Tucson’s Mayor and some Council members are up for election this season. It would be prudent for us to consider the roles and responsibilities of those positions, and whether or not they are being fulfilled by the current occupants. Let us start with Mayor Romero.
Mayor Regina Romero began her career as an office holder in 2007 when she was elected councilman representing Tucson Ward One. She was re-elected twice, then ran successfully for Mayor in 2019, defeating Independent Ed Ackerley. Her first term as mayor is coming to an end and she is running for re-election.
Mayor Romero is from Somerton, Arizona, a small farming community outside of Yuma. Her parents worked the fields. After high school, she moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. After graduating, she attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government from which she received a certificate. With her experience in farm labor, and collegiate education, it is not surprising that she became part of the Raul Grijalva Left Wing of the Democrat Party. Regina Romero’s husband, Ruben Reyes, a district director for U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva.
We all have an admiration for passionate activists, such as Mayor Romero. It takes a certain level of passion to affect change. The problem is that when an activist is elected to an office he often does not accept the office as a job with a job description; rather, he sees the office as a tool with which to further his activist goals. Could this be the case with Mayor Romero?
Usually a new mayor will make conciliatory gestures to show that he has accepted the proper role as chief executive of the city government on behalf of all of the city’s people. To the contrary, an activist mayor will claim that now all will be well, and the suffering of the downtrodden will end, figuratively planting the flag of a conquering hero.
Mayor Romero dispensed with the “figuratively” part and flew an actual Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner from the Town Hall building; and in case the people did not get the message, she and fellow traveler Lane Santa Cruz, councilman for Ward One, painted the phrase “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on Stone Avenue, a downtown street.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a mayor holding political opinions and expressing them; however, there is something wrong with forbidding the expression of any opinion that runs afoul of the Conquering Heroine.
You may recall a local organization called “Back the Blue”, the members of which wanted to show appreciation for the Tucson Police Department (TPD) by painting a blue line across the street in front of the TPD headquarters. They approached Councilman Nikki Lee with a request to that end. After running it by the appropriate departments, City Manager Ortega issued the permit authorizing the group to paint the stripe on the road.
Mayor Romero caught wind of the authorization and had a hissy-fit turned up to eleven. She accused the head of the Back the Blue organization, Tim Cesolini, of being a “white supremacist”. This was news to Mr. Cesolini who did not know that showing support for local law enforcement proved you to be a white supremacist. Welcome to Mayor Romero’s world.
Mayor Romero put her minions to work to prove that Cessolini was a “known white supremacist”. The best they could come up with was a couple of unconvincing Facebook postings. The thing about Facebook postings is that it is easy to read into them anything you want.
In a classic “free speech for me but not for thee” move, Mayor Romero called on City Manager Michael Ortega to cancel the permit. She issued a statement on official City of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero letterhead imploring Mike Ortega to cancel the permit saying the effort “-incites and divides our community, and minimizes the Black Lives Matter Movement.” Well, there it is , by Mayoral fiat, BLM is Tucson and Tucson is BLM. No voices to the contrary permitted.
There was some brief public discussion. Channel 13 (kold.com) asked City Attorney Mike Rankin for a comment. He recommended not issuing the permit, mostly for practical rather than legal reasons:
Honorable Mayor and Council members, and all – This afternoon I was advised that the City had received a request for permission to paint a message on a City street near the TPD main station. The request had come in through the Ward 4 council office. Council member Lee and her staff handled the request exactly correctly by referring the requestor to TDOTM and the City Manager’s Office so that the request could be administered in the same manner as any other similar requests. The City Manager contacted me to discuss the legal implications of processing and granting these types of requests. I advised the City Manager that we should not consider or grant any permits authorizing people to paint or otherwise mark our streets (or a permit to close the street for that work) for the purpose of conveying a message, regardless of the content of the proposed message. Doing so would open up our streets as a public forum for this purpose, and the award or denial of a permit request could not be based on the content of the message or the identity of the applicant/speaker. It is my opinion and advice that this would be an untenable situation that could quickly run out of control.
I recall that when Rankin was asked what he offered as an opinion regarding the BLM street painting. He said that he received no request for an opinion regarding the BLM street painting. Of course not, why would he be consulted? The plan came directly from the Conquering Heroine.
Anyway, Ortega ended up canceling the blue line permit…