Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. finally issued his promised executive order this evening requiring people in Little Rock to wear face coverings when they cannot maintain sufficient distance between others.
His order, promised since last week, contends it does not contradict the governor’s emergency declaration and his ensuing orders and state directives. That is an open question. He insists it is legal.
The governor said today that while he REALLY wants people to wear masks, he refuses to mandate it statewide, except in some limited circumstances, such as restaurant staff and customers before eating and drinking. Scott’s order seems to go farther. It says:
The order includes exemptions, for people in private rooms, for example, and also for children younger than 12. Also in small private businesses or while driving. The order notes that it is consistent with rules for restaurants, bars, barbershops, salons, tattoo parlors and others. This is a powerful arguing point in support of moving ahead with a mask order, if not a legal ground for ignoring the governor’s orders, which do not allow this or the Fayetteville ordinance that similarly tries to mandate face covering. The governor’s executive order specifically prohibits local alterations in state rules.
The mayor’s order took effect today. It continues as long as emergencies exist. Or until some court decides whether the governor or the mayor controls public safety in Little Rock.
Good for Mayor Scott. Maybe. (I wish he’d been more transparent in the process of drafting this ordinance, but that’s another, smaller issue about this administration that can wait.)
I’m seeking comment from the governor. UPDATE: A spokesman said he’d respond at his daily coronavirus briefing Friday.
Also: In addition to other questions I’ve sent the mayor, is he proposing a penalty or enforcement for failure to wear a mask. The order appears silent on the point.
UPDATE: these responses to my questions from the mayor’s privately contracted PR mouthpiece leave more questions — as they usually do. I asked whether the mayor had spoken to the governor, whether he believed his order conflicted with the governor, why the city had delayed responding to FOI requests for drafts of his order and about enforcement.
He’s stated this numerous times.
The Mayor does not believe this conflicts with any previously issued orders or declarations issued by the Governor.
I haven’t received any FOI requests. Separately, I believe the City Attorney’s office received word of requests that were filled.
Re enforcement: We implemented the most stringent mandate allowed within the State’s parameters, going as far as we could go under the Governor’s existing declaration. Because this is an attempt to prevent and protect our residents from the immediate and imminent threat of COVID-19, we can pursue all legal remedies available to the city to handle public nuisances.
Code enforcement officers may issue citations, which would be handled in Environmental Court. In some instances, a criminal citation may be issued resulting in a misdemeanor. However, we hope residents will voluntarily comply to slow the spread in Little Rock.