The Kelso City Council voted against a resolution that would have a declared the city opposed to any mask requirements or limits based on vaccination status.
Councilmembers voted 3-2 to not enact the resolution during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Lisa Alexander, who introduced the resolution to the City Council, and Keenan Harvey voted in favor.
The proposed resolution would have kept the city from promoting mask requirements or proof of COVID-19 vaccination at city-sponsored events. It would have declared the city council opposed to any government-mandated “vaccine segregation.” The resolution also directed the city to contact the office of Gov. Jay Inslee and demand a full lifting of coronavirus restrictions by the end of June.
“The city of Kelso is an inclusive community where businesses and citizens are treated with equal access, regardless of vaccination status or mask usage,” the resolution said.
Kelso city manager Andrew Hamilton and City Attorney Janean Parker advised the council against passing the resolution. Parker said the resolution was more “aspirational” than actually enforceable and both officials worried that the stance would conflict with the State Department of Health and other statewide actions.
“In looking at this item, people might think that they don’t have to follow the state laws and that would be wrong. We know that we would be sanctioned for that,” Hamilton said.
Councilmembers also mentioned uncertainty about whether the resolution would have any impact on private businesses that require proof of COVID-19 vaccines from customers. A line in the resolution said the city could not waive mandates by the Department of Labor and Industries, or protect local businesses from penalties for going against those mandates.
Resolutions with nearly identical language about vaccine segregation limits have begun to appear before other city councils in Washington. The wording of the proposed resolution in Kelso almost exactly matches a measure passed by the Bonney Lake City Council in May and another being considered by the Orting City Council.
Kelso Councilmember Alexander said Friday she would be willing to introduce similar legislation again if the concern about the liability issues could be figured out.
“I hope that we can move past these arguments and come together, vaccinated and non-vaccinated. We are a community,” Alexander said.
Mayor Nancy Malone abstained from voting on the resolution. Councilmember Kim LeFebvre was absent from Tuesday’s council meeting for medical reasons and did not vote.