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Waterloo mayor Quentin Hart did his best Gavin Newsom imitation on Thursday night.

For months Hart has deemed it unsafe to meet publicly in the council chambers. There have been repeated requests to resume meetings in public, but the mayor has denied the public the right to attend in person.

On Thursday night, after a special budget meeting, it appears the mayor, some city council colleagues and city employees gathered mostly maskless for a “victory celebration” in public.

“Some of these people are the ones promoting staying out of crowds, social distancing and a continued mask mandate,” said Waterloo council member Margaret Klein. “It is shameful that there is such a double standard.”

The Iowa Standard reached out to the mayor’s office as well as the city clerk’s office to ask about the situation. We are awaiting a call back from those officials.

We did ask the individual who answered at the city clerk’s office about the current mask policy in Waterloo, but she was unable to answer.

Klein told The Iowa Standard that Waterloo is under a mask mandate. It is a continuing mask mandate, which was originally brought by councilman Jonathan Grieder. Mayor Hart has consistently advocated for social distancing and staying out of crowds.

The budget is going to raise taxes, according to Klein, and will almost double the amount of money the city will borrow. The city had held every meeting except for last night without the public present.

“We have done it on Zoom and that blocks a lot of people — people of a certain age who are confused by Zoom who usually come to our meetings. For the last couple of months, I’ve been asking ‘can we go back to the chambers?’

‘Only when it’s safe, Margaret. Only when it’s safe.’ Well, when is it going to be safe? The governor lifted the mask mandate, well we’re going to continue ours. Only when it’s safe… six feet apart… distance, distance… always masks.”

Hart opened a room at the Center for the Arts and allowed the public to attend.

“It turned out the crowd would’ve been easily handled by the chambers,” Klein said. “Every council person had to have a mask on even though we were sitting more than six feet apart and 20-30 feet from the audience.”

Klein said there has been “a lot of fear-mongering” in her opinion.

“I happen to be walking the whole city knocking on every voters’ door,” she said. “People are so terrified about what has been said here in Waterloo, about the level of fear, that they won’t stick their little noses out of the door.

“But last night, after the meeting, they go right next door to SingleSpeed bar and all gather around a table and sat and chatted and drank and ate. There’s nothing wrong with drinking and eating — I’ve been eating out at restaurants all the way through this. I’m a believer in getting out there. But they have not been. They have been admonishing and scouring people that would suggest we endanger anybody, then they go right over there for their little victory party.

“If they can sit like that, and enjoy a meal and a conversation that close together, they can have an open meeting for the city council in the city council chambers. It’s two-faced. How real is their claim of fear? Fear is only for you and me.”

Author: Jacob Hall


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