The Tucson City Council hasn’t always embraced pragmatism when it comes to hot-button political issues. They’ve often bowed to the loudest activist voices in the room.
Now, though, it seems they know when to fold ‘em. And that’s a good thing.
The council decided Wednesday to rescind the ordinance under which seized guns are destroyed. It was a shame they were forced into the decision, because it was another case of the state lording its power over municipalities that ought to be allowed to set policies for themselves.
Still, Council Member Steve Kozachik tried to publicly explore ways of avoiding the decision.
He asked for City Attorney Mike Rankin to explore whether the city could symbolically leave the ordinance in question on the books. Whether crime victims could decide what happens to a gun used against them. What happens if a resident gives city officials a gun and asks them to destroy it.
Rankin gave a consistent answer: The city is obligated to sell the guns to a licensed dealer for resale.
It sucks, but it’s the law, and the Supreme Court has said so. Also, it would cost the city $57 million to do otherwise.
The vote was still close, at 4-3, but it was the only thing to do under the circumstances.
The same goes for persistent calls for the city to declare itself a sanctuary city.
Some marchers who arrived at Tucson City Hall Tuesday and Wednesday, protesting the impending end of the DACA program, got angry at the mayor and City Council for not doing enough in support of immigrant rights. Some called for Tucson to declare itself a sanctuary city in a challenge to the policies of the Trump Justice Department.
That would be crazy. Years before Donald Trump took that ride down his golden escalator and declared his hardline position on illegal immigration, SB 1070 had already taken effect in Arizona.
That law forces Arizona cities to allow full enforcement of immigration laws. And it creates liability for any public official who stands in the way.
A pragmatic approach has held sway here — declaring the city immigrant-friendly, helping some residents become citizens, proscribing the situations in which police officers can call immigration officials. It’s the best we can do under current law. People who want us to do more need to elect a new state Legislature.
Dark money doubts
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that works to reduce the influence of money in national politics, dug into Tucson politics for a recent piece.
The group, which calls itself CREW, analyzed the tax filings of a nonprofit that in 2015 formed to try to defeat Democratic candidates for Tucson City Council.
Local Republican Christine Bauserman and former state Sen. Frank Antenori formed a 501 © 6 nonprofit called Foundation for Responsible Accountable Government. It gave about $50,200 to another group they formed, called Revitalize Tucson, which put up billboards and made robocalls. Typical campaign stuff.
What CREW found out, by looking at the foundation’s 2015 tax return, is that the Foundation for Responsible Accountable Government declared to the IRS that the money it spent was simply “grants,” not political expenditures.
The group explained on its return: “Promoting government accountability was realized by sending out emails and direct interactions with the community. We hosted a Summer and Fall series of 8 monthly Townhalls on the issues affecting peoples lives including issues like bonds, election integrity, saving jobs, roads, budget spending, and protecting peoples fundamental right to voice opposition to their Government. Additionally we hosted a debate on bond issues, created and distributed a survey of issues affecting the community and produced blogs. Through these efforts we increased our membership by more than 50%.”
It would be interesting to know just how many “members” the foundation had. Going from two to three, after all, is a 50 percent increase.
But more importantly, the foundation’s tax return says it did not engage directly or indirectly in any political campaign activity, and says it spent no money on political activities. By a common sense definition, that’s clearly not the case, since the foundation gave money to another group operated by the same people that spent money on campaigns.
CREW does sometimes sue or make complaints about alleged election-law violations but hasn’t done anything so far in this case. Bauserman has moved to D.C. for a job in the Interior Department, and Antenori has since moved out of Tucson.
Bets are off
I reported last week that former Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll was placing bets on whether his old rival, Supervisor Ally Miller, would show up to meetings where she was likely to be heavily criticized.
Well, he got one absence right, but he went for the double-or-nothing and was wrong about this week’s meeting. Miller showed up, heard criticism of her Facebook comment declaring her pride in being white (posted hours after the attack in Charlottesville, Va. killed one protester), and nothing really happened.
That is, the Pima County Attorney’s Office declared there was nothing much the supervisors could do to censure or chastise her for her comment. That was, of course, pretty obvious: She can say what she wants on Facebook, and it’s up to the voters to punish her if they want for her comments — and for her selective attendance of supervisors’ meetings.