Tucson - Many people have complained to the News 4 Tucson Investigators about Pima County supervisors holding board meetings only in the day time, when they can't attend because they're at work. We asked the supervisors, who make nearly $76,600 a year, about that. We thought it was a non-controversial, really simple question.
However, Supervisors Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez apparently thought otherwise.
When we asked them during a break in yesterday’s board meeting if they would consider or have discussed holding at least one night meeting a month, they both refused to answer our questions, and walked away.
Supervisor Sharon Bronson said, “There has been no discussion.” We asked her, “What do you think of the idea?” She replied, “I don't know.”
Supervisor Steve Christy said he’d be fine with night meetings, and Ally Miller wants to have them.
Miller told us, “I think we should hold all of our meetings in the evenings because a lot of folks have expressed concern to me about the fact that they can't participate in governance. And I believe we're here to accommodate the people, not the other way around.”
The meetings are available online, but that doesn't help people who have to work or don't have Internet access.
At this week's meeting we couldn't find one resident against night sessions.
Debbie King told us, “I think to be part of the process is so important and it's our civic duty to be part of the process that I think that they should really have some night meetings so that we can all be involved in the process.”
Eugene Mejia said, “I think that it's extremely important for the county supervisors board meetings to be held at a time that is amiable for all county residents to attend.”
Pima County supervisors are far from alone. We checked Arizona's 14 other counties, and only one holds evening meetings.
Liz Archuleta is the chair of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. They've held one of their two monthly meetings at night since 1985.
Archuleta said, “We have our night meetings at six o'clock to enable the public to be able to join us. We see many more citizens in the evening meetings than we do in our daytime meetings.”
Tom Volgy is a professor of political science at UA and former Tucson mayor. Volgy said, ““If you're not interested in hearing from the public, you can't do your job. County government has spread and increased its responsibilities, but some of the methods that they use to communicate with the public has not kept even with that.”
Tucson City Council meetings are at 5:30 p.m. and most cities and school boards hold their meetings at night.
Councilman Steve Kozachik said, “Accessibility is the most important thing from my perspective that we offer the public. And so we hold them in the evenings so people can come after work and take part.”
Coconino Supervisor Archuleta added, “It's part of their job as professionals, and being at the director level, to work at the hours that they need to and are convenient for the public.”
Archuleta’s counterpart in Pima County, Sharon Bronson, told us when we asked her about holding night meetings, “I haven't discussed it, so I can't comment.”
Former Mayor Volgy says night meetings could eventually be held here, but only after a lot of residents raise the issue to their supervisor.
By the way, supervisors in Coconino County, which does have a much lower population than Pima's, make about $13,000 a year less than supervisors here.
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