El Paso Mayor Dee Margo is among the nine Texas mayors who signed a joint letter to Gov. Greg Abbott dated June 16. The letter reads, in part:
“We are writing to you for the authority to set rules and regulations on the use of face coverings in each of our cities.”
The letter recognizes these rules and regulations would look different from location to location and, for El Paso, it may not be rules and regulations at all. Margo simply wants Abbott to take a stronger stance on face masks so that Margo, in turn, can point to the governor’s guidance.
“We knew there could be no penalties that could be enforced by it, we were looking for something, what I refer to more as ‘moral suasion’ coming from the governor to allow us to do more than just say, ‘we encourage’ [face masks],” Margo said.
Margo said the governor’s word on this matter also “gives cover” to business owners. He said he’s heard from business owners who are fearful when people come in not wearing face coverings, and who want more guidance on how to handle these situations. He pointed to recent fights about this at establishments in places such as North Texas.
Margo said that right now, the only authority municipalities have is to pull operating permits for businesses that flout Abbott’s guidelines for occupancy limits and industry-specific standards, such as standing around a bar counter.
“This idea on this [letter] was also for the customers coming in, who’s not subject to the penalties, only the business is,” Margo said.
But, even then, Margo said he wanted no more authority than to just be able to have everyone accurately assert that Abbott mandates face masks.
“Irrespective of the fact that it is, for all intents and purposes, an unenforceable mandate from the standpoint of penalties,” Margo said.
Margo is also behind opening up the economy “as fast and as furiously as we can in as safe a fashion as we can.” He said closures have been a “real crippler” on El Paso’s business landscape in particular and that is also a big concern.
“We had 140,000 El Pasoans being fed at our food banks,” Margo said. “We can’t continue that way.”
Web story by Laura Rice.