Dozens rally in Douglas County as commissioners ask governor for full reopening

Many residents spoke in support of the resolution

Elliott Wenzler
ewenzler@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/9/21

Following a rally that gathered a crowd of at least 100 people, Douglas County commissioners approved a resolution asking the governor of Colorado to fully reopen the county. Specifically, the …

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Dozens rally in Douglas County as commissioners ask governor for full reopening

Many residents spoke in support of the resolution

Posted
Following a rally that gathered a crowd of at least 100 people, Douglas County commissioners approved a resolution asking the governor of Colorado to fully reopen the county.
 
Specifically, the unanimously approved resolution asked the state for a framework outlining how and when the county can fully reopen.
 
“The commissioners ... believe that in the current state of recovery and prolonged lack of severity of the ongoing pandemic, the restrictions can no longer be considered reasonable or rationally related to the risk most individuals face,” according to the resolution.
 
As of March 11, the county was in level yellow, the third most lenient level, along with Adams, Arapahoe and Denver counties. Businesses approved by the county's COVID Best Practices Certified Business Program were also able to operate at level blue, the second most lenient level.
 
In response to the county's request, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provided a statement.
 
"The state shares the goal of keeping things open and increasing capacity. As more Coloradans receive the lifesaving vaccine, especially our seniors 70 and older who represent 78% of COVID deaths in our state and do not yet have full immunity, we will be able to relax restrictions," according to the emailed statement. "We will continue the work to devolve more authority to local government as we make data-driven decisions that are best for our state and communities."
 
About 20 people — six of whom were from other counties — spoke during the public comment portion of the March 9 county commissioner meeting. Almost all were in support of the resolution.
 
“We need to open up, especially in Douglas County,” Mindy Jordan, a Castle Rock resident, said during the meeting. “We need to be bold, so thank you.”
 
In a meeting earlier in the day, Commissioner Abe Laydon said that based on a recent conversation with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, he believed the state could grant the request.
 
“I think it’s been a powder keg, and I hope today was a safety valve to release some of the pressure that our citizens have felt for a very long time,” Laydon said in an interview with Colorado Community Media. “They need the encouragement that normalcy is on the horizon.”
 
Two residents, attending virtually, spoke against the resolution.
 
“I encourage the board to vote against (this) resolution,” said Patti McGuinness, a Highlands Ranch resident. “Personal responsibility is a great political sound bite, but if it were an effective policy, we would need no laws.”
 
While some attendees of the rally and meeting believed that the county would be voting to no longer follow state public health orders, commissioners asserted that is not in their purview.
 
“As much as we wanted to open this county up sooner we do not have the legal ability to do that,” Commissioner Lora Thomas, the board’s chair, said during the meeting. “The repercussions would hurt our businesses so badly.”
 
The commissioners' resolution also included this sentiment stating that the board did not "wish to mislead" residents or businesses" that Douglas County has the authority to allow reopening without potentially severe repercussions to any such business from other entities such as the State or Tri-County Health Department, but can only assure such individuals and businesses that no retribution should come from the county," according to the resolution.
 
On March 3, Custer County commissioners voted to defy the state's public health orders and lift all COVID-19 restrictions. In response, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE, wrote the county a letter stating that failure to comply with public health orders could result in sanctions, including the loss of federal or state funding, according to Colorado Politics.
 
The rally, called for by Douglas County resident Joe Oltmann, founder of conservative political group FEC United, began at about noon the day of the meeting and included live music and several food trucks. FEC United’s armed branch, the United American Defense Force, was also in attendance to provide security, according to representatives posted at the perimeter of the event.
 
“Although this may be a largely symbolic vote, it may be a stand for Douglas County, it represents a bigger stand for the people of Colorado,” Oltmann said during his public comment in the meeting.
Commissioners Lora Thomas and George Teal were among those in attendance to the rally.
 
The four-page resolution included frustrations from the county on the past year's restrictions, economic losses, negative impacts to mental health and what the county sees as a lack of dialogue with the state's decision makers.
 
"The board believes that the state’s mandated restrictions continue to unreasonably infringe on the Constitutional First Amendment rights as well as life, liberty, and property interests of Douglas County businesses and citizens," according to the resolution. "The board believes that Douglas County citizens are capable of exercising personal responsibility and making meaningful and safe decisions with respect to their personal health circumstances, jobs, businesses and personal lives and will do so far better than government."

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