The Daily Agenda: A jab and a prayer
Was that staged or just good timing? ... Kari (Snowf)lake ... And ask us anything about journalism.
The City of Phoenix paused its employee vaccine mandate yesterday after a federal judge in Georgia issued a preliminary injunction against President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating vaccines for employees of federal contractors.
The city had argued that it qualified as a federal contractor, and although Phoenix has more federal contracts than many other cities in the Valley, it stood alone in arguing that it was subject to the federal mandate.
Many other cities would be covered under Biden’s mandate for large employers with more than 100 employees, but that has also been blocked so far by a federal judge (as has his mandate for health care workers).
Arizona is among the top states in the nation for COVID-19 deaths and hospitals are once again hitting capacity for certain life support treatments, largely from the unvaccinated.
During a council meeting on the changes yesterday, Mayor Kate Gallego noted that 20,000 Arizonans and 24 Phoenix employees have died from COVID-19 and “the funerals have been heartbreaking.” And she noted the city currently has nearly 50 firefighters on COVID-19 leave, which is hurting ambulance response times.
Conservatives like Phoenix City Council member Sal DiCiccio and gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon used the meeting to take a victory lap over the court ruling, saying crime, not the virus, is the city’s real problem, and the mandate would have exacerbated recruitment and retention problems among police and fire employees.
Meanwhile, legislative Republicans held court yesterday with police officers and firefighters who oppose vaccines or were fired for refusing the jab, and held a press conference/prayer circle/march/vaccine card ripping event to end vaccine mandates.
But ending mandates might not be as simple as a lawsuit and a prayer.
Under Phoenix’s short-lived federal-mandate-based requirement, which was approved only by the city manager and not the elected council members, only 51 percent of city employees have voluntarily shown the city their vax card ahead of the now-scrapped Jan. 18 deadline to get vaccinated.
But in Tucson, where the city council actually voted for a mandate — arguing not that the city must mandate vaccines because of some presidential order, but that state laws banning city mandates were unconstitutionally passed — 99% of employees are in compliance with the mandate (excluding those with medical and religious exemptions).
As DiCiccio noted, city councils can mandate vaccines for city employees any time they want, despite all three federal mandates being put on hold. They just need the guts to take a vote.
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What timing: Gov. Doug Ducey visited the U.S.-Mexico border yesterday and announced that he was having the Arizona National Guard use some of its resources to handle an influx of migrants crossing the border in the Yuma area. While Ducey was holding a press conference in front of the border fence, a group of migrants crossed into the country, 12News’ Brahm Resnik reports.
Local man gets promotion: Tucson Police Chief (well, now formerly) Chris Magnus was confirmed by the U.S. Senate yesterday as the new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The cheese stands alone: Ducey doesn’t support the idea of cameras in classrooms, either, so Kari Lake stands (mostly) alone on this issue, the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger reports. Can we stop talking about it now, or do we have to continue down the line of succession to see who may support it?
A deliberative process that’s actually working?: The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is listening to feedback from people and groups that weighed in on the proposed maps and deciding what changes to make, and so far, changes proposed by the Yuma mayor and a Latino coalition were finding success, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda reports.
Complete with video evidence: Corrections officers at the state prison in Florence pepper-sprayed an inmate with schizoaffective disorder more than 40 times over the course of eight months in an attempt to stop him from self-harming, the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins reports.
That’s one way to spend Christmas break: Twenty people are on a hunger strike, saying they won’t eat until Congress agrees to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, and they also want U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s support for the bill. They intend to camp outside the Arizona Capitol throughout their hunger strike, they told 12News.
People better just wear nametags: Two new Democrats are joining the Arizona House of Representatives after the Pima County Board of Supervisors filled vacancies in Legislative Districts 9 and 10. Christopher Mathis, the husband of 2011 IRC chair Colleen Mathis, will represent LD9, while Morgan Abraham will represent LD10. The Republic’s Ray Stern notes that there’s now just one remaining vacant seat after a spate of departures this year. He also details how the Pima supervisors deliberated over whether to appoint women for the seats before ultimately voting in favor of two men.
It’s not just for horses, but there is a horse version: Arizona Sen. Kelly Townsend doesn’t want pharmacists to stand in the way of off-label prescriptions for ivermectin for people who want to use it to fend off COVID-19, despite it being an anti-parasitic drug that is not proven effective in treating or preventing COVID-19, KJZZ’s Ben Giles reports.
Weeping for all the angry millionaires: The City of Phoenix plans to reopen Cholla Trail next year, but a new trailhead for the popular Camelback Mountain route still has some wealthy nearby residents upset, the Republic’s Jen Fifield reports.
You’re making the politics too political: We mentioned Arizona Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s bill that would make school board races partisan Monday, saying the bill makes some sense since these races are increasingly seeing political party involvement. But Republic columnist Laurie Roberts thinks making these elections partisan would further exacerbate the problem, cost a lot more for candidates and mimic partisan gridlock at other levels of government.
Just a formality: As Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry continues to recover from being hit by a car while riding a bicycle, the county named Jan Lesher as acting administrator, the Arizona Daily Star’s Nicole Ludden reports.
If you can’t beat em: D. Hunter Schwarz, a writer for Deseret News, looks at how Arizona Democrats emulate and appeal to Republicans as a way to win statewide elections here, a playbook best exemplified by Sinema.
A war of words: Two new entrants for terms that mean very little that you’ll probably end up hearing too much about: “ballot trafficking” and “critical energy theory.”
WCPO, a TV news station in Cincinnati, opened its morning news meeting up to the public, allowing viewers who didn’t trust the media inside to see how and why they selected, or decided not to cover, certain stories. The exercise of allowing people in helped increase trust and understanding in the station and its processes, according to a rundown from Trusting News, a project that works to improve news understanding.
We love to discuss why journalists do the things they do — why we, at the Arizona Agenda, make the choices we make, but also how other newsrooms analyze a story for its newsworthiness.
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We might get a sworn deposition from GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake about the state of her mental health.
Lake, who is apparently competing for our First Annual Snowflake Award, hired local Republican attorney Timothy La Sota to send an angry cease and desist letter to local GOP consultant Brian Murray after he mocked her in a tweet using the hashtag #bipolar??.
Lake paid an untold sum to La Sota to demand Murray delete the tweet and issue a public correction stating she is not bipolar. Murray’s tweet, it should be noted, received just one like and one retweet (before the letter was sent anyway — now, several responses urge him not to use a mental health diagnosis as an insult).
Murray’s attorney, Tom Ryan, in top Tom Ryan form, responded to La Sota’s demand with a strong refusal. Murray won’t be taking the tweet down and did not attempt to diagnose her with any mental illnesses, Ryan noted, while pointing to a range of other tweets that La Sota could direct his client’s assets toward, should he want to keep sending cease and desist letters.