Littleton mayor: City should reject face mask mandate

Valdes says vulnerable people should take own precautions

Littleton shut down Main Street to allow al fresco style dining during the "Weekends on Main" outdoor event June 12.
Littleton shut down Main Street to allow al fresco style dining during the "Weekends on Main" outdoor event June 12.

Littleton City Council has not yet decided how to handle the Tri-County Health Department’s mandatory face mask order, but Mayor Jerry Valdes said he would like to see the city opt out.

“This is getting to be government overreach, in my opinion,” Valdes said. “I think government is getting excited about the control they have that they didn’t know they had.”

The health department, which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, issued a mask mandate on July 8, requiring people to wear masks in public places. The order, which was approved by a 5-4 vote of the nine-member Board of Health, allows counties and municipalities to opt out.

“It’s simply becoming divisive,” Valdes said. “People are getting in fights about masks. If a business requires a face mask, I support that. I wear one to King Soopers. But I’m not in support of requiring people to wear them everywhere.”

Valdes said he was also unclear on how such a mandate could be enforced.

“Do we enforce this with our local police?” Valdes said. “We don’t need to put them in that position.”

Valdes said it’s up to vulnerable individuals to keep themselves out of harm’s way, not other people’s responsibility to take steps to protect them.

“You’ve got to be responsible,” Valdes said. “Don’t expect government to fix everything for you. We can’t make adjustments for everybody. Don’t put yourself in situations that could be dangerous for you.”

Littleton could opt out via a vote of the full city council, said city attorney Reid Betzing, but the issue was not yet on council’s schedule as of July 9.

Betzing said councilmembers have been getting “bombarded” with emails from constituents asking council to opt Littleton out of the order. He said he had taken an informal poll of councilmembers’ opinions on the topic, but declined to share the results.

Whether or not Littleton opts out of the order won’t change much in the city, Betzing said -- businesses already have the right to refuse service to someone not wearing a face mask, and masks are required in city buildings.

Betzing said the health department is within its rights to issue such an order. Many public health policies faced pushback when they were introduced, Betzing said, including seatbelts in cars or banning smoking in public places.

“I’m not sure what civil liberties are being impaired by requiring someone in a public place to wear a mask,” Betzing said. “You’ve got to wear clothes and shoes to the grocery store. You can’t have parties with loud music. You can’t shoot your guns in the air. There are all sorts of rules and regulations that infringe, if you will, on your liberties, but this one has become political.”


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