It all played out like political kabuki today at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. At issue was the $1.6 million the legislature, at the behest of neo-Nazi-hugger extraordinaire and state Senator Russell Pearce, granted Sheriff Joe Arpaio to hunt Hispanics as a part of the MCSO's spendthrift racial profiling sweeps. This was meant to replace the same amount taken from Arpaio by former Governor Janet Napolitano in 2008. She gave it instead to an interagency task force on serving felony warrants, an activity that's beneath Sheriff Joe these days.
The supes needed to say grace over the money and officially accept it before Joe could start spending it. They had delayed a vote on the $1.6 million on April 1. But today, with indicted Supervisor Don Stapley absent, the outcome of the vote never seemed in question. After hearing several speakers opposed to giving the money to Arpaio, including civil rights activist Salvador Reza of the group Puente and Randy Parraz, an organizer with the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, the supes voted three to one to hand the cash over to Arpaio, with Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox the lone dissenting voice on the board.
"What we are doing if the vote is affirmative today," said Wilcox before the vote, "is releasing a reign of terror on our community."
Wilcox told of how she had to stop using MCSO deputies and posse members as security for a group of schoolchildren she regularly takes to Diamondbacks games. Wilcox said the teachers complained that the children were scared of the sheriff's deputies because of the MCSO's activities in Hispanic communities.
Wilcox also addressed Sheriff Arpaio's attempts to bully the Board of Supervisors, particularly BOS Chairman Max Wilson, whom Arpaio threatened on tape during a speech he gave at ASU West recently.
"We have been threatened," observed Wilcox. "And I am not afraid of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I will not succumb to his threats. And I know I will suffer because of it. It's not about me. It's about the community and about the misuse of these monies."
But though the video of Arpaio threatening Max Wilson had recently been screened by the Board of Supervisors, Wilson caved, voting for handing over the $1.6 million to Arpaio. Wilson's fellow Republicans Andy Kunasek and Fulton Brock did likewise.
The aged, avuncular Wilson assured the audience, made up mostly of Arpaio critics, that he was not voting for the $1.6 million "because the sheriff's investigating me." Wilson's reasons for supporting the sheriff seemed unclear, save for his mention of the fact that the MCSO had finally agreed to a budget with the BOS.
Kunasek spoke in favor of accepting the money for Arpaio, expressing his belief that the money would go to fight human smuggling and help "liberate" those being held by the coyotes in drop houses.
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"Supervisor Kunasek," retorted Wilcox, "if I truly felt that this money was going to be used for the purposes that you put forward, I would have no problem voting for it...but you have to make your decisions based on...the history that Sheriff Arpaio has shown us. That history has been one of abuse."
The BOS recessed briefly following the vote, and that's when activists from MCSA and other groups attempted a little political theater inside the BOS auditorium, but were quickly restricted from doing so by Maricopa County Protective Services, the agency which guards county buildings. The activists then took their lampoon of the BOS and Arpaio outside, where they set up a "tent city" on the plaza before the auditorium.
Beneath a large blue tarp, one activist played King Arpaio, complete with a crown and a gold throne encrusted with glass "jewels." As the King (in Arpaio mask, natch) read a proclamation about how he runs the county, other activists portraying supervisors Brock, Kunasek, and Wilson groveled at Arpaio's feet, kissing his shoes.
The stunt accurately portrayed the political situation here in Sand Land, but to what avail, I do not know. Maricopa County remains Arpaio's personal fiefdom, and even with a U.S. Justice Department probe and a Department Homeland Security review underway, nothing has yet altered that simple and crude reality.