Chesterton Tribune



Valpo Mayor: No authority to enforce mask order, urges personal responsibility

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The City of Valparaiso is not enforcing Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mask mandate--declared by executive order--because the city has no authority to enforce it, according to Valparaiso Mayor Matt Murphy.

“Citizens have asked why the city has not adopted masking ordinances, initiated plans for a shutdown, or reallocated police resources from traditional law enforcement activities to enforce non-masking violators,” Murphy said in a wide-ranging statement released on Wednesday. “The simple answer to many of these questions is that the city does not have the authority to mandate masks on private property, order businesses to close, or direct police officers to enforce a governor’s executive order. I know that is not the answer some want to hear, but it is the truth. As a municipality, we are charged with delivering trash/recycling/leaf pickup, water and sewer services, maintaining streets, providing police and fire protection, supporting our parks, and encouraging the conditions that create a positive quality of life for all residents. These services have continued despite the pandemic.”

Instead, the city has encouraged a voluntary approach to mask wearing, Murphy said. “To project a more unified message, we have provided a Mask Up sign for local business use and encouraged all businesses to post them. We have made additional signs available at city hall. Further, the signs include the phone number for the Porter County Health Department should businesses or customers need more information or assistance in enforcement.”

“The Porter County Health Department is also listening to the many requests to increase enforcement and has introduced an online option where anyone may report non-compliance with masking requirements,” Murphy added. “We support this move. In fact, we have also encouraged businesses to report non-compliance and to require all customers to wear face coverings before entering any business.”

Murphy noted that he has personally conducted a number of virtual meetings with local businesses and citizens at large to hear their concerns: “From parents balancing job requirements with the online education needs of their children, to restaurant owners having to furlough employees and wondering whether their businesses--which represent a lifetime of family sweat and sacrifice--will survive.”

“Many,” Murphy observed, “have strong opinions. As a city, we are doing our best to maintain the services we’re expected to provide and partner with experts to ensure that our responses are grounded in fact, not emotion.”

“Businesses face unique challenges,” Murphy said. “They wish to protect their employees but they also depend on revenue to support their futures, for themselves and their staffs. We’re doing all we can to support our local businesses in their efforts to remain safely open, serving customers while enforcing the mask mandate, cleaning frequently, washing hands, and maintaining distances. It’s a tall order, but as long as they’re willing to abide by these Porter County Health Department guidelines, we must support them.”

On the decision not to close Valparaiso Community Schools completely, Murphy said this: “Our schools are in a unique position in this pandemic. Closing schools completely is not a solution that serves our community. Many students rely on schools for their meals, for social interaction and social worker support, and for seeking important help. We support the efforts of the school systems and the efforts they’re taking to maximize safety. We recognize that they’re working to minimize closures, isolating classrooms or schools when necessary, but doing their best to serve students and families.”

“While we wish we had answers that could satisfy everyone, we’re doing our very best to incorporate differing views that ultimately seek the same outcome--a safe community and protection for all, especially those at greater risk,” Murphy concluded his statement. “Above all, we continue to listen and we ask for your understanding and support as we continue to serve to the best of our abilities.”



Posted 12/4/2020




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