KAYSVILLE — The Alliance for a Better Utah is calling on Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt to resign after she opened up the city to a free outdoor concert May 30 in conjunction with activists opposed to restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Witt expressed her support for the concert in a press release issued last week by Utah Business Revival that is sponsoring the event and asked residents to come “be a pioneer and patriot with us.”
But some question her motives.
“The major concern is that an elected official is using her power to do something dangerous to her community and those who live outside of it too,” said Chase Thomas, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah.
He said Witt’s support of the concert “seems to be a blatant disregard for her constituents’ health and well-being.” He also said the timing of Witt’s decision appears to be political because she is currently running for Congress in the 1st Congressional District.
State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, took to Twitter to call for Witt’s resignation as well, saying she is “abusing her office to generate free media in her run for Congress.”
He tweeted that he disapproves of “this publicity stunt from the mayor who collected parade chairs placed too early ‘because rules are rules.’”
Witt said she decided to support the concert because she likes where Davis County’s and the state’s COVID-19 numbers are right now. She said Kaysville residents and businesses have done a great job doing their part to protect public health, but that she wants to be helpful to the struggling small businesses in her city.
“What I’m doing is protecting our constitutional freedoms and apparently that (disqualifies you) for office,” Witt said. “If the government always gets to decide when it’s safe enough for you to have constitutional freedoms, then you don’t have constitutional freedoms.”
Members of the Kaysville City Council are also questioning the idea.
Councilwoman Michelle Barber wrote in a Facebook post that the City Council is “not supporting or endorsing this event and are considering all options to prevent it from happening within our jurisdiction.”
Barber said Witt surprised the council by telling members about the concert less than 24 hours before publicly announcing it.
“There’s a reason we have a 30-day minimum advance notice to process an event permit. It’s so that we can research the event and implement safety precautions to see how to proceed and endorse it to make sure people and park stays safe,” Barber said. “This obviously had not been done.”
Barber said she decided to be vocal about the issue because of her concern for residents.
“My first and foremost priority is Kaysville city because that’s who elected me. This is not in Kaysville city’s best interest,” she said.
Councilman Andre Lortz said the council has been receiving a lot of feedback from residents who are angry and concerned about the concert.
Witt acknowledged there is concern for public health, but says residents are at a low risk and that Utah’s yellow risk could change to green before the concert takes place.
“What we’re asking for people to do is use good judgment and make the best call for themselves and their families,” Witt said.
Public health officials disagree with holding the event.
Isa Perry, public information officer for the Davis County Health Department, said the department is “disappointed” that a concert is even being considered right now. She said the department has fielded a lot of calls from residents who are concerned and angry with the decision to hold a concert.
She recommended that people not attend to keep themselves and others safe while the state continues to manage the outbreak. The biggest concern with a concert like this is that it will severely impair the department’s ability to do contact tracing, she said.
“In a case like this, where there’s no way to trace attendance or seating; it would be difficult to notify those who are at risk,” Perry said.
Thomas echoed Perry’s remarks, saying that an event like this not only puts Kaysville residents at risk, but also places the rest of Utah at risk too.
“There’s a chance the virus could be brought into the city from outside attendees or it could be spread from Kaysville to other areas,” Thomas said.
Witt said she isn’t sure if the organizer’s plans were to follow Gov. Gary Herbert’s public health directives, saying she’s heard there will be signs promoting social distancing and personal hygiene.
Instead, she put the responsibility on individuals rather than the organizers.
“With rights come responsibilities, so obviously if you’re going to be out in a large group, then you need to be personally responsible,” Witt said.
Utah Business Revival’s founder Eric Moutsos said he won’t be enforcing the governor’s recommendations or health directives.
“We aren’t going to follow the guidelines because the primary color chart (the state) made is unconstitutional,” he said. “They can’t enforce it and they know it. If they try to enforce it, they are going to face resistance.”
Moutsos said that people need to “push back” against government and health department officials who place restrictions on local businesses and people to try to contain the spread of the virus. The concert is an opportunity to show the world that people can gather safely in large groups “without any spikes in COVID,” he said.