Taken at its word, the City Charter excludes women from local government.

Male Order 

Taken at its word, the City Charter excludes women from local government.


HAD MOLLY McKasson been elected mayor in 1999, the former two-term member of the City Council from Sam Hughes would have upset not only the Republican-Democratic business coalition she scared but also the very foundation of city government.

McKasson would have made history as the city's first woman mayor. It is a job, like those of the city's six council members and 10 of the city's top administrators and judges, that the City Charter says is to be filled by a man.

In place for 72 years, the City Charter calls for a man to serve as city manager and men to be city attorney, city clerk, city magistrate, city engineer, superintendent of streets, chief of police, fire chief, director of parks and recreation, and director of finance.

The same business elite who ensured Republican Bob Walkup's win over McKasson demanded that the City Council accede to its three-part rewrite of the City Charter, which the group said was essential for Tucson to stride into the new century.

But no one from the male-dominated Southern Arizona Leadership Council or others who criticized or even examined the charter uttered a word about the numerous "he shall" job descriptions for mayor and 10 executive positions.

The City Council voted without dissent last week to kill the effort to put the charter changes on the ballot. The modernization sought by the Leadership Council would have added two wards to the city's six, abolished partisan elections and increased the mayor's power.

Council"man" Shirley Scott, a Democrat in her second term in southeast side Ward 4, summarized the opposition to the Leadership Council's drive--which circumvented the initiative petition process--and delivered the motion to keep the charter proposals off the November 6 general election ballot. Scott's motion also established a 15-member committee to evaluate charter changes that could be placed on a special election ballot, along with a transportation tax, next spring.

Council members and Walkup will each appoint two members to the committee, leaving the final appointment to City Manager James Keene. The last major city charter committee convened in 1982, but its proposals for a full overhaul and a strong-mayor form of government were scuttled.

For all the talk about cleaning up charter language and bringing it up to date, there was none about the anachronistic, male-dominated nature of the charter that a 12-man, 2-woman committee drafted and voters approved in 1929.

Certainly, the charter has not blocked women from the council or from some key city positions.

Kathy Detrick rose in 1991 from deputy city clerk and elections director to city clerk. She was not a pioneer, though she succeeded Don DeMent (1972-91) and the late Bill DeLong (1970-72). The late Mary Fields Rallis was a popular city clerk who served from 1956 to 1970.

The city clerk, according to section 10 of the charter's 10th chapter, "shall have the custody and be responsible for the corporate seal of the city, all books, papers, records and archives. ... He shall be present at each meeting of the mayor. ... He shall keep separate books in which, respectively, he shall record all ordinances, resolutions, contracts and official bonds."

Enumerating the powers and duties of the mayor, the charter states that the mayor "shall annually, and from time to time, give the council information relative to the affairs of the city, and recommend for its consideration such matters as he may deem expedient."

The mayor is empowered to appear "in any manner before the courts on behalf of the city; he shall be recognized by the governor and other state officials as the chief and official head of the city."

Council members are "councilmen" in chapter eight of the charter, just three sections after an update to the charter in 1997 on appointments to council vacancies uses the word "councilmember."

Liz Rodriguez Miller, an assistant city manager who previously led the Tucson-Pima Library system, will have to break more than a glass ceiling if she advances. Outlining the duties and powers of the manager, the charter states "he shall supervise and direct the official conduct of all city officers ... he shall supervise the performance of all contracts made by any person for work done for the city ... he shall appoint, employ and discharge, from time to time, as occasion requires, all officers, deputies and employees of the city."

The charter wastes no time assuming the gender of the city attorney. "The attorney shall have been duly admitted to the practice of his profession in the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona and shall have been actually engaged in the practice of his profession for a period of at least five years."

The city engineer also needs at least five years practical experience as a civil engineer, according to the charter, which also states "he shall perform all the engineering and surveying required in the carrying on of public works and improvements done under the authority of the mayor and council."

When Elaine Hedtke was sworn in as police chief in early 1992 succeeding Peter Ronstadt, rank and file cops must have viewed the charter literally. The charter calls for the police chief to "devote his entire time to the discharge of the duties of his office," and also states that the force "shall consist of such number of policemen" as determined by the City Council.

But cops added their own misogynistic vitriol. Many in her command so openly and frequently called her a "cunt" that she, in a speaking engagement in which she tried to deflate her opposition, introduced herself as "that cunt." She stayed in office 20 months.

The fire chief also is required, by the charter, to "devote his entire time to the discharge of the duties of his office, and shall have control of the officers and men employed in the fire department."

Similar language also is in place for the city's magistrate--a job that is now divided among 12 full-time judges including five women--and the superintendent of streets, parks director and finance director, a title held for 15 years by Kay Gray.

Changes in the charter have occasionally cleaned up sexist language. Chapter 30 was redone in 1989 for the human resources department, "the head of which shall be the director of human resources, who shall have had at least five years experience in the human resources field."

It was the mayor's inability to vote on the termination of top city bosses--manager, clerk, attorney, police and fire chiefs among them--that Walkup and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council wanted to change in its proposal camouflaged as mayoral parity.

The City Council vote was a stunning setback and surprise to proponents. The Leadership Council came heavy--members including developer lawyer S.L. Schorr spoke at the hearing. Andrew Greenhill, Walkup's chief of staff, scurried to give talking points to others, including Michael Crawford, the lawyer who occupied the Ward 3 council office through appointment until losing to Democrat Jerry Anderson in the 1997 primary election. Greenhill also made no attempt to conceal the now routine stacking of the cards to arrange the speakers favorable to the mayor's schemes.

AZCorruption, the online political publication put out by Scott's son and her former aide, John Macko, predicted clear victory on the eve of the charter vote, stating: "AZCorruption now counts four solid votes to put the three ballot questions on the ballot in November."

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