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Huntington Beach Becomes ‘No Mask and No Vaccine Mandate City’

The California city’s council passed a resolution on Tuesday, Oct. 3, that declares mask and vaccine mandates are banned within city jurisdiction, with exception for those who test positive for COVID-19.

The Huntington Beach, Calif., City Council proclaimed the city a "No Mask and No Vaccine Mandate City " on Tuesday night, passing a resolution by a 4- 3 vote.

Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, who introduced the item, said it prevents potential government overreach. Opponents to the proclamation labeled it as nothing more than a political stunt.

Van Der Mark 's colleagues on the conservative City Council majority — Mayor Tony Strickland and Councilmen Casey McKeon and Pat Burns — joined her in voting for the resolution. Councilman Dan Kalmick and Councilwomen Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton voted against.

Advertisement On Sept. 5, Van Der Mark presented an agenda item that the Council approved 4- 3, leading city manager Al Zelinka to come back with the resolution on Tuesday night.

The resolution declares that mask and vaccine mandates are banned within city jurisdiction, with exceptions for those who test positive for COVID- 19. It also states that residents retain the right to mask and vaccinate, and businesses retain the right to impose mask and /or vaccine requirements.

Van Der Mark said the state of California denied citizens individual liberties with the way it handled the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

"They did deny the citizens of their individual liberties, including how to take care of yourself, " Van Der Mark said. "Business owners were not allowed to open, unless they asked for vaccine cards or forced masks onto people. That 's not the country that we live in, and I believe as a city we need to stand up for our residents and our businesses."

Currently, there are no mandates from the state or county regarding masks and vaccines. But Van Der Mark called the resolution a preemptive measure.

Kalmick said the resolution does not affect anything that ever happened, and represented virtue signaling.

"We 're going to have a resolution that doesn 't actually accomplish anything, and in fact, puts the city in a more precarious position in regard to public health, " he said.

Bolton said the resolution was a case of the panel "getting way out of our lane " and degraded the office of City Council.

She said every person decided on their own during the pandemic whether to get vaccinated or wear a mask, as no one was hunted down and told to do anything. She also brought up how the city had handled previous pandemics — including the Spanish flu in 1918, and epidemics of scarlet fever, meningitis and polio in the 1930s and '40s.

"It 's important to know your history, right?" Bolton said.

"Our history shows that there is no century- plus legacy of unfettered freedom to move about the city in times of pandemic, '" she added, citing that claim from the resolution. "Instead, public spaces were closed, just like during COVID. Even more restrictive, kids couldn 't go back to school without a doctor 's certificate, and a child might even be removed from their home to protect their siblings."

Moser called the resolution "political theater." She noted that people she knows lost parents, relatives and friends to COVID- 19, and even people on the dais lost friends.

Kelly Ernby, a Huntington Beach resident and Republican California deputy district attorney who was an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates, died of complications from COVID- 19 in January 2022.

"I agree, many people died from COVID, " Van Der Mark responded. "However, many more died from depression suicide because they were not allowed to earn a living, they were not allowed to see their families. Elderly people died alone in homes because there was nobody there to care for them... We can 't just think of one category and forget about everybody else."

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.1 million people in the United States reportedly died from COVID- 19 from 2020 to Sept. 27, 2023. There were 45, 799 recorded suicides in the United States in 2020, 48, 183 in 2021 and 49, 449 in 2022, though those numbers do not differentiate how many were due to depression related to COVID- 19.

Council doesn 't take $325, 000 cannabis grant The City Council also voted 4- 3 on Tuesday night against accepting a $325, 000 planning grant from the California Department of Cannabis Control, which would have assisted in the development of a cannabis retail access program.

Measure O, on the ballot last fall, allowed for the establishment of a Huntington Beach cannabis business tax if commercial cannabis businesses ever become allowed. It passed with 54 percent of the vote.

"The implication is and was that the residents of Huntington Beach are open to this, " Kalmick said. "We 've got to put a lot of things on the table, but I think this gives us an opportunity to do it thoughtfully."

The conservative majority, however, did not support the grant.

"I think the process to get to this point was disingenuous, " McKeon said. "If we want to ask the voters if we should allow cannabis sales, let 's do that, and then at that point build through the infrastructure that this grant would allow us to do."

E- bike ordinance goes into effect The council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance related to bicycle regulations, which immediately went into effect following the vote.

The ordinance, introduced at the last meeting, gives the police department more tools to crack down on errant riders of e- bicycles and other similar vehicles.

"This is definitely necessary to help ensure the safety of our kids and everybody else who 's on our roadways and on our bike paths, " Bolton said.


(c)2023 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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