Pima County To Punish Unvaccinated Employees, Give Quarantine Shelter To Migrants

Pima County To Punish Unvaccinated Employees, Give Quarantine Shelter To Migrants

By Corinne Murdock |

The Pima County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday that unvaccinated employees will pay up to $1,500 more in insurance fees – but unvaccinated illegal immigrants with COVID-19 will be given a $2 million quarantine shelter, without facing any penalties for their vaccination status. The supervisors voted for the vaccination disincentive 4-1; only Supervisor Steve Christy voted against it.

Christy argued that this disincentive was punishing people arbitrarily, pointing out that his fellow supervisors are choosing to punish the unvaccinated while ignoring others with significant comorbidities. He pointed out that there are other employees beyond the unvaccinated that present as much or more of a financial burden to the county health care system due to their health conditions.

“[I]f we’re going to penalize employees who don’t take the vaccine because if they fall sick it will cost more on the county’s health care system, is there going to be an examination of all employees with other ailments or sicknesses that cause expenses to our health care system, such as obesity or high blood pressure or diabetes?” asked Christy. “This is a discriminatory segregation of those who have the right to choose what type of procedures they want with their own conscience and their own decision with their medical practitioner – to coerce them with monetary penalties is wrong, and it is definitely […] unconstitutional.”

Following Christy’s remarks, Supervisor Adelita Grijalva quickly motioned to vote on the item. Some of the arguments in favor of the vaccination disincentive focused on the perceived duty that employees owed one another in limiting COVID-19 spread.

Many of the citizens who issued public comment during the meeting expressed their opposition to the vaccine disincentive. They cited the lack of long-term studies on the vaccine, as well as the need to honor religious exemptions and personal medical needs.

Pima County salaries range from as low as $15 an hour ($2,400 a month), to nearly $140 an hour ($22,400 a month).

As for the $2 million to shelter illegal immigrants, the board approved the use of those Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to acquire a local Red Roof Motel with nearly 180 rooms.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry explained in a letter that this expenditure was necessary due to other shelters reaching COVID-19 capacity. According to Huckelberry, over 8,400 asylum seekers have been processed since March. Of those, just under 300 individuals were COVID-positive (three percent of the total), while nearly 1,800 received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Yet, Huckelberry emphasized that it would be necessary to obtain additional housing to stop any spread.

“The key to ensuring COVID-19 does not spread significantly in congregate housing is to provide individual housing during the quarantine period,” stated Huckelberry. “A three percent infection rate among the population at risk is not significant.”

Last month, the supervisors voted to give employees a $300 bonus and three extra vacation days as an incentive to get vaccinated. As a result, over 2,140 additional employees got vaccinated. Around 4,430 employees are vaccinated – 66 percent of their workforce.

The earliest that these vaccine disincentives could go into place would be October 1.

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

Arizona Bowl Game Will Go On Despite Pima County’s Vote To Renege Support

Arizona Bowl Game Will Go On Despite Pima County’s Vote To Renege Support

By Terri Jo Neff |

At a time when state officials are pushing ways to improve Arizona’s tourism industry, the Pima County Board of Supervisors reneged on its nearly $40,000 commitment to the Arizona Bowl.

The Arizona Bowl is a NCAA-certified postseason college football game held since 2015 at the University of Arizona’s Arizona Stadium.  It is presented with a title sponsor, which for the first five years was NOVA Home Loans. Then in 2020 the game was played as the Offerpad Arizona Bowl.

This year, the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl is slated to be played on Dec. 31, and the event is expected to bring thousands of football fans to southern Arizona. It is a boost to local tourism that is sorely needed, supporters say.

But on Tuesday the Pima County BOS took a swipe at the new title sponsor and brought what tourism officials say was undue negative attention to the event.

In a 4 to 1 vote, the BOS went back on its commitment of $38,155 toward the game, citing “ethical concerns” with controversial comments and activities associated with Barstool Sports and its founder, David Portnoy.  The vote came despite the fact many of the concerning comments date back nearly a decade and that the company in recent years has established a respected reputation.

Barstool Sports is seen by many as an American business success story – the digital media company produces original content focused on sports and pop-culture. Its 280 employees are also involved in producing an amateur boxing league, a radio show distributed by Westwood One, and a number of podcasts.

And then there is the Barstool Fund, which garnered national attention last year when Portnoy led an effort which raised more than $40 million from several sports figures to provide financial support for small businesses hard hit by the pandemic. Some of the recipients were Arizonans.

In July, Portnoy announced Barstool Sports as the new title sponsor of the Arizona Bowl and kicked off an aggressive marketing campaign that will feature the Tucson area as much as the game itself.

But despite the company’s various successes, four Pima County supervisors turned their backs on the fact that the 17-member executive board of the Arizona Bowl vetted the new title sponsor. Among those on the executive board are Brent Deraad of Visit Tucson, Ted Maxwell of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, and Joe Snell of Sun Corridor.

Critics of the BOS vote call it “misguided” and point to the fact many of the criticisms deal with comments and activities involving Portnoy and other company personalities from more than a decade ago.

The BOS also turned its back on comments from Kym Adair, who is serving as executive director of the bowl game.

Adair did not make excuses for prior inappropriate comments some found offensive, admitting there were jokes “that have missed, comedies and content that didn’t land or stand the test of time.” She did, however, emphasize the company’s various successes, which include being the only sports media company with a female CEO.

Barstool Sports also has a recent connection to Arizona, Adair told the board in a written statement. Earlier this year the NCAA abruptly cancelled a major women’s golf regional event in Louisiana, leaving a dozen teams without an opportunity to try for the Championship.

A Barstool Sports official got the company involved with the NCAA and several teams across the country ended up at the “Let Them Play” tournament in Chandler in May.

Democratic County Supervisors Complain Ducey Didn’t Talk To Them Before Deploying National Guard Troops Sheriffs Begged For

Democratic County Supervisors Complain Ducey Didn’t Talk To Them Before Deploying National Guard Troops Sheriffs Begged For

By Terri Jo Neff |

When Gov. Doug Ducey pledged $25 million last month to deploy the Arizona National Guard to the Mexico border he did so after the Biden Administration ignored pleas from state and local law enforcement officials to address the influx of immigrants and smugglers making it unhindered across the border.

The governor noted the National Guard troops would be on State Active Duty to assist with medical operations in detention centers, help with installation and maintenance of border cameras, monitor and collect data from the cameras, and analyze the situation at the border to identify trends in smuggling corridors.

The deployment was well received by two border sheriffs -Cochise County’s Mark Dannels and Yuma County’s Leon Wilmot- who spent the last three months trying to get federal authorities to come up with a plan for the escalating public safety threat and humanitarian crisis at and well beyond the international border.

However, Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos has insisted his agency does not need National Guard support even though the county shares nearly 130 hundred miles of border with Mexico. The same “no thanks” approach was expressed by Sheriff David Hathaway of Santa Cruz County.

The difference in the positions of the sheriffs falls across political lines – Dannels and Wilmot are registered Republicans, while Hathaway and Nanos are Democrats.

The same political division is reflected in an April 21 letter signed by one county supervisor from each of the border counties in which they chastised Ducey for not asking for their input about the border situation. The signers -all of whom as Democrats- serve as their counties’ representatives on the Arizona Border Counties Coalition.

“We are disappointed that you failed to consult with the various Boards of Supervisors of each border county on this matter,” the Coalition letter states. “If asked, we would have requested assistance for transportation services, specifically buses and drivers, to provide those transportation services that we are now left to arrange on our own.”

The letter was signed by Sharon Bronson, Pima County; Ann English, Cochise County; Bruce Bracker, Santa Cruz County; and Tony Reyes, Yuma County.

Chief of Staff Mark Napier of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) serves as his county’s point of contact with the Arizona National Guard. Last Thursday more than 30 troops arrived in Cochise County to perform a variety of non-law enforcement duties, including working with an extensive camera system utilized by the Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement (SABRE) team to monitor cross-border traffic.

The troops are also providing support in CCSO’s jail and other clerical activities which allows sheriff’s personnel to deal with “other service demands and address the increase in challenges associated with the border crisis we currently face,” Napier explained.

On Friday, Napier told AZ Free News he and Sheriff Dannels had no advance notice that Supervisor English was signing the letter to Ducey, but they do not see the supervisor’s stance about deployment as being in conflict with CCSO’s position that the border crisis “presents a public safety, national security and human rights issue” which must be addressed in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners.

“The letter expresses some frustration over the lack of engagement between the Governor and Supervisors with respect to the deployment of AZNG personnel,” Napier said. “That is a matter between those Supervisors and the Governor.”

Napier added the Coalition’s letter also states border security is a responsibility of the federal government, “which in fact it is.” And the letter does not deny there is a public safety concern related to the current conditions along the border, he noted.

The Coalition’s letter makes no mention of the frequency or cost of transportation services any of the counties have had to provide or arrange for.

Superior Court Judge Shuts Down Pima County Curfew

Superior Court Judge Shuts Down Pima County Curfew

A Superior Court judge ruled this week that a mandatory curfew imposed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors “is not statutorily authorized and violates the Governor’s Executive Order.”

Approved by the Pima County Supervisors in a split 3-2 vote on December 15, 2020, the curfew essentially shut down commerce between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson issued a temporary order halting enforcement of the curfew. She wrote:

Opinions regarding mitigation measures during this pandemic are varied and widespread. So too are opinions about the curfew imposed in Resolution 2020-98. Many believe the mitigation measures in place are unreasonable and over-restrictive. Many believe the measures fall short of protecting public health and need to be more restrictive. It is undisputed Covid-19 is a serious public health concern that must be controlled. However, it is not the Court’s role to decide or opine whether it agrees or disagrees with the County’s Resolution. Rather, the Court must determine whether is a valid under the law, and whether injunctive relief is appropriate. Because the Court finds the Resolution is not statutorily authorized and violates the Governor’s Executive Order, and that the Plaintiffs have demonstrated the possibility of harm, the Court finds the Plaintiffs are entitled to relief.

“The Pima County curfew was an outrageous mandate that made little sense and unfairly targeted certain businesses,” said Scot Mussi, President of the Free Enterprise Club. “We are very pleased that the court recognized the illegal and arbitrary nature of the curfew and halted its enforcement.”

The lawsuit was brought by attorneys for a group of Pima County small business owners.

“Pima County officials adopted the curfew with the best of intentions, but such restrictions are not only unlawful, they can also have dangerous unintended consequences. Mandates and compulsory curfews increase the likelihood of confrontations between law enforcement and citizens—confrontations that can turn violent, or result in people being taken to jail, where their exposure to COVID-19 is probably higher,” wrote Goldwater attorney Tim Sandefur, of the ruling. “And if recent experience in Chicago and other cities is any clue, curfews are more likely to encourage people to congregate in secret, in confined places where there is a greater risk of infection, rather than in relatively safer outdoor business places.”

The Pima County Board of Supervisors has already approved an appeal of the ruling.