A nonprofit organization’s proposal to create a day labor center near downtown Mesa appears to have broad City Council support.
Mesa Community Action Network’s application for a council use permit, which would allow it to set up an alternative spot for the workers who wait for employers on central city sidewalks, will go to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday.
The request, along with a recommendation from the commission, is expected to reach the council at its Nov. 3 meeting, and Mayor Keno Hawker is the only member at this point reluctant to support to the plan. Councilwoman Claudia Walters said this week she didn’t know enough about the plan to voice an opinion.
MesaCAN’s assertion that no taxpayer money will be used to fund the center, which would cater to a labor pool made up largely of undocumented workers, has been crucial to winning support.
"My only concern is that right now the day labor center seems to stretch from Country Club (Drive) to Lindsay (Road) on both sides of Broadway (Road), and I’m not sure that just one center would be enough to be successful," said District 2 Councilman Mike Whalen.
Councilman Kyle Jones, whose District 4 includes the site just south of Broadway on Drew, said many constituents are against the idea, but given that the federal government isn’t actively rounding up illegal workers who aren’t committing any other crime, it may offer the best hope of getting workers off the sidewalks.
He said the center would give police a place to send workers when they enforce the city’s loitering laws, instead of watching them move down the street.
"I would rather not have a day labor center at all," Jones said. "But given the options, if, and that’s a big if, it will get them off the street, then it could be good. But if it doesn’t accomplish that, then there’s no reason to have it."
Janie Thom, who represents southeast Mesa on the council, also views the center as the most likely solution to the problem short of federal intervention.
Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said he still backs having a day labor center in Mesa. Councilman Rex Griswold said he would probably support a center if no city funds were used.
A plan for the city to buy an auto repair shop on Broadway and convert it into a labor center died early last year from lack of council interest.