The Skinny: Out of political spite, Ducey blocks opportunity to get vaccines to low-income and minority neighborhoods

Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ
Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ

It's been more than a month since FEMA first approached Pima County about opening a clinic to vaccinate people in minority and low-income neighborhoods.

The vax clinic could have been up and running already, but Arizona Health Director Cara "Let Them Eat COVID" Christ and Doug "Drop Dead" Ducey first refused to allow it, leading the media to hammer the governor for his willingness to stand by and let people die in Pima County. Since saying he'd reconsider it, Ducey dragged his heels and finally offered up a contract that neither Pima County nor FEMA was willing to sign because it was full of poison pills.

Pima County officials had argued that the agreement would bring more vaccine to Arizona and be set up in low-income and minority neighborhoods, reaching a segment of the population that has not fared well in Ducey's "Hunger Games" vax strategy.

But those upsides meant nothing to Ducey, who argued that all the vaccine should flow through him because the peasants in Pima County don't matter to the King of the North. Plus, Christ argued that that it was just too complicated to set up a vax clinic, despite the fact that Pima County has been running several large outdoor sites along with mobile clinics.

So Ducey shot-blocked Pima County's potential clinics—and at this point, the state has so much vaccine that hundreds of appointments are going unfilled on a regular basis at Ducey's big UA POD.

In fact, Christ said last week that interest in the max-vax sites like the UA or the stadiums in Phoenix is falling and state health officials now think they need smaller clinics in distressed neighborhoods—which is exactly what Christ and Ducey kept from happening here weeks ago. Well done, governor!

Ducey used to brag about how he would make government move at the speed of business. In this case, with lives on the line, he made government move at the speed of a desert tortoise who is indifferent to how many lizards get sick and die.

At this point, Pima County officials are giving up on opening the FEMA clinic because vaccine is no longer scarce. Instead, they are hoping for FEMA's help with staffing clinics around town.

Christ and Ducey can stick their contracts where the sun doesn't shine.

The Arizona Supreme Court said last week that state lawmakers overreached when they passed a law requiring Tucson elections to move to presidential and midterm election years if not enough voters turned out to cast ballots.

In a 5-1 decision with Justice Clint Bolick dissenting, the court held that the timing of elections in a charter city such as Tucson was not a matter of statewide concerns, no matter the level of participation.

"Whether to align municipal elections with state and national elections or hold them in different years is purely a matter of municipal interest and not a statewide concern," Vice Chief Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer wrote for the majority. "Consequently, we hold that (the statute) cannot apply to require a city to consolidate local elections with state and national elections if its charter provides otherwise."

The 2018 law would have triggered a change in the schedule if turnout in a city election fell by 25% or more from the previous year's gubernatorial election. The Tucson City Council asked voters to amend the charter in 2018, but the proposition was rejected and the City Council does not have the power to override charter provisions without voter approval.

Attorney general Mark Brnovich then petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court to resolved the issue.

As a result of the ruling, this year's city election will continue as scheduled, with elections in Wards 3, 5 and 6.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero cheered the decision.

"I am pleased that the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with the City of Tucson that our local elections are a matter of local concern," Romero said. "Phoenix state legislators have once again failed to override the will of Tucsonans in disrupting our local elections. Tucsonans have repeatedly affirmed that our local elections belong on odd years, which allows for city-focused campaigns and robust public discourse on local issues that would otherwise be overshadowed by federal and state elections on even years. I hope that this ruling finally puts the issue to rest, and that our State Legislators can return their focus to the pressing issues facing Arizonans instead of meddling with our local elections."

State lawmakers already forced smaller towns without protected charter rights to move their elections in sync with the presidential and midterm elections as of 2014. But the Arizona Supreme ruled that law did not apply to Tucson for similar reasons.