Berry extends moratorium on events, parades and festivals to Jan. 1

Thursday, July 16, 2020

By Samantha Jones

Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com

The city of Eureka Springs won’t have any events, parades or festivals until the beginning of 2021.

On Monday night, Mayor Butch Berry said he was extending the moratorium on city events until the end of the year in light of rising cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. Berry said he might change his mind later in the year if the number of cases goes down, but the city must be responsible in the meantime.

“I don’t see any reason we need to have a large group for parades or music in the park or drumming in the park,” Berry said. “Until it does show a good sign of going down instead of up, at this point, I’m not going to be issuing any city permits for special events.”

Also at the meeting, the council addressed ordinances mandating mask wearing in public that have been approved in Fayetteville and Rogers. The council voted on June 22 to approve a resolution encouraging the use of masks, when Berry said an ordinance would be unenforceable unless Gov. Asa Hutchinson mandates mask wearing in public and puts some teeth behind it.

Council member Bob Thomas reiterated that idea on Monday night, saying Fayetteville and Rogers don’t have the authority to mandate mask wearing. Hutchinson issued an executive order July 3 authorizing cities to adopt a model ordinance on the subject drafted by the Arkansas Municipal League.

“Then [Hutchinson] also added another couple of stipulations, so Fayetteville and Rogers … both of their ordinances refer to mandating wearing masks indoors,” Thomas said.

While Hutchinson said there are no penalties for those who choose not to wear a mask, Thomas said, the city of Fayetteville is fining business owners who allow individuals inside their business without a mask.

“The governor had said there can be no punishment, so that will be a problem for Fayetteville if somebody challenges it,” Thomas said. “I just wanted to clarify that because I’ve been taking a lot of grief … about the fact that we have not mandated that everybody in Eureka Springs wears a mask. We cannot do that.”

Council member Harry Meyer said he’d like to hear city attorney Tim Weaver’s opinion on the issue, and Weaver said he’s not sure how to enforce mask wearing in public.

“I don’t know that there’s a way with the governor’s limitations to put a lot of teeth in it,” Weaver said.

If someone enters a business not wearing a mask and refuses to leave when asked to do so, Weaver said, the business owner can call the police to report trespassing.

“That’s trespass. We already have that on our books. We can already prosecute you if you won’t leave a business when you’ve been asked not to,” Meyer said. “We’ve used that in the past, not for masks, but when people come in without their shoes or shirt on or something like that. Businesses have always had the ability to control people that come into their businesses and refuse to cooperate.”

Weaver said the city should tread lightly when it comes to mandating mask wearing.

“We don’t want to necessarily penalize the shopkeepers like Fayetteville’s ordinance, because I think we’re violating the spirit of what the governor is saying,” Weaver said.

Instead, Weaver suggested that the council pass a resolution asking Hutchinson to reconsider his stance on mask wearing. Berry said he wanted to add a few things about Hutchinson’s policy, saying businesses that wish to call the police to enforce mask wearing have the responsibility to do so.

“This isn’t up to me seeing a violation at a store and calling the police,” Berry said. “It has to be the business to call in for a complaint.”

Council member Mickey Schneider asked if the city could require businesses to put a sign on their door encouraging mask wearing and Weaver said that’s a possibility.

“We could have an ordinance that says they’re supposed to, but if they don’t do it, we have no way of enforcing it under the governor’s rules,” Weaver said. “If businesses don’t want to put up the sign, the businesses don’t necessarily have to put up the sign.”

“So … until the governor does his own personal mandate with fines, cities can’t really do anything that can be enforced?” Schneider asked.

“At this point, all we can do is strongly encourage the governor to give us more teeth,” Weaver said.

Schneider said she thought the council accomplished that goal when passing the resolution encouraging mask wearing at its last meeting. Council member Susan Harman reiterated that it’s up to the businesses to enforce mask wearing and said she requires guests at her business to wear masks until they are seated with a drink in hand.

“We have to explain all of that to them,” Harman said.

Council member Terry McClung said the situation is unfortunate.

“The citizenry wants us to do more than what we’re legally capacitated to do,” McClung said. “We’re kind of stuck. We’re limited, so what we have in place is probably as good as any.”

Schneider said most of the business owners want everyone to wear masks, something she said has changed over the past few weeks.

“We’ve had this major surge and an awful lot more are for making people wear masks,” Schneider said. “Yes, they’re afraid of losing business, but they’re also afraid of losing their lives. They’re hoping the city takes a stand.”

Council member Melissa Greene proposed that the council approve a “strong resolution to the governor asking him to do something and give us some teeth.”

“You’ll have to be very, very specific what you’re asking,” Harman said. “If you just send a resolution and you say we’d like him to mandate masks, he’s going to say, ‘I’ve already put things in place,’ ” Harman said.

Greene moved to draft the ordinance for passage at the council’s next meeting and the council unanimously agreed to do so.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, July 27, at The Auditorium.

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  • Now with the Governor's mask mandate, perhaps we can finally quit arguing and get back to attracting tourists to Eureka Springs, showing them a good time and trying to recoup the funds that are still going to plague (or possibly drown) us for the rest of the year. I know, I know...there are still a small number bitter people here in Eureka Springs who will not be happy until we close the town down waiting for a vaccine and will attempt to influence the city and the commissions to do just that. We just need to resist their unsound demands and tune them out. They are destructive to the town, to the economy and to themselves. Obviously, they will have a couple of representatives on city council always ready to do their bidding and we know there are a couple on the CAPC, but they are easily recognized and will just have to be tolerated until the town stops holding its nose to Eureka Springs' politicians and politics and decides they want experienced, positive, educated and pro-Eureka representation. In their defense, I'm assuming many in this small, but vocal, group of "the people" pushing irrational council reps to act on poorly thought-out activities believe themselves to be in a virus vulnerable group. Anyone who's part of a vulnerable group can, understandably, become even more irrational and intolerant. We all just have to encourage stability over instability, however, and realize that many of these people have no clue about the dynamic between the health of the city and it's sole industry of tourism. We must not let them keep plucking at the golden goose because, eventually, the tourists will say it's not worth it. The decision will then be (1) everyone pays their own share to keep the city running or (2) call the moving company. Acting without thinking may be a sickness we've become used to, but this sickness is an infection we can control (even without a mask). Don't confuse noise with numbers, but hold the reps accountable and hold the mayor's feet to the fire when he allows himself to be intimidated and influenced by the "anti-tourists". The majority of businesses and their employees are not asking for much. Just the right to keep the city alive. So to you business owners and hard working employees, we appreciate you. Keep moving forward.

    -- Posted by Theuncommonsense on Fri, Jul 17, 2020, at 1:02 PM
  • Hey

    -- Posted by marchhare on Sat, Jul 18, 2020, at 9:12 AM
  • As a long time downtown business owner and resident I see things differently than uncommonsense. In February I was experiencing what looked to be a banner year in my business. Of course Covid changed everything! It devastated business, tourism, our city economy, my business included. Much to my surprise, when business reopened my business came roaring back. Many of the businesses in the downtown group I am in also are reporting the same. Restaurants with limited capacity have come up with innovative ways to be viable! Kudos to them, plus the new businesses that have opened downtown and on the highway! The Crescent is a great example as last year their parking lots were half full. After the reopening I can report their parking lots are almost full. The Mayor and Council have had to navigate uncharted waters. Their job they were elected for is the health, safety and welfare of their citizens. They have made very hard, prudent decisions to ensure the safety of the citizens, businesses and guests. The Mayors decision to suspend events was thought out, prudent and smart. Many businesses are reporting they are doing better not completing with events. We are devastated losing events like the Zombie Crawl, Diversity weekend, Bikes, Blues and Barbecue. The promoters of these events saw the danger in crowds, as it is proven events that amass crowds spread the virus. Who doesn’t miss the drumming and music in the park, the parades. Instead of getting greedy the city has chosen to go slowly to ensure keeping our businesses open. Maybe, as the CDC has said wearing masks will stops the spread of the virus. We are an older population in this city, so hence the fear of many of our residents. The city government is taking theirs fears, our businesses and guests safety seriously. They have shown what I believe prudent, smart decisions in waters none of us have ever been in! Of course it has not come without division! With these decisions and our state decisions I believe our businesses, our citizens and guests can get back to a normal virus free life. Hopefully by next year we can have events agains. So let’s not get greedy, appreciate what we do have now, continue to build on it and be safe! If we stay smart, go at it slowly, we will be back stronger than ever!

    -- Posted by marchhare on Sat, Jul 18, 2020, at 9:46 AM
  • I think you're both right. Sorry, but it’s naïve to think you can just shut things down until we all feel safe. That’s just not how it works. We have had a great visitor turnout though. We can, obviously, thank having an ad agency now for that and thanks to those commissioners on the CAPC that didn't let that issue die. So, if we continue that trend, we might be ok even though we probably haven't even felt the full effects of April yet. At the same time, we all know that there are some out there who will be calling for much more restrictions. Either more restrictions, cutting advertising or cutting ties with the ad agency all under the guise of "safety" by reducing numbers. Sound Crazy? Ignorant? Dishonest? Yes, but we all know those types exist as well as those who rationalize for them. Even if it’s to the detriment of everyone. That's why these decisions that impact not only that small number of those seeking their own interests, but also everyone else who wants the city to survive, can’t be based on emotion or anger. We must be practical, fear or not, and choose leaders who understand and accept this.

    -- Posted by rb2020 on Sat, Jul 18, 2020, at 9:20 PM
  • We've been very fortunate to have visitors continue to come to Eureka Springs in spite of the political clownishness. I only hope the council and mayor can try to stay out of things and the success continues throughout the rest of the year. The town needs it especially those owners that decided to take unemployment rather than open back up. It woull be a pretty cruel joke for tourism to drop right when unemployment ends.

    -- Posted by ksrt1950 on Sun, Jul 19, 2020, at 11:25 AM
  • Rb2020, I agree about the CAPC! The ad agency was a fantastic idea, glad they got it through. And yes I believe it has been a huge part of our Covid crowd. Given where we are now, I think we’re are as far with restrictions as we should go.

    -- Posted by marchhare on Sun, Jul 19, 2020, at 1:11 PM
  • Ditto to all the above. Eureka Springs has always had trouble attracting good candidates. It's the way it's always been and probably always will be. I'm sure they're out there. They just rarely run for council.

    -- Posted by clptravel on Tue, Jul 21, 2020, at 2:09 PM
  • clptravel

    i agree with you. as much as i love this little town and all it’s residents, public service is a thankless job with plenty of people who know better how to do it better but they aren’t the ones volunteering to make a positive difference for everyone who lives here and loves this town. unfortunately our elected officials were elected by popular vote not who’s best qualified. that’s called a block vote. stop all income to elected officials and see who wants the position now.

    -- Posted by Saints4me on Tue, Jul 21, 2020, at 2:43 PM
  • Saints4me

    If I understand you correctly, I think I agree. I agree that any income is not serving any purpose now. I agree with you that good candidates are choosing not to run and that leaves us with those who don't necessarily have the qualifications for the positions running unopposed or against others with no qualifications. I think we have good people. We see them now and then. They either don't stay involved or don't want to get involved at all. I think people look at it as like jumping into a full dumpster with a pair of tweezers to clean it out with. Maybe next election, but it would take more than one more two, I'm afraid.

    -- Posted by clptravel on Tue, Jul 21, 2020, at 3:33 PM
  • On candidates choosing not to run...you need a history lesson on that subject. Obviously you haven't been here long...which is OK, you just have to ask yourself WHY. On the overall fate and future of the town. The town has suffered for so many years with the "MY WAY IS THE BEST WAY" attitude that the situation it finds itself in now is one that unfortunately can't be overcome no matter the leadership. Having many friends who are business owners in town I do find it very sad, but the facts are facts, the situation is profound and the fate of the town is already etched. Anything from here on is purely fravalous excercise. Just be thankful the town doesn't have a multi story parking garage to pay for.

    -- Posted by Two6pac on Wed, Jul 22, 2020, at 11:08 AM
  • Ksrt1950

    That’s a sad thing to insinuate. Anyone with an actual business seems to be open now. I don’t believe we have any businesspeople around town who would do that. Everyone I know is trying to do their part for the city.

    Two6pac

    You’re right. It is sad. The citizens probably shouldn't give up quite yet though. There are fewer and fewer people around who just want huddle and have the town closed around them. There are more and more who want the town to flourish and provide a wonderful atmosphere for everyone. Anyone who’s been here less than 10 -15 years, has heard the “you haven’t been here long enough” comment. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Public service is an honorable thing, but perhaps we should look more at the levels of achievement and practical experience people have when choosing leaders rather than just the length of time they’ve been somewhere. I also agree with you on “my way is the best way” comment. I hear it all the time. Again, it goes back to looking for actual, not fictionalized, achievement and success that can be transferred. We know it's here. We've seen it. Maybe we can even convince more of that type to run for office so we have a choice. Maybe then we could turn the direction of the city back more in the upward direction before it's too late.

    -- Posted by clptravel on Wed, Jul 22, 2020, at 6:15 PM
  • We’ve had all this back and forth and arguing about having tourists or not having tourists, closing the town during covid or not. It began to look like there was just no compromise. Luckily, I’ve found one. It satisfies everybody. We have approximately 2,000 citizens in Eureka Springs. All we need is for each citizen to pay their share of the city budget of about $6,000 per person ($12,000 per couple). For that matter, since it’s the middle of the year, we could probably go with half that for the rest of this year. That will give the city the amount they need to keep services running. It’s perfect. It takes care of everyone’s concerns. If all sides can’t get on board with this, you’re probably just trying to be unreasonable. The ones that feel we need to shelter in place get what they want, and they get to live in the proud awareness that they’ve paid their portion of the services they enjoy. The business owners can't complain because they don’t have to worry about getting more tourists to visit. Some business owners might even get a refund if they've paid over the $6,000 and they can use it for expenses the rest of the year or for their employees share of the tax. The city politicians and employees will love it because they won’t have to worry about shortfalls and cuts to jobs and services. I mean it’s the perfect solution. I must admit, I’m a bit surprised someone hasn’t thought of it already. We could even do this next year if everybody still doesn't feel safe. The city will just need to implement whatever is required to make sure everyone pays their $6,000 and then close the gates. Is there any way to get this on the ballot as quickly as possible?

    -- Posted by droff6 on Fri, Jul 24, 2020, at 7:33 PM
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