Plano City Council held an emergency Zoom meeting Tuesday night to vote on an ordinance mandating that businesses require face coverings among customers and employees. The meeting lasted for four hours, and much to Mayor Harry LaRosiliere’s annoyance, the ordinance was only able to pass on the condition that its penalty stipulations were removed. In essence, the ordinance recommends, rather than requires, that businesses make occupants wear masks. 

The emergency meeting started at approximately 5:30 p.m. After encountering a slew of technical problems, the council gave air time to 15 residents who called in to express support or opposition to the proposed ordinance. 

Once public comment ended, LaRosiliere made an appeal with the council to consider passing the law in its original form. 

“This is not a freedom issue by any means,” he said. “This is a health and welfare issue.”

LaRosiliere’s mask ordinance proposal came amid a new resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Plano health officials report that there have been 908 positive cases, 712 of which have resulted in recoveries, and 11 which have ended in death. Currently, 185 cases are active.

McKinney and Denton have passed ordinances like the one that LaRosiliere proposed. Similar laws have also taken effect in other Texas counties such as Dallas, Tarrant, and Bexar, but as of writing, Collin has not issued a countywide face mask mandate. (And probably won’t.)

Last week, LaRosiliere joined other North Texas mayors and sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott to grant them more authority to implement face mask regulations. “A one-size-fits-all approach is not the best option,” the letter read. “We should trust local officials to make informed choices about health policy. And if mayors are given the opportunity to require face coverings, we believe our cities will be ready to help reduce the spread of this disease.”

Councilman Rick Smith was one of the ordinance’s most vocal opponents. “I am one of the high-risk people in the community,” he said. “But I will not support mandating this on the citizens.”

As debate among the council persisted, Mayor Pro Tem Kayci Prince criticized the proposed mandate for placing the burden of enforcement onto businesses while remaining ambiguous on how the law would apply to non-compliant citizens. Meanwhile, council members Rick Grady and Maria Tu expressed ardent support for the bill. 

Discussion eventually hinged around how the law would be enforced among businesses, and LaRosiliere strongly objected as council members floated the idea of the ordinance simply acting as a suggestion, referring to such a motion as “a resolution dressed up as an ordinance.”

Despite this, LaRosiliere acquiesced as Prince called for a 20-minute recess so that City Attorney Paige Mims could modify the language of the ordinance in accordance with the proposed manner of enforcement. 

The council resumed its session at 8:58 p.m. To appease LaRosiliere and other proponents of the original bill, the council first took a vote on a motion that would enforce the mandate but require that first offenses be given warnings, but with a 4-4 split, this failed to pass. Following this impasse, the council took a vote on the previously discussed version of the ordinance in which mandatory language was removed; this motion passed 5-3, with Prince being the only member to vote yes on both propositions. 

Motion 1 – Ordinance With Penalty Clause and Warning on First Offense

Harry LaRosiliere (Mayor) Y

Kayci Prince (Mayor Pro Tem) Y

Anthony Ricciardelli (Deputy Mayor Pro Tem) N

Rick Grady (Councilman) Y

Maria Tu (Councilwoman) Y

Lily Bao (Councilwoman) N

Rick Smith (Councilman) N

Shelby Williams (Councilman) N

Y = 4

N = 4

Motion 2 – Ordinance With Recommendation Language and No Penalty Clause

Harry LaRosiliere (Mayor) N

Kayci Prince (Mayor Pro Tem) Y

Anthony Ricciardelli (Deputy Mayor Pro Tem) Y

Rick Grady (Councilman) N

Maria Tu (Councilwoman) N

Lily Bao (Councilwoman) Y

Rick Smith (Councilman) Y

Shelby Williams (Councilman) Y

Y = 5

N = 3

Garrett Gravley

Garrett Gravley is a Dallas-based writer, journalist and music critic. His work has appeared in the Dallas Observer, D Magazine, and Central Track.