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Shouts, chants erupt at Phoenix council meeting after leaders bar public comment on mobile home park

Wednesday’s Phoenix City Council meeting turned rowdy after a member suggested barring public comment about mobile home park residents being displaced.

At times, residents drowned out council members with chants of, “Shame on you,” and shouts of, “Cowards,” and, “We’re about to be homeless.” At one point, Mayor Kate Gallego called for a short break but it didn’t silence residents who kept interrupting.

At the council’s last meeting on March 22, public comment lasted more than six hours. On Wednesday, Gallego and four members: Debra Stark, Sal DiCiccio, Ann O’Brien and Jim Waring, voted to bar comment. The same group then voted against having staff investigate whether Phoenix should enact a moratorium on redevelopment at three parks to give residents more time to find new homes. Gallego said staff had already advised a moratorium would violate state law, plus it would not stop landowners from evicting residents.

“And it would be a political stunt to tell people that this vote will help them in the very, very hard situation that they are in,” she said.

“The only political stunt I see is evading a vote,” Councilmember Carlos Garcia said. “This would actually be a leverage point. It would be standing up with these folks, standing for the only affordable housing that’s available or left in this city.”

“I’m still in shock that we’re going to do this,” said Councilwoman Betty Guardado. “This is really upsetting that we’re not going to let them speak.”

“Political stunt is not letting them talk,” said Councilwoman Laura Pastor. “It’s time we need.”

Councilwoman Ann O’Brien, who along with other members previously approved $2.5 million dollars in federal funds to support displaced residents, shared some history on the land near 27th Avenue and Colter Street owned by Grand Canyon University. It’s currently Periwinkle Mobile Home Park, but the private Christian university is evicting residents to build student housing.

“The original vote for this was back in May of 2016 for the GCU property,” she said. “But at that time, it’s my understanding that that passed council unanimously with no discussion about what should happen with those people who were displaced. And that includes council members who are here today saying we have not done enough.”

“I was here in 2016,” said Pastor. “That was my first term and at that time, at 2016, when this was voted on, I was a ‘yes’ vote. I also want to state at 2016, there was a plan on trying—because it was going to take seven years for this property to be developed and to be able to communicate with the community on how it was going to happen. That happened a year and a half ago … a year ago, May.”

Garcia left the council chamber after the vote failed. It was his final meeting after losing re-election, along with Councilman Sal DiCiccio who termed out.

Kesha Hodge Washington, who was endorsed by Gallego, will replace Garcia and represent District 8. Kevin Robinson, also endorsed by Gallego, will replace DiCiccio in District 6. They will take the oath of office on April 17.

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