The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 10, 2021 11:42 am

GOP City Council members question mask incentives, mandates

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Republican Fort Wayne City Council members have sent a letter to Mayor Tom Henry, raising concerns with incentives and mandates released last week.

Henry, a Democrat, said at a Sept. 2 news conference that masks or face coverings will now be required in all city buildings. He also announced a $200 incentive for employees who choose to share and prove their vaccination status with the city.

The letter is signed by councilmen Jason Arp, R-4th; Tom Didier, R-3rd; Paul Ensley, R-1st; Tom Freistroffer, R-at large; and Russ Jehl, R-2nd.

It is up to elected leaders to “both promote public health and protect individuals' rights to make their own health choices,” the letter states.

“Injecting partisan politics into this debate only weakens the public's trust,” the letter states. “This is why portions of your announcement on Sept. 2 were so disappointing.”

The incentive payment for vaccinated employees wasn't brought before City Council, which is the fiscal body of city government. They question where the funding will come from, if not from an allocation approved by council.

Henry said Sept. 2 that the incentive money will come from excess health care costs paid by employees.

The council members also showed concern for Henry's statements regarding how he hopes the mandate and incentives encourage private businesses to do the same.

“State law explicitly prohibits local governments from mandating vaccines, yet you have laid out a series of policy proposals which seek to encourage exactly what the State prohibits the city from doing,” the letter states.

Henry also mentioned a Nov. 1 deadline, by which the city will have put additional incentives "or disincentives, if you will" into place, Henry said Sept. 2. The council members asked what exactly those incentives will be.

“By politicizing city employees' health benefits, the legitimate discussion of employee vaccine bonuses is impossible, and the divisive 'us versus them' mentality is reinforced,” the letter states. “Furthermore, the use of public funds for a new employee benefit, bypassing discussions with the fiscal body or the taxpayers, is unnecessarily adversarial.”

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