City parks off limits with PAN

Sept. 8, 2004 12:00 AM

It is securely on the November ballot, and, barring a wild shift in public opinion, the Protect Arizona Now initiative will become law.

Phoenix now has an idea of what that will mean.

Gov. Janet Napolitano and Mayor Phil Gordon have come out against the proposition, saying the provision that bans "public benefits" to people here illegally would cause problems. Backers of PAN called their statements scare tactics. But an August memo from Peter Van Haren, Phoenix's city attorney, isn't political. It's practical. And it calls the initiative "problematic."

The memo, prepared at Gordon's request, takes a look at how the initiative would be implemented. Because the advice is from the city attorney, it would be policy if PAN passes.

"The difficulty with the proposed initiative language is the word 'benefits' is not defined," the memo says. Given that, Van Haren writes, the word would take on its common meaning.

Libraries, parks and paramedic services would be considered public benefits. Same, arguably, with police and fire.

Water, sewer, trash and the airport would not be considered benefits, since the city charges a fee, the memo says.

The city could also get more lawsuits, the memo warns, because citizens could file if they believe the city is providing benefits to people here illegally.

Picture this: Librarians stopping children from reading books. Officers checking IDs to determine whether they can help domestic violence victims. Parks employees conducting sweeps.

That could all become part of protecting Arizona now.

Reach Ruelas at (602) 444-8473 or

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