Riley County residents voiced their concerns over recent spikes in COVID-19 cases and police killings to the Riley County commission Monday.
Asian Market Partner and Commission Candidate Fanny Fang criticized the commission for not wearing masks and the doubling of positive cases over the past week.
“This outbreak is such a major public health concern that Fort Riley has banned all of their soldiers, thousands of them, from visiting our Aggieville district, which hurts dozens of our businesses who tried to do the right thing and be a part of the solution during this pandemic,” says Fang.
Fang, who is opposing Riley County Commission Chair Marvin Rodriguez , also criticized the commission for not condemning the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor when asked to by members of the public on two separate occasions. Recently, several student athletes at K-State began refusing to play after a recent tweet from America First Students Campus President Jaden McNeil.
Chairman Rodriguez responded saying, individually, the commission feels what was said, but says the commission is not a political body.
“We do not go out and do that as a commission. Individually, totally agree 100% with what your saying. But what you’re saying about the masks, that would violate a person’s constitutional right to require them to wear a mask if they are well,” says Rodriguez. “It’s their right to wear a mask or not wear a mask according to the constitution. We have to be careful not to tromp on other people’s rights.”
However, later yesterday, Governor Laura Kelly issued a statewide mask mandate contingent on approval by the State Finance Council.
Manhattan Black Lives Matter Movement Co-Founder Teresa Parks says it is important to have leaders that not only share the community values and concerns, but ensure all voices are heard.
“We should have the realistic expectation that professional integrity is going to be in play for our leaders and trust that each of you are not just holding your title, but are willing to accept the responsibilities that come with,” says Parks. “There are so many issues that have come up recently in our community, and instead of taking a stand and speaking up on these issues, your silence has been deafening.”
Parks says she doesn’t think the commission has the well being of the public as a high priority due to their “inactive approach.”
Commissioner John Ford says he was extremely concerned about some of the recent race related issues, such as the tweet from McNeil and the swastika graffiti in Clay Center.
“I feel like I need to take a little bit more of an active approach to the conversation and discussions, so I am willing to get that dialogue. We’re in a tough time right now, all the way around the board and it keeps hitting us,” says Ford. “I feel like we are doing the best we can, for the most part, but there are some things we need to continue to dialog and yes we need to be a part of the conversation.”
Ford says he has been reached out by local groups and is trying to set up discussions with them in a digital capacity. Parks says she was not there to berate the commissioners, as she understands these situations need people to work to together.
Business Owner Kaylee Proctor says she has wanted to make a comment in the past, but felt the commission would not care. After the recent spike, she decided to try again.
“Since heart felt pleas have not changed your mind, I’ll try a different approach; facts. Facts that paint the failure of these county’s leaders to protect its citizens,” says Proctor. “Five positive cases at EMS were known on Thursday. Based on what the health department director said on Friday, five or more cases constitutes an outbreak. She announced four outbreak locations, none of which were EMS.”
Proctor, who is the wife of a Riley County paramedic, says she knew about five of the EMS cases on Thursday. EMS Director David Adams says he knew about the cases Friday, but a press release Sunday says he knew before. He cited that they were focused taking care of their staff, but regrets not sharing it sooner. According to the Mercury, Adams says he could have released more information on Friday and this is not a conspiracy.
Proctor criticized both Manhattan Fire and EMS Departments for requiring employees to wear a mask inside buildings.
“A friend of mine who works in a retirement facility shared with me their frustration with the lack of masks from EMS staff and disregard for the screening process when entering their facility,” says Proctor. “But maybe they’re just following the example that has been set when their own director can be seen on video, in this room, being at a large table side by side with other department heads for a lunch meeting with no social distancing and no masks.”
Proctor says if the EMS department stands for professional, compassion, and integrity, then Adams should be relieved of duty. She also advocated for voters to vote out the commissioners for new ones.
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