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Arizona Mayors Blast Ducey Order For Restricting Local Authority

Arizona’s mayors were quick to order restrictions on businesses due to the coronavirus, while Gov. Doug Ducey faced criticism for delaying such an order at the state level.

Now mayors are criticizing the governor for taking away their authority to act unilaterally.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans and three other city leaders sent a letter to Ducey on Tuesday blasting an executive order the governor issued Monday that defines what’s an essential service throughout the state — definitions that the mayors criticized as vague and, in the case of golf courses and payday lenders, overly broad.

The executive order also precludes municipal leaders from taking further action to restrict people from moving through their cities and towns. Specifically, “any order restricting persons from leaving their home” must be coordinated with the state before municipal leaders can act. 

Romero said she appreciates Ducey’s desire to provide uniform guidance throughout the state.

But city leaders must maintain independence to effectively, and quickly, respond to the coronavirus as needed, she said, especially if that means ordering residents to stay in their homes.

“Cities should be able to make these calls. … There is value in uniformity. But I don't want to find us in a situation where the city of Tucson is ready to move, yet other towns around the state are not,” Romero said. “And so I value the authority that the charter and the Arizona statutes provide mayors to make these types of calls.”

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego also criticized Ducey’s action in a tweet.

The executive order gives Ducey “exclusive power” to issue a shelter-in-place order, she wrote, while barring cities from placing restrictions on “crowded parks, golf courses and beauty salons – all deemed ‘essential’ services by this order.”

“Cities have the most direct understanding of residents’ needs and this order hinders our ability to be responsive,” Gallego wrote.

Romero said the executive order does not clarify what Ducey means by “coordination,” and that uncertainty could prevent her and other mayors from responding effectively.

“What is the process? Is it coordination? Or are the cities supposed to request permission to move?” she said. “Cities deal with dozens and dozens of decisions a day to protect the community's public health, right? And so, do we now have as cities have to coordinate every decision that we make in terms of what we have to close or open?”

“It may not be operationally feasible for us to have to go through the state to make each and every one of these decisions,” Romero added.

Romero and other mayors also criticized the “random” nature of some businesses and services that the governor declared essential, like payday lenders and golf courses.

Many cities are struggling to obtain cleaning and disinfecting supplies to keep bathrooms, playgrounds and other public spaces open and clean, Romero said.

To that end, the mayors requested that Ducey provide clear guidance on what to do about non-essential functions, to “prevent confusion for our local business and residents, and to provide the clear, uniform direction our state needs during this critical juncture,” according to their letter.

After signing on to the letter, Romero and the Tucson City Council voted Tuesday afternoon on motion encouraging Ducey to issue a statewide order for residents to remain in their homes.

The motion did not specify how long such an order should remain in effect.

Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for the governor, wrote in an email that Ducey’s order “ensures one uniform policy throughout Arizona, so businesses and citizens can responsibly plan.”

Ducey said Monday it’s there’s no need, yet, to mandate residents stay in their homes.

Ducey did act on one of the mayor’s requests Tuesday afternoon. The governor issued an executive order that provides individuals suffering medically or financially from the coronavirus relief from eviction.

→  Read The Latest News On The Coronavirus Disease 

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.