COVID-19.
The zipcode has had 1,003 total reported cases with 834 recoveries and nine deaths. To be considered a recovery, OSDH requires the person to not be hospitalized or deceased after 14 days since the onset of symptoms.
How they voted
NO – Ward 1 Council Member Chad Williams (email@example.com)
YES- Ward 2 Council Member Mike Birdsong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NO – Ward 3 Council Member Jeannie Abts (email@example.com)
YES – Ward 4 Council Member/Vice Mayor Roger Malone (firstname.lastname@example.org)
YES – Ward 5 Council Member Steve Krieske (email@example.com)
YES – Ward 6 Council Member Dale Gill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
YES – Mayor Randy Ross (email@example.com)
For daily COVID-19 data: Visit the OSDH