Despite protests and calls for him to apologize, Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski defended himself on Tuesday for brokering a meeting between scores of Latino pastors and Sheriff Joe Arpaio just days before Arpaio's anti-immigrant raid on a Tempe apparel company, his 71st such operation to date.
In a statement posted to the City of Phoenix website, Nowakowski said he wanted to "foster a dialogue," so that the "healing can begin" between the sheriff and the Latino community.
"Though our views on this issue may be very different, I believe that we as people have more in common than we do differences," Nowakowski averred. "And differences of opinions do not necessarily make us enemies."
Also on Tuesday, civil rights leader Sal Reza of Tonatierra and the Barrio Defense Committees led a group of about 60 protesters in a rousing demonstration in front of City Hall, demanding that Nowakowski, who also serves as executive vice president of the Caesar Chavez Foundation, apologize to Arpaio's victims.
"We demand Councilman Nowakowski apologize to the families of incarcerated workers for his association with the worse child abuser in Maricopa County," read a statement from the BDCs. "We also ask Mr. Nowakowski to join the recall of Sheriff Joe Arpaio instead of aiding and abetting Arpaio's persecution of migrant workers."
Telemundo covered the demonstration, and included in its report a photo of Arpaio in the confab from last week, holding hands with one pastor as another prays over him.
Needless to say, Arpaio looks quite uncomfortable.
I wondered if Nowakowski supported the recall of Arpaio, as Reza and the CBDs demand, so I called him and asked him just that.
Nowakowski was noncommittal.
"I need to find out more about the recall," Nowakowski told me. "What's their plans? I mean, I was not included in any of the planning, so I'm not sure what the strategy is. And if there is a candidate they're going to run, is it good to run a recall during a low turnout election or is it better to have a high turnout election? Those are the kinds of questions I have."
Nowakowski said he had spoken with organizer Randy Parraz, president of Citizens for a Better Arizona, and one of the primary supporters of the recall. He said that he had told Parraz the same thing he was telling me.
"If we lose this recall," Nowakowski worried, "it just gives the sheriff more power."
I noted that many Democrats were saying the same thing when Parraz spearheaded the successful recall of ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce in 2011.
"The Pearce thing was a godsend," Nowakowski responded. "The stars, the sun, the moon all lined up. If it wasn't for the Mormon community coming in and having a candidate, to be honest with you, we wouldn't have won that election."
This is probably true, but it's also hindsight. When the recall of Pearce started in early 2011, his successful challenger Jerry Lewis was nowhere on the horizon.
Meanwhile, whether they intended to or not, Nowakowski and the pastors handed Arpaio a major publicity coup.
Not only was Arpaio shown in a picture with the pastors and Nowakowski in a front page photo for the current issue of Prensa Hispana, a local, free Spanish-language tabloid, the local Fox News affiliate also covered the meeting, with some interesting quotes from Arpaio and one of the pastors, Joe Garcia.
"They are concerned with my reputation with the Hispanic community and I was concerned about the kids fearing the sheriff," Arpaio said of the religious leaders. "That's not me."
Um, hell, yeah, it is. After all, the MCSO collared 27 in the recent Tempe raid, 23 of whom were suspected of working unlawfully. Because of Arizona's Prop 100, that means there are at least 23 families that now are missing a mother, a father, a son or a daughter.
"My hope is that Sheriff Joe has a change of heart," Garcia told Fox, "that he sees this in a different way, that we Hispanics and spiritual leaders are seeing this."
To which, I would reply, you have to have a heart in order to change it.
Also, the pastor should look for deeds not words from Arpaio. As the reverend's savior once said, "By their fruits, ye shall know them."
UPDATE February 14, 2013:
A V-day card purportedly sent to Nowakowski from victims of Sheriff Joe
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