Phoenix Improving First Responders’ Access to Elderly, Special Needs Citizens’ Homes

Phoenix Improving First Responders’ Access to Elderly, Special Needs Citizens’ Homes

By Corinne Murdock |

A locked door will no longer be a barrier to first responders assisting the elderly or those with special needs.

Earlier this month, the Phoenix City Council launched a program to provide lock boxes for the elderly and those with special needs. Without an access point like a lock box, first responders like firemen may be forced to break into homes to provide assistance, potentially breaking doors and damaging the property in the process. 

The council members approved the program unanimously. The city will launch a pilot version of the program in District 1 prior to work out any challenges and hone in logistics. 

Councilwoman Ann O’Brien explained that the program would prevent significant property damage from occurring to those requiring firemen assistance. It comes at no cost to the city. 

Other cities such as Glendale and Scottsdale have already coordinated with private entities to roll out similar programs. 

The Phoenix Realtors donated 100 lock boxes to establish the program, called the “Residential Lock Box Access Program.” The Phoenix Fire Department will oversee the program, maintaining a database of installations, ensuring the Phoenix Fire Regional Dispatch Center codifies the data in a premise alter for responding units.

Those interested in the lock box program may contact the Phoenix Fire Department’s Community Involvement Section. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Phoenix Will Spend Over $102 Million For Electric Buses

Phoenix Will Spend Over $102 Million For Electric Buses

By Corinne Murdock |

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved a plan to spend $102 million to replace its bus fleet with electric vehicles. Outgoing councilmember Sal DiCiccio wasn’t present. 

Over $86.7 million (85 percent) comes from federal funding; over $15.3 million (15 percent) comes from regional funding. The initiative is part of the council’s goal of achieving a total zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040. The current fleet consists of 500 buses.

The city will procure a variety of electric buses: battery, hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell. The council waived standard competition in its procurement process to award the five-year contract due to supply chain issues; reportedly, the city learned it couldn’t acquire its first round of zero-emissions buses until after 2025, well after its planned timeline. The city selected a supplier who could meet their timeline: the Washington State Transit Bus Cooperative.

Mayor Kate Gallego indicated that their goal of true zero-emissions would come from future negotiations with power companies. Gallego noted that the plans to create an electric charging grid launched by the Biden administration and state would facilitate their efforts.

“It cannot be zero-emission if the power going in is not zero-emission,” stated Gallego.

READ THE COUNCIL’S BUS FLEET PLAN

Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari noted that this plan put the city on the same timeline to zero-emissions as New York City and California. Ansari promised that the council would accelerate their plan even further once the supply chain stabilizes and inflation costs reduce. 

Ansari credited the Sierra Club, Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), American Lung Association (ALA), and CHISPA AZ for allowing their plan to come to fruition.

“We will only be ordering hybrid and zero-emission buses after 2024, which will completely then end our dependence on fossil fuel transit in terms of new purchases,” stated Ansari. “This is a public health win, a quality of life win, a climate win, and a very big win for Phoenix.”

Public comment came from two organizations that advocated heavily for the $102 million expenditure: 

Joanna Struther, ALA senior director of advocacy, cited ALA data ranking Phoenix as the fifth-most polluted city in the nation. Struther stated that the city’s air pollution presented a severe harm to circulatory systems.

The ALA claimed that electrification of city fleets would result in 38,000 less asthma attacks and $15.1 billion in public health benefits. ALA asserted that its polling revealed 70 to 80 percent support among Arizonans for electric vehicles.

PIRG’s executive director, Diane Brown, noted that not only would residents benefit from improved air quality from bus electrification, but the city would increase its access to federal funding.

The city rejected a plan last year to renew their current fleet powered by fossil fuels for another five years.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Phoenix Declares COVID No Longer An Emergency

Phoenix Declares COVID No Longer An Emergency

By Corinne Murdock |

Last Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council declared that COVID-19 no longer constitutes an emergency. The council passed the resolution quietly and without discussion, lumping it in with dozens of other agenda items. 

It has been two years and eight months since the city first declared COVID-19 as an emergency. Yet, the issue that instigated controversy and struggle for so long was passed over with little notice. 

The resolution rescinding the emergency declaration for COVID-19 cited the CDC data from late last month listing transmission levels for Maricopa County as “low.” This means that all declarations related to the COVID-19 emergency are rescinded. 

Although the city rescinded the emergency declaration, they continue to offer COVID-19 mitigation resources like testing kits and masks.

The city lagged behind the state in determining that COVID-19 no longer constituted an emergency.

Governor Doug Ducey ended the state’s COVID-19 emergency in March. The city last updated its face mask policy in February, requiring mask-wearing if risk levels were considered high. Phoenix went through periods of rescinding then reimposing its mask mandate.

It wasn’t until April that the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport dropped its mask mandate in accordance with the Transportation Security Administration no longer enforcing the federal mask mandate.

Like most other cities, Phoenix capitalized on its $396 million in COVID-19 relief funds to subsidize community needs and other projects. 

This included allocations like $75.5 million for homeless shelters, housing, treatments, and resources; $31 million for affordable housing and financial assistance; $16.7 million for a “Resilient Food System” to increase agriculture in the city with a focus on equity and inclusion; $10.5 million for planting trees and making homes energy efficient; $8.3 for refugees; $5 million went to community college tuition assistance.

As for COVID-19 mitigation efforts and expenses: $28.9 million went to city testing and vaccination efforts, $28 million funded current and projected COVID-19 health care expenses for the city, and $22 million funded premium pay for essential city workers.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Phoenix City Council Deprioritizes Police Enforcement of Abortion Law

Phoenix City Council Deprioritizes Police Enforcement of Abortion Law

By Corinne Murdock |

During Tuesday’s policy meeting, the Phoenix City Council approved a resolution permitting the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) to deprioritize investigations of abortion law violations. It doesn’t distinguish between early-term and late-term abortions.

“The proposed resolution also declares Council’s support for City officials in establishing law enforcement priorities that consider the need to protect the physical, psychological, and socioeconomic well-being of pregnant persons and their care providers, and make the enforcement of laws that restrict or deny abortion and abortion-related care the lowest priority for law enforcement,” stated the resolution. 

The resolution also decried the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Dobbs v. Jackson ruling that no constitutional right to abortion exists. Despite being the only item on the agenda, the resolution inspired over an hour and a half of discussion and public comment.

The resolution deviates from previous promises by the council to prohibit city resources and personnel from enforcing abortion bans or restrictions, as reflected in a draft copy of the resolution shared with the Arizona Republic. It appears the council changed their mind based on a legal assessment by City Attorney Cris Meyer. 

“City resources and personnel will not be used to enforce any state ban or restrictions,” read the draft resolution. “[This resolution] directs the City Manager to implement the resolution including necessary changes to policies and procedures and bring changes to the City Council as necessary.”

Council in favor of the resolution lamented that they couldn’t do more to prevent the enforcement of abortion restrictions and bans. They passed the resolution 6-2. 

Those who continued to provide abortions after the SCOTUS ruling, such as Camelback Family Planning, told the Arizona Republic that they likely wouldn’t continue to provide abortions even if Phoenix made itself a sanctuary city for abortion.

READ HERE: PHOENIX’S ABORTION RESOLUTION

Public commentary reflected a divide in the community on the acceptability of abortion. Those who spoke in favor of the resolution represented the establishment, by and large: activists, state legislative candidates, and a former PPD leader. Those who opposed the resolution were avowed Christian citizens.

The ACLU of Arizona Victoria Lopez said that the council’s resolution would protect women’s “right” to abortion. Lopez encouraged the council to work around the legal issues presented by Meyer in order to limit city resources and personnel when enforcing abortion law. 

Democratic state representative candidate Analise Ortiz, a former ACLU strategist and mainstream media journalist, urged the council to undertake that effort as well. Ortiz claimed that she and other women would be incarcerated for getting an abortion. Neither the total abortion ban or the 15-week abortion restriction punish the mother for getting an abortion. Likewise, Democratic state senator candidate Anna Hernandez advocated for the council to do more beyond the resolution. 

Dianne Post, an activist lawyer, compared pregnancy to slavery. She claimed that SCOTUS decided to overturn Roe v. Wade because of Christianity, not constitutional law. 

“We have no morality police in the United States,” asserted Post.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona (PPAZ) Board Member Parris Wallace said that she decided to have two of her children, and one aborted. Wallace reminded the council that PPAZ endorsed the majority of them. 

“You owe it to your constituents and ours to hold the line,” said Wallace. 

Retired PPD Assistant Chief Sandra Renteria stated that PPD would waste their time enforcing state law restricting or banning abortions. Renteria said there were more important crimes to address.

“Police officers do not want to be the immigration police and certainly don’t want to be the abortion police,” said Renteria.

A 16-year-old girl named Addison Walker opposed the resolution. She questioned why the council would vindicate the morality of ending an unborn child’s life based on whether the mother wants her or not. 

“If your closest friend was murdered, what would you say if the police were instructed to ‘deprioritize’ the investigation of that murder? Would you not be outraged?” said Walker. “Remember: if you deprioritize this law, their blood is on your hands. Your names will go down in history as those who willingly promoted the holocaust of infants in Arizona. More importantly, on Judgment Day, when God judges the righteous and unrighteous, you will be held guilty and be punished for what you have failed to do.”

A woman named Ashley testified that her miscarriage experience convicted her that abortion is a great evil that kills an unborn child, not “a clump of cells.”

“If you vote ‘yes’ on this resolution, you aren’t doing anything noble. Certainly not the babies, nor the bereft mothers, nor even the abortion doctors who cauterize their own consciences with every baby they rip apart,” stated Ashley. 

A husband and wife, Christopher and Candace Samuels, both spoke against the resolution. Christopher admonished the council for deprioritizing policing on the most violent crime being committed, while Candace said the resolution encouraged people to break the law. The couple described themselves as refugees of California.

“This is absolutely, as my husband said, abominable,” said Candace. “Please stand up for what our state’s law is, instead of trying to do a sneaky little back-door resolution to get your way.”

Watch the entire Phoenix City Council policy meeting below:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Phoenix City Council Deprioritizes Police Enforcement of Abortion Law

Phoenix City Council May Vote on Abortion Resolution Next Week

By Corinne Murdock |

At next week’s policy meeting, the Phoenix City Council may decide on a proposed resolution to withhold city resources from enforcing abortion restrictions or bans. 

The mayor’s communications director, Jeanine L’Ecuyer, informed AZ Free News of this adjusted timeline on Tuesday. The city council was expected to vote on the resolution last month. A copy of the resolution has yet to be made available for public review. City government staff were tasked with crafting the resolution back in June. 

This week, the Phoenix Police Department instructed 911 dispatchers to not send patrol cars in response to calls reporting illegal abortions. Instead, dispatchers are to hand off the report to higher-ranking officers.

According to the PPD directive, they will notify their Violent Crimes Bureau (VCB) of the calls, who will then assign an investigator to follow up with the complainant.

L’Ecuyer didn’t confirm with AZ Free News whether the council or mayor directed PPD to issue this policy. This was her response to our inquiry:

“Typically, when a law or policy is put into place that may affect City operations, City leadership including the Law Department determine how/if City staff should adjust our processes,” stated L’Ecuyer. “Then, this is communicated to the appropriate staff so they have guidance on any impacts to their duties.”

If the Phoenix City Council approves the resolution next week, they will follow in the footsteps of the city of Tucson. In the wake of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling, the Tucson City Council passed a resolution in June effectively making their city a safe haven for abortions. Their resolution enables police to not arrest those who violate abortion law.

The Pima County Superior Court reinstated Arizona’s total abortion ban last month, and then last week denied a petition by Planned Parenthood to suspend the ban since they argued it conflicts with the 15-week limit on abortions codified earlier this year. 

On Tuesday, Democrats in the state legislature petitioned Governor Doug Ducey to convene a special session to repeal the state’s total ban on abortions. The ban dates back to 1901, over a decade before Arizona achieved statehood. It doesn’t prosecute the mother for receiving an abortion, and allows abortions to save the mother’s life.

The most recent abortion restriction limiting abortions to 15 weeks stipulated that it doesn’t repeal the 1901 abortion ban.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.