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After Criticizing Phoenix Mayor, Phoenix Council Shows Solidarity

Phoenix City Council chambers
Christina Estes/KJZZ
file | staff
Phoenix City Council chambers.

When Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego declared an emergency Tuesday and ordered all bars and restaurants to stop dine-in food services, she used the phrase "great emergency." And that didn’t sit well with many council members. 

Councilman Sal DiCiccio wrote: “By declaring a "great emergency" as opposed to a "local emergency" under Phoenix's code, the Mayor would have unlimited power to rule the City of Phoenix by proclamation for however so long she chooses, with no recourse for Council to rescind or even question her actions.”

And, late Wednesday,  after the council failed to confirm Gallego’s declaration, four other members: Laura Pastor, Betty Guardado, Michael Nowakowski and Carlos Garcia issued a joint statement that said, in part: “To declare a 'Great Emergency' is to put one person solely in charge of all decisions, specifically the Mayor. A 'Great Emergency' does not give a voice to those that truly need it."

On Friday afternoon, after several hours in executive session, which is closed to the public, the council emerged with praise for Gallego. Every member complimented her leadership and pledged support and unity as the city responds to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Whether you call it local or great, everybody realizes what a crisis this is and that moving forward we’re taking this day by day,” Councilman Jim Waring said.

Then they unanimously approved a local emergency declaration, which allows Gallego to declare a great emergency in the future if needed. When asked for scenarios that might involve a great emergency, a city spokesperson said, “We can’t speculate what scenario might make that happen. The City Council would need to confirm a “Great Emergency” via vote at the next City Council meeting.”

On Monday, the council will hold a policy session to discuss the pandemic and possible actions the city can take. For example, many bus drivers are worried about their health. Drivers in Phoenix actually work for private companies, not the city, but during Friday’s meeting Zuercher said the council could make changes. Ideas include limiting the number of riders or requiring passengers enter and exit through back doors only which would result in no fares being collected.

Tucson is waiving bus fares through March and asking riders to use the rear doors while maintaining at least six feet of distance between each other. 

Late Friday, Phoenix announced it would close public transit centers. Below is the information provided by the city:

Beginning Monday, March 23, 2020, customer service windows at the following Phoenix transit centers will be closed for coronavirus precautionary measures until further notice.

  • Central Station (Central Avenue and Van Buren Street)
  • Ed Pastor (Central Avenue and Broadway Road)
  • Sunnyslope (Third Street and Dunlap Avenue)
  • Metrocenter (Metrocenter Mall)

Various options for purchasing fares remain available to passengers, such as ticket vending machines located throughout light rail platforms, at  participating retailers or  online.

For an appointment to reclaim lost and found items, please email  [email protected], or call 602-261-8636 between 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday.

Access to Public Transit Department offices at 302 N. First Ave. including the Business and Workforce Development Center (across from Central Station) will be by appointment only. To make an appointment with Public Transit, email  [email protected], or call 602-262-7242. To make an appointment at the Workforce Development Center, email  [email protected], or call 602-256-3147.

For general transit-related information, please visit  www.valleymetro.org, or call Valley Metro Customer Service at 602-253-5000. 

→  Read The Latest News On The Coronavirus Disease  

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.