Battle Ground City Council is set to consider an ordinance opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the city as opposition to state-level restrictions to combat the pandemic becomes more vocal.
During its Sept. 7 meeting, the council voted 6-0 to consider a “medical freedom” ordinance at a future council meeting. Councilor Brian Munson brought forth the idea, something that wasn’t listed on the official meeting agenda, toward the end of the remote meeting.
Though the ordinance has yet to be drafted for presentation, Munson explained that once it is written, it would focus on the governor’s powers to enact mandates in regard to a “medical pandemic.” Munson said he didn’t find anything allowing the governor to “enforce masks, coerce shots, enforce social distancing or shutdowns of our economy” when he read through state law on declarations.
Any enforcement of restrictions in regard to the pandemic should be done at the local level, Munson argued. He referenced statements from David Larson, a superior court judge in Federal Way, which he said showed Gov. Jay Inslee overstepped his authority.
Battle Ground Deputy Mayor Philip Johnson asked about Munson’s “end goal” with the ordinance, and Munson said it would carry with it some sort of penalty for going against it. Johnson also asked whether other local governments had come up with similar ordinances. Woodland and Cowlitz County have created resolutions in opposition to vaccination requirements for employment, though resolutions have a different legal authority than ordinances.
Munson said his goal is “to not let government force their mandates on the public unnecessarily when it’s not within the purview of their job or this judicious elected state.”
With other municipalities taking the resolution route, Johnson asked if Munson believed he was a “trailblazer” for seeking a full ordinance.
“I would hope the six of us could be trailblazers,” Munson said.
The meeting, held remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, followed a demonstration in front of city hall in support of an ordinance.
Organized by activist Palmer Davis and Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson, speakers included city council candidates, Cowlitz County Commissioner Arne Mortensen, and individuals affected by mandates Inslee has put in place to combat the pandemic.
“These politicians need to feel the pressure,” Gibson said during the event.
Among the speakers was Battle Ground Mayor Adrian Cortes’ brother, Manny, who lobbed allegations against his brother.
Manny Cortes said he helped their mother order ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, anti-parasitic drugs that some claim treat COVID-19, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not backed either for treatment of the disease. He said after his brother found out, the mayor told him he reported him and their mother to law enforcement, an action Adrian Cortes said is “categorically false,” as he said he never had a conversation like his brother alleged.
“This is who you have in charge of your city,” Manny Cortes said. “And if he will do this to his own family members, he … will not blink about what’s going to happen or what he can invoke upon any of you.”
When talking with The Reflector, Mayor Adrian Cortes said he isn’t specifically against alternative treatments, but he took into account underlying conditions his mother had, as well as her care of one of his dependent siblings, and weighed them against using the treatments for her.
“I think that’s a very rational and reasonable position that any brother, any son would take to their family members,” Adrian Cortes said.
In both social media posts and while talking with The Reflector, Adrian Cortes affirmed he would not support any local mandates for vaccinations passed by council.
“It is not on the agenda. It never has been, and as long as I’m mayor, it never will be,” Cortes said.
Council candidate Josh VanGelder, who is running against Adrian Cortes, threw his support behind a local ban on vaccine mandates.
“Battle Ground is one of the most conservative places, definitely in the county, if not the state, and we have councilors who are doing their darndest to try and change that,” VanGelder said. “Jay Inslee, he doesn’t live here. Jay Inslee does not have the authority to tell us what to do in our city.”
The ordinance is tentatively scheduled to come before the council at its Sept. 20 meeting.