Despite a few catcalls and jeers, an audience of nearly 400 mostly abided by calls for a civil discussion at City Councilman Steve Kozachik's Ward 6 "Roast" Monday night at the Loft Cinema.
"I think it went well, and I'm glad constituents had the chance to hear from their elected officials," Kozachik said. The event generated a bit of controversy when critics linked it with today's gun buyback.
"I think these are issues that we needed to start talking about as a community," Kozachik said.
To honor the Jan. 8, 2011, anniversary, Kozachik invited a dozen federal, state and local officials to share one stage to show that politicians can work together to solve constituent problems.
Participants were U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Ron Barber; state Rep. Steve Farley, who was elected to the state Senate in November, state Reps.-elect Victoria Steele and Ethan Orr, and three other members of the Pima County state legislative delegation; county Supervisor Richard Elías; and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild All are Democrats except for Orr and Kozachik.
Questions were submitted prior to the event. The Arizona Daily Star's David Fitzsimmons, who emceed the event, selected a wide range of questions. Some of the highlights include:
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber recalled lying wounded, yet still conscious, on Jan. 8, 2011, watching as a mentally disturbed individual with a high-capacity magazine ruined lives. He said he saw the faces of his own grandkids in the victims of the Newtown, Conn., rampage. He said even though he is a Second Amendment supporter, there need to be limits on what weapons a person can legally own.
A handful of audience members responded with shouts of "Liar" and other derisive comments.
Rothschild said "the Second Amendment is not absolute" and that there can be limits placed on it, just like the other enumerated rights in the Constitution.
State Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford said she would support gun control measures because "children are more important than the Second Amendment."
State Sen. David Bradley said he would rather see more counselors in schools than more cops as a way to curb gun violence.
But Orr said he would support a bill to place more resource officers in schools. He said the costs would be split between the state, cities and school districts.
Grijalva said all the recent talk about the fiscal cliff has obscured the "moral cliff" this nation is headed toward on immigration. Grijalva said he expects President Obama to submit a comprehensive immigration plan shortly that will include Dream Act provisions, reunite families and more while still addressing border security.
Barber said our immigration system is broken. He said there needs to be a discussion on how to bring the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. out of the shadows.
Elías said government needs to find a way to prevent border crossing deaths in the desert. He said Pima County bears the brunt of the costs for recovering and identifying cadavers.
Steele said now that the state has a budget surplus, childless adults should have their AHCCCS eligibility reinstated, since the glut of uninsured people showing up at hospital emergency rooms is reaching a crisis.
She said if something isn't done soon, we are "dangerously close" to seeing a rash of hospitals going out of business.
Bradley said it's imperative that those benefits be restored, because many individuals continue to suffer from a lack of care.
"We think that if we cut resources to people, we think those people go away. But in reality, they don't," Bradley said to generous applause.
Farley said the state would actually see a windfall by adding childless adults back on AHCCCS. He said the move would trigger billions of federal dollars into state coffers.
Other topics included how to address housing density in the neighborhoods around the University of Arizona, road repair, noise from Davis-Monthan Air Base and how to fund Tucson police and fire departments.
Gun buyback today
Councilman Steve Kozachik will hold a gun buyback today at the Tucson Police Department's midway substation, 1100 S. Alvernon Way. Residents can exchange their unwanted firearms for a $50 Safeway Foods gift card. It will run from 9 a.m. until all the gift cards are given out. Kozachik has raised around $10,000 for the event. Former state Sen. Frank Antenori said he plans to be on the scene to buy firearms; he said he would offer sellers more than $50 for desirable weapons.
If you go:
The Tucson Police Department asks that those attending today's gun buyback event take these precautions.
• Ensure that the weapon is safe. If you don't know how to render your weapon safe, leave it in the trunk of your vehicle and ask an officer for assistance.
• Make sure the weapon is in some type of container, like a gun box.