A judge has been asked to put an end to a City of Phoenix ordinance which grants the NFL and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee authority over how and where residents and property owners can exercise their free speech rights before and after the Feb. 12 Super Bowl.
Although Super Bowl LVII is being played at Glendale’s State Farm Stadium, many of the NFL’s pregame festivities will be held in Phoenix. As a result, the Phoenix City Council quietly approved an ordinance establishing a nearly two-square-mile Special Promotional and Civic Event Area which encompasses most of downtown.
Anyone in the event area, also known as the “Clean Zone” is barred for the three weeks before the big game and one week after from displaying any temporary signage without the approval of the city as well as the NFL and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.
The Goldwater Institute warned city officials weeks ago to put an end to the prohibitive ordinance or face legal action. There was hope the matter would be resolved Tuesday when council members met in a non-public Executive Session on Tuesday.
But when the ordinance was not repealed, the Goldwater Institute followed through on its pledge to defend those whose constitutional rights are being infringed by the ordinance. Its lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks an injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinance.
Phoenix resident Bramley Paulin is the plaintiff represented by the Goldwater Institute, while Mayor Kate Gallego and City Manager Jeff Barton are defendants in their official capacity along with the city as a municipal corporation.
“The Phoenix signage restrictions are just the latest instance in a disturbing, years-long nationwide trend of local governments forcing their own citizens to beg the NFL’s permission to speak freely. But Goldwater intends to stop this trend,” according to John Thorpe, an attorney for the Goldwater Institute.
Thorpe says Paulin, who is also a local business owner, has suffered firsthand the effects of city’s special deal with the NFL.
“While Bramley would like to lease his property for temporary signage placements, businesses won’t even talk to him because they’re afraid to do anything – even on private property, in compliance with all the regular city ordinances – without the express approval of the NFL.”
Thorpe argues that the signage restrictions violate the Arizona Constitution’s free speech protections while also flouting the Constitution’s due process of law guarantee by infringing on residents’ rights without providing any of the minimum procedural safeguards the Constitution requires.
“Moreover, the restrictions violate the Arizona Constitution’s principles of separation of powers, giving two unaccountable private entities—the NFL and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee—a blank check to wield government power against private citizens,” Thorpe says.
It is estimated the ordinance encroaches on the rights of hundreds of businesses and thousands of residents.
Paulin issued a statement after the lawsuit was filed on his behalf. He said it is not right that Phoenix city officials are letting the NFL decide what he can and cannot say on his own property.
“The government shouldn’t censor business owners like me, or any residents of the downtown area, when we communicate with the public—and it certainly shouldn’t let private companies decide what we can say,” Paulin said.
Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.
Tuesday’s planned Arizona Workers Heroes Freedom March at the State Capitol is attracting national interest, according to event coordinator Merissa Hamilton of EZAZ.org.
Among those slated to speak at the noontime event is Kimball Cody, a firefighter – paramedic fired two months ago by the Salt River Fire Department. Cody’s termination after 13 years of dedicated service was due to his unwillingness receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Similar firings are being threatened by the City of Phoenix for any of its 14,000 employees who do not provide proof of vaccination by Jan. 18, 2022, despite the fact the city told employees in May that vaccinations “are a personal choice that will not impact your employment in any way.”
City Manager Jeff Barton reversed course last month when he issued the mandate that can result in termination. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is suing Phoenix officials over the mandate, but it could be months before a federal court reaches a decision.
Leaders of the unions which represent the city’s public safety employees say less than 50 percent of their members intend to comply with the mandate. The worry for many Phoenix residents is that experienced police officers, firefighters, and other critical service employees will seek jobs in other communities.
“Phoenix public safety is already in a crisis,” says Hamilton, a city resident. “Police and Fire are both terribly short-staffed and 911 response times are horrific. The mandate will crush public safety and the most vital city services like trash, water, and infrastructure.”
Some city employees are expected to meet Tuesday morning with a handful of state lawmakers prior to the Heroes Freedom March to discuss the city’s actions, according to Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16).
For Cody, he was one of 84 employees for Salt River FD who were notified in late August of a vaccination mandate imposed by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) tribal council. He then spent the next 40 days reflecting on whether the vaccine was the right thing for him and his family.
“We were really hoping it would be a bluff but there was no letting up,” Cody told radio host James T. Harris on Monday. Cody explained that his two requests for medical exemptions were denied, and Salt River tribal leaders refused to consider religious or spiritual exemptions.
In the end, four firefighters were terminated for non-compliance of a vaccination mandate which was never imposed on tribal members nor the employees of Talking Stick Resort and Casino which is also owned by SRPMIC.
KIMBALL CODY INTERVIEW:
Cody, who lives in east Mesa, told Harris he is speaking at the Heroes Freedom March to help Arizonans understand the negative impacts vaccine employment mandates are having.
“This mandate is real. My wife interacts with your wife. My kids go to school with your kids,” Cody said. “This is not a mandate in California or New York or some far away land. This is a mandate that is effecting real people right here and right now.”
Cody also wants to encourage Arizonans to contact Gov. Doug Ducey and their state legislators with a demand for a special session to enable passage of anti-mandate legislation.
Hamilton says EZAZ.org is hoping for legislation or court action against all vaccination mandates in Arizona before Christmas. “Families deserve to have this mandate put to rest so they can enjoy the holidays without worry,” she told AZ Free News.
Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. But apparently, the City of Phoenix doesn’t care about freedom.
Last month, the city announced that its employees will have until January 18, 2022 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. And it doesn’t even matter if they work from home. The new policy lacks any sort of exemption for that because, of course, these mandates aren’t based on commonsense.
But don’t worry. Employees will receive $75 as a “thanks” for their compliance. And with rampant inflation and rising oil prices, that should cover at least one tank of gas. Maybe.
The city claims that its simply following President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. But this just further shows how comfortable Phoenix is with such a blatant abuse of power.
City of Phoenix employees will have until January 18, 2022, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The new policy doesn’t offer an exemption for those working remotely. The city explained in its letter to employees that it was complying with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors, due to the number of contracts held by the city.
As thanks for their compliance, the city will give the vaccinated employee $75. The cash perk was initially used as an incentive this past year. Assuming every one of their over 14,000 employees remains on staff and gets vaccinated, then the city will hand out a total of over a million dollars. As of their latest reports, the city has handed out over 6,900 of their compliance cash.
Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio warned in an interview with KTAR that this mandate would only make the city lose more police officers at a time when their law enforcement is critically manned. He also challenged the city’s rationale that a sweeping mandate was required because they receive federal funds. DiCiccio asserted that the city of Phoenix isn’t a federal contractor.
“I’ve already sent a letter to the city manager asking him to identify exactly which contracts the city of Phoenix has,” said DiCiccio. “I can tell you police, fire and some other personnel with the city of Phoenix are not contractors – that’s a bunch of BS.”
DiCiccio also insisted that the main point of the mandate was to target first responders.
“It’s meant to attack them at various levels: [to] attack them personally, attack their families and now go after them this way,” said DiCiccio.
The councilman’s remarks reflect on the fact that the lowest vaccination rates in the Valley are among police officers and firefighters. Tucson’s vaccine mandate for all city employees – announced in August – hit those first responders the hardest.
As the city revealed this latest policy, companies around Phoenix have been advertising that they are hiring with “no vaccine required.”
City employees may request religious or medical exemptions by December 31 – New Year’s Eve.
Attorneys for the Goldwater Institute and the City of Phoenix will be in court Wednesday to argue over whether government workers subjected to a collective bargaining agreement can be forced to finance union activities, including a union’s political endeavors.
The issue before Judge Daniel Martin of the Maricopa County Superior Court is a legal challenge brought on behalf of two city employees over a practice known as “release time” approved by the Phoenix City Council in 2019. Release time allows some city employees to be paid to work for their private union instead of working for the public.
Employees utilizing release time are allowed to engage in activities such as lobbying, union membership drives, filing grievances against the employer, and wage and benefit negotiations. Release time activities of city employees are subject to the discretion and control of the union, not the city which pays the employees.
In May 2019, the City of Phoenix signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 2384, Field Unit II (AFSCME) which serves as the exclusive bargaining unit for a wide range of public workers, including but not limited to electricians, mechanics, security guards, street technicians, and maintenance workers.
AFSCME is the nation’s largest public services employees union with more than 1.3 million working and retired members. The MOU applied to all City of Phoenix employees assigned under Field Unit II whether union members or not, and it provides for myriad release time benefits, including four full-time release positions.
“That means that four city employees are released full-time to work exclusively for the union at the public’s expense,” according to the Goldwater Institute, which also noted nearly 3,200 additional paid work hours are available to other union representatives. That is roughly equivalent to 80 weeks of full-time work.
The MOU between Phoenix and AFSCME also guarantees compensatory time for high-ranking union officials using release time, as well as additional hours and payment for AFSCME members who attend union seminars, lectures, conventions, and workshops.
In October 2019, attorneys with the Goldwater Institute sued the City of Phoenix on behalf of two Field Unit II city employees who contend the release time salaries and benefits in the MOU are funded by all government employees of a specific bargaining unit.
The result, the lawsuit argues, is that non-union members are forced to fund union activities in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, along with Arizona’s Right to Work laws and other state constitutional provisions, the employees contend. The lawsuit also contends the four full-time release time employees “are not contractually required to provide an accounting to the City for how they use release time.”
Judge Martin will hear oral arguments Wednesday and Friday in dueling motions for summary judgment filed by the parties. Court records show AFSCME has been granted intervenor status in the case.
Among the organizations also opposed to release time policies is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which has developed draft legislation that lawmakers across the country can use in an effort to ban paid union activity by public employees.
Under the ALEC draft legislation, it would be “against public policy” for a public employer like the City of Phoenix to enter into a deal with any private union to compensate a public employee for union activities.
“While public employees should not be prohibited from freely associating outside of their employment duties, including hiring individuals to help represent their interests, this should occur at public employee, not taxpayer, expense,” according to the ALEC website.