Dear Editor,

The Town of Silver City has a notice of intent for ordinance number 1293 entitled “REGARDING THE USE OF FACE COVERINGS BY EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS WHEN INSIDE PLACES OF BUSINESS AND BY ALL MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WHEN IN PUBLIC PLACES”

This ordinance would enable the municipal police to cite violators, with provisions for a warning and a subsequent fine. I would encourage the town council to vote against this ordinance for several reasons.

I am in full favor of both face masks and social distancing. I was heavily involved in the blood borne pathogen standard compliance in a federal agency. I know both masks and distance reduce infection, so why am I against this ordinance?

First, we already have laws that the town can use for businesses and municipal-owned spaces. Any business or person or municipal space can have posted the mask requirement, and violators can be charged with trespass. That has been true for ages. Why build a new ordinance when the law already enables mask enforcement?

Second, the population is highly divided on mandating masks; facts not withstanding, those for and against masks are passionate. Passion is a source of active resistance, for example, the town cited skate park users with trespass for not wearing helmets in violation of the posted rule. So many people came out against the town that the sheriff’s office and state police came to calm the crowds. The subsequent council meeting on the subject was standing room only.

Third, the governor no doubt has good intentions, and has science on the side of the public health order. That is nice, but the governor has been highly inconsistent in prior orders, has been secretive in the process used for decisions, as well as declining to provide underlying data used in the process. Today July 30, 2020, unless delayed, the NM Restaurant Association squares off in court on just those issues. The mask mandate, regardless of its wisdom, is the governor’s mess, and the state police should be the enforcers; the Town should not relive the skate park disaster, there will certainly be opposition. The Town should not clean up after the governor and become the bad people. While the police can enforce state laws and town ordinances, they are there to serve the population and protect people and property, the department has done a great job of that and I would hate to see them get bogged down in a no-win scenario.

Finally, I strongly believe in mask usage and distancing. Yet I am against an ordinance that is not going to add any more authority to the police that does not already exist, that may trigger serious push back as has happened in the past, and enforces an order from a governor who has been opaque in the process as well as the data used for the health orders; enforcement of this is the governor’s mess and not ours. Please wear masks and distance, and respect others you may contact.

These notes are my personal opinions and beliefs, and may not be shared by everyone. However, I ask for open dialog, something I believe the governor has failed to do. I encourage everyone to send their comments, for or against, to the mayor and their council member.

Simon Wheaton-Smith
Silver City resident