By AlaskaWatchman.com

After listening to 20 hours of public testimony from more than 700 Mat-Su residents over a three day period, the Palmer City Council voted down a citywide mask mandate, 4-3, on Dec. 4.

Palmer Deputy Mayor Sabrena Combs

Nearly 70% of comments – both in-person and written – opposed the idea of forcing residents to mask up under threat of legal action from the city.

Councilman Brian Daniels tried to soften the mandate by offering an amendment to remove the requirement that business owners kick out customers who fail to wear masks. His amendment passed, 4-3, but failed to win over the more conservative councilmembers, who still opposed the overall mandate.

In the end, the unprecedented flood of public opposition ultimately moved ordinance sponsor and Deputy Mayor Sabrena Combs to vote against her own proposal.

Combs appeared frustrated by the three long days of listening to residents denounce her plan.

“I’m pretty torn on this vote because it is forcing me to choose between what I know in my heart and brain is the right thing to do, which is masking, and ultimately what I was elected to do which is represent the will of the people,” she said before voting against an ordinance which she and Councilwoman Jill Valerius introduced in mid-November.

Initially it appeared that Combs and the more liberal block on the council had enough votes to pass a law that would have required Palmer residents to mask up in nearly all indoor and outdoor gatherings and to force business owners to remove customers who failed to wear masks. But since the ordinance was an emergency order, it required not just a simple 4-3 majority to pass, but six votes which it did not have.

Ordinance sponsor Jill Valerius complained about some of the testimony she had to sit through.

With Mayor Edna DeVries and Councilmen Steve Carrington and Richard Best set against the mandate, it was doomed, even without Combs’ last-minute change of heart.

Combs appeared frustrated by the three long days of listening to residents denounce her plan, as well as the opposition she received from fellow council members.

“I hope those in opposition, specifically as councilmembers, consider taking small steps to help their neighbors feel safe rather than respond with hate and anger as I have most certainly experienced in the past couple weeks, and some of you even witnessed in these chambers,” Combs said before accusing her more conservative colleagues of supporting “absolute, uncivil behavior” from constituents they agree with.

Fellow ordinance sponsor Jill Valerius thanked the public for weighing in but then complained about some of the testimony she had to sit through, claiming it contained “profanity and threats and such.” She said she just wanted to keep local businesses safe from COVID.

“I am of the opinion that each one of us – each family in our community – has to make personal choices as to what is best for each family

Councilman Richard Best

Julie Berberich, who also supported the mandate, used her closing comments to lash out against Mayor DeVries and those who testified against the ordinance. She focused on how the public comments affected her emotionally.

“This is a very, very divisive issue. Extremely political, and that’s sad,” she said. “I’m super saddened by these four nights of listening this testimony. This did not have to be such a politically divisive issue and I see it as a failure of leadership – a failure of leadership from the federal government to our government and quite frankly here to Madam Mayor.”

Berberich said she didn’t want to issue a mandate but then complained that residents wouldn’t agree to universal masking without one.

Councilman Best expressed gratitude for the enormous public input, and said he was concerned about the ordinance would have required business owners to literally drive out customers for not covering their faces.

“We heard a lot of passionate folks on both sides of this,” he said. “I am of the opinion that each one of us – each family in our community – has to make personal choices as to what is best for each family. We don’t now the medical needs, the emotional needs of so many in our community.”

The proposal failed with Councilmembers Carrington, Best, DeVries and Combs voting against it. Valerius, Daniels and Berberich voted in favor.

Following the vote, City Manager John Moosey asked Mayor DeVries if he could share his perspective on the three-day marathon.

“I have been a city manager, county manager, borough manager for over 35 years now, and what we went through is the darndest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “We have spent three nights reading every single testimony out loud. We continued that and put the time in. Nobody does that and I think that says an awful lot about city council on listening to constituents.”

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Palmer mask mandate defeated after overwhelming public outcry

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


17 Comments

  • Michael S Totten says:

    Right on. Looks like the bulldyke lost!

  • Sherri Lilly says:

    I am thankful they listened. I hope our community and its leaders can come together to solve issues and set ourselves apart from the failures around our country and solve issues together. We need to stop demanding and criticizing each other and make common sense decisions.
    Let’s get through this time with our heads held high, look for needs in our community, and take care of business.

  • use2ANow says:

    If you don’t defeat the dominion voting machines and mail in ballots in Alaska this will only get worse. They will get bolder too.

  • Jo says:

    I am so glad the community was heard. Has there been any further investigation of the local voting?

  • Matt Rustin says:

    Some fool coordinates a BLM march in our city when Covid 19 was spiking, so why would we worry about masks?

    • Bill Allen says:

      Logic isn’t your strong suit, is it Matt ?

      • Lobomalo says:

        Give us an example of the “logic” to which you refer.

      • Doug Glenn says:

        Hay bill. Why don’t you come call me that yourself you coward. The masks in anchorage clearly are not working. The mask queen mayor of anchorage has covid. Keep hiding in your basement you psycho sack. It appears you have lost your mind entirely. Bill is a real name calling street fighter from behind his key board. Looking forward to crossing paths with him sometime. Clearly needs an attitude adjustment.

    • Mongo Like Candy says:

      It’s a “Smart Virus”, it doesn’t attack people in Walmart and Costco, or at BLM/ANTIFA Riots. The virus only attacks in small businesses, churches and Trump rallies.

  • Bill Allen says:

    This virus cares not one bit about your freedom or your politics. You can do this the easy way or you can do this the hard way. Palmer has chosen the hard way. Because I want muh freedoms !! Idiots, y’all will be wearing them by February when the bodies start piling up and the hospitals turn you away, and I hope it’s these anti-maskers who are the first to be turned away

    • Lobomalo says:

      Hey, Bill.. Thanks for displaying your socialistic ignorance..Don’t even start to lecture others about “freedoms”, when you are completely fine in taking them away..You have shown that you know absolutely nothing about this virus panic scam.. Where were you during last Flu season, when the truthful numbers (not made up ones) showed an even worse health scenario… You prefer the control Gestapo’s controls over actual scientists testimonies stating that it is indeed, filled with fraud.. ( $$$$ ) .. It’s people such as yourself that marched right on into Auschwitz .. Your profound stupidity knows no bounds.. Educate yourself.. if that is even possible.

    • The Alaskan Federalist says:

      This post is not as eloquent as my others mainly guess we still don’t seem to get it, but….

      I don’t think this is the news for you Bill.

      On another note, they did what they were voted in to do, listen and represent the will of the people. That’s what government is about. Not controlling you.

      Also don’t know if you’ve seen the CDC study on masks, but their evidence completely destroys the pro-mask movement.

      Lastly, if masks worked so well, why did our illegitimate mayor test positive for the China Virus?

  • MICHAEL HUGHES says:

    Waah, the little petty tyrants who want to subvert the Constitution are frustrated and lashing out at the citizens that are fed up and now fighting back. The language some who testified is a result of loosing their livelihoods and freedoms as well as having to force their “representatives” to follow the law and the Constitution. Poor babies; if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen
    On the positive side at least a slim majority recognized some of this and voted to not impose masks. I wish Anchorage had the same rather than doing even worse things such as not allowing the public to attend assembly meetings (and passing MAJOR things like union contract and spending $150m from the Covid funds to buy building to house the homeless rather than giving that money to the struggling businesses the funds were meant for. It is time for we peasants to fight for our freedoms, hopefully in a non-violent way. But, beware; we are on the brink and we may end up having to do so. Pray that this does not have to happen.

  • Jacquelyn Goforth says:

    Masks don’t do anything except make one submissive, anonymous, and easily discounted.

    De Richard Urso likened wearing a mask against a virus is like stopping sand with a chain link fence.

    It’s also a germ factory. They call one condition ‘maskne’.

    …for a reason.

  • Doug Glenn says:

    Hay bill. Why don’t you come call me that yourself you coward. The masks in anchorage clearly are not working. The mask queen mayor of anchorage has covid. Keep hiding in your basement you psycho sack. It appears you have lost your mind entirely.

  • Kathrine says:

    Answer to prayers, 2020 = year of justice
    “But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!” Psalm 66:19-20.

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