For decades entrepreneurs have been the backbone to America’s economy and community. They provide jobs to those in need and a place for people in the community to come together. Many times, it is our locally owned businesses that let us hold our fundraiser events, family gatherings and donate to charities in the community. What, then, happens when our local businesses are being forced to close? One local business is finding out and will not go down in silence. Viva Coffee House, locally owned by Kelly Walker, in recent months has been the focal point of threats, harassment, and constant non-compliance reports to the Pima County Health Department.
Walker tried to bring attention to the threats that his business, family, and staff have been receiving by attending and speaking at a Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting, where he was arrested at the direction of the Board Chairman, Supervisor Valadez. District 2 Supervisor Valadez, who lost the 2020 Primary Election to Dr. Matt Heinz, gave what some would think was a warning to Walker about the profanity he was reading from threats he had received. When Walker tried to explain where the profanity was coming from, Supervisor Valadez had him arrested.
Supervisor Valadez and his office have yet to reach out to Walker or address the heinous threats that the Viva Coffee House staff has had to endure.
I spoke with Walker, who stated that this situation has a taken a toll on all aspects of his life. His wife is terrified for her husbands and children’s lives. Walker stated, “My wife won’t let my children play in the front of our house. She’s scared someone is going to hurt them.” Walker stated that his staff, who have been threatened with physical harm and some with rape, are scared.
If all of that was not bad enough now the Pima County Health Department has revoked Walker’s business license and shut down the Viva Coffee House. Walker worries that if the coffee house stays shut down for a prolonged period his staff will suffer; staff that includes a single mother. Walker has six staff members and there are four owners of Viva Coffee House, meaning this shut down would take away income from ten people causing an even higher unemployment rate.
Walker expressed frustration with the complaints being submitted to the Pima County Health Department. I asked Walker if he believes that the low ratings his coffee house has been getting in recent months are a direct cause of the Pima County Health Department’s lack of compassion to business owners trying their best to comply with new rules that are not very clear. He stated that every inspector wanted something different done and he would comply with a direction and then get punished for it.
When the first inspector came into the coffee house, Walker was advised that he could either print the requested flyers or wait for the inspector and she would bring some for him. Walker had opted for the inspector to bring the flyers and later found out that choice was a mistake, receiving a non-compliance report due to the flyers not being posted before the inspector had arrived.
Why give Walker a choice and then turn around and punish him?
In 2011, President Barrack Obama said, “Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs.”
So, if former President Obama understands the importance of small businesses in the community, then why can’t the democratic run Board of Supervisors?
On Tuesday, October 6th, the Board of Supervisor denied the removal of what is commonly called the “Wall of Shame” on the Pima County Health Department website, Supervisor Miller, and Supervisor Christy voting in favor of the removal. Supervisor Miller and Supervisor Christy tried twice to get the Board to consider more education for Health Inspectors and restaurants. Twice the request was denied due to the democrats on the Board. During the meeting Supervisor Miller brought up the fact that a young woman was being threated of rape and physical harm and asked her fellow Board members their reasons of denying the take down of the “Wall of Shame,” in which none of the democrats responded or showed any emotion towards.
Walker stated that he is not unwilling to work with the County and has tried multiple times to get guidance on what is needed in order to get Viva Coffee House in compliance with the County’s rules but is always meet with punishments instead of education.
Why is the County allowing threats to go unchecked? Why not release a statement stating that this behavior is unacceptable? Where is the County Sheriff? Is this the way locally owned businesses should be treated for asking for guidance?
If the County is trying to run our local businesses out and crash Pima County’s economy, they are well on their way.