There is a sign, topped with the city’s logo, posted on Santa Maria city buildings. It says: ATTENTION in capital letters and shows the picture of a mask. It then says, in capitals: MASKS ARE REQUIRED INSIDE CITY FACILITIES. This is followed by the words: “Thank you for your cooperation.”
Mayor Alice Patino and Councilmember Etta Waterfield do not follow this city directive. Though the last City Council meeting was held remotely and did not require masks, these two city leaders have not worn masks for meetings in the City Council chambers from March 2020 to January 2022.
Leaders must never set rules for others they refuse to follow themselves.
Wearing a mask indoors means that you respect all the people around you, wishing not to harm them in any way. The federal government, state, county and city of Santa Maria direct us in how to be safe ourselves and to keep those around us safe.
As leaders, what we do is more important than what we say. If our behavior is selfish and thoughtless, that is the standard we set for others. True leadership is putting the needs of others before our own.
We live in a free country, but we are not free to put others in danger of infection. We are free to make private decisions in our private lives. We are not free to make harmful decisions in our public lives. Leaders are elected to do the right thing, whether it is convenient or not.
It would be unfortunate if the actions of the mayor and Ms. Waterfield led to their being infected by the virus. It would be criminal if their actions infected others, or if people in Santa Maria followed their example in stores, restaurants and other public buildings. Close to a million Americans have died of this virus. Many of those refused to wear masks.
It does not matter what justification leaders use for not wearing a mask. It is time for them to put their personal beliefs aside, and to lead by example. Time for them to reassure the people who elected them that they are doing all they can to keep everyone in Santa Maria safe and healthy.
It is time for them to obey the directives of the city rules they have posted on their public buildings.
Remember, these are the same two leaders who voted against waiving library fines for the month of January. Etta Waterfield gave this reason: “They’re finding a way to get what they want to use, but they can’t find a way to bring it back. That’s responsibility, and we’ve got to set the rules.” She said this in the City Council Chambers, while not wearing a mask, despite the city’s mandate for facial coverings inside city facilities.
If the mayor and Ms. Waterfield continue to break the rules, as citizens we can file a complaint with the County Public Health Department. Isn’t it time we held them to account?