AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, talks with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, right, during the christening of the new South Mountain Freeway Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 in Phoenix.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Ducey posted a letter Friday blasting Phoenix’s attempts to limit large gatherings at city parks over Easter weekend.

On Friday, Gov. Doug Ducey threatened to blame the City of Phoenix for rising cases of COVID-19, a little over one week after he rolled back COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state.

After Phoenix announced it was implementing restrictions at its parks to limit large crowds this weekend, Ducey chastised the city on Twitter, saying they were “pushing people inside” during Easter.

“Arizona’s parks are open. All parks. Everywhere. Rural and urban. From Phoenix to Tucson to Flagstaff. All towns and municipalities. Enjoy and GOD BLESS!” Ducey wrote

Phoenix parks were never closed. The city said it had enforced restrictions like closing parking lots and not allowing grilling to limit the possibility of large group gatherings. 

The Saturday and Sunday of the Easter holiday weekend are typically the busiest two days of the year at Phoenix parks, according to a city press release.

In a letter to Mayor Kate Gallego, Ducey demanded that she open parking lots and allow for the use of grills this weekend “to assist in limiting the risk of spread of COVID-19 that condemning people to their homes for celebrations will surely cause.”

“Otherwise, I will assume that this action will have a direct correlation to case increases in the coming weeks,” he wrote.

The letter to Gallego comes just over a week after Ducey rolled back all remaining COVID-19 restrictions for businesses and lifted mask mandates.

Gallego fired back on Friday afternoon, saying Phoenix could open and close its own parks as the city and its elected representatives saw fit.

“This crisis has made clear to Arizonans that you put partisan politics ahead of saving lives,” Gallego wrote. “It is also no surprise that you have expressed your opinion in a partisan, divisive way rather than in a genuine effort to keep our residents safe.” 

Ducey has received criticism from some mayors across Arizona for his decision last week to lift health and safety measures. 

Mayors in Tucson, Tempe, and Flagstaff, as well as Gallego, have publicly voiced disapproval of Ducey’s decision.

At least two, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy, have said that mask mandates will continue to be in place in their cities. 

In his letter to Gallego, Ducey said that the city’s decision to close park parking lots violated an executive order he issued last March, which prohibited the closure of essential services and businesses like airports, hospitals, and grocery stores.

But Ducey also issued an executive order last week giving cities the right to control their properties and “set and enforce mitigation policies.”

“No law gives you the power to unilaterally take over property owned by the City of Phoenix (or anyone else),” Gallego wrote to Ducey regarding Phoenix parks. “Your edict claiming to control the City’s property through your emergency declaration is particularly troubling to the City of Phoenix–and likely to all residents and property owners in our State as well.”

A spokesperson for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department said that parking lots and grills at city parks are set to remain closed to the public this weekend.

The council voted to close parking lots and grills two weeks ago, on March 16. Gallego noted the timing of Ducey’s pushback to the decision in her letter.

“As it has been since the start of the pandemic, the City of Phoenix will continue to be a leader in implementing measures to stop the spread of COVID-19,” she wrote. “We would welcome you to join us in that effort.”

Reach the reporter at lorraine@couriernewsroom.com or 480-243-4086.