Proposed Milwaukee mask mandate passed by committee, moves to full Common Council Monday

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's proposed mask mandate was passed by the Public Safety and Health Committee Thursday, July 9, and now moves to the Common Council for final approval during a special meeting Monday, July 13. Some major modifications were made to the proposal leading up to Thursday's vote.

The vote Thursday was three yes, one no, and one abstained. Thursday's special meeting of the committee was held to discuss the "MKE Cares" mask mandate following "extensive input from members of the community," Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, who introduced the ordinance, said in a news release.

Dimitrijevic noted since being introduced, MKE Cares has received diverse support from local small businesses, thousands of residents via a petition, local health care providers, VISIT Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, among others.

The MKE Cares ordinance can be viewed here and includes the following enhancements:

    During Thursday's meeting, there were concerns raised by Alderman Mark Borkowski regarding proposed outdoor requirements involving neighborhoods that border other municipalities -- and also, whether the policy would hold up in court if challenged.

    "I want to know why we are so hell-bent on this outdoor part of the mandate," said Borkowski.

    Alderwoman Dimitrijevic spoke on the importance of the ordinance with COVID-19 cases continuing to increase.

    "I want to tell everybody listening I am exhausted, just like you, of isolating," she said. "It's hard to tell my son he can't see his friends as much as he wants to. It's really difficult. I am not sure what to do as an MPS parent, but what I am sure of is, we have power to make a change and save lives. I don't think we are going to look back and say, 'Oh man, we really over-requested people put coverings on their face.'"

    Meantime, Gregory Leon, chef and co-owner of Amilinda near Broadway and Wisconsin Avenue, said he hopes the common council is listening to small business owners like himself who would like to see masks mandated throughout the city.

    "I want to provide a safe place for my guests and my employees," said Leon. "Not a lot of small, independent restaurants can afford shutting down more than once.

    "Think about your favorite server, your favorite chef, your favorite bartender -- you are helping them keep their job, and stay safe and healthy."

    Another revision to the proposed ordinance was a resolution for a program that would allow for masks to be distributed to all Milwaukee residents for free.

    If passed by the Common Council, violating the ordinance could cost between $50 and $500 in fines.

    The ordinance would be enforced by the Milwaukee Health Department with the majority of enforcement efforts focused on businesses. It also means business owners would have the right to refuse service to customers who do not comply.

    Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he supports a mask ordinance, and he's pleased with the progress the legislation is making -- but knows there's more work to be done.

    Those wishing to provide comments ahead of Monday's Common Council meeting on this proposed mandate can utilize the city’s e-comment feature by following these steps:


    2. Scroll down to the item number that corresponds to the desired file and click the “comment” button.

    3. Fill in the necessary information, select a position and type a comment in the comment box. Note that comments are limited to 600 characters.

    4. Hit submit.