The County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declined to back off on regulations for restaurants despite a parade of business owners who said the rules work against an industry already on its knees.
Instead, the board ditched two of the 15 regulations it approved May 13, and made minor changes to others. It will vote on a final, updated proclamation at an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday.
What didn’t come up during Tuesday’s meeting was a potential state investigation into whether Pima County overstepped its boundaries by adding to the state’s guidelines for restaurants that are reopening. The board met in executive session shortly after the meeting began, presumably to address that situation.
During the meeting, the supervisors did away with two of the 15 temporary measures: required reservations, and that restaurants must post cleaning logs online every two to three hours.
Supervisor Steve Christy made a motion to repeal the entire original proclamation, saying the state guidelines were enough. Supervisor Ally Miller backed him but the other three supervisors, Chairman Ramon Valadez, Betty Villegas and Sharon Bronson, opposed the motion with no discussion.
Christy later drew applause when he asked that the restaurants be allowed to operate under state protocols for two weeks “without having Pima County put all these implicated and onerous and draconian methods into their operation.”
He said a county task force that helped come up with the regulations then could assess and make plans from there.
Valadez called the issue “not that simple.” He said he has not been back to a restaurant since the virus broke out other than for takeout, “nor would I,” emphasizing the threat remains and extra regulations are justified.
Christy said the county is sending a message that it doesn’t trust business owners.
“To say they are incapable of keeping their customers and employees healthy is not only condescending but it’s a very poor approach to this problem,” Christy said. He said the state is aware that the virus is active but has determined “it’s an appropriate time to open up the economy, particularly the restaurants.”
“You will be tagged with the devastation that will be accrued by this group,” Christy said. “You will be responsible, you’ll be the ones to blame for the absolute horrific fallout that’s going to happen. This is on all of you, this will remain with you and you’ll have to live with it.”
More than a dozen restaurant owners and workers spoke during the meeting, many saying they were already struggling because of the virus and the county's additional measures were a burden and unclear because they kept changing.
Miller argued that a majority of the business community didn’t have input into the regulations, which were approved by a task force before going to the supervisors.
But Villegas said the work of the task force should be honored.
“There was a lot of (restaurant owner) input that went into the original document,” she said.
The county had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to provide a written response to a letter from state Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office. That deadline was moved to 5 p.m. Wednesday and could be moved to Friday because of the expected vote Thursday on a new proclamation.
State Sen. Vince Leach and Reps. Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts, all from District 11 north of Tucson, on Thursday asked Brnovich to investigate whether Pima County has violated the governor’s Executive Order by imposing additional requirements on businesses to open.
If Pima County is found in violation, it would have 30 days to resolve it or lose state-shared revenue, according to the letter from Brnovich.
In other action Tuesday, the board:
•Rejected a resolution, 3-2, pledging to assist all Pima County residents with “coronavirus issues” equally regardless of immigration status or citizenship. Christy, Miller and Bronson voted against it.
•Approved a tentative proposed budget of $1.42 billion. The vote set a ceiling for a final budget, which will be approved in June.