Mask up or pay up; Bend City Council votes to step up enforcement with fines

By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Mask up – or potentially pay up – if you continually refuse to abide by the state’s current mask mandates.

Bend City Councilors on Thursday voted 4-3 to ask City Manager Eric King to issue a new administrative order that would impose a civil infraction penalty up to $500 to those violating the mandates.

Under the order, fines would be $100 for the first infraction, $200 for a second and $500 for a third.

The city already has similar codes on the books that allow police to ticket people or businesses who don’t shovel their sidewalks in the winter or keep their noxious weeds in check.

Enforcement would be primarily complaint-driven, meaning businesses and others would be encouraged to contact city code enforcers or police if they run into continued issues.

But the order would also allow for more proactive enforcement in hot spots around town where mask-wearing compliance lacks.

Councilors Bruce Abernethy, Barb Campbell, Gena Goodman-Campbell and Mayor Sally Russell voted in favor of the order.

“I would like us to understand this is giving our code enforcement and public safety officers one more tool in the toolbox when there are situations where people are refusing to put on their face coverings,” Russell said. 

Councilors Justin Livingston, Bill Moseley and Chris Piper opposed, despite some of them wanting to see more enforcement of the state’s mandates.

“To me this just adds a layer of government that isn’t needed,” Livingston said. 

Currently, masks are required in any indoor public space and outside when physically distancing is not possible.

On Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown announced children age 5 and up are now also required to wear masks. Additionally, you’re required to wear a mask in gyms, even while working out.

Brown has said she hoped local communities would abide by the mask mandate and encouraged police not to write tickets, but educate folks when given the chance.

“I would like us to understand this is giving our code enforcement and public safety officers one more tool in the toolbox when there are situations where people are refusing to put on their face coverings.”
– Bend Mayor Sally Russell

The state mandate does carry with it a potential fine up to $1,250, but municipalities are free to create their own orders to more closely monitor compliance.

King and city staff will now draft the new administrative order that would need to be ratified by the council. It would remain in effect until the state mask mandate is lifted or Deschutes County moves into Phase 3, whichever comes first.

“I maintain the threat of a fine can be an important part of education for someone working in a business or someone in code enforcement who’s monitoring a hot spot,” Goodman-Campbell said. 

Abernethy said even with the new proposal, officers and others are still encouraged to educate first before taking the next step of writing a ticket.

Abernethy and others said they were also supportive of the city giving Bend Parks and Rec and other entities the ability to enforce the new administrative order, considering some of the hot spots are near the river and monitored frequently by park staff.

That move would require a change in city code.

“This is an attempt to criminalize a very basic behavior and I don’t like to take governmental action on that sort of thing,” Moseley said, acknowledging it wouldn’t technically be a crime, but it still has a financial penalty just like many misdemeanor crimes.

Piper said efforts needed to be made to make sure businesses were being set up for success and not put their staff in harm’s way.

“We are really talking about a cultural shift here and I believe it’s starting to happen, but it does need more reinforcement,” he said. 

Bend Police Deputy Chief Paul Kansky was on the call and said the department is not seeing data yet that shows widespread noncompliance of the mask mandate.

He said they contacted 25 businesses over 14 hours on Wednesday and 100% said they weren’t having any problems with customers not wearing masks.

He said one business reported one person wouldn’t wear a mask, but staff asked that person to wait outside for their food and they did.

“I can’t find a call where a downtown business has said someone is refusing to comply,” he said. “If we get that call, we’re going to come.”

This is a developing story. 

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