Kaysville’s mayor, a Utah congressional candidate, openly defies state COVID-19 orders

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Republican Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, who is running for Congress in Utah's 1st District, is openly defying the state's COVID-19 restrictions to allow a concert by country star Collin Raye in a city park.

Republican Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt — who is running for Congress in Utah’s 1st District — is openly defying the state’s COVID-19 restrictions by allowing a protest group to hold an outdoor concert by country music star Collin Raye on May 30 in a city park.

“It does violate state directives,” she said in an interview. “I believe I need to support people’s First Amendment Rights. I am clearing space for them and allowing them to exercise their First Amendment rights in a safe and responsible way.”

The state is shifting its directives in Davis County from moderate “orange” to low risk “yellow,” but that still bans public gatherings of more than 50 people. Witt said the outdoor concert with a big-name star — Raye has had 16 No. 1 country hits — will easily exceed that.

But she said the concert’s sponsor, Utah Business Revival, a group that has sponsored other events and protests calling for the state to lift COVID-19 restrictions, is asking people to wear masks and exercise proper social distancing, so she believes it will be safe.

“People are planning to socially distance themselves just like they would at Costco, so I will be there with a mask on,” she said.

“We have to start making steps toward normalcy. Yes, it violates the directive of the governor. It’s a protest, and we are allowing them the space to do that,” Witt said. “I’m willing to be uncomfortable to stand up for our First Amendment rights.”

Brian Hatch, director of the Davis County Health Department, said Witt and Kaysville would need a variance from the governor to proceed legally — and said she had not approached his department specifically to seek that.

Witt is in a four-way race for the GOP nomination in the race to replace retiring nine-term Rep. Rob Bishop. Others are Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson, businessman Blake Moore and former state commissioner of agriculture and food and ex-Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson.

Stevenson said Witt’s action “is a political maneuver. I think that’s sad. This COVID-19 situation is not a political situation that we play games with. People’s lives, people’s families could be impacted.”

Moore said, “I support autonomy for our state and local officials to make the best decision for their constituents. I would just hope in this case it isn’t a political stunt. … I think it’s for Kaysville residents to decide whether it is a good decision or not.”

Gibson said, "I’m not much for political stunts. Now is the time for serious solutions and strong leadership, and I’ve got a proven conservative track record of providing that.”

One of the Democrats in the race, Jamie Cheek, tweeted, “Wow, it’s unfortunate that a candidate for #UT01 would so openly violate restrictions on public events. Just another example of why #UtahDeservesBetter and needs representatives that care about the people here in #Utah.”

Utah Business Revival issued a press release saying the free concert at Barnes Park, 950 W. 200 North, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on May 30 will be one of the first in America amid COVID-19 restrictions.

It quoted Raye saying, “I would be honored to come to Kaysville for the first live concert in America. Music is an extremely powerful tool to help heal our souls, especially in times of uncertainty.”

Eric Moutsos of Utah Business Revival said his group also recently organized an open air market in Vineyard. He said, “If we can all stand in line waiting for toilet paper, we can certainly all shop safely in an open air market and enjoy a country music legend, Collin Raye.”

Additionally Moutsos was behind the mid-April rally at Salt Lake City hall that drew close to 1,000 people in a crowd setting in violation of state and county coronavirus restrictions.

The concert in Kaysville plans to have booths for local “nonessential” businesses to interact with the public and sell goods.

“These businesses were previously considered nonessential, insofar as some were not on the list of those the government approved to be open during Covid19,” Moutsos said. “At UBR we believe all business is essential. It is a fundamental right all American citizens share to gather, work and safely interact, even in times of crisis.”

The group’s news release also contained a quote from Mayor Witt: “Come support our local businesses, listen to country music, and be a pioneer and a patriot with us!”