A two-item Colorado County Commissioners Court agenda Monday, Nov. 16 turned into a three-hour marathon of sorts.
During public comments, six people took to the podium to present the pros and cons of the proposed Proclamation to the Governor asking that businesses be allowed to open at 100 percent capacity. Chris Christensen, a member of the Barn Builders, advocates for opening businesses to full capacity, said he felt that the public is “acting out of fear because of misinformation.”
“The enemy is not the virus; the enemies are the people and corporations who want to make money out of the virus,” Christensen said. He then introduced scientist Rodney Sturdivant, one of the co-signers of the Great Barrington Declaration.
Sturdivant, a Baylor scientist, and bio-statistician, said the Great Barrington Declaration was supported by three scientists from Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard and co-signed by over 43,000 scientists that believe the primary ideas and response to COVID-19 should be on focused protection vs. broad shutdown.
Sturdivant cited several studies that allegedly show that masks do not work and may actually be dangerous to the wearer.
County resident Vince Liebowitz told the court that the Great Barrington Declaration focuses on economics and not public health, and according to his research, it is also highly criticized by the World Health Organization. Liebowitz said he opposed the proclamation and asked the county to adhere to mask-wearing. Superintendents from all three school districts in the county were also present to address the court.
Rice CISD Superintendent Bill Hefner stated that the number of staff members out on quarantine could pose a threat to the district remaining open for in-person instruction.
“My position as superintendent is not about wearing a mask. It is about the student’s and staff’s safety,” Weimar ISD Superintendent Jon Wunderlich said. Jim Connor, Columbus ISD Superintendent stated his educational credentials which included degrees in physical education, education and administration, “did not prepare him to have to make life or death decisions.”
Connor went on to mention that a 25-year-old former CISD educator is currently fighting COVID on a ventilator in an Austin hospital.
Each commissioner, including Judge Ty Prause, weighed in on the matter of the proclamation. Prause, who has been vocal in his support of opening schools and businesses throughout the county, said, “We have a definite increase in cases locally. Since Wednesday, we (Colorado County) had the highest number of cases. I believe in freedom, protection, and public safety.” Prause reminded the court and attendees that “all businesses are open, all three school districts are open. Now is not the time to send a message to the Governor asking that we open all businesses to 100 percent capacity. Today, I oppose this proclamation.”
Prause did state that he would not be opposed to revisiting the proposed Proclamation in the future. “Sending it now would have the county lack credibility in the future, especially with cases on the rise,” Prause said.
Commissioner Darrell Kubesch was in favor of sending the proclamation to the Governor, citing that there was no ill-intent shown in the proclamation. “I will not live my life hiding in fear of this virus,” Kubesch added.
Commissioner Doug Wessels said that it was not the right time to send the proclamation.
Commissioner Darrell Gertson said he was in favor of the businesses deciding for themselves. He also said he was “bewildered that the government let lawlessness go but clamps down on businesses.”
In favor of the proclamation in general, Gertson voted not to send the proclamation to the governor at this time.
Commissioner Tommy Hahn, who missed the last meeting regarding the proclamation and its rewording, said that he is against this because it is personal. “Wearing a mask is not that big of a deal when you have to sit outside a window and ask someone struggling to breathe if they are okay. I am staying in a camper right now because someone close in the family has been dealing with COVID. I am against the proclamation.”
There were three “Yes” votes to rescind the amended proclamation, and one “No” vote from Kubesch.
County Election Administrator Rebecka LaCourse faced stiff questioning from Kubesch when election canvassing was discussed. Kubesch questioned the voting procedures, polling numbers, poll watchers, and the software used during the election. LaCourse’s responses were to the satisfaction of the court. Kubesch also questioned using a private grant received by the county by “a socialist named Zuckerburg,” cautioning not to use those funds which he said are “antithetical to the democratic society.” County Attorney Jay Johansen advised this was not the time or place to discuss this issue, since it had already been voted on in previous sessions and was not on the agenda at hand.
The next regular session of the Colorado Commissioners court is set for Nov. 23 at 9 a.m. at the Colorado County courthourse.
“I am staying in a camper right now because someone close in the family has been dealing with COVID. I am against the proclamation.”
Colorado County Commissioner