PHOENIX (CN) — Chants of “shame on you,” rang throughout the Phoenix City Council chambers Wednesday.
Councilmembers were barraged with scorns in both English and Spanish from a few dozen individuals the audience. Some spoke between sobs. Others shook fists and fingers in fury.
“We have kids that’re gonna be homeless and you won’t listen to us!” Alondra Ruiz Vazquez yelled as she paced up and down the aisle between seats.
The eruption came less than an hour into the council's Wednesday afternoon meeting, when Councilmember Debra Stark made a motion to skip public comment on the consideration of a development moratorium on three at-risk mobile home parks — a moratorium the Council ultimately voted against.
“Kate Gallego, look at me, I’m talking to you,” Ruiz Vazquez said to the Phoenix Mayor. “Just because your son’s not gonna be homeless, you don’t wanna hear us?”
Police escorted her to the back of the room as more Phoenix residents bashed the councilmembers.
Across the room, state Senator Anna Hernandez rose from her seat in the audience.
“I will make it my mission over my next term to preempt the city of Phoenix in every way possible,” the Democrat from Phoenix said over continued yells. “And I keep my word. If you shut them down, I will make it my goal to shut the city down to preemption in every available realm possible.”
Across two meetings last month, the Council heard more than seven hours of emotional testimony from residents of Las Casitas, Periwinkle and Weldon Court mobile home parks — which was apparently more than enough for the four Councilmembers, plus Gallego, who voted not to hear any more Wednesday afternoon.
Because landowners are planning to redevelop, the mobile home parks are closing, and residents are being left with little-to-no options.
“They can’t go anywhere because there’s no affordable housing,” Hernandez shouted during the meeting.
Residents of Weldon Court are to be evicted on May 1, Periwinkle residents will be evicted May 28, and Weldon Court residents have until the end of June.
Councilmember Betty Guardado pushed for a second time to issue a 120-day development moratorium on the parks to prevent the roughly 300 total residents from being pushed onto the streets. While the moratorium wouldn’t legally stop evictions, Councilmember Carlos Garcia explained that the move would give the residents leverage over the landowners, as they’d have no reason left to evict people if their plans for redevelopment were stalled.
“It would be standing with these folks,” he said. “Standing with the only affordable housing that’s left in this city.”
The moratorium was previously part of a four-point solution proposed to the Council by a subcommittee in March but was never taken up for a vote.
Tonight's item dealing solely with the development moratorium wouldn’t immediately have gone into effect. It merely would have authorized city staff to conduct a month-long study into the legality of its enforcement. If city staff found it to be legal, only then could it be issued. Staff has already told the council that the action would violate state law.
“It would be a political stunt to tell people that this vote would help them in the very, very hard situation that they are in,” Gallego said. “We want to help folks, but we can’t do that with stunts. We have to do real policy that is vetted by lawyers and is gonna stand up to scrutiny.”
Hernandez and Garcia called Gallego hypocritical, saying that the city has gone against the law in the past when it was convenient for it.
Hernandez pointed to two recent lawsuits against the city as evidence of it not following city code. Both cases accuse the city of withholding public information on contract negotiations with the city police union from public view, which violates city law.
“You pick and choose when you want to follow the laws, Mayor,” Hernandez said.
Councilmembers Garcia, Guardado and Laura Pastor, and Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari, voted in favor of the development moratorium. But Councilmembers Stark, Ann O’Brien, Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio, and Mayor Gallego.
“And that’s a political stunt,” Hernandez yelled as the audience trickled out. “You talk about wanting to help people, and you help nobody.”Follow @@JournalistJoeAZ
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