Opinion: Criminalizing Failure to Wear a Face Mask? WeHo’s City Council Should Focus on Bigger Issues

(Photo from Big Stock)

First, I’ll skip the platitudes. I have no idea who Adam Bass or David Ross are and while I probably should make more of an effort to understand their positions within the community, it’s completely irrelevant to the issue that I’d like to discuss: the City of West Hollywood’s response to COVID-19. More specifically, the city’s recent action to criminalize not wearing a face covering out in public.

As I’m sure both Adam and David will agree, this moment is unprecedented to us in history with only a few modern examples to compare it to. But as this disease is novel to us, we do have an understanding of how this virus is transmitted, the rates of transmission, and the spread throughout our community. Which is why it surprises me as to why suddenly, three months into this pandemic, that the city has decided now to criminalize not wearing a face mask. Why was this issue so pressing that it needed to be Lindsey Horvath’s first action as mayor when she or other Council members had ample opportunities during the initial stages of this crisis?

It seems each week there are new rules coming from neighboring communities regarding this issue, each nullifying the last. It honestly has become so tedious to keep up with, we may as well spin a wheel to see where it lands on the whims of local leaders. And while Anthony Fauci and other epidemiologists have stated the risk for contracting COVID-19 outdoors is incredibly low, that hasn’t stopped the pissing contest of local leaders to outdo one another on enacting their own restrictive measures.

As a resident of West Hollywood, I expect the kind of leadership and moral courage that a progressive and forward-thinking city ought to exemplify, and yet, here we’re given a toothless mandate from a feckless City Council. Businesses are at the brink of closing for good, residents are unemployed and having to ask for a measly $1,000 to assist with rent (which doesn’t even cover one month in this town). Food bank lines continue to grow all across this city and nation. But not wearing a face mask out in public is now a crime? How brave.

This new measure is an empty gesture to a frightened public looking for a false sense of security. Just like shutting down a paltry amount of unfrequented side streets to traffic. At its best, it’s a cosmetic solution to a PR nightmare, and at its worst, a punitive action that has the potential to affect the recently impoverished and disenfranchised in this community. With West Hollywood experiencing significant budget shortfalls, it certainly reads as suspicious to be empowering the police to issue a new class of citations to its residents all of a sudden. And how cruel to be demanding the recently unemployed to empty their pockets just because they forgot to wear a mask taking out the trash.

God forbid West Hollywood step up to the plate and enact bold measures to help its residents and businesses like rent forgiveness or mandating hazard pay for corporate businesses still operating within city limits. These kind of initiatives would solve a lot more issues than having a dismal 300 residents duke it out over who gets rental assistance. But no, we instead have to settle for a City Council more interested in virtue signaling. Dear West Hollywood leaders: learn how to lead.B

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Josh
Josh
1 month ago

Mask adherence is a better social and cultural movement than a regulatory one (with the exception of venues like grocery stores, etc), especially when there is such a raging national battle over masks to begin with. This is a town of influencers, it seems to me that we are under-leveraging our ability to create social movements without signing an ordinance into law to make Council members feel like they’re responding productively. Indeed, I recall begging the City of WeHo to close the Boystown strip of bars and clubs even as the City of Los Angeles did so, and they replied… Read more »

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
1 month ago

i think mask evaders should be tazed and imprisoned . in all seriousness, masks are today’s condoms. where them or get ill. don’t hand me science nonsense. this virus is too new. the science changes daily be a hero, not a dick. wear a mask, show you care and don’t be an elitist. it’s a bad look. like imbecile looking for attention.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Jimmy Palmieri

My husband says I look better in a mask.

Observer
Observer
1 month ago
Reply to  Jimmy Palmieri

On point !

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
1 month ago

I don’t believe the Sheriff’s will be tasked with enforcement but that code compliance will. It’s on the agenda for the next council meeting.
But wouldn’t it be great if there was no need for enforcement? If all the whiners who are so freaked out about a piece of cloth over their face would realize it’s not all about them? And just wear a mask?? I’m just a say’n…

Rodrigo
Rodrigo
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Bergstein

“This new measure is an empty gesture to a frightened public looking for a false sense of security.”

Case in point.

Sterve
Sterve
1 month ago

Hate the mandate but if it happens, this better apply to our local homeless/transient population also. Can’t wait to see authorities try to enforce that.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Sterve

Believe that was one of the aspects of Operation RoomKey that Mayor Garcetti now has hopelessly entangled in legal controversy postposed until about September 1 to be sorted out.

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

What is your definition of a ’corporate business?’ Interesting point: “…to be empowering the police to issue a new class of citations to its residents all of a sudden.” Not interesting: some people are inconsiderate and should be bitch-slapped. If you noticed, WeHo, a city of only 36,000 people has increasing cases – and still rising – of 166. Also – heartily agree that our city of 75% renters could use rental assistance. LA County approved 3 months of up to $1000 but for some reason, DISTRICT 3 was entirely cut out of the program. I wrote to Supe Kuehl… Read more »

Left Field
Left Field
1 month ago

It’s the City’s responsibility to protect all resident from Covid-19 . Including those who don’t know better.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Blueeyedboy

Brought to you by the “well balanced” John McIntyre, former trader on the CBOE.

Would many folks want their life in the hands of a former “options trader”?

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
1 month ago
Reply to  Vigilant

I don’t know what you’re talking about, Vigilant. What does John McIntyre have to do with this article?

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Blueeyedboy

Are you knowledgable about exactly who produces the news you read and then pass on to others?

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
1 month ago

“Workers’ temperatures will be taken daily & hotel staff must pass through a “foot bath” to make sure they are not tracking in a virus on their shoes & when we reopen, everyone who steps on a Caruso property must wear a mask”.. (Rick Caruso, owner of The Grove complex, plus others. LATimes May 22)

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Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago

Rick Caruso gets it.

Over idiots who never took science or math
Over idiots who never took science or math
1 month ago

Thank you. It’s gotten to the point where people are scared to speak out. Every idiot who never took science or math beyond a high school level is cared and wants security theater to make themselves feel better. And if you say so, you’re a monster who gets attacked by the ignorant mob. We need more pieces like this.

Logan Stark
Logan Stark
1 month ago

Thank you for this thought-provoking local piece. Respect and solidarity to you. I agree with several points but take issue with the claim that this is irresponsible timing or an opportunistic first move as mayor. The first action is neither the only nor the last. I agree we need a lot of help in a lot of areas right now, but help requires cooperation and collaboration. These things are stymied when simple proximity can lead to transmission, illness, and reduced lifespans. Masks are here for the foreseeable future. A lot of uncertainty remains, but it’s been established that 1) people… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
1 month ago

You’re right, we do have an understanding of this virus & how it’s transmitted around the world. That’s exactly why the public safety measures have been enacted as a matter of common sense. Your freedom ends where you get close enough to me to spew a deadly virus in my face. Obviously everyone is concerned about an economic recovery, but you are comparing black & white. One has nothing to do with the other. When these businesses recover, hopefully soon, masks will be required for everyone who patronizes them as many of the open business now do. Your article implies… Read more »

s milrod
s milrod
1 month ago

just drove by Barney’s Beanery. Large crowd jammed together outside front door. No masks. Better late than never.

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