KAYSVILLE – Congressional candidate Katie Witt is in hot water with state officials and others, which suits the mayor of Kaysville just fine.
Witt touched off a minor firestorm in Utah political circles when she approved a request by Utah Business Revival to hold an outdoor concert featuring country music star Collin Raye in a Kaysville city park on May 30.
Utah Business Revival is an ad hoc protest group organized to oppose the state-mandated economic shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. The group’s planned event and Witt’s approval of it are controversial because the concert is seen as an attempt to openly defy the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on large public gatherings.
“I believe that I need to support people’s 1st Amendment rights,” Witt says, while acknowledging that the Utah Business Revival concert will likely attract an audience that will exceed the state’s current guidelines. “I am clearing space for them (in the park) and allowing them to exercise their 1st Amendment rights in a safe and responsible manner.”
But constitutional rights don’t seem to cut any ice with the Alliance for a Better Utah, a liberal advocacy group that called for Witt’s resignation on May 18.
Witt’s approval of the outdoor concert shows “a blatant disregard for her constituents’ health and well-being,” according to Chase Thomas, the executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah.
State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, echoed that call for Witt’s resignation, dismissing the UBR concert as a stunt to generate publicity for Witt’s congressional campaign.
Not surprisingly, Witt’s position also met with disapproval from her rivals for the GOP nomination to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop – former state Agriculture director Kerry Gibson, Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson and Salt Lake businessman Blake David Moore.
Witt expressed surprise that so many Utahns apparently think that upholding constitutional freedoms is an offense that disqualified an individual from serving in public office.
“If the only rights you have are those that the government gives and takes away at a whim,” Witt says, “then you don’t really have any rights.”
Witt is also now facing opposition from within the Kaysville City Hall.
John S. Adams, a member of the Kaysville City Council, revealed May 18 that the council is preparing to pass a resolution disavowing the mayor’s approval of the UBR concert.
“Our community has done a great job to protect our public health and you can see it in the (coronavirus) numbers,” Witt counters in a statement released the same day. “Now, our small businesses are suffering, and families are threatened by poverty. We need to get back to work and restore our constitutional rights. We have a choice to make: freedom or fear. People can disagree. I choose freedom.”
The coronavirus threat level in Davis County dropped to Yellow/Low status on May 16. That condition allowed some businesses to reopen, but still maintained a prohibition on public gatherings of more than 50 people.
Utah Business Revival is promoting the concert event in Kaysville as a protest against statewide restrictions and its organizers fully expect that their headliner’s fame – Raye has had 16 country music hits in the past – to draw a large crowd.
UBR previously sponsored a mid-April rally that brought nearly 1,000 people to the Salt Lake City Hall and an open-air market in Vineyard on May 2. UBR spokesman Eric Moutsos says the Kaysville concert will also have booths for local “non-essential” businesses to interact with the public and sell goods.
The UBR concert is slated for 6 to 10 p.m. in Barnes Park in Kaysville on Saturday, May 30.