The first, which passed in a 3-2 vote, extended the county’s declaration of local disaster for public health emergency through 11: 59 p.m. Aug. 31, per the motion read by Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage.
Prestage, along with Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken DeMerchant and Judge KP George—all Democrats—voted in favor the item. The Republicans of the court, Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales and Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers, voted against it.
George stated the extension follows the guidance provided by state and local leaders, while Morales said the declaration hurts county businesses and instills fear among residents.
The second agenda item approved, which passed in the same 3-2 vote, was a resolution condemning COVID-19 hate acts against minority communities.
“Fort Bend County denounces antisemitism, anti-Asian bigotry, racism and all hateful speech, violent action and the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 that casts blame, promotes racism or discrimination or harms Fort Bend County Asian Pacific, Black, Latinx, Jewish, immigrant or other ethnic and religious communities,” the resolution reads.
Specifically, the resolution states that hate crimes against Asian, Pacific Islander and Jewish individuals are on the rise across the U.S. and that these groups are being blamed for the pandemic. The resolution added that using terms such as “Chinese virus” or “Kung Fu or Flu virus” to describe the coronavirus encourages hate crimes. George has also issued statements on social media addressing the increase of racist and xenophobic messages he has received.
The resolution states the county will continue its efforts to protect residents experiencing such acts, and it will investigate them. It encouraged residents to report antisemitic, discriminatory and racist incidents.
Meyers condemned racism and antisemitism but said he felt the resolution was changing county policy too much without input from legal counsel, other elected officials in the county and department heads. He also said he was worried that the resolution violated federal and state law related to the First Amendment.
Morales, meanwhile, expressed concern about the resolution dividing the county. At the public forum portion of the meeting, multiple county residents spoke in praise of the resolution and against it.
"I could support support around resolution condemning hate, but not at the cost of division within our county," Morales said. "[This resolution] condemns hate, but it creates division. ... I could see us coming together supporting a resolution that is not so divisive."
In a press release, George issued a statement related to resolution, and his Facebook page announced he will host virtual panel about the topic at 6 p.m. July 29.
"Unfortunately, not only are our communities fighting back against the highly contagious and invisible COVID-19 virus, but we are pushing back against an increase of hate, xenophobia, and scare tactics against certain members of our community," he said. "These acts have to stop, they are destructive to our community and are not welcomed in Fort Bend County.”