VENICE — The Venice City Council will take a break from its summer break Tuesday to vote on a resolution that “emphatically urges” and “strongly encourages” the wearing of a face covering to inhibit the transmission of COVID-19.
A motion to issue a resolution passed 7-0 this week after a motion to adopt an ordinance making face masks mandatory failed.
Mayor Ron Feinsod and Council members Rich Cautero and Mitzie Fiedler voted in favor of the ordinance.
Vice Mayor Chuck Newsom and Council members Helen Moore, Joe Neunder and Nick Pachota voted against it.
A large majority of emails to the Council since the vote have been critical of the decision, calling a resolution a weak substitute.
If adopted at Tuesday’s special meeting, the resolution would be effective immediately because, unlike an ordinance, it requires only one reading.
Also unlike an ordinance, a resolution is unenforceable.
It was the first time the matter had come up for a vote after two prior discussions.
Cautero and Fiedler had not previously supported making masks mandatory in the city. Cautero said circumstances — including spikes in new cases, positive test rates and hospitalizations — had changed.
He acknowledged there might be problems in enforcing an ordinance but said the potential health benefits could outweigh the enforcement issues.
The opponents of the ordinance also expressed concern about enforcement, particularly because the County Commission has declined to pass an ordinance. That could create confusion when people pass from city to county but think the city ordinance still applies, they said.
Newsom warned about the risk of a “vigilante mentality,” from media reports about confrontations between masked and unmasked customers in stores and restaurants.
Police Chief Tom Mattmuller said that enforcing a mask ordinance would be a burden on his officers, while City Attorney Kelly Fernandez said that the city doesn’t have a special magistrate who could process citations for violations of such an ordinance.
That’s how the city of Sarasota and the town of Longboat Key are handling their mask ordinances, she said.
As drafted, the proposed resolution “emphatically urges” the wearing of a face covering “in any location open to the public or any outdoor location where social distancing from any other person(s), excluding household members, cannot be maintained.”
It also “recognizes that there are certain persons for whom, or situations in which, face covering is impossible, impractical or unnecessary.”
Among them are young children; people with medical issues; people who don’t interact with others, or who do so at a safe distance; and people eating or drinking.
The resolution is the only item of business on the agenda for the meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. online. Read it at VeniceGov.com under the “Meetings” header, where there are instructions for connecting to the meeting.