SIOUX CITY -- Rick Bertrand, a Sioux City businessman and former Iowa Republican state senator, declined to put a mask on Monday while addressing the Sioux City Council about proposed ordinance changes that would hold private landowners liable for fireworks violations occurring on their property.
When Bertrand stepped to the podium unmasked, Councilman Alex Watters told him, "There's an ordinance in this building, so we need you to wear one."
A mask was handed to Bertrand, but he declined to put it on and held the mask in his hand as he spoke about how the fireworks ordinance, which he called "too subjective," would impact him as a landlord.
"I just don't think that going back to the property owners is actually going to fix the problem that you guys are trying to address," said Bertrand, who left the council chambers immediately after speaking.
Later on, during the council concerns portion of the meeting, Watters stated that "some people act very selfishly and childishly by refusing to wear a mask." He urged residents to band together as a community and protect their fellow citizens by wearing masks.
"As a country, we've lost 350,000 people. I'd say that's probably something we should pay attention to and maybe heed the warnings of health care professionals. I don't know if Mr. Bertrand has a medical degree. I'm not sure. But I would really urge us to listen to science."
Since July, visitors and staff have been required to wear face coverings while inside City Hall and other city buildings to impede the spread of the novel coronavirus. A public health order issued in mid-November by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, which requires mask wearing when people are in an indoor public space and unable to social distance for 15 minutes or longer, remains in effect until Jan. 8.
When contacted by The Journal by phone after the meeting, Bertrand called Watters "a typical elitist Democrat politician" who "tries to dictate what other people should do."
"I went in there not to talk about a mask. I went in there to talk about fireworks as a property owner. He decided to engage in that conversation," Bertrand said. "I was socially distanced. I was not around anyone. When he offered me the mask, I declined," he said. "... The reality of it is that if they wanted to remove me, remove me. That's not where the other council members were."
Bertrand said he will wear a mask when the legislature passes a law that mandates him to wear a mask.
"You're looking at overreach by local politicians trying to enforce something in a public forum," he said. "Show me the law."
Watters also asked a resident, who spoke before Bertrand, to put a mask on. The man, who said he has a hard time talking with a mask on, obliged.