Racine Mayor Cory Mason’s administration decided to not give a long-standing Downtown business, forced to close for several weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a grant through the city’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Fund.
What was the reason for denying Denis and Dimple Navratil, the owners of Dimple’s Fine Imports, financial assistance?
Denis Navratil’s attendance at an April 24 shutdown protest in Madison.
This isn’t a conclusion drawn by the Journal Times Editorial Board. Mayor Mason said as much.
In a statement emailed to The Journal Times on June 26, Mason wrote: “Participating in mass gatherings outside of our community, such as the rally that was held at the State Capitol — such large gatherings have been linked to cases of COVID-19 around the state — and then returning to our City, only served to put our residents at unnecessary risk and, thus, factored into the funding consideration.”
We were stunned. Especially since there’s been no evidence presented that Denis Navratil brought COVID-19 back with him from Madison.
He was interviewed on camera there. Did he say something insulting to Racine city government or otherwise offensive?
“There’s a way to reopen the state in a way that both protects us from the COVID-19 and helps small businesses stay afloat,” he said when interviewed by WTMJ-TV.
That doesn’t strike us as insulting or offensive. It sounds as though Mr. Navratil was urging that middle ground be found between legitimate health concerns and legitimate economic concerns.
As Dimple Navratil put it: “We wanted to know why we were denied and they told us there was not enough funding, but I need a better answer than that because I didn’t understand. If I met all the criteria, if I did everything right, why was there not enough money for us?”
Mayor Mason said in his statement: “As Mayor, it is my duty to protect the public health of our City’s residents. While I certainly support the rights of free speech and assembly, I cannot in good conscious [sic] send scarce City resources to a person or business that willingly jeopardized public health, especially when they were competing with other businesses who were not flagrantly violating safety measures.”
The mayor seems convinced that he’s in the right to deny the Navratils a grant based on the public health emergency.
It does, however, appear that the Navratils were singled out because Denis Navratil exercised his First Amendment rights.
Government officials should not be in the business of punishing opposing points of view.
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