A resolution seeking the support of Mansfield City Council to encourage city residents to consider COVID-19 vaccination easily passed at Council’s Tuesday evening meeting, but not without a good deal of discussion in Council’s Public Affairs Committee.
The meeting took place in Council Chambers in the Mansfield Municipal Building, the first time that many of that body had met in person since March of last year.
The proposed resolution read:
“The City Council of Mansfield formally urges and encourages those who reside or work in Mansfield and Richland County, OH, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as they are eligible to protect themselves, their families, neighbors, co-workers and the public.”
Committee Chair Alomar Davenport began by observing that things are not yet “back to normal” because of the pandemic, including with City Council itself. Davenport himself was participating virtually in the Council meeting.
Davenport stated that he had been approached by John Makley with the Richland COVID Vaccination Initiative to solicit support for the Initiave’s efforts to make sure that information on vaccination is being effectively relayed and that the shots are accessible to all.
Makley continued. “We all know what the situation is,” he said, sharing that the Initiative’s aim was to get information out and to encourage and facilitate vaccination. A lot of groups are working toward that effort, he added.
Davenport emphasized that he believed Council’s role was not to tell people what to do. The spirit of the resolution, he said, was to urge those who want to be vaccinated to do so and to get information out for people to make an educated, personal decision.
Various Council members then took the time to discuss the measure.
Councilmember Jason Lawrence led off by expressing his complete support for the measure, “applauding” the idea. Council’s job is to offer up solutions, he shared. Councilmember Phillip Scott shared a personal observation, having dealt with COVID himself. He expressed his good fortune that his case was not worse, but he recognized as well that it could have been the case.
Councilmember Laura Burns expressed thanks for the change in wording to emphasize the voluntary nature of vaccination.
Law Director John Spon also spoke from a personal perspective, noting the toll that COVID-19 had taken, and sharing that has known people who decided not to get the vaccine who are now hospitalized. “Unless enough people get the vaccine, the threat will continue,” he emphasized.
Councilmember Kimberly Moton said that she supported the resolution but stressed the importance of disseminating information about where vaccines can be obtained.
Councilmember Stephanie Zader spoke of her own COVID case, recognizing that hers was not as bad as others. At the same time, she struggled with urging people to do something when she herself did not have the medical training to back up such a request. She would prefer to abstain, she concluded.
Councilmember Jon Van Halingen raised the procedural issue of whether absentions are possible on Council votes. During the subsequent full Council meeting, Zader read two Charter provisions that allowed for abstentions with Council approval, which was given.
In the end, the measure passed with seven “yes” votes and one abstention.