“Lucha, Lucha, Lucha, No dejes de luchar” resounded through the light rails along the valley at the same time confetti catapulted into the air celebrating the ribbon cutting ceremony for the expansion of the light rail into downtown Mesa. On the other side of the tracks Mesa Royale residents were jubilant when they were informed that the City of Mesa would postpone hearings before the City of Mesa Board of Adjustment which were convoked by residents to expose the reasons 125 families were being forcibly relocated by the City of Mesa with no compensation.
On January of 2014 the Mesa Royale Trailer Park owner was notified of numerous violations to the City Code and they required him to stop renting spaces. If any space was vacated he had to inform the city so those trailers would be red tagged. However, that order was never obeyed and transactions continued normally. Trailers were rented, sold and bought, despite the City’s order.
It took a year and a half before the residents learned that the City was going to condemn the park and they all had to leave. It happened when a Mesa City inspector told residents not to bother fixing anything since as they were shutting down the park. Some residents have been there over 20 years while others just bought trailers in March or even May. Some invested 5,000 dollars while others invested half of their life raising a family. Some had grown in the trailers as a child and now went back to live in their own neighborhood once they were married.
After the conversation with the City inspector, the City realized that the residents were irate and wanted answers. The City's knee jerk reaction was to go to their go to friends, insiders within city politics, to try to calm down the uprising with alternatives that were supposed to calm down the natives and sweeten the bitter pill they were about to administer to 300 children. The organizations friendly to the City came to tell them to apply for State Relocation funds. Church groups, the Salvation Army and United Way pitched in to help mitigate their suffering and to help them pay for their first and last months rent if they moved to any place.
However, reality can be cruel. Over 40% of them did not qualify for anything because they were RV’s, not Mobile Homes and RV’s do not qualify for state relocation funds. The other 60% would not qualify because they did not hold a valid title. Many Titles still have the original owners dating back to 1950’s or 60’s and thus, original
owners are nowhere to be found.
The administrative practice at Mesa Royale was to get someone to pay in installments and if they defaulted on the rent or payment they were evicted and another owner would be promised the same title. If the title was transferred to another owner privately, the same title was passed on without ever going to MVD and legally changing hands.
On top of all of this, a propaganda campaign got started to tell the residents United Way had 50,000 dollars to help them out if they left in August. If you do the math $50,000 divided by 125 residents is not even 500 dollars a family. In other words the help was not what it was made out to be. Like Luis, one of the residents said, “It is like if you offered me a dollar to leave my house that I had already bought.”
With this cruel reality, most of the Mesa Royale residents decided to fight. Each Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., the Mesa Royale families protested outside Mesa City Hall saying, “Don’t let the kids go homeless.” “Our voices matter.” “Mesa listen, Mesa Royale will keep on fighting.” The City of Mesa is not used to being challenged by Mexican people and as soon as the protest started they tried so silence them citing City of Mesa noise ordinance which forbids amplified music. However, with the legal assessment by Attorney Ray Ibarra and Steve Montoya, soon they desisted of their efforts. After we were notified in a meeting with the police, that police intended to cite protesters using megaphones, Attorney Montoya told them, “if you want to pay me a lot of money, go ahead and enforce the noise ordinance. It is unconstitutional and the City will lose.” The police citation never came after the Legal Department went back and looked at case law provided by Montoya.
Finally, last Friday a Mesa City Attorney called us and told us the City Attorney would stay the appeal process for one month, since they had come to an agreement with a new potential owner who committed to fix the most blatant violations immediately, and agreed to get the Trailer homes up to standards within 30 months.
The residents of Mesa Royale and the Barrio Defense Committees celebrated the victory in tandem with the light rail inauguration. However, until we see the formal paperwork signed we will continue protesting and remain vigilant. We will keep on working with our legal advisors who do not surrender nor sell out to governmental interests. We thank Tonatierra, Mary Rose and Earl Wilcox and all the Barrio Defense Committees for their unconditional support.
Article by Salvador Reza.