What started out as an opportunity for residents to spend Monday evening with local politicians in a lighthearted atmosphere took on a more sinister tone recently.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik thought it would be a good idea to assemble all the politicians that represent Ward 6 under one roof at the Loft Cinema Monday to discuss the issues and to show that bipartisanship is still possible.
Kozachik enlisted the services of Arizona Daily Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons to emcee the event so things wouldn't be taken too seriously.
"The purpose of the January 7th event is to allow constituents a chance to hear their elected officials respond to questions that relate to the city … get lightly sautéed by Fitz, but also take serious questions from the people we represent," Kozachik said. "It's sad that a few people who represent a small segment of the population have announced their intention of turning the event into one about themselves and not simply allowing it to serve its intended purpose."
A dozen politicians, or their representatives, already have committed to attend the event.
Among the offices expected to participate are those of U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Ron Barber; state Rep. Ethan Orr and eight other members of the Pima County state legislative delegation; county Supervisors Richard Elías and Sharon Bronson; and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
Initially, Kozachik received a slight ribbing for hosting an event billed as bipartisan with only two Republicans on the panel.
"I can't control who the people in Ward 6 vote for," Kozachik said. "And those are the politicians that I invited to the Ward 6 Roast."
But the mild jibes turned more severe once Kozachik announced he would like to see Tucson have more say in how the city regulates guns.
"Once the Home Rule Memorial came out, the whole conversation changed. Now the name calling is equating me to Hitler and saying that I'm trying to disarm the citizens," Kozachik said. "It's really unfortunate that we can't even have the conversation without people coming unglued and becoming irrational over just the idea of talking about legitimate time, place and manner restrictions on firearms."
Kozachik said many gun-rights advocates have taken to social media sites and elsewhere to declare they intend to disrupt the event to show their displeasure with Kozachik over this issue.
As a result, Kozachik decided to set some firm ground rules to ensure everyone in attendance can enjoy himself or herself:
• No open microphone. Instead, audience members who want to ask a question will submit it in writing. Fitzsimmons will then ask general questions based on the themes reflected on the cards submitted, Kozachik said.
• No guns. "We will have security on site, and people will not be allowed to bring firearms into the theater. If they don't understand the rationality of that decision, then they're welcome to stay at home and miss the event," Kozachik said.
• Bags will be checked at the door.
• Anyone who wants to videotape the event will be asked not to obstruct the view of anyone else in attendance.
Kozachik said if people find these guidelines unreasonable, he suggests they find something else to do on Monday night.
"There are too many significant issues that deserve to be talked about in a forum like this to allow some small fringe to come in and disrupt it for the thinking members of the community," Kozachik said. "This is a seriously contemplated event, for serious-minded people who are interested in an adult-level exchange. Don't come if your only intent is to find fault or be disruptive."
The event is free, and no tickets are required to enter. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.