After nearly four hours of heated discussion Wednesday, Cleveland City Council passed legislation requiring masks to be worn in the city. Exceptions modeled after the state guidelines
will be in effect, but the masks will be required for indoor locations that are not personal residencies and outdoor locations when social distancing is not possible.
Individual violations of the order will be civil, not criminal, offenses, and will carry a $25 fine after an initial warning. Businesses found to be in non-compliance will be fined $1,000 after a warning. Repeat violations will carry a $3,000 fine.
Councilman Blaine Griffin, one of the legislation's sponsors, proposed a successful amendment to include a warning before individual fines.
Fines for businesses had been set at $3,000 and $5,000, but councilman Charles Slife proposed the ultimately successful amendment reducing them, arguing that the fines were excessive when so many of the city's businesses were already struggling.
The administration pushed back. Interim Safety Director Karrie Howard argued that the fines should be "significant enough to catch attention." He said that the fines were designed to gain compliance, not raise revenue.
Health Director Merle Gordon underscored that point. "This is not about revenue generation at all," she said.
City Council's Brians — Ward 11's Mooney and Ward 16's Kazy — both worried about mask availability and enforcement. Kazy was concerned that the city was sending mixed signals: emphasizing the seriousness of the virus by requiring masks on one hand but prioritizing warnings and soft enforcement on the other. He said he would have preferred legislation with more "teeth."
In the end, only Mike Polensek voted the legislation down. He worried that mask enforcement would create undue burdens on Cleveland Police officers, who are already unable to respond to numerous quality of life issues that afflict his Collinwood Ward. "We can't legislate common sense," he said.
Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to make an important announcement at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Some have speculated that he will impose a statewide mask requirement. Last week, he ordered
that masks be worn in the state's seven hardest hit counties, including Cuyahoga.
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