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Phoenix Shrugs Off Ducey Order, Puts Limits On City Parks This Weekend

Published: Friday, April 2, 2021 - 4:04pm
Updated: Saturday, April 3, 2021 - 11:38am

Gov. Doug Ducey announced admissions to all Arizona state parks will be free over the Easter weekend. And in an escalating feud with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Ducey wrote that if she doesn’t fully open city parks, she’s to blame for any increase in COVID-19 cases after the holiday.

Phoenix parks and dog parks will be open this weekend, but the city is enforcing temporary restrictions Saturday and Sunday. Parking lots at parks will be locked and closed, and grilling will be prohibited. City officials say the change will allow residents to access the parks, but limit large gatherings that historically occur over Easter weekend.

Ducey tweeted a video of himself criticizing the city’s decision, which he claimed was made for “some unknown reason.”

“These parks belong to the taxpayers, not the politicians. You fund them with your tax dollars,” Ducey said in the video. “If we’re really following the science, we know that being outdoors is safer. This is clearly nothing more than another political power grab.”

Ducey went on to declare, despite the city’s order, that “all parks everywhere” are open, “from Phoenix to Tucson to Flagstaff.”

However, city officials say the temporary park restrictions will still take effect.

In a separate letter sent to Gallego, Ducey wrote that the city’s order violates his own executive order, which the governor has used to preempt cities, counties and towns from implementing COVID-19 mitigation measures stricter than his own statewide requirements or guidelines. The governor also cited CDC guidelines that encourage people to avoid crowds and indoor spaces that don’t offer fresh air.

Ducey demanded Gallego reverse the order closing park parking lots and grills “to assist in limiting the risk of spread of COVID-19 that condemning people to their homes for celebrations will surely cause.”

“Otherwise, I will assume this action will have a direct correlation to case increases in the coming weeks,” he wrote.

In her own letter responding to the governor, Gallego wrote that Ducey’s executive orders don’t preempt the rights of the political subdivisions of Arizona -- cities like Phoenix — to control their own property, like city-owned parks. She also wrote that Ducey’s citation of CDC holiday guidelines fails to mention that they advise families to gather virtually, or in-person only with people they live with.

And she chided Ducey for waiting until the last minute, “without so much as a prior phone call,” to criticize a decision that was unanimously made weeks ago by the Phoenix City Council, which includes Gallego.

“This crisis has made clear to all of Arizona that you put partisan politics ahead of saving lives,” Gallego wrote. “It is also no surprise that you have expressed your opinion in a partisan, divisive way rather than in a genuine effort to keep our residents safe.”

Ducey’s missive to Gallego is his latest clash with mayors who’ve criticized his response throughout the coronavirus pandemic as too little, too late. Now mayors like Gallego warn the governor is lifting mitigation measures too soon, a message echoed by health officials across Arizona.

A week ago, Ducey lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and public gatherings — a move Gallego compared to “spiking the ball on the 5-yard line.”

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Pima County supervisors are testing the limits of Ducey’s powers by declaring their local mask mandates remain in effect, despite the governor declaring jurisdictional mask requirements no longer apply by his order.