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Coronavirus in Arizona: Mayors, cities can't close parks, essentials without going through Governor Ducey

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 22:05:43-04

An executive order by Arizona's governor makes it harder for mayors, cities, and towns to close parks, essentials or mandate stay at home orders without going through the state.

The order uses words like "shall be consistent with advice from Arizona Department of Health Services" and "restrictions shall be coordinated with the state."

The governor's executive order also lays out what's considered essential if a stay at home order is placed in Arizona. The list is pages long with everything from bakers, to golf courses, and pawn brokers.

A first amendment attorney, Dan Barr, says the executive order is clear - "the governor has said pretty clearly that he has the sole power."

Barr describes the words "consistent" and "coordinate" in the executive order as "weasel words."

"If he’s going to take such authority, he should come forward and say, 'Yeah I'm taking the exclusive authority,'" he said. "He should come out and say, 'Yes, I'm taking exclusive power and the responsibility for issuing such orders lies with me and me alone.'"

ABC15 has highlighted parks are packed with people despite a call for social distancing. If Phoenix's mayor and city council wanted to put a closure to parks to slow the spread of COVID-19, they would have to go to the governor first.

"I am concerned this is not sustainable," said Mayor Kate Gallego. "The idea that we would have to check with the governor before implementing safety measures at any of the incredibly broad number of essential services seems unworkable."

Phoenix is the nation's fifth largest city that has the largest population in Arizona.

Gallego tells ABC15 she understands the governor's interest in having consistency across the state of Arizona, "but my message is we can't stop cities from making decisions throughout COVID-19."

Last week, the governor made it clear that he wants cities and counties to make decisions at a local level when implementing closures -- like bars, and restaurants.

Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson all used their authorities to mandate the closures of bars and restaurants, days before a state-wide mandate.

On Tuesday, a day after the governor's executive order, Tucson made a move requesting the governor issue a "remain in place" order.

In Tucson, Mayor Regina Romero, posted to social media that the city council unanimously approved a motion encouraging Governor Ducey to take action at the statewide level to issue a "remain in place."

The governor said in a Monday press conference that his order is for clarity.

"This is a proactive and administrative measure that ensures the state has one consistent, overarching policy," said Ducey.