OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) - Thursday, elected officials in Johnson County will be weighing on the mask issue with a special meeting to consider the governor’s executive order mandating masks. See what business leaders think and where commissioners stand.
Go to downtown Overland Park and you’ll see a mix of personal decisions on whether to wear masks. Even without a government mandate, numerous businesses have chosen to mandate them independently.
The president of Overland Park’s Chamber of Commerce says she’s had more than 600 responses to a survey she plans to take to the county Thursday. The biggest takeaway, she says, is they just don’t want to have to close again.
“We can do it once, but we really can’t do it again. So if wearing masks is what it’s going to take to keep people safe, to bring the numbers down and to keep my business open, then I’ll wear a mask,” Overland Park Chamber President & CEO Tracey Osborne Oltjen said.
KCTV5 News called every county commissioner after sending them all emails to ask where they stand on the expected state mandate. It’s clear they’ve been getting a lot of calls. Only two of the seven commissioners got back to us.
Commissioner Mike Brown wrote, “I support Kansan’s rights to decide for themselves if wearing a mask is right for them. It is NOT ok for others to decide what others will wear to protect them. This is NOT about masks... it’s about freedom. Masks have become the tug-of-war medium between Donkeys and Elephants....”
Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick wrote, “As I have throughout the COVID epidemic, I support following evidence-based research to respond to COVID. We know that wearing masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible helps slow the spread and save lives. We also know that wearing masks will allow us to continue to reopen our economy and potentially avoid reverting to shutdowns. If people won’t voluntarily wear masks, I support requiring them for the greater public health benefit.”
Normally, this wouldn’t even be up for debate. State laws or orders trump local ones. But a recent Kansas law allows county commissions leeway on the subject of orders related to public health.
“In this particular case, the deal that Governor Kelly struck with the legislature provided that counties would be able to do what they wanted with those state directives, whether it be to adopt their own more restrictive or less restrictive measures,” Park University Associate Professor of Political Science Matt Harris said.
It’s a bit trickier even than that. That law also says a commission first has to consult with county health officials. That could cause friction and raise barriers. Then you can add questions about enforcement in the mix. Kansas Health Secretary Lee Norman said Wednesday that the details of the governor’s order will be fleshed out Thursday.
Thursday’s 10 a.m. meeting will be held in the County Administration Building located at 111 S. Cherry Street in Olathe on the third Floor. If you wish to speak at the meeting, you should arrive early and sign in.