“Today the Mayor and City Council took action on a request from Councilmember Laura Pastor and me to address a narrow interpretation of city policy that prohibited city employees from exercising many ordinary private activities that most of their fellow residents and neighbors engage in on a regular basis.
Freedom of speech is one of the most basic rights we enjoy as citizens of the United States. Before the Council action today, City of Phoenix employees faced severe restrictions of their First Amendment rights when it came to political speech. These restrictions make sense when city employees are on the clock or in uniform, using City resources or functioning as representatives of the City. However, when City employees are on their own time, away from the job, living their personal lives, they should have the same freedoms guaranteed to each of us by the Constitution.
The City of Phoenix ordinance limiting employees’ political speech was overly restrictive. In fact, the current law is one of the most restrictive measures in the state – far more harsh than the rules that for years have governed employees of the State of Arizona.
It’s unfair that Phoenix employees have to worry about losing their careers for putting up a campaign sign, discussing politics with neighbors, or posting their opinion on their own time on their personal Facebook page or social media feed.
My vote today and those of my colleagues on the City Council who agreed was a vote seeking basic fairness – a solution that gives City of Phoenix employees the same First Amendment rights in their personal lives that 6 million Arizonans enjoy every day.
This solution did not require a change to the city charter. Rather, it was a vote to ensure the city take the same approach to interpreting the charter already in use in other jurisdictions and municipalities.
Hard-working City of Phoenix employees should not have to give up their right to free speech because of their occupation. City workers deserve clarity and peace of mind that their rights have been protected – and that they can talk politics on their personal time without facing serious consequences.
Given the difficulty of getting people involved in the democratic process, we should seek to embrace freedoms that engage participants, not block 14,000 people from having a full voice in vital city elections.”