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Page, Jones accused of political overreach with mask mandate

Local elected officials from both political parties have issues with the way it was implemented and how it could be used

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page are being accused of political overreach less than a day after a new mask mandate went into effect in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Jones and Page, both Democrats, announced the mandate at a joint press conference Monday morning. The mandate requires people to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transportation. It includes everyone 5 and older, regardless if they are vaccinated. Wearing a mask outside is strongly encouraged, especially in group settings.

But politicians of both political parties have cried foul, with some saying Page did not go through the proper channels to put it in place, and the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen saying it could be a way to approve pandemic spending without the board's consent.

Before the mandate even went into place, St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch, a Republican, tweeted that the council could terminate the mandate as soon as Tuesday. He says Page did not communicate his reasons for the mandate to the council.

Fitch took the podium after the conference in opposition of the mandate, questioning its legality and saying Page should have addressed the council before the mandate was announced.

However, Fitch agreed with the importance of the vaccine.

"Get vaccinated. I can't say it any clearer than that. That is our way out of this, get vaccinated," he said.

Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, a Democrat, said she took issue with Page working with Jones on the mask mandate while "bypassing the St. Louis County Council and unilaterally making decisions for the people I represent with any official that doesn’t represent them."

She said the council should have been consulted "at the very least," and that this type of decision have led to bad results in the past.

"This governing style has caused St Louis County to be mired in controversy and political drama over and over again. Sadly, there is no evidence of improvement. This needs to stop," she said in a statement.

Webb's full statement can be read below. 

During Monday's press conference, Mayor Jones said she was evaluating the possibility of approving COVID relief funds without approval from the Board of Aldermen after they reached an impasse on Board Bill 2 earlier this month.

Board Bill 2 aims to spend the first $168 million in COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. It was held up in the Board of Estimate and Apportionment last week by Jones and Comptroller Darlene Green.

Jones opposed the bill in part because of the City Counselor's opinion that Reed's plan does not follow federal guidelines. Reed's Board Bill 2 included a corridor proposal that would redevelop business districts in corridors of north St. Louis, MLK, North Grand, West Florissant and Natural Bridge.

Monday afternoon, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed tweeted a link to a St. Louis Post Dispatch story about Jones' statement during the press conference.

In his tweets, Reed said he was against using a public health emergency to "overstep the many oversight and transparency provisions that are outlined in 

Board Bill 2 for the expenditure of these federal funds."