Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
This is the third in a series of personal accounts from the Occupation of Tucson. On October 25, the Tucson’s Mayor and Council held a closed door session to discuss Occupy Tucson. Here is a recap of the post-executive session discussion.
Oct 26: Notes from the Occupation
By Mary DeCamp
Life in a tent in the heart of Tucsonis a fantastic experience. Even for a 54-year-old female mayoral candidate. At least for THIS Green Party candidate who is participating in Occupy Tucson as part of the 99% fed up with the status quo and pushing for change.
Yesterday was the Mayor & City Council Study Session meeting to discuss the Occupation and our law-breaking/free speech actions. The item didn’t make it onto the agenda for the regular MCC evening meeting, but it came up during the afternoon “where the sausage is made” meeting.
Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, our champion who released a press statement in favor of Occupy Tucson last week, was unable to attend the meeting, and many of the usual staff members who accompany the other 5 elected Council members were absent as well. The ones who were there went into executive session behind closed doors to discuss the situation but emerged later and held about 20 minutes of public discussion.
The first Councilwoman waffled a bit, honoring the efforts made by Tucson Police Department, Parks & Rec employees, and the City Attorney but acknowledging the importance of supporting freedom of speech efforts. She wondered if the City ordinance regarding park use could be re-written to reflect the intent of the group using the space to skirt the problems. The City Attorney said only behaviors could be legislated, not intent, and that was not a solution. The Councilwoman wondered about having all the Occupiers sign a waiver that would free the City from health and safety liability issues, but again she was told that would not solve the problem because there was no way to cover all contingencies. She basically said, “well, carry on, then, and keep us posted.” Daily meetings continue between City officials; the relationship between key players on both sides are respectful, courteous, and ongoing.
The second Councilman skipped weighing in on the issue. He is locked in a re-election race against a strong opponent who is heavily funded and endorsed by the Tea Party loyalists who want self-reliance to triumph and scofflaws to be punished. My feeling is the current Tea Party followers have lost sight of their founding principles – if these same folks were living in Boston at the time tea was dumped in the harbor to protest legislation without representation they would have called for capital punishment for those ne’er-do-wells who damaged capitalists’ property on behalf of the downtrodden. Nonetheless, this Councilman’s voice has been quieted by pragmatic political concerns.
The third Councilwoman was our missing Shero. No idea why she was not present, but she’s been a champion and has bravely taken a supportive stand. Kudos and thanks go to her.
The forth Councilwoman is also in a re-election race. Her opponent is also endorsed by the Tea Party and he works as a systems analyst for Raytheon, one of the hearts of the military-industrial-complex beast we are fighting. This Councilwoman wanted to know about complaints from businesses in the neighborhood, how much paid overtime and scheduling inconvenience this caused the Tucson Police, how the landscaping and watering schedule was affected, and whether the Occupiers were discriminatory in asking people to leave the camp.
The fifth Councilman asked about what was happening in other cities. Both the Police Chief and the City Attorney assured him they had been in contact with peers in other places and that there was very wide variation in the reactions to Occupation. The Councilman asked about fines and jail time for those arrested. He was told that a maximum was in place ($1,000 + 6 mos in jail per citation), but that no MINIMUM was set; that would be at the discretion of the prosecutor and the judge.
The sixth Councilman reported he’d heard concerns from the neighbors (and I know that he’s also heard SUPPORT from others, but he failed to mention that side of the equation). He said that the City Council adopts ordinances, the Police enforce them, and the judicial branch sorts out any conflicts. He effectively washed his hands of the matter, turning it over to another governmental branch, as is quite appropriate and convenient.
The Mayor, who is known as “Smiling Bob” and will be retiring in a matter of months, didn’t have anything substantive to contribute.
This morning is our first court date for arraignment. More updates will be forthcoming as information emerges.
Thanks for your continuing support and interest. We are making history and it is an honor to be your scribe as the tale unfolds.
Embrace affection – it costs the same as hate and feels a lot better for all involved.