Houston, TX

A Texas Mayor Challenges Governor Abbott’s Mask Mandate

Tom Handy

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Houston City officials wear a maskScreenshot from Twitter

Houston Mayor fights against Governor Greg Abbott’s mask mandate. In August, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner challenged the mask mandate and required City workers to wear a mask. This went against the governor’s order.

Turner was looking out for his City. COVID cases saw a small increase as the mask requirement went away this summer.

Quite frankly, I think more people have come down with Covid and more people have died because the hands of local government officials have been tied by the state,” Turner, who spent more than 25 years as a Democratic state representative in the Texas House, said in a wide-ranging interview last week.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Houston Attorney Arturo Michel wrote this statement in an email:

“The Governor has no authority to suspend the disaster authority of local governments that the Legislature has expressly given them,” the email read. “The mask requirement is consistent with CDC guidance, provides a safe workplace for City employees, including first responders, and will, therefore, minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

The rest of the article breaks down some questions Mayor Turner was recently asked that appeared in The Politico.

You have announced that city of Houston employees must get vaccinated in defiance of Abbott’s orders. Has the state cracked down on the city?
Maybe it’s the way we chose to do it. What we have said to our employees is that you have to be tested on a [biweekly] basis. But if you are fully vaccinated, you don’t have to go through the testing. It’s not necessarily mandating vaccinations. There were some rumblings as to whether or not the state was going to step in and challenge us on that. But up to this point, that has not been the case.

Mayor Turner was asked if he has spoken to Governor Abbott this year.

We had a few conversations at the beginning of this pandemic. I don’t believe I’ve talked to the governor at all this year, with one exception. When President [Joe] Biden came to Houston, we spoke very briefly. That’s unfortunate. These are just different and challenging times. I was in the Legislature for 27 years and some of my closest friends are people on the other side of the aisle. This is just a different time.

With the tragic killing of George Floyd, Mayor Turner was asked how has the City changed any laws or requirements.

Immediately after the murder of George Floyd, I put forth the mayor’s task force on police reform. They came up with about 104 recommendations. [We made progress on] anywhere between 60 to 70 percent. With regards to reshaping our independent police oversight board, we’ve done that. We set up five transparent dashboards, interactive, where you can file anonymous complaints. You can do it online in five different languages.
I marched in the largest protests, a march that we had after the murder of George Floyd. Quite frankly, I wasn’t hearing people say ‘defund police.’ I heard them say that we should not just place our funding in law enforcement, but we should be investing in communities that have been underserved, under-resourced for decades. And that’s what we are doing in this city.

U.S. Education Secretary shares his thoughts on Governor Abbott's vaccine order:

What are your thoughts on Mayor Turner requiring City employees to wear a mask?

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