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Mayor Kate Gallego 'confident' she, Gov. Doug Ducey can work together after first talks since March

Kate Gallego Doug Ducey AP
Posted at 10:37 AM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-06 01:29:39-04

PHOENIX — On Friday morning, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego picked up the phone and called Governor Doug Ducey. The governor took the call.

It might not seem like such a big deal, but until Friday, the governor and mayor had not spoken since early March -- before any coronavirus deaths were reported in Arizona, and long before the statewide curfew the governor ordered last week.

"I talked to him about several areas where I thought we could work together, including fighting homelessness among our veterans," Gallego said. "He agreed that was important and we did have common ground in that area."

The mayor and the governor's office had agreed to start working on a plan to assist homeless veterans prior to the communications blackout.

The mayor said Governor Ducey also "committed to me, should there ever be a situation such as his decision to implement a curfew in my city, I won't have to find out by Twitter next time."

Gallego added, "I want to report to you, I am talking to the governor and I'm confident we can work together."

During our conversation, the mayor discussed her efforts to reach an agreement with protestors who have been marching through downtown Phoenix every night, including tonight, for the last nine days.

The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful this week. But what started as a protest against the Minneapolis Police killing of George Floyd has evolved into demands the Phoenix City Council fully fund a civilian review board— created earlier this year to investigate police brutality claims.

The protestors also want the city council to cut funding to the police department by 25 percent and move the money to social programs. They also want justice for Dion Johnson, a man shot by a DPS trooper last month. Phoenix police are currently investigating the case.

"This conversation is so much bigger then one department and one city," the mayor said. "We are addressing challenges that really are multi-generational. The solutions have to be just as complex."

Gallego says she holds teleconference meetings with community members regularly. She feels her best way to help solve the city's current challenges is by developing good public policy.

At this point, she doesn't have any plans to join the marchers on the street.

"What I am looking for is the opportunity to bring people together. So if my presence is helpful in bringing solutions, I want to be there. If people feel that it would be distracting and unsafe and not lead to a better conclusion, then I can continue to work on priorities and change at city hall," Gallego said.

Gallego's concerns about the spread of COVID 19 may weigh into her thinking. "There is still no vaccine. People are still losing their lives in our community. We have to take this seriously. "

Throughout the epidemic, the mayor has maintained a cautious approach to restarting the economy.

With the possibility the Republican Party could move its nominating convention to Phoenix, and the potential windfall for the city's tourist industry, she remains cautious. "As mayor I've been asked about moving large events to Phoenix, like major league baseball. My answer is the same, we have to lead with public health," she says, "we are making decisions that will effect the lives of our citizens, and we have to be careful."