The Pima County Board of Supervisors has taken several steps in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County, including voting on March 19 to close down all nonessential businesses, and later when the state reopened the economy, voting to implement and then revise new health regulations for restaurants and bars offering dine-in service once again.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry noted that reaction has ranged from critics who say the county hasn't done enough to those who complain the Board of Supervisors shouldn't do anything at all. Democratic supervisors Ramon Valadez, Sharon Bronson and Betty Villegas said they voted for the regulations to ensure public safety, while Republicans Steve Christy and Ally Miller say the new rules make it harder for beleaguered businesses to reopen. At the request of three GOP lawmakers, Attorney General Mark Brnovich is investigating if the measures imposed by the board exceed their authority. See more details here.
Tucson Weekly asked the candidates running for Board of Supervisors seats this year if they approved of those decisions and if they would have done anything differently. Here’s what the candidates in District 5 had to say.
Adelita Grijalva campaign
Adelita Grijalva says the county moved too slowly to close their facilities, such as the libraries, and transition the majority of employees to work from home.
There’s an open seat in District 5 following the death of Supervisor Richard Elías in late March. The board appointed Betty Villegas to replace Elías, but she is not seeking the seat in November.
The Democratic primary pits two school board members against each other: TUSD Board member Adelita Grijalva is facing Sunnyside School Board member Consuelo Hernandez in the heavily Democratic district, which includes the University of Arizona, downtown and parts of South Tucson and Saguaro National Park West.
Grijalva said the county moved too slowly to close their facilities, such as the libraries, and transition the majority of employees to work from home. If she was on the board, Grijalva says she would have advocated to close down facilities sooner.
Now that businesses are opening back up, Grijalva said the county cannot ignore basic health and safety precautions. She has already witnessed large groups of people gathering at restaurants since the state stay-at-home order was lifted on May 15.
The question about safety guidelines in restaurants continues to be debated. On May 21, the supervisors had to revise their emergency regulations on restaurants and bars after restaurant owners complained the new rules were too burdensome and some state lawmakers threatened to sue.
“As someone who has a background in global health, I know how critical it is for us to let the health professionals take the lead on this process,” Consuelo Hernandez said. “And while I understand the problem the county supervisors face and understand the challenges, it remains critical for us to deal with the situation with the best health and safety interests of our citizens in mind.”
Grijalva wants to see Pima County ensure sanitation, social distancing, case monitoring and soliciting feedback from the community. Without that, she fears a rushed reopening will cause a need to “reinstate anti-spread provisions” and inevitably cripple our chances of true economic recovery.
She also believes that the communications coming from the Pima County Health Department about COVID-19 need to be more accessible.
“I know that they’re putting it on social media, but if someone has connectivity issues, if they don’t have internet, then how are we getting information out?” Grijalva said. “It really is the responsibility of the county to get the information out, and I feel that while people who are engaged and seeking the information can find it, the vast majority may not be getting the updates that they need to.”
Hernandez said local government needs to do whatever it can to keep residents safe.
“As someone who has a background in global health, I know how critical it is for us to let the health professionals take the lead on this process,” Hernandez said. “And while I understand the problem the county supervisors face and understand the challenges, it remains critical for us to deal with the situation with the best health and safety interests of our citizens in mind.”
Republican Fernando Gonzales did not respond to requests for comment.