FILE — Jay Inslee press conference

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters joining him remotely, November 4, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington.

(The Center Square) – A small Washington town has passed an ordinance in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide shutdown, which its mayor says is an abuse of power.

At the heart of Lewis County lies Mossyrock, Washington, a town that boasted a population of 759 people according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

It began as a trading post in 1852 and has stayed a small town with a small economy. Median household income amounted to around $31,000 in 2018 and the poverty level is around 25%.

The town passed an ordinance last week allowing businesses to stay open in opposition to Inslee’s month-long limits on gatherings and ban on indoor dining.

“Local ordinances do not supersede state law,” said Mike Faulk, deputy communications director for Inslee’s office. “State restrictions remain in place statewide.”

Article XI, section 11 of the Washington State Constitution provides that “[a]ny county, city, town or township may make and enforce within its limits all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws.”

To date, Lewis County has seen 1,194 cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths.

Speaking on the Dori Monson Show, Mossyrock Mayor Randall Sasser claimed that the governor has not produced any evidence to support the need for a statewide shutdown when case spikes vary from county to county.

“I understand that this is a very serious pandemic, so I don’t want to make light of that, but by the same token, they need to give us the information so we can make the decisions,” Sasser said. “And one thing I shared with the council was that if we had the documentation, if we had the data that the governor keeps talking about and it showed that it was coming from the restaurants or it was coming from gyms or salons, then that’s a whole different ball park, you know? But he doesn’t. There is no data that shows that it’s coming from the restaurants.”

As of November 25, the Washington Department of Health reported 184 cases to date from food service establishments and restaurants, more than any other category this year.

Construction, child care, and agricultural and produce packing round out the top four COVID-19 outbreak sources at more than 100 cases each.

Faulk added that applications are expected to open later this week for Inslee’s previously announced $135 million in aid for struggling businesses more than two weeks after the shutdown took effect on November 16.

On November 28, Washington Department of Health data showed the state has now seen 162,700 reported cases of COVID-19 and 2,703 deaths from the virus.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.