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Honoring Voters, Addressing Minimum Wage

Shortly after the election, I realized that one of the first challenges I would face as mayor was going to be sorting out the implications of the passage of propositions 414 and 206. I immediately began sitting down with concerned citizens and local stakeholders, something I am continuing to do.

Proposition 206 passed with 58 percent of the vote, Proposition 414 passed with 53.99 percent. These are substantial margins and send a clear message. Voters would like to see a higher minimum wage. As an elected official, I feel it is my duty to honor this decision. I did not support Proposition 414 during the campaign, and I didn’t vote for it. Nonetheless, the voters felt differently. We should also keep in mind that Props 206 and 414 contain more than language regarding the minimum wage. Prop 206 also includes a provision requiring employers to offer paid sick leave. Prop 414 contains language to protect the rights of workers. Clearly, the voters thought these were also important.

Some have made the argument that voters were not aware what they were voting on when they passed both 414 and 206. Arguments such as those trouble me for a couple of reasons. First, historically speaking, the arguments made against giving a group of people the right to vote has always been that they were neither intelligent or educated enough to be trusted with voting. Given the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and an uptick in voter suppression laws, I think it is important that we remember all voters deserve their right to cast a ballot and for their decisions on that ballot to be respected. Second, to question the result of an election and suggest that the vote totals do not represent the “real” will of the voters undermines the democratic process. The people spoke and that needs to be respected; it is the very purpose of elections.

That all being said, there is a timeline issue. With Prop 414, voters asked to go up a dollar a year, for five years. They also voted, with Prop 206, to go up $0.50 a year until 2019 and then $1.00 in 2020. Neither proposition addresses which timeline takes precedence. As it stands now, the minimum wage will go to $12 per hour in July 2017 if the question of the conflicting timelines, and the $2 higher than the state wage requirement, are not resolved. It is important to remember that the intent of both propositions was to increase the minimum wage gradually.

In my conversations with business owners, non-profits and community members, this is something everyone stressed. Council has asked the city’s legal team to look into what can be done regarding this situation and we will be putting out information soon. The Voter Protection Act safeguards initiatives passed by the voters and prevents legislative bodies from rolling them back. Any action taken by the City Council must further the intent of the voters. I believe that Council can and must act on a reasonable timeline in a way that is within the law and respects the will of the voters. If we do not, the result is a $12 an hour minimum wage in July. I urge us all to come together to craft a solution before that happens. If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns I would like to hear them. You can always reach me by emailing cevans@flagstaffaz.gov. FBN

By Coral Evans

Coral Evans is the mayor of Flagstaff.

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