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The Tucson agenda

Things universally loved: Pima County takes up mask mandates, voting convenience

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

Elections and public health: Two practices that never used to be controversial but lately one party (and I’m looking at you Mr. Pachyderm) have turned them into reasons for insurrection.

So the Pima County Board of Supervisors will take up both this week, in the form of mask mandates and making voting easier – or should I be politically correct and refer to them as the Holocaust and mass fraud – during their Tuesday meeting.

The mask mandate item is pretty straightforward.

Acting County Administrator Jan Lesher noted this week that the county’s requirement to wear face-covering indoors while in public places is about to expire. However, by every metric that public health administrators have been using to gauge the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, this part of Arizona is doing worse than when conditions were severe enough to prompt the mandate back in December.

The week the county put its first mandate into effect, back in June 2020, 2,115 cases were diagnosed among county residents. In the first week of February 2022, 5,443 infections were reported in Pima County. When the initial mandate ended in July 2021, six people died in Pima County as a result of COVID-19 and 26 were hospitalized. Last week, 54 people died in the county and 112 were hospitalized.

And when the county reinstated the mandate at the end of last year, cases were at 218 per 100,000. Today, the cases per 100,000 are at 718 per 100,000 population.

Some of this can be attributed to the weekly test rate increasing three-fold since the summer but the positivity rate has jumped from 4 percent in July to 19 percent in February.

From a political perspective, the county’s actions are coming just as mandate orders are being rescinded in places like New Jersey and California. People are sick of being sick of it. No doubt, the increasing cases will be offered as proof the mandates don’t work, which is the same kind of math that tells us 2+2 = 22.

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It's not that I want to beat up Republicans but you gotta throw me something that resembles a bone. Anyone who fails to differentiate a genocide from a mask mandate (while supporting dress codes) needs to talk to someone about whomever hurt them.

Lesher also wants the board to extend the employee coronavirus leave established in 2020 to give workers extra leave time related to coronavirus. Those leaves have largely been expended.

Vote aqui

The world seems to want to give up on getting everyone vaccinated because some of our neighbors just refuse under the perception that they themselves have infinite rights and no responsibilities. A few hundred thousand deaths a year will be hunky dory for some, to prove they are free. That would be the party that calls itself “The Party of Life.”

Voting centers may be coming to Pima County for the 2022 primary and general elections, and with them — apparently — the apocalypse.

The Board of Supervisors may be ready to switch up how the county elections are run by moving to a voting center system that allows all voters to vote at any election site. In other words, if a voter works at Raytheon Missile Systems but lives in Oro Valley, they can vote close to work. Should a motorist pass a voting center and say “Hh yeah, I should vote,” that person can park, walk in, get their ballot printed out because they are on the rolls and then cast their ballot.

The vote will be counted, even if the voter lives two ZIP codes away.

And of course, this is making some people lose their minds. What looks to be a concerted and coordinated effort against this plan seems to be coming from Republicans.

The Legislature is making it harder for people to vote. How dare Pima County make it harder for the Legislature to make it harder for Tucson to vote! The next thing we know the fix won’t be in. How’s that fair to “Real Americans?”

One county resident, who describes herself as a Tucson voter for more than 50 years, did one of the better jobs of summing up her problem with voting centers and electronic voter rolls.

“It seems to me an electronic poll book and electronic voting centers are SUBJECT TO ELECTRONIC FRAUD. What do you think? If you favor the manipulation of votes or defrauding voters, then this is a highly desirable system for you.”

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There’s just one problem with saying voting centers inevitably lead to fraud. Included in Interim Election Director Mary Martinson's recommendation are endorsements from those stashes of socialism and caldrons of communism known as Cochise and Yavapai counties. Those pretty red regions have been using voter centers for years and heartily endorse them.

“We've now gone through three election cycles using the Voter Center model and it's one of the best decisions our Board of Supervisors has made relating to elections as it provides an opportunity to pool resources to better serve our public,” wrote Lisa Marra, Cochise County elections director.

Donald Trump carried those counties by 57,000 votes. How much of that margin was fraudulent? Biden really won by more, huh?

If the problem is electronic voting rolls, then realize that list is electronic now. What? Do people think the rolls are kept in a dusty, leather-bound voter ledger on a shelf next to the Illuminati handbook?

Your tax bill also exists on an electronic file. Think about that for a second.

If supervisors get antsy and vote no, then they will stick with the precinct system where voters are welded to casting ballots at the single location indicated by their address.

Justice pro when?

There’s also this weird thing happening with an Ajo justice of the peace that we can’t get answers about. Judge Fred Klein has been a pro tem (auxiliary) justice of the peace for years, working in that small town west of Tucson.

The presiding Superior Court judge appoints a slate of pro tem judges each year, and the board approves them to sit as extra JPs when needed, to avoid a backlog of cases. Those appointments are good for terms of a single year, under state law.

The problem is last year, the supes didn’t approve Klein's appointment prior to his last term ending at the end of June 2021, and new one starting. So they are doing it now, but backdating it, with an item buried down in the consent agenda.

I’m just a newspaperman in flyover country, but it would appear to me that Klein may have been making decisions in cases without being properly seated. State law – because this is Arizona – is written poorly and isn’t clear about what this means and if the board must re-approve pro tem judges every year.

The Sentinel has been asking questions of multiple people across various county departments, but everyone's playing pass the buck, acting exactly like they screwed up and nobody wants to 'fess up. It doesn’t mean they did. But they sure are acting like it.

Godspeed, constable

Pima County Constable Kristen Randall will make her unfortunate resignation official Tuesday. The board will then have to figure out how/when to replace her. Hopefully, they will look for a someone with a sense of compassion Randall brought to the job and not just look for a tacticooled-out skullcrusher, with too much time in the gym and not enough in other people’s shoes.

The county Human Resources Department is continuing to remake government offices into a more employee-friendly environment. Lesher wants to establish an alternative work schedule option for departments to give employees more time off, while retaining hours worked. So, an employee can work four 10-hour shifts, for example, if the department agrees to allow it. 

The county has also in recent weeks has increased pay and time for family leave.

Cracking the code books

The supervisors will also consider a revamp of the design standards for wastewater plumbing. It’s 150 pages of cross-fittings and marker balls and stuff I hope to never fully understand. I will say it’s a revision to regulations and the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association is on board and SAHBA likes regulations like cats like baths.

Elsewhere, the Marana Town Council will vote to take over the duties of the the town's Board of Adjustment. State law requires boards of adjustment, to serve as an appeal on interpretations of zoning and building codes. Marana has used a combination of staff and public membership to hear these appeals, which according to a staff memo, are few and far between.

Finding members of the public to fill this position has also been difficult. Marana's council served as its own board from 1977 to 2003, kind of like how the Pima County Board of Supervisors serves as its own flood control district board.

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The council will also get an update on the plan to come up with a strategic plan. Yeah, it reads funny (planning to come up with a plan) but the council hired Seattle-based consultant CREA and Affiliates to put the document together. Might as well figure out what they have in mind in terms of timetables and process.

Market adaptations

The Oro Valley Town Council will mostly deal with ministerial business. 

Council members will discuss the approval additions to honking-big mixed use development named after the Oro Valley Marketplace mall that anchors the project on the corner of North Oracle and Tangerine roads.

Developers want to ad “an entertainment district,” two apartment complexes and three hotels to the already standing project.

The big thing to know is that the Planning and Zoning Commission approved it and the proposed changes conform to both Oro Valley general plan and the town zoning laws.

The South Tucson City Council will vote on a couple intergovernmental agreements with Pima County to help process community development block grants and elections.

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Feb 15, 2022, 12:20 pm
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Soon, this sign might mean you can just pull up and cast a ballot, even if the polling place is far from home. Voting centers are already used in most Arizona counties — including the red ones.

The Tucson agenda

Public meetings this week:

Pima County Board of Supervisors

Marana Town Council

South Tucson City Council

Oro Valley Town Council

Nogales City Council

  • Thursday, 1 p.m., special session (no agenda yet)

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