Last week’s arrest of a longtime Winslow businessman who started selling snack food, household items, dog food, and livestock feed in order to reopen his specialty art store has prompted statewide attention of the authority of local governments to enforce closure orders that only impact some businesses.
Daniel Mazon, 71, was handcuffed April 11 and forced to sit in a patrol car after officers removed him from Authentic Native American Arts, a jewelry and art store he has owned for more than a decade off Interstate 40. He was then cited for allegedly failing to comply with a March 17 emergency declaration order by Winslow Mayor Tom McCauley which corresponds to executive orders issued by Gov. Doug Ducey.
Those government orders require all “non-essential” businesses to remain closed until further notice. In the meantime, most big-box retails stores continue to operate, including a Walmart about one mile from Mazon’s store. Shoppers at Walmart can buy groceries, dog food, and household products, as well as jewelry.
It is that disparity which has Bret Roberts, a Republican representative in LD11, questioning whether an industrious business owner should be punished for trying to salvage his longtime source of income. He represents parts of Pima and Pinal counties, where there has been a combined 957 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 42 reported deaths.
Roberts is concerned, he told Arizona Daily Independent, that Mazon’s arrest may indicate some local governments are prepared to move away from a community policing viewpoint of encouraging compliance. His interest is due in part to his role as vice-chairman of the legislature’s regulatory affairs commission and his seat on both the commerce and judiciary committees.
“One of the things I and others have asked for all along is for there to be guidance about the enforcement of these orders,” Roberts explained. “We’re talking after all about an individual’s freedom and liberty.”
According to Roberts, he was impressed with Mazon’s innovative idea to broaden his product line to become “essential” as defined by the governor.
“The situation in Winslow begs the question of why restaurants are now able to act as grocery stores, and why a grocery store can sell jewelry, but a jewelry store supposedly can’t sell toilet paper and hay,” he said.
And if Arizona continues to be one of the less-impacted states in the country, Roberts believes the eagerness of other business owners to get back to work could cause additional conflicts. That is why Roberts is closely monitoring what he calls “the beginning of a paradigm shift” among his constituents toward the current forced business closures and stand-at-home directives.
“We aren’t one of those areas that’s been hard hit by the virus, so people are starting to shift their attitudes,” Roberts explained. “It’s important for us to balance a longer-lasting recovery against the actual threat posed” by COVID-19.
Roberts said he would like to hear from anyone who has encountered problems similar to what occurred last week in Winslow. He can be reached at 602-926-3158.
Meanwhile, the April 11 citation issued to Mazon requires him to appear at the Winslow Justice Court on May 19. City officials have threatened to put him in jail if he reopens before then. Mazon faces up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine if convicted of the charge, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.