Pasco City Councilmembers donned their facemasks and began having live city council meetings on Feb, 22. Anti-mask protestors have already disrupted one. Kennewick and Richland councils have stuck with Zoom.
Governor Jay Inslee moved Benton and Franklin Counties into Phase 2 on Feb. 14. That allowed live meetings with 25 percent occupancy in the council chamber, mandatory masks for everyone, and six-foot distancing.
Like everything else with Covid restrictions, Phase 2 has not been without controversy. At the March 1 Pasco City Council meeting, two men in the public section of the council chamber refused to wear a mask.
According to Pasco Mayor Saul Martinez, “A couple of men wanted to express their opinions and they were very respectful. ”After a fifteen-minute recess, the two agreed to leave.
City Attorney Heather Kintzley explained the guidelines to the Richland council on March 2. That was enough to make councilmembers decide that they weren’t interested in live meetings.
Councilmember Bob Thompson who has cursed Inslee’s restrictions said, “We might be a little premature. We could be reinforcing bad policy decisions made by others.”
Councilmember Terry Christensen, whose comments during council meetings have often been hard to hear, agreed with Thompson, “We would have to speak through masks,” he said.
“Rarely do I agree with Bob and Terry, but it is too early to have live meetings,” Councilmember Phil Lemley responded..
As she often does, Councilmember Sandra Kent wanted to “go with the flow.”
Mayor Ryan Lukson, Councilmembers Marianne Boring and Michael Alvarez also supported the status quo. Zoom meetings will continue.
Like Richland, Kennewick City Council currently meets via Zoom. Councilmember Steve Lee said that next week he expected the council to consider making Zoom attendance a permanent option for council members.