COCHISE COUNTY GOVERNMENT VERSUS THE MINUTEMEN

 

I. Life Along the Border

Certain features of an open border, and illegal Mexican labor, may not be apparent to our Northern cousins.

This is because the mainstream media present the illegals as coming north in search of honest work, except for some criminals who are involved in drug smuggling, and the "mainstream opposition" to illegals paints pretty much the same picture, with minor changes in emphasis, focusing more on drug smuggling and insisting that illegals can't, by definition, do "honest" work. There is a third view, however.

The third view is based on input that only local people get. A few anecdotes follow.

I've heard of a citrus grower who can't get Mexicans to work for him because he doesn't pay enough. He can, however, get Americans to work for him; he just goes to poor neighborhoods, and Anglos come out of the woodwork for the jobs he can provide. When was the last time you heard either side of the national debate accept that Americans will work for wages that Mexicans won't work for?

Here's a scam that could only work along the border. It involves illegals doing housepainting. They can make one original purchase of paint, consisting of enough 5-gallon drums to get through a day of painting. When that paint is used up, they will take the empty drums into Mexico and fill them with paint at, say, $1 a gallon. They will, of course, bill the next job for the price of the paint that is supposed to be in the drums. But there's more than money involved, there's health. Mexican paint, unlike American, doesn't outlaw lead. So the people who hire or provide illegals may be responsible for interior house paint that will harm children.

 

But now, on to the attitude of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors toward people trying to stop illegal immigration.

II. What Is the Cochise County Board of Supervisors

Planning To Do To the Minutemen -- And To You?

The Supervisors have tied themselves in knots to avoid open, honest discussion of the Minutemen.

At a Board meeting on February 22, 2005, before the Minuteman Project began, the Supervisors appear to have violated Arizona's "Open Meeting Law," the OML, in order to keep their discussions secret. Here are the entire minutes of that meeting:

ACTION AGENDA ITEM 1, DISCUSSION OR CONSULTATION FOR LEGAL ADVICE WITH THE ATTORNEY(S) OF THE PUBLIC BODY

PURSUANT TO ARS 38-431.03(A)(3), THE BOARD MAY VOTE TO GO INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING AN EXPECTED LARGE GATHERING IN THE PALOMINAS AREA FOR AN ESTIMATED 30 DAYS (APRIL 1 THRU APRIL 30, 2005)

Supervisor Searle made a motion, which was seconded by Vice Chairman Newman, to go into executive session to obtain legal advice regarding the expected large gathering in the Palominas area for an estimated 30 days. The motion unanimously carried.

Confidential minutes are on file with the Clerk of the Board.

Item 2, ACTION RELATED TO ITEM 1

No motion was made under this item.

At 11:15 AM, the Board reconvened into an open meeting. There being no further business, Chairman Call adjourned the meeting.

 

However, the minutes list quite a few people who attended:

Pat Call, Chairman, Richard Searle, Member; Paul Newman, Vice Chairman; Jody Klein, County Administrator; Commander Rod Rothrock, Sheriff Department, Lt Al Tomlinson, Sheriff Department, Britt Hanson, Deputy County Attorney, Jim Vlahovich, Planning Director, Linda Weiland, Building and Zoning Administrator, Rick Corley, Zoning Enforcement Officer and Nadine Parkhurst, Clerk of the Board.

That is, the people who attended the meeting included the three supervisors, their clerk, the Board attorney, two members of the Sheriff's department, and three Planning and Zoning personnel. Now, either those people sat around for a while and then went away, or else they were in the "executive session."

However, under Arizona's Open Meeting Law, the OML, ARS 38-431.03(A)(3) restricts attendance at an executive session to the supervisors, the Board attorney, and persons necessary to obtain the advice. The attendance of a variety of sheriffs and planning and zoning people is certainly outside what the OML allows.

So, based on all the nonessential outsiders who apparently attended the "executive session," the closed meeting was not an executive session at all, but was merely an illegal way to keep the public from hearing how the Supervisors and the other people planned for the Minutemen.

 

The Board's deviousness about the Minutemen is continuing.

In the 11/11/05 Valley Vista, a front page story, bylined Michael Sullivan, is headlined "Board looks at large-scale events like the Minuteman Project." However, none of the problems discussed in the story got much attention until the Minutemen came along, so a more accurate headline would be "Board looks at the Minuteman Project, and other large-scale events get sucked in."

Everyone down here knows that there was no real problem with the Minuteman Project. There was no violence or anything like it. The only touching was the notorious joke t-shirt incident, which led to the Minuteman involved being quickly expelled -- and he lost his $20, too. The Supervisors cannot be worried about the Minutemen being violent, or polluting the ground, or anything real. So why would the Supervisors be concerned about them half a year after the Project ended?

Looking back to when the Minuteman Project began, the Supervisor most opposing the Project appears to have been Paul Newman. On 3/3/05, the Tombstone Tumbleweed, owned by Minutemen organizer Chris Simcox, ran an article by Simcox. If the article's reporting of facts is to be trusted, then the prime mover against the Minutemen at that time was Newman, and other county officials were not so concerned:

"At a Cochise County Board of Supervisors workshop on Tuesday morning, Director of County Planning and Zoning Jim Vlahovich said the organizers of the project understand all the regulations and have structured the month-long event in a way that they will not be required to apply for a special use permit for any part of the rally. . . .

"'All we need to know is the impact on the of the right-of-way access but I do not see a need, nor is there a requirement for the group to apply for a permit for this activity,' department director James E. Vlahovich told county officials.

"As for utilizing the Miracle Valley Bible College, Vlahovich told supervisors that a permit would be required only if volunteers were planning on occupying a 13-room dormitory on the grounds of the college. Chris Simcox, co-organizer of the project, assured Vlahovich that no volunteers would be sleeping in the dormitory. No permit will be required for recreational vehicles and campers who plan on staying at the facility. 'The lodging of private citizens is not in the public interest and does not fall under any special permit requirement,' said Vlahovich.

* * * * *

"Supervisor Newman has asked county administrator to investigate a list of other possible sanctions or permitting that could be used to regulate the Minuteman volunteers. Newman wants county officials to investigate the possibility of regulating the air space over the area, charging organizers for overtime costs for the sheriff’s department, demanding a list of the private property owners who are hosting volunteers, regulating the erection of temporary structures such as watchtowers, and demanding federal involvement by regulating activities on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Newman has also suggested special regulations on participants right to carry weapons . . . .

"Supervisor Pat Call stated he was not sure such attention to the event was necessary. 'We’ve had a number of requests for other events and I don’t want to single any group out with this much special attention, Call stated."

So at that time, Newman was "climbing the walls" to find ways to hamper the Minuteman Project.

As time passed, others climbed on Newman's bandwagon. Vlahovich was responsible for imposing a fine of $750 a day on the Miracle Valley Bible College for the offense of letting Minutemen stay there. Sullivan's article of 11/11/05, in the Valley Vista, relied heavily on statements by Vlahovich. According to the article, "The Minuteman Project was cited as an example of the need for tightening up regulations because a large number of the volunteers stayed at Miracle Valley Bible College . . . . Such activity is not allowed under the county's zoning ordinances, according [to] Vlahovich's memo to the supervisors."

Sullivan's article notes some suggestions by Vlahovich: "existing regulations could be modified by limiting events to no more than seven consecutive days within any three-month period, submission of a citizen review report notifying adjacent property owners and giving the county powers to shut down events because of noise or other problems."

In other words, the Board is really aiming only at the Minutemen, but can't figure out how to get to them without increasing county control over what people in general do on their own property.

Any such ordinance will be a bad law, of course, because although it may -- after hundreds of attorney hours billed to the county -- be drawn in a way that is facially neutral, and will be used the first time only against its real target, the Minutemen; in two years it will be used against another group that nobody now has in mind, and in ten years it will be used just as it is written, and all private property in Cochise County will be subject to government control.

 

III. The Supervisors Can Shut Down the Minutemen -- And You -- Without a New Ordinance

At the present time, the Supervisors can pretty much do anything they want, to any activity in Cochise County. If the Minutemen begin another project, the Supervisors can simply order it shut down. That is because Cochise County is in a state of emergency -- actually, two states of emergency.

On August 15, 2005, Arizona Governor Napolitano issued a Declaration Of Emergency for every Arizona county on the Mexican border, including Cochise. The Declaration, titled "Arizona - Mexico International Border Security Emergency," states "that the massive increase in unauthorized border crossings and the related increase in deaths, crime and property damage justifies a declaration of a State Of Emergency." In other words, illegal immigration is a crisis.

On August 23, the Cochise County Board Of Supervisors, 3-0, piggybacked on the Governor's finding of an immigration crisis, and declared its own state of local emergency. Under ARS 26-311, local authorities can do this to meet "man-made calamity or disaster or by reason of threats or occurrences of riots, routs, affrays or other acts of civil disobedience which endanger life or property." Obviously, the Supervisors find that Mexican immigration is a crisis.

Under the local state of emergency, the Board may, inter alia, order any business to be closed. "Business," in this context, just means any organized activity, so the Board could simply close down another Minuteman event.

 

IV. Why Are the Supervisors Going Through Their Legal And Political Contortions?

As to any "devil's deal" the Supervisors may have made behind closed doors, only speculation is possible. The other two Supervisors clamped down on Newman, disenfranchising his district; on the other hand, they appear to have given in to his anti-Minuteman crusade. Whether there was some kind of a tradeoff involved here, with Newman giving up his ability to represent his constituents, in return for being pampered in his personal campaign against the Minutemen, it is impossible to know at the present time.

It is certain, however, that the Cochise County Supervisors are torn between receiving the state money that comes to their county as a disaster area, and keeping their mouths shut as to whether illegal immigration is a disaster.

The Governor's Declaration is feeding money to the county, and on November 1, the Board's meeting agenda included "Acceptance of the Arizona-Mexico Border Security Emergency funding from the Arizona Department of Emergency Management . . . ." On the other hand, a Supervisor who openly says that Mexican immigration is a crisis will risk losing large numbers of Hispanic votes; and such a Supervisor would look silly for opposing the Minutemen while opposing the cause the Minutemen also oppose. Finally, a Supervisor who openly opposes the Minutemen will risk losing large numbers of Anglo votes.

The Supervisors just don't know whether they would lose more Anglo votes or Hispanic votes if they exercised the power they already have under the state of emergency.

Apparently only Newman is willing to stand up and be counted; the other two supervisors are unwilling to face the issue squarely, so will try to pretend that they can't do anything without a new ordinance.

So the Supervisors will waste time and county money on drafting a bad law, and incidentally increase the polarization between Anglo and Hispanic. Though Newman has more courage than the other two, all three of them are looking out for their own personal fortunes rather than the public good.