Austin VanDerHeyden, the Municipal Affairs Liason for the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute (GI), applauded Pima County for listening to its constituents and taking steps to address the homelessness crisis in the City of Tucson.
“Pima County has taken an encouraging first step by hearing its constituents’ concerns and by passing – in unanimous and bipartisan fashion – several motions to address the homelessness crisis. Now, Pima County officials must ensure they follow through on the action they’ve pledged to take to protect law-abiding citizens’ rights by enforcing the law. Moreover, it’s time for the Tucson City Council to step up, hold a similar meeting, and follow in Pima County’s footsteps,” said VanDerHeyden in a statement emailed to the Arizona Sun Times.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors (PCBOS) held a public meeting Tuesday, where people dressed in black from the Tucson Crime Free Coalition spoke about the damages caused by the homelessness crisis plaguing the city. VanDerHeyden, who attended the meeting, said the conversation focused on immediate action the PCBOS could take to alleviate the situation. While he said more discussions and plans would be needed in the future, change cannot come from inaction, so anything the board can do, big or small, is a step in the right direction.
“What’s needed here is immediate action,” VanDerHeyden said at the meeting. “Inaction isn’t compassionate to business owners. It isn’t compassionate to the people who are living on the streets. Instead, it subjects everyone to dangerous and unsanitary conditions and ruins people’s lives and livelihoods.”
NPR dubbed the PCBOS’s actions as “baby steps.” The board approved steps to arrest and persecute those who break public health and safety laws and direct any unused COVID-19 relief money to address the crisis.
Jim Bishop, owner of SGA Financial Services and lifelong Tucson resident, also spoke at the meeting to shed light on what people in the city experience. He has an office on Broadway and Pantano in a complex shared with 19 other business owners. Speaking on their behalf, he said there is a constant prescience of homeless people on the property. He said all the owners in the complex have to pick up drug paraphernalia daily, face intimidation and forced entry, and even had a prostitute conduct her business on their building’s balcony.
Moreover, while VanDerHeyden applauded the steps taken by the PCBOS, he said that the same treatment needs to be seen in other parts of the state. He pointed to “the Zone” in Phoenix, a section of the downtown area where upwards of 1,000 homeless people have set up camp. This massive population of homeless people has caused a rise in crime and public indecency in the area, which is affecting residents and business owners.
As reported by the Sun Times, conditions became so bad that Phoenix citizens filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing it was actively maintaining the zone rather than fixing the problem. The GI eventually became involved in this case, filing an amicus brief demanding the city take action.
However, the city tried to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging the citizens could not force any change through the court. An attorney representing Phoenix said the city is trying to make solutions for the situation, but that solutions take time.
Joe Setyon, Communications Manager for the GI, told the Sun Times that the judge, in this case, has recused herself. A trial has been set for early December, where a new judge will decide if the case will continue.
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