Auburn residents spoke about their support for the Auburn City Schools mask mandate in front of the City Council on Tuesday night. Residents voiced their concerns during the Citizen’s Open Forum after other residents spoke out against the mandate in a previous meeting.
The Auburn Board of Education announced its decision to require all individuals to wear masks indoors and on school buses. The decision comes after an upward trend in COVID-19 cases across the state of Alabama.
Many residents were parents of children in the school system. They commended the school board’s decision and some even hoped for further city action on mask mandates.
Warren Tidwell, a resident, gave an impassioned speech about the behavior of residents who oppose the mask mandates. Tidwell said he understands the concerns of personal freedoms being taken away, but said the anger about masks is misdirected and unproductive.
“The approach I’ve seen of yelling at or bullying our neighbors out of anger simply doesn’t line up with that great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself,” Tidwell said.
Michael Halperin, a resident, said he agreed with the citizens who spoke before him and wanted to extend the mask mandate to Auburn University and require students wear masks during football games.
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“Even outdoors [87,000] unmasked fans screaming with love for Auburn are potential spreaders,” Halperin said.
Citizens urged the council to support the school board and medical professionals. A few citizens referenced East Alabama Medical Center’s full Intensive Care Unit.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council recognized Kimberly Johnson for being named Alabama Teacher of the Year. Mayor Ron Anders presented her with a resolution, flowers and a key to the city.
Johnson said she was “honored and blessed” to be a part of the community and hopes to represent Auburn the best she can. Johnson was selected out of 150 applicants and she will serve as Alabama’s official ambassador for public education.
Ward 7 Council member Jay Hovey recognized Johnson’s accomplishments and commended the success of the school board.
“I want the school system to know that I fully support them, in general, and our city wouldn’t be what it is without our school system,” Hovey said. He also mentioned that he wrote down a quote from Johnson’s speech.
“‘Not everyone has what we have here,’ and I think that’s easy to overlook and I’m glad she pointed that out,” Hovey said.
During the meeting, city manager Megan Crouch discussed the increased traffic concerns on Richland Road. Auburn Police Division chief Cedric Anderson spoke about the strategy for solving the issue. Anderson said police officers observed that the main issue is parents lining up to drop kids off at school.
The council members asked questions and discussed various solutions with Anderson. Crouch and Anderson stated that they will continue to monitor the situation and discuss possible solutions.
The council discussed declaring Juneteenth as a city holiday. Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday on June 16 and later declared a state holiday by Gov. Kay Ivey. The declaration would be for city employees who would receive time off to recognize the day. City employees who work during the holiday will receive holiday pay.
Ward 3 Council member Beth Witten said she was proud that the city was taking the steps to honor Juneteenth.
Anders denied unanimous consent for an ordinance to amend City Code and adopt 2021 Editions of International Building Code and International Fire Code. Anders cited the need to give the community more time to look into the ordinance.
Witten motioned to postpone a resolution to adopt the U.S. Highway 280 Focus Area Study plan. There will be an open house on Aug. 26 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a public input session for residents to provide feedback on the plan.
Witten said her reason behind postponing the resolution was because of the changes in the past year with a new planning director and she said she wanted have the option to take another look at the plan.
“The logic behind this was that while this study originally occurred in the height of COVID,” she said. "Even though I know we did have about maybe 30 plus people who responded, I do think there was a distraction in everybody’s mind and planning wasn’t first and foremost.”
The resolution will be postponed until the next City Council meeting on Sept. 7.
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