Mask musings: Is it finally time to get tough?

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 7/29/20

This whole facial covering and mask issue is ridiculous. Everyone and his dog has declared the mask as mandatory to be worn when inside businesses like grocery stores and restaurants. Even Governor …

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Mask musings: Is it finally time to get tough?

Posted

This whole facial covering and mask issue is ridiculous.

Everyone and his dog has declared the mask as mandatory to be worn when inside businesses like grocery stores and restaurants. Even Governor Polis finally got around to mandating wearing a mask on a statewide basis.

However, there are a couple of problems with these mandates. First, a certain percentage of people (more men than women) won’t wear a mask. Some have a political stance against the masks while others find them to be irritating or whatever.

Some people have a legitimate health related reason not to wear them. Others, like a Charleston, South Carolina family I saw on CBS national news being interviewed, simply believe it’s just an ordinary virus and won’t hurt them. Boy oh boy!

Enforcement is a problem

The second problem is enforcement. No one wants to step up and enforce the mandates the city councils, health agencies and the governor have all imposed. Each group wants to appear righteous and doing their duty in their declarations, but they each put the burden of enforcement on “the other guy.”

It’s like the Westminster Mayor’s comment to me. He thinks the city council did their part by requiring wearing the mask, but put the burden of enforcement on local businesses.

Who in their right mind thinks businesses are going to be staunch enforcers? Oh, I know of some cases where non-masked adults were observed in stores where a clerk or manager told them they had to wear a mask or they would have to leave the premises. However, such cases are rare exceptions to the rule.

Monetary fines needed to get people to comply

It’s time for city councils and boards of county commissioners to bite the bullet. This pandemic is here to stay — way beyond what President Trump believes (remember, he predicted reopening by Easter) or what most people think.

As Americans, we need to get serious and impose necessary measures even if they are unpopular. Elected governing bodies need to adopt an added requirement with wearing a mask in public.

If caught in buildings not wearing a mask, a police officer will issue you a citation with a fine of “X” dollars.

In one state where a fine has been imposed, I heard the fine is $100. I think that is too low. Too many people would flaunt the mask “thing” and simply pay the $100 and go out again without a mask.

City Councils would need to decide the amount of the fine. Let’s remember, the whole purpose is to protect other people from the person wearing the mask. The mask-wearer is not protecting himself/herself. It does not work that way.

The Westminster City Charter states in section 7.9; “The Council shall constitute the Board of Health of the City, and it and its officers shall possess all powers, privileges and immunities granted to boards of health by statute.

The Mayor and Council need to show leadership and impose a meaningful fine and the Police Department needs to implement a strategy in enforcing it to the extent possible with the cooperation of local businesses.

Congress needs to act fast

Unfortunately, with the strong resurgence of the Coronavirus in too many states, the federal government needs to act quickly on another federal aid package. Americans still need to buy more time to get back on their feet financially and get back to work.

However, Congress should be wiser this time and reduce the unemployment assistance so that people are more motivated to return to work instead of drawing a higher unemployment check. Plus, personal protective equipment is still needed in many states, especially for front-line medical personnel.

With Congress back in session, it is imperative they and the President act quickly. We can’t be like the story from Roman history with Nero fiddling while Rome burned: Get this done and get the money in the hands of those who need it the most.

Finally, while the need is painfully clear to provide more federal support, we can’t keep going deeper in debt as a nation. Our current debt is pushing $25 trillion which is massive and an all-time high.

In part, that is why we all need to seriously practice social distancing and WEAR YOUR MASK.

The park is unique but quite pricey

You may not be aware of the progress on the unique Nature Play Park located in the south end of Westminster just east of Lowell Boulevard.

While it is exciting to see this needed park be prepared for construction, it is quite pricey.

Now known as Westminster Station Park, the site to be developed sits on four acres of the 37 acre open space area adjacent to the commuter rail train station.

Per the city staff report, “These initial park improvements include a large nature playground, picnic pavilion, restroom, a connection to the regional Little Dry Creek Trail, lighting, site furnishings, landscaping and irrigation.”

Recently, city council awarded a construction contract in the amount of $5,466,624 for construction manager/general contractor services for the initial phase of Nature Playground as described above. With prior pre-construction services costing $247,625, the total project and an additional 5% contingency brings the cost to a whopping $5,999,964. Let’s call it $6 million, to start.

But on top of the construction costs is the park design and specifications work, which adds another $873,385. So, let’s just round up the cost to $7 million, with the design and development included for a unique four-acre park.

Hey, I like unique, but not at that kind of cost.

What would be a reasonable amount to spend?

I have not seen any information dispersed to the public on this creative park from the city administration or the local newspaper. Perhaps I missed the coverage.

The reason I call this to your attention is that even for the City of Westminster, $7 million for a small single park project is a lot of money. With other designated park sites yet to be developed in some of the newer residential developments and the lack of a city-owned/operated recreation center for Westminster residents in the northern part of the city, it calls attention to how much of the taxpayers’ dollars should be spent on a unique four-acre park.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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