Patty Martinez trembled as she fought back tears while addressing the Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
A proposal to kick newspaper hawkers and others off traffic medians and roadsides in unincorporated Pima County, in her opinion, was going to leave at least three dozen adults with no source of income.
She said entire families were surviving on the sales of those newspapers to make ends meet.
Her emotional plea did not fall on deaf ears, with all but one of the supervisors willing to keep the status quo and allow vendors, beggars and others to remain in the medians.
Supervisor Ally Miller, who proposed the ban, said she was also fighting for those selling newspapers on medians.
"It is a very dangerous issue we have in Pima County," Miller said.
The Republican supervisor said during the public meeting that she almost hit an independent contractor selling copies of the Arizona Daily Star several years ago, blaming the vendor for darting in and out of traffic along a busy road without paying attention to traffic.
Miller said that incident, along with multiple calls into her office from constituents, compelled her to bring the issue forward.
She said the Star, which has independent contractors selling newspapers at intersections, should build air conditioned kiosks with bathrooms for hawkers. She then asked the County Attorney's Office whether the county would liable if there were an accident between a driver and a vendor in the median.
Supervisor Richard Elías praised those who had the courage to speak in front of the board, including singling out Martinez.
He said he couldn't support Miller's motion, noting that many of the speakers who went before the board said it was their only source of income.
Supervisor Ray Carroll said roughly a third of the 36 contractors working for the Star selling newspapers are veterans.
The head of the Primavera Association, Peggy Hutchison, said those selling newspapers want to work, but not everyone can work full time.
"There are many many people who need dignity and money just for a little bit of food," she told the board.
Michael Martinez, who organizes the about half of the independent contractors with his wife, Patty, noted that he has a 70-year-old woman who loves her job as a hawker.
He says the woman spends each morning waving to passing cars until she runs out of newspapers.
The Pima County Department of Transportation found a study reported just two of the 264 reported median accidents in the last 10 years involved vendors.
In May 2001, the Tucson City Council implemented a ban on vendors selling newspapers and other items on street islands and roadsides, as well as those begging for change.
The council previously attempted to ban vendors from medians twice before, but failed in the early 1980s and again in 1991.
After two newspaper hawkers died in traffic accidents in July 1997 and January 1998, the city began requiring solicitors to wear orange safety vests and stay on medians.
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346.