Sunday, February 05, 2023

Mayor issues proclamation declaring individual freedom

Whitefish Pilot | September 21, 2022 1:00 AM

At the Sept. 6 meeting of the Whitefish City Council, Mayor John Muhlfeld read a proclamation of the City of Whitefish recognizing and supporting the right to personal autonomy and the right to local control.

Part of the proclamation states that Whitefish reaffirms its commitment to honoring the right to personal autonomy for every citizen and to addressing issues that affect its citizens’ safety, health and welfare.

Muhlfeld read the proclamation at the behest of five of the six council members, the exception being Councilor Giuseppe Caltabiano. Caltabiano made a statement at the end of the meeting saying, in part, that the issue not does not affect Whitefish citizens differently and has no impact on the city.

“I ran because I believe in and trust the timeless protection for all of us of our country’s democratic process,” Caltabiano said. “Tonight I’ve been disappointed by the actions of the elected leadership of our city of which I am part.”

In a microcosm of what was to come at the public comment, when people would share varying opinions, Councilor Frank Sweeney shared his thoughts about the proclamation.

“In contrast to my colleague, I could not have been prouder of this body and the councilors who felt that it does… effect and impact our community in particular,” said Sweeney. “It very much reflected this community’s openness and inclusiveness.”

The proclamation spurred nine people to speak and the opinions were varied.

The first citizen to make public comment, Kristin Riter, said the council did not represent her and her beliefs.

Two more people voiced their disapproval of the proclamation, one saying it was hypocritical because of mask mandates during the early days of the pandemic and another man said he believes the council’s action deprives him of the right to free speech.

Another resident opposed to the proclamation, Randy Larson, alluded to the pledge of allegiance and said, “I could be behind this proclamation if you truly were under God.”

Several community members thanked the council for making the proclamation and recognizing the need for personal autonomy. One, Mark Bray, reminded those in attendance that the council, as elected officials, does have the right to speak for the community.

A woman identifying herself only as “Z” for her own safety, called the proclamation a “big deal” for those involved in issues like women's reproductive health.

“Thank you for having the courage to… proclaim and affirm our rights to personal autonomy and privacy,” said Whitefish resident Richard Hildner.

Councilor Rebecca Norton made the last of the councilor comments that evening.

“This is one of those situations where we, in cooperation with our attorney, decided to move the body of law forward by declaring what we think is right for our community,” said Norton.

She went on to say that the council is, indeed, responsible for the health and safety of their constituents, so failing to take action when something has been done that could possibly harm people would be a disservice to the community.

“Thank you to those of you who supported this,” Norton concluded. “As the only woman on council it was really important to me because of the safety conditions that some women will find themselves in.”

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