The Arizona Republic
Aug. 16, 2006

Author: Dianna M. Nez

Tempers flared at last week's Surprise City Council meeting over how to fund a veterans Memorial Day celebration.

Councilman Joe Johnson suggested that the council move $2,000 from two accounts that he said were associated with Hispanic celebrations.

Councilman Danny Arismendez took offense to Johnson's attempt to shift money away from the Hispanic events so soon after the funds were approved in July's new budget.

Arismendez said one of the accounts had $1,000 for the city's participation in a yearly scholarship fund-raiser that is attended by other cities and corporations such as the Salt River Project. The other $1,000 was set aside for Fiestas Patrias, a Hispanic cultural celebration that had been sponsored by the city "on and off over the years," he said.

Johnson said he only recently decided to look into the funding after he heard from veterans at a recent council meeting. They were upset that the city did not sponsor an event honoring the armed services.

Arismendez lashed out at Johnson for targeting Hispanics and associating the funds with his district specifically. He asked that the staff and council look into cultural sensitivity training to educate city officials on their use of language when dealing with ethnic and racial labels.

Assistant City Manager Doug Sandstrom said the funds in question were listed in the "council community relations account with $2,000 dedicated for two annual Hispanic fund-raisers."

"I was offended," Arismendez said of Johnson's attempt to divert those funds. "This is a scholarship fund, and the other events are family-oriented for everyone to attend."

Johnson said he "had nothing against Hispanics," and felt it was "childish"
of Arismendez to suggest otherwise. "I thought it was perfectly reasonable to distribute the funds for a Veterans Day celebration, rather than have three Hispanic celebrations."

Arismendez said he felt that Johnson's motion was more about political retaliation for his not resigning his vice mayor seat this summer upon Johnson's request.

"I support veterans," Arismendez said. "I have many servicemen in my district. I supported (Councilman) Elkins' fund for veterans."