MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County Legislator Susan Parker, D-Fredonia, wanted to see the county government take a stand and encourage “best practices” in the fight against COVID-19 by adopting a motion. She was only able to get her own party members to sign the motion of support.
During the Chautauqua County Legislative Assembly meeting, county lawmakers failed to vote on a motion titled “Encouraging best practices to overcome COVID-19.” Motions require a minimum of 10 signatures. Only Democratic lawmakers Bob Bankoski of Dunkirk, Paul Whitford of Jamestown, Billy Torres of Jamestown and Parker signed the motion.
Prior to the vote, 18 residents spoke on the motion. Ten of those who spoke were in favor of the motion while eight were against.
One of those who spoke was Barbara Colt of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Women’s and Men’s Action Group. “As a non-partisan organization, we are here tonight advocating for the current life-saving recommendations requirements of the Chautauqua County Health and Human Services Department, the County Board of Health, and the County Health Department. New York State”, she said.
Ralph Walton, who served as mental health commissioner in the 1980s under Republican County Executive Jack Glenzer, also spoke in favor of the motion. “In (my) time, the Chautauqua County Republican Party clearly respected science. I hope this Legislature will demonstrate that the same is true today by voting to accept the motion,” he said.
A woman said she was speaking on behalf of her husband. ” He’s worn out. He has been there for two years. Its size is questionable. It’s reduced to a nurse because they’ve been exposed to COVID and some of them have COVID,” she said.
She said she “understands the libertarian point of view” but called on those who oppose masks and vaccines to stop filling hospitals. “Don’t come crawling for help when your lungs are filling with fluid from COVID pneumonia. It’s a miserable way to die. she said.
But Tammy Shack of Dewittville said the motion was not intended to support health officials. “When you support a motion to show your appreciation for the Ministry of Health, it is wrong. … That’s not why you support a motion. Treat them to pizza night if you want to show your appreciation,” she said.
Ben Shank said he was not vaccinated and did not wear a mask by choice. “I think you’ve been misled into thinking that the only way out of this (pandemic) is to listen to pharmaceuticals, and they’re making you a lot of money,” he said.
When it came time to vote on the motion, the clerk announced that there were not enough signatures to put it to a vote.
The only lawmaker who expressed opposition to the motion was Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan. He said he could not support recommending the vaccine for children 5 and older, which was stated in the motion. “It should be a decision between the children, their parents and their doctors,” he said.
Elisabeth Rankin, R-Jamestown, also spoke after the motion failed to pass. Rankin, who voted in favor of the motion as a member of the county board of health, expressed concern about the “divider character” expressed at Wednesday’s meeting. “This motion … does not contradict what we talked about a few months ago in favor of constitutional rights. We always have the choice,” she said.
The OBSERVER/Post-Journal asked her after the meeting why she hadn’t signed the motion and Rankin replied: “It wouldn’t have made a difference.”
The motions have no legal authority and would not have implemented new laws, fines or regulations if passed.
Parker expressed disappointment in his fellow lawmakers for not supporting the motion. “We missed an opportunity to show leadership – the kind of leadership that I believe our work requires and is expected of,” she said.