Interview #50: Tucson, AZ Vice Mayor Regina Romero (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Regina Romero has been on the Tucson city council for nearly ten years, and things are a little different down near the border. This being Arizona, naturally we talked about guns. But Satanism also has been rearing its head at council meetings across the Grand Canyon State! Take a listen!

Q: I’m looking at this picture. What are these things?

A: Those are lock boxes for people’s guns. Arizona is an open-carry state and governments have the choice, at least for now, to not permit guns inside of their buildings. So city council has a rule of no guns inside of our buildings. As you enter, there’s boxes that people have to put their guns in, lock them up, and enter our meeting rooms.

Q: Uh…if I can’t bring my gun into a city council meeting, what’s the point of owning a gun?

A: [Laughs] Um, we’ve had incidents in Tucson. [Former Congresswoman] Gabby Giffords was shot. Also in Phoenix, an individual walked into a Board of Supervisors meeting and shot a former member of the Board in Maricopa County. To be honest, it’s been a contention: state legislature is a Republican-controlled body, so we have different views on guns.

Q: Do you ever carry a weapon to the council meetings?

A: No.

Q: I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the only way to stop a bad council member with a gun is a good council member with a gun. I don’t usually do this, but out of respect for the rules of Tucson, I will disassemble my rifle here. And I’ll take off the Glock in my side holster. And I’ll EVEN PUT AWAY the Colt .45 in my ankle holster.

A: Oh, my lord! Thank god we are Skyping for this interview.

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Tucson, AZ Vice Mayor Regina Romero

Q: In the past year, the Satanic Temple has been trying to get permission to do its own invocation at city council meetings in Arizona. When asked about whether they should be allowed to in Tucson, you said, “I believe in the Constitution 100 percent.” Simple question: why would your city council meetings benefit from the blessing of the Dark Lord, Lucifer?

A: Uh, I don’t think we’ve ever received any request from Satanists to speak. To be honest, it cuts both ways. I would much rather do away with the invocation at the beginning. I am a religious person and I understand why atheists and others would say we shouldn’t be doing that. I enjoy the invocation; not everybody does.

Q: Mmhmm.

A: So if you ask me, “do you want to hear a Satanist at your council meeting,” of course I would say no. If you ask me, “do they have the right to practice Satanism,” sure.

Q: Can you think of the weirdest thing you have seen at your city council meetings?

A: [Pause] Not off the bat. There’s been some rowdiness to the point of shouting by an individual, a citizen. The mayor has had to call police officers. That’s always kind of hard to watch. Other than that, things in all of the council chambers around the country are very simple, really!

Q: Okay, well once you let in the guns and let in the Satanists, please come back on the program and tell me how it goes.


Follow Vice Mayor Regina Romero on Twitter: @TucsonRomero

Interview #38: Edmonton, AB Councilor Bev Esslinger (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:

It’s our first dip into the waters of Alberta and boy, what a fun time it was! I talked to Bev Esslinger, a councilor in Edmonton. We addressed accusations that the Edmonton council meetings are a “man cave,” and also discussed the seemingly-unrelated subjects of prayer and city hall security.

Q: Something caught my eye on the CBC. This is a story from January:

mancave

Do you agree with this characterization of your city council meetings as an “upscale man cave?”

A: I wouldn’t call it a man cave. The last time, we didn’t have that many women running for council. We’ve been really working on that in Edmonton to improve that. We’ve changed some of our policies to be more family friendly–it’s good for everyone if meetings end at 5:30 rather than going into the evening after a full day of debate. No one’s at their best when the meeting goes past that time.

Q: Something that was big at your city council was the 2015 Supreme Court decision saying that prayer at government meetings was not allowed. You didn’t seem to like this, but looking back at almost two and a half years without prayer, is it still a disappointment?

A: Absolutely. We used to start our meeting with a prayer from a different interfaith group each time. It was always a very nice part of the day. I thought it reflected the diversity we have.

Q: City council meetings are a business meeting, ceremony, and public forum rolled into one. Did it help you do your job to have someone give a prayer right before you heard about things like zoning?

A: It was a moment of pause to reflect on our community’s diversity. It was a moment where people got to wish us their best. Hey, we can all use more prayer!

Q: I’ll give that an amen. But one of the suggestions to replace the prayer was to have a “moment of reflection” when citizens would say what it meant to them to be an Edmontonian through a poem or a song. You were against it. Why?

A: It went from a prayer to something that could be very broad.  I didn’t think it was the same thing at all.

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Edmonton, AB Councilor Bev Esslinger

Q: Perhaps you haven’t heard a poem about Edmonton that truly blew your socks off. May I read my poem?

A: Why not!

Q: Okay:

Saskatchewan River–
Cold waters as sharp
As Gretzky’s skates.
Light rail
Now going to Century Park.
What’s that?
That’s the Royal Alberta Museum.
History!…Mmm so thirsty;
Better go to the waterpark
At the West Edmonton Mall.
Splash
Into Alberta!

When I visit Edmonton, can I read that at a council meeting?

A: No.

Q: …Okay, let’s change the subject. On September 22, 2015, a group of cab drivers protested during a meeting when you were deciding whether to allow Uber in Edmonton. Have you ever been concerned about your safety at a council meeting?

A: Not really. It’s disruptive–you can’t conduct a meeting. We don’t try to get into it with people. In this case, this large a group of people reacting…you can’t continue your meeting.

Q: You decided to beef up your security with metal detectors and a glass wall. Wouldn’t it be cheaper if the councilors carried guns?

A: That would not be Canadian.


Follow Councilor Bev Esslinger on Twitter: @bevesslinger