KAYSVILLE — As debate rages over a proposed country concert here later this month, mostly against the plans, residents will have a chance to sound off ahead of a Kaysville City Council meeting on Thursday.
"I hear from individuals that are both for and against, but in my estimation it is 90% against and 10% for the event," City Manager Shayne Scott said in an email.
Likewise, John Adams, a member of the City Council, said he's getting a lot of feedback. "Probably 100 emails, all begging us not to do this," he said, with just a handful of people expressing support for the proposed May 30 concert, to feature country singer Collin Raye.
Plans for the concert, organized by a group that opposes what it sees as the heavy-handed government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah Business Revival, have prompted a strong outpouring. Mayor Katie Witt backs the proposal and sees the concert as a way to assert First Amendment rights of assembly as guidelines restricting movement that aim to curb the coronavirus' spread linger on, in her view, far too long. The five Kaysville City Council members, though, have serious doubts, worried, in part, that inviting a large crowd could spur a COVID-19 resurgence, Adams said.
In response, the City Council at its meeting Thursday will consider a proclamation "disavowing support" for the concert plans. Ahead of the gathering's official 7 p.m. start, from 6-6:55 p.m., city officials are also holding a special public comment session so the public has a chance to sound off.
It'll be a virtual meeting, held via a video platform, and those wanting to speak during the earlier session must register by 4 p.m. Thursday at zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SzDtBzlaSO-o7Cp94rIMmA. A few time slots will also be reserved for those wanting to comment during the meeting itself, and those interested in doing so must register ahead of time at kaysvillecity.com/419/Kaysville-Live. Comments may also be emailed to PublicComment@kaysvillecity.com.
Witt, who's running for the 1st District U.S. House seat and faces off against three other GOPers in the June 30 Republican primary, said Wednesday that plans for the May 30 concert are moving forward. Beyond that, she declined comment.
Aside from her First Amendment concerns, she's portrayed the concert as a means to prod the public to start edging past restrictions on activity inspired by COVID-19 as some indicators show efforts to combat the disease are working. "We went too far, too long and it's time to stop hiding under the bed," Witt said earlier this week.
Organizers also tout the event, which will feature local business operators, as a means to spur economic activity, hit hard by coronavirus restrictions.
Adams, though, rebuffed Witt's focus on constitutional concerns. "It's not about the Constitution and the First Amendment. This has nothing to do with that," he said.
He noted that organizers haven't sought a city permit to hold the event, to take place in city-owned Barnes Park. Moreover, he noted that Utah and Davis County officials have already started dialing back COVID-19 restrictions, giving business more leeway to operate. "We're on our way back. ... No need to protest, guys," said Adams, who hopes organizers cancel the event.
The proclamation up for consideration on Thursday acknowledges the adverse impacts COVID-19 restrictions have had on business and economic activity. It also commends Gov. Gary Herbert and Davis County Health Department efforts and directives aimed at combatting the coronavirus. "We recognize that balancing public health, personal freedom and economic recovery during a pandemic is a nearly-impossible task," it reads.
But it goes on to say the council does not back the Utah Business Revival event and further takes aim at Witt and her possible use of the event for political gain in campaigning for the U.S. House.
"The Kaysville City Council does not support any use of city resources or influence to promote or imply affiliation with Mayor Witt’s congressional campaign or any other political campaign. Further, we do not support or endorse campaign strategies that imply city promotion or affiliation with specific candidates," it reads.
Another resolution on Thursday's meeting agenda calls for a moratorium on issuance of special events permits as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
'THE CRAZIEST VILLAINS'
Like Witt, Eric Moutsos, the leader of Utah Business Revival, said Wednesday that plans for the concert are moving forward, at least for the time being. Indeed, the sort of backlash the event seems to be generating has happened in connection with other events the group has sponsored, two in Salt Lake City and another in Vineyard.
"We've had opposition the whole time. This is not new," he said. Kaysville foes, though, are "really stepping up the game."
Still, Moutsos expressed a measure of exasperation, noting that the underlying goal of Utah Business Revival is to get businesses operating and to combat joblessness caused by COVID-19 restrictions.
"We're the craziest villains on planet Earth because we want to listen to country music and save businesses," he said. Earlier events didn't result in surges of COVID-19 cases, he said, and most participants attending them have practiced social distancing.
Meantime, a grassroots effort is afoot among Kaysville residents to add to the clamoring against the proposed concert. Randi vonBose, a local resident who's helping lead the effort, said factions in the city that have opposed each other on certain political issues in the past are coming together in their opposition to the concert.
An online "Resolution for Citizen Censure" vonBose and the others in her group are promoting calls on Witt to "withdraw authorization" for the concert. It also calls on the Kaysville City Council to issue Witt "an official verbal reprimand."