PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The debate over masks hit center stage at Pueblo City Hall Monday night, but the city council narrowly voted down an ordinance that would have made it a class 2 municipal offense if someone does not follow the Colorado state COVID-19 orders.
Citizens and business owners could have faced fines up to $1,000 through municipal courts if the ordinance was passed.
“Violators need to appear in court and be held accountable by a judge,” said Lisa Macchietto, a Pueblo City Attorney who presented the ordinance to the city council on Monday night. "This tool would be used as a last resort when all other mechanisms have failed."
Mayor Nick Gradisar supported passage of the ordinance, believing it would allow Pueblo to more efficiently address those that ignore COVID-19 orders such as social distancing, spaces where masks are mandatory, and proper hygiene. Gradisar says the ordinance would've given the city more tools to keep businesses open and combat the spread of COVID-19.
A majority of city council members and around a dozen people in the audience disagreed.
“This is a ridiculous ordinance and it is not enforceable," said Pueblo City Councilmember Mark Aliff. "Who is going to go around and nitpick and harass people about not wearing a mask.”
Several people at public comment said mandatory mask requirements were a form of tyranny and an abuse of power.
Despite getting voted down, Puebloans choosing to ignore COVID-19 orders can still be fined. However, violators would face fines through the County or District court systems.
“It doesn’t limit our ability to enforce, the ordinance was simply to make it easier to enforce through municipal courts and the city of Pueblo," said Randy Evetts, the director of the Pueblo County Health Department. "We have channels of enforcement through our county and county attorney as well as our District Attorney that we can still pursue things on a civil or criminal basis if need be.”
City Council members may have disagreed with the ordinance, all seven voiced encouragement to people to wear masks and social distancing through the pandemic.
Business owners, however, are still required to follow COVID-19 state mandates, but enforcement would go through district or county courts and not municipal courts.