Spokane City Official Defies Mask Mandate, Talks About Freedom Versus Following Rules

By Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
Cynthia is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area covering Northern California news.
February 22, 2022Updated: February 22, 2022

SPOKANE, Wash.—Spokane city council members attempted to pass a resolution in late January asking the mayor to revoke councilman Jonathan Bingle’s City Hall access after he chose not to wear a mask indoors.

Bingle told The Epoch Times that the question of masking has moved from being about health to being about politics.

“I would show up to City Hall without a mask. I would never put a mask on, and the thing is that the masking requirements at City Hall [are] that basically if you’re walking around you had to wear a mask, but if you’re at your desk, you didn’t have to wear a mask,” said Bingle.

He said a handful of other staff also did not wear masks inside City Hall.

“I thought that it was pretty inconsistent with the state’s requirements, and I just decided, you know what, I’m not going to half do this. It’s either full doing it or not doing it,” Bingle said.

As a result, council members Zack Zappone and Karen Stratton cosponsored a resolution asking Mayor Nadine Woodward to revoke Bingle’s City Hall access.

They argued that Bingle is within his rights to advocate against the state’s mask mandate but should do it while masked or working from home.

Zappone told The Spokesman-Review, “Council Member Bingle is intentionally breaking the law, and even worse, he is using his office to intentionally break the law.”

However, Bingle said, “The funny thing about that is other people, other legislative aides, had come into the building after having tested positive for COVID and spread COVID in our office, and nothing happened to that individual.”

The resolution passed 5–2, but Mayor Woodward chose not to revoke Bingle’s access.

She told The Spokesman-Review, “It’s between the city attorney and the council member.”

She said she does not believe she has the authority to suspend Bingle’s access to City Hall.

According to The Spokesman-Review, City Attorney Michael Ormsby subsequently sent Bingle a letter, though the contents were not made public.

Bingle told The Epoch Times that he still has City Hall access and will continue advocating against the masking mandates.

“Those inconsistencies were one of the reasons why I just wanted to stand for people who didn’t have a voice in government,” he said.

Bingle and City Council Member Michael Cathcart are now coauthoring a resolution against the vaccine mandate for city employees. The resolution is scheduled for a hearing and vote on Feb. 28.

Woodward and Cathcart did not respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times. Karen Stratton declined to comment.

Freedom Versus Following the Rules

Bingle said he is a strong believer in following the rules, but when a rule is no longer beneficial to society, people should reevaluate the rule.

“I think the law is mostly good; the law is mostly beneficial, mostly for the safety of the community. And I genuinely believe that. Certain laws aren’t beneficial at a certain point, and I think the masking and the mask mandates are a clear example of government going too far,” he said.

He said that in March 2020, he was advocating for masks when the virus was still very novel and little was known about it. As people are learning more about the virus and treatments are being developed, he believes the “one-size-fits-all” mandate is no longer beneficial.

Bingle added that there is a line between following rules and people’s freedom to choose, but the line is drawn on a case-by-case basis.

He is not alone in opposing mask mandates. Earlier this month, students at Washougal High School in the southwest area of Washington State held a protest against the school’s mask mandate.

“I’m hoping that this will make a big impact and for them to realize that [we], as students, are done with this,” Maddy Oerding, a student, said in a Twitter video.

According to Twitter posts, students were asked to leave the school buildings and were threatened with suspension.

Similarly, in California, students across the state held similar protests against school mask mandates and were physically removed from the classroom for refusing to wear a mask.

Students at Chino Valley Unified School District, San Juan Unified, Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, and many others held protests earlier this month against their schools’ masking policies.

Following the protests, El Dorado Union High School District announced on Feb. 16 that it will not change masking requirements, but it will change its enforcement policies. The district said students will be asked to wear a mask, but they will no longer be physically removed from the classroom or receive a discipline consequence.

Bingle said: “We’ve learned for students in particular, it’s been incredibly detrimental to their mental health and to their social development. When we see the law is no longer for the good of the community and when it’s been demonstrated that it hasn’t been good for the community, that’s when we need to push back and say, ‘Okay, it’s time to be done with this.’ That’s been demonstrated in these mandates.”