Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More news on McClung's ties to extremist groups

Over on my Tucson Citizen blog, I have posted several stories about CD7 Republican Congressional challenger Ruth McClung and her ties to extremist and often blatantly racist groups who are fundraising and endorsing her.

Will the real Ruth McClung please stand up? first brought to light her endorsement by the right wing Republican Majority Campaign and the Grover Norquist TV ad on her behalf.

The sequel: Will the real Ruth McClung please stand up? (part 2) continues the discussion of her ties to Norquist and Sarah Palin. Even though McClung signed the Norquist pledge and spouted his soundbites at the CD7 debate, she claims not to know who he is.

Desperately seeking ‘Republican Majority Campaign’, signed RM further delves into the shadowy Republican Majority Campaign and its racist ties. The title is a take-off on the 1980s cult classic "Desperately Seeking Susan" where bored housewife (Rosanna Arquette) places a newspaper ad to find her wild-child friend, Susan, (played by Madonna). Like the bored housewife, McClung want to play on the wild side with the RMC.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

CD7 debates: fiery ideology vs ideas and facts

Last night's Congressional District 7 public debate revealed the stark contrast between the candidates and their followers.

Here are 2 stories that I posted on my Tucson Citizen blog.

CD7 debate: Fiery ideology vs ideas and facts

Ruth McClung: Brought to you by the Republican Party Machine

The main blog link is here: Tucson Progressive.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More news on medical marijuana, Barbara LaWall, and prohibition

Here is a sequel to my earlier story about Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall's crusade against Prop 203 which would legalize medical marijuana.

LaWall continues campaign against medical marijuana

That story and an anti-Prop 203 blog post also in yesterday's Tucson Citizen raised a number of comments about the origins of marijuana prohibition, so I posted this story today. It's amazing how many times in our history xenophobia has been used as a wedge issue to control the US population.

Alcohol and marijuana: The origins of prohibition

My new blog link on the Citizen is here: Tucson Progressive.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Goddard 'works it' in Tucson

Attorney General Terry Goddard knows that in order to beat Jan "beheadings!" Brewer in the race for governor of Arizona he has to win big in Pima County-- the one bright blue spot in a state dominated by that large red blob to the north.

Goddard has been everywhere in recent weeks. There was an impressive voter registration rally on October 4 with fellow Democrats on the UA mall, and this weekend there are back to back events.

Women for Goddard Rally and Movie at the Loft
Come to the Loft Cinema, hear Goddard speak and view the film Iron Jawed Angels, an amazing movie on the battle for the women's right to vote. (This is labeled as a women's rally, but I'm sure men can come also.)
What: Women Vote Rally
When: Saturday, October 9th from 10-11:30 am.
Where: The Loft Cinema, 3233 E Speedway Blvd.
For more info, please contact Erika Burkhart at (303) 514-3452.

Eastside Rally for Goddard
What: Eastside Rally for Terry Goddard hosted by City Council members Shirley Scott and Paul Cunningham
When: Saturday, October 9, 4-6 pm
Where: The Children's Outdoor Performance Area, 8123 E Poinciana (next to PCC East, north of Irvington, east of Pantano).
Come join us for food, music and show your support for Terry Goddard!
Please contact Max Torres at (520) 250-0473 or Pat Weidhoff at (520) 850-6755 for more information.

Goddard Got Art
The Goddard Got Art artist reception will be this Saturday. Goddard's campaign held a art competition. Come view the winners. This is the Second Saturday, so there will be loads of other things to do also. (If you're worried about parking, check out the Pennington Street Garage, by Cafe Poca Cosa. It's cheap or free for these events.)
When: Saturday, October 9, 5-7pm
Where: 1 E. Congress in downtown Tucson

17th Annual Pima County Democratic Party Honor Roll Gala
If you're into somewhat expensive political dinners, come this event and hear keynote speaker, Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development along with Goddard and State Senator Paula Aboud who will be the master of ceremonies.
What: Pima Democrats Honor Roll Gala, featuring Henry Cisneros and Terry Goddard
When: Saturday, October 9th at 12 pm. Registration begins at 11:30.
Where : University Marriot, 880 E 2nd St. Tickets are $75 ($65 for PCs and $50 for students). To purchase tickets, visit this Act Blue web link or call (520) 326-3716.

Cycling for Goddard
So, after that rubber chicken dinner at the Marriott on Sunday, join Goddard supporters Tuesday night for the community bike ride. We tried this last Tuesday, but that huge rain storm washed out our plans. We are calling on Goddard supporters to participate in the bike ride and show their support at the same time. We will be wearing lights and Goddard paraphernalia-- signs, t-shirts, bumper stickers-- to raise awareness. Barring bad weather (again), we plan do to this for each Tuesday night ride until the election on November 2.

Rumor has it that Connie Sanchez of Blondes for Brewer may even make an appearance at the art event and the cycling event. Is she switching sides? Come find out!
What: Tucson Community Bike Ride
When: Tuesdays, 7:30 pm
Where: in front of the Starbucks on University Blvd.

Goddard is workin' it in Tucson. Help him take back our state. Volunteer and vote!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This is called not knowing what you are voting for

In case you can't read it, one of my messier neighbors has "Yes on 401, Fix City Government" sign in his front of his junk car.

This is a perfect example of not knowing what you are voting for.

You see... a few months ago the neighborhood association turned this particular neighbor-- among others-- into the city for violating the ordinances against tall weeds and grass and visible junk cars.

Should I tell him that even if Prop 401 passes, he'll still have to keep his yard cleaned up and cover-- or preferably ditch-- that junk car with the flat tires? (After all, even covered, it's an eyesore.)

Tucsonans can join the Rally to Restore Sanity or the March to Keep Fear Alive-- without leaving the Old Pueblo

I have been seriously jonesing to go to Washington, DC for the progressive rallies being held in October. After all I have a hybrid car and at least one person + 2 cattle dogs who would love to go on a road trip.

Problem is I also have a fulltime job and can't take 2 weeks off for the round trip.

Ever since I learned about these 3 rallies, I have been pining away to hear Ed Schultz, Jon Stewart, and/or Stephen Colbert address the teeming throngs of progressives on the mall in DC, but alas...

Now, thanks to the ingenuity and marketing savvy of the Hotel Congress, Tucson progressives can enjoy the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or the March to Keep Fear Alive without leaving town. The rallies begin at 9 a.m. on 10-30-10.

Personally, I think they should secure Governor Jan Brewer and Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall as keynote speakers for the Keep Fear Alive rally.

For Restoring Sanity...hmmm...definitely there are no Arizona Republican politicians who could address a rally with that title-- especially since Stewart called Arizona the "meth lab of democracy". Maybe Dave Ewoldt or Andrew Weil?

Here is a link to the Tucson rally and a link list of other states and cities that are having rallies. And, of course, in case you're not already distracted enough, you can follow it all on facebook and Twitter.

Big money could bring the end of life as we know it

Are you scared yet? Should I go on?

These right-wing puppets (and-- thanks to the Roberts' court-- the corporatists and secretly-funded big-money groups behind them) want to end life as we know it in the United States of America. They don't want to take us back to the Bush era policies or the Contract for America.

With no Social Security, no healthcare safety net, no minimum wage, and, of course, no unions-- they want to take us back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when people of all ages, including small children, slaved -- literally-- in factories and sweat shops for meager wages. If you were sick, old, or poor, it was your family's responsibility to take care of you. No family? Tough luck, you're on your own.

How could these ideas have gained so much popularity? Is it the sheer power of the moneyed forces behind the Tea Party-- like the John Birch Society Koch brothers or secretly-finded groups like Karl Rove's American Crossroads, which spent $3.5 million last week? All of this money + 24/7 yellow journalism courtesy of FOX News is trying to squash the progressive advances of the Obama Administration.

Here's some background on the origins of these ideas from The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party by Frank Rich or the New York Times.

When David Koch ran to the right of Reagan as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket (it polled 1 percent), his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools — in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes. He hasn’t changed. As Mayer details, Koch-supported lobbyists, foundations and political operatives are at the center of climate-science denial — a cause that forestalls threats to Koch Industries’ vast fossil fuel business. While Koch foundations donate to cancer hospitals like Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, Koch Industries has been lobbying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying another product important to its bottom line, formaldehyde, as a “known carcinogen” in humans (which it is).

Tea Partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government and Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety and the subsistence of the elderly.

Yet inexorably the Koch agenda is morphing into the G.O.P. agenda, as articulated by current Republican members of Congress, including the putative next speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Tea Party Senate candidates like Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and the new kid on the block, Alaska’s anti-Medicaid, anti-unemployment insurance Palin protégé, Joe Miller. Their program opposes a federal deficit, but has no objection to running up trillions in red ink in tax cuts to corporations and the superrich; apologizes to corporate malefactors like BP and derides money put in escrow for oil spill victims as a “slush fund”; opposes the extension of unemployment benefits; and calls for a freeze on federal regulations in an era when abuses in the oil, financial, mining, pharmaceutical and even egg industries (among others) have been outrageous.

The Koch brothers must be laughing all the way to the bank knowing that working Americans are aiding and abetting their selfish interests.
Has the country gone mad? Do the small guv'ment Tea Partiers think their Social Security and Medicare will be funded, while everyone under 65 will be thrown to the wolves? Fat chance. Tea Partiers, after they have used you, they'll go after your Medicare-funded scooters next.

For a look at our future, check out this book from the past-- How the Other Half Lives-- or watch Walmart: the High Cost of Low Prices.

UPDATE, October 8: Diane Rehm's Friday News Roundup covers this story. (Diane, honey, mention my blog next time, OK?)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where's the diversity?

Is it coincidence, fate, or maybe poor planning on my part that I am spending 3 evenings in a row at the Pima County Democratic Headquarters this week?

The Pima Dems Executive Committee met last night; tonight Legislative District 28 (where my precinct is) met; and tomorrow I am making phone calls for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and MoveOn. (That's me and Gabby on election day 2008, when I was also making calls for her. Wasn't that a great day!)

What really struck me about last night's meeting-- besides the vote-- was the lack of diversity in the Pima County Democratic Party's upper echelon. When I made phone calls for Barack Obama in 2008, I was in the minority on most nights. Didn't the local Dems recruit any of those 2008 black and Hispanic phone bank volunteers or walkers to be precinct committee people?

I had planned to raise the lack-of-diversity issue at tonight's LD28 meeting, but with only 1 black campaign worker for Rodney Glassman (Hi, Zeke!) and 1 Polish Mexican, tonight's meeting was older and whiter than last night's meeting. (Not that there's anything inherently wrong with old white folks; these people are hard workers. And, besides, I plan to be an old white person someday.)

Yes, I know there is an African American Democratic Caucus. Great group of folks, but I don't see many of them in leadership positions. Actually, I only saw 1 last night.

This is a problem-- and a missed opportunity. Nationwide and statewide, the Republicans are alienating many groups and particularly people of color. The "energized" Republican base-- primarily Tea Partiers-- ranges from old white folks to white supremacists on the diversity scale. Obviously, that leaves a lot of people left out.

Come on, Democrats. Let's show everyone that we really do have a big tent that all of us can fit under. We need to bring these diverse populations into the fold-- not just for their vote but for their ideas, their energy, and their leadership.

I challenge the Arizona Democratic Party to make a concerted effort to recruit more diversity to the ranks of its precinct committee members between now and 2012. This will only make the progressive movement stronger. We can do this.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Re: 'eating their young'? Oh, well...

From the get-go, tonight's Pima County Democratic Party meeting had the feeling of a showdown on Prop 401, and it was.

The room was tense as each member of the Executive Committee spoke for the allotted 2 minutes, and there was no call to the audience. Most people passed or said just a few words. Tom Prezelski and Jim Hannley, both EC members and officers in the Protect Local Control No on Prop 401, spoke eloquently against the measure.

Chairman and Prop 401 supported Jeff Rogers gave the history of the measure; first the Democrats were working with the City Council on a strong mayor charter change, but eventually he folded his efforts into those of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC), who was proposing strong city manager charter changes.

One young EC member read excerpts from a letter from the three City Council members who stood with their constituents and voted against the charter changes back in July. He asked that the EC "not throw them under the bus."

In the end, the mostly white, mostly male, mostly over 60 Democratic EC voted 19 yes, 5 no, and 1 abstain to endorse Prop 401.

Will the Democrats 'eat their young' tonight?

Jon Stewart often says that one of the biggest differences between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans (being more homogeneous) are able to keep their base marching forward in lock step, while the Democrats (who represent many diverse interests) often devolve into squabbling and "eat their young".

Tonight, I'm afraid the Pima Dems will "eat their young"-- or at least a few City Council members. Earlier in the summer, the Pima County Democratic Party Executive Committee voted to officially remain neutral on Prop 401, the City of Tucson proposed charter changes.

This was a wise decision, since the Democratic-controlled City Council vote was split on this issue back in July. Council Members Richard Fimbres, Karin Ulich, and Regina Romero listened to their constituents at well-attended public forums and voted not to send the charter changes to the ballot. Blue Dog Democrats Paul Cunningham and Shirley Scott sided with Republicans Steve Kozachik and Mayor Bob Walkup and voted successfully to send the initiative (now Prop 401) to the ballot.

Even though the Pima Dems officially remained neutral on the issue, Party Chair and local lawyer Jeff Rogers and Vice Chair and Ward 2 City Council aide Katie Bolger have been actively hawking Prop 401 for the corporatists of Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC). In addition, according to Prop 401's campaign finance reports, Bolger has been paid $2000 for her pro-Prop 401 lobbying efforts.

This is a free country, and I respect Rogers' and Bolger's right to have their own opinions and speak out for or against political initiatives-- as private citizens.

But tonight's Executive Committee meeting is another matter.

Through what appear to be parliamentary machinations, the Pima Dems Executive Committee will re-vote whether or not to endorse Prop 401 tonight at the Democratic Headquarters.

Rehashing and re-voting the Prop 401 endorsement is a waste of time. This is like rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks.

Workers and the middle class are under siege in Arizona and nationwide. It's time for the Democrats to march in lock step to elect as many Democrats as possible and save our country from extremists-- not devolve into cannibalism.

Prop 401: The most polite forum... ever

The Feldman Neighborhood, which has a reputation for fiery politics, hosted the most polite community forum ever last night. Was it the gentle ambiance of the historic but hard-to-find St. Luke's Chapel, built by Josias Joesler. Or the lack of suits?

About a dozen citizens gathered in the chapel to discuss the pros and cons of Prop 401, the proposed changes to the Tucson City Charter. Local lawyer, environmentalist, and Tucson Charter Change Coalition (TC3) executive committee member, Mitch Coker spoke in favor of Prop 401. Political gadfly and former blogger, Luke Knipe represented Protect Local Control, the No on 401 committee.

The free-form, unstructured forum was dotted with controversy and consensus. There was major discussion of what the charter changes would fix, deceptive advertising by Prop 401 supporters, government accountability, the impact of shifting the election cycle, the pros and cons a stronger city manager, and the pay raises for politicians.

When asked what city government problems the charter changes would fix, neither Coker nor Shirley Kiser (one of the architects of Prop 401, along with her husband Jim Kiser) could answer the question. They waffled around what the charter changes would do but couldn't name any problems they would fix. I asked a follow-up question but still no specifics.

My point to them was that the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) has raised almost $50,000, talked with hundreds of people, and spent thousands of dollars on yard signs and a giant "Fix city government" billboard at the gateway to downtown. And they can't tell us what they want to "fix"?

Finally, since they couldn't come up with an answer, I said that I believe SALC is trying to "fix" the City Council. The proposed charter changes would dramatically weaken the City Council's power and influence over decision-making. Here's how: 1) electing the entire city government in one election (instead of stagger elections, as they are now) would allow moneyed forces (like SALC) to a sweep the entire Mayor and Council out in the same year; 2) the charter changes would take the City Council out of many hiring and firing decisions and give all authority to the unelected city manager; and 3) giving more power to the Mayor weakens the City Council.

Taking power away from the elected City Council reduces government accountability. Repeatedly Coker and Kiser gave examples of strong city manager cities that are "well run". The examples they gave were cities that had had the same unelected city manager for 10-20 years. It dawned on my later that the corporatists want an iron-clad impervious leader for the city; they want the City of Tucson to be run by a despot-- a CEO!

Unfortunately for them, we live in a democracy, and democracy is messy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

US corporations post 'near-historic' profits, as poverty and joblessness increase: Now what?

This week, the Huffington Post reported that corporate profits are at "near-historic" levels-- up 38% compared to the same time period a year ago.

It's a pretty disgusting article about how layoffs, outsourcing, and low interest rates have allowed corporatists to rake in the cash-- and hoard it-- rather than reinvest it, which would improve the nation's ecomomy.

"Since 2008, corporate profits increased 10 percent -- but revenue was down 6 percent, the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] says. To achieve the impressive quarterly results, companies have had, as the WSJ puts it, to "streamline" their operations. This means firing workers, outsourcing labor and shuttering unprofitable (or less profitable) divisions.

"The robust state of corporate profits presents a paradox: companies won't spend their money until the economy improves, but the economy won't improve until they spend their money. An increase in hiring, for example, would help drive a recovery. The New York Times reports this "chicken-and-egg" phenomenon, noting that near-zero interest rates have encouraged companies to borrow money and simply hoard it because, as the NYT puts it, 'they can.'"

This is a perfect example of how dysfunctional trickle down economic theory is.

Juxtapose this story about historic corporate profits with the stories about the widening wealth gap between rich and poor, rising poverty in most states, disappearing middle class, people living in vehicles, and states and cities going broke.

Given this scenario, how can Congressional Republicans continue to support tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and balk any time they are asked to extend unemployment?

How can Tea Party/Republicans like Sharon Angle (Nevada), Joe Miller (Alaska), and Jesse Kelly (Arizona) call for privatization of Social Security, elimination of the health care safety net, and elimimation of the national minimum wage? Angle, Miller, and Kelly are puppets of the corporatists. I can't believe that they honestly think dissolution of these programs would help the majority of Americans.

Privatization of Social Security would just give Wall Street's corporate gamblers more money to play with and another way to boost their historic profits even higher. Elimination of the health care safety net and the minimum wage and continued outsourcing of jobs would through the US into third-world status. It would be end of life as we know it. The former US middle class would become economic refugees.

UPDATE, October 6: Blog for Arizona's AZ Blue Meanie posted Update III: The New Corporate Business Model: Increase Profits, Not Jobs.

UPDATE, October 8: Diane Rehm's Friday News Roundup covers this story. (Diane, honey, mention my blog next time, OK?)

Budget cuts: Arizona Legislature has it's meat cleavers and chainsaws ready

Random Musings and Blog for Arizona cross-posted a pretty disgusting story this afternoon about the Arizona Legislature's Finance Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting last week.

As we all know, after decades of trickle down economics and other short-sighted policies, the Republican majority in the Arizona Legislature has run this state into the ground economically and socially.

But wait... there's more!

According to an article in the Arizona Republic, Arizona has a "$2.25 billion deficit that needs to be wiped out in the next 20 months."

The purpose of last week's FAC meeting was to discuss the budget and the state's economic crisis. The briefing materials for the meeting are here, and the video is here.

Pondering what these right-wing extremists will do to balance the budget without raising revenue keeps me awake at night. As the other bloggers pointed out, the state's abysmal financial situation underscores the need for us to elect Attorney General Terry Goddard to the governorship.

We saw how crazy Phoenix was last spring with Republican Governor Jan Brewer at the helm and Republicans controlling both houses in the Legislature. Boycotts and loss of business due to SB1070 aside, Arizona was the laughing stock of the country with regular stories on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Saturday Night Live. With SB1070, the birther bill, anchor babies, "Constitutional carry" gun laws, and Brewer's babbling about beheadings, we gave the satirists plenty of material.

What happens in 2011 to our quality of life and our children's future may not be easily parodied if Goddard loses. Here is a little food for thought from Random Musings:

The Republicans in the legislature are sharpening their meat cleavers and oiling their chain saws in gleeful anticipation of inflicting mortal wounds upon public education in Arizona during the next budget cycle.

"However, the presence of Terry Goddard in the governor's office will serve to mitigate the carnage.

"He and his veto pen will be there to force the anti-society extremists in the legislature to the negotiating table and force them to minimize the long-term damage.

"Of course, electing Terry Goddard only sets up a strong, but not impenetrable, defense to the worst of the lege's machinations...

"Electing more Democrats to the legislature, maybe even enough to tie or take control of one of the chambers, would go a LONG way toward stopping the R-led slaughter of Arizona's physical and societal infrastructures.

Today is the last day to register to vote in Arizona. If you haven't done so already, go to the Service Arizona website before midnight October 4, register your sorry ass, and vote on November 2.

Cycling for Goddard-- tomorrow!

Have you every been downtown on a Tuesday evening and seen a mass of lights moving toward you in the darkness? Giant lightening bugs? An alien hoard? Too many margaritas?

Nooooo, it's the Tucson community bike ride. Beginning tomorrow night, October 5, and continuing for the month of October, a few of us artistic/political types are planning to add a twist to the community bike ride.

We are calling on Terry Goddard for Governor supporters to participate in the bike ride and show their support at the same time. We will be wearing lights and Goddard paraphernalia-- signs, t-shirts, bumper stickers-- to raise awareness.

If you want to participate in the community bike ride and support Goddard, meet at the Starbucks at Geronimo Plaza on University Blvd. at 7:30 p.m. (with your bike, bike light, helmet, Goddard t-shirt or other wearable promo + LEDs, glow necklaces, and other funs stuff.) Extra signs will be available. This is a great opportunity to show our support and get a little exercise at the same time.

UPDATE, October 12: The cycling event on October 5 got rained out. We are going to ride Tuesday, October 12 and hopefully every Tuesday until the election.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

And why would we re-elect these incompetents?

Arizona has been racing to the bottom on pretty much all nationwide statistics for years. Two notable exceptions are poverty and unemployment. For the #1 slot nationwide in poverty, we are officially #2, but in reality, we are in a statistical dead heat with Mississippi.

With the latest statewide budget news, Arizona should be able to easily overcome Mississippi for the #1 slot in poverty next year-- especially if Governor Jan Brewer, her lobbyist advisors, and her cronies in the Republican-controlled Legislature are re-elected.

According to the Arizona Republic:

"The deficit for the current budget year has grown to $825 million, up from $700 million, and the projected hole for the next fiscal year has deepened by $400 million, to $1.4 billion.

"It adds up to a $2.25 billion deficit that needs to be wiped out in the next 20 months."

The Republic article says that Arizona Republicans are not willing to raise taxes (AKA raise revenue) to fill the budget gap. Arizona has relatively low business taxes. The Legislature has set up these corporate give-aways to lure business to the state. The problems with scenario are: 1) trickle-down economics doesn't work; and 2) relocating businesses want more than lower taxes; they want an educated workfore, a viable infrastructure, good schools, good universities, etc.-- all of the amenities that Brewer and her cronies in the Legislature have worked to minimize or destroy. Add to this dismal list Brewer's lies about violence and beheadings in the desert, and it is easy to see why no major corporations or private citizens would want to re-locate here.

So, what are Brewer and the Republican-controlled Legislature going to do? Education, health care, and children/family services are their favorite sacrificial lambs when it's time to cut budgets, but I doubt there is enough left in these funds to fill the budget gap-- even if they wiped them out.

Remember Brewer's sales tax for education initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved last spring? Skeptics like LD28 Representative Steve Farley warned not to vote for that tax because he believed that the Arizona Legislature would spend the funds for something other than education-- or worst of all would give it away in tax cuts for businesses and the rich. Will they take those funds? Probably. They are already trying to trick voters into wiping out the land-conservation fund (Prop 301) and the First Things First voter-created child welfare program (Prop 301) which pays for itself. What kind of person votes repeatedly to hurt programs for children?

So, with these seriously dire predictions, why would the Republic endorse the Republican status quo?

Seriously, folks, in a much-ballyhoo'd "throw-the-bums-out" election year, isn't it time for Arizona to "throw the bums (ie, Brewer, Brewer's lobbyist advisors, the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature and statewide offices, and John McCain) out"?

No one but the corporatists and the rich (who receive regular give-aways from Arizona Republicans) are happy with these inept ideologues. Isn't it time for a change in Arizona politics? Vote the bums out-- and vote NO on all of the ballot initiatives that the Arizona Legislature put on the ballot (the 100s and 300s).

UPDATE, October 4: Blog for Arizona reported today that the Republican Governors' Association, who received a $1 million donation from FOX News in recent months, is investing $200,000 in Arizona races-- probably including Brewer's. They also reported that the Arizona Republican Party funds had dwindled down to $5000 before this donation. For the year, Arizona Democrats have raised $2.1 million compared to the GOP's $490,000. Now, who's fired up and who's "sitting this one out"?

Friday, October 1, 2010

SALC distributes deceptive pro-Prop 401 mailer

As to be expected during election season, I am greeted with campaign ads in my mailbox nearly everyday.

Yesterday, I received the above pro-Prop 401 card (without the circles and numbers, of course). This is one deceptive ad; in fact the statements circled in blue are blatant lies. (The items circled in yellow can be dismissed as unsubstantiated public relations claims.)

Prop 401 does absolutely NOTHING to (1) streamline city government or (2) cut bureaucracy. Prop 401 changes some hiring and firing procedures, but these changes actually strengthen the city's bureaucracy by further consolidating power in the office of the unelected city manager. No bureaucratic positions are eliminated, no budgets are cut, and no departments are eliminated by Prop 401.

Regarding (3) hold bureaucrats accountable, I contend that only elected officials are accountable to the voters-- not bureaucrats. Less government accountability is my biggest beef with Prop 401. By taking power away from the Mayor and City Council (while at the same time more than doubling their salaries), Prop 401 strengthens bureaucracy. (Yes, with Prop 401, certain department heads will lose their civil service protection, but the bureaucrats in these positions never have been accountable to voters, so it's a bit of a red herring, in my opinion.)

So, I'd like to see the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) send out a mailer that tells what Prop 401 actually does:

1- Prop 401 more than doubles the salaries of the Mayor and Council, while diminishing their power.

2- Prop 401 changes hiring and firing processes to increase the power of the unelected city manager.

3- Prop 401 eliminates civil service protection for some department heads and allows the unelected city manager to more easily eliminate staff, which also increases his power.

4- Prop 401 eliminates the off-year elections, thus, enabling the election of the Mayor and all City Council members in the same year. (This saves money, but also potentially weakens our elected officials. SALC members have big bucks; if the entire city government is up for election in the same year, they could easily flood the election with money in an attempt to take over the Democratically-controlled City Council in one fell swoop.)

The bottomline is that Prop 401 is an attempt by big business to weaken and, therefore, control Tucson city government (the way they control the Arizona Legislature). These corporatists are using money and lies to sway your vote.

One look at the Yes on Prop 401 campaign finance reports tells us who the puppeteer is behind the curtain-- big business. Yes on Prop 401 has received a handful of $100 donations, but by far the donations in support of Prop 401 are $500- $10,000 donations from businesses. What are they doing with these funds? Yes on Prop 401 has paid thousands of dollars to a public relations firm, a marketing firm, and a paid lobbyist-- to sway your vote.

In stark contract, the grassroots, all-volunteer Protect Local Control Vote No on Prop 401 group has $70 in the bank.

Don't buy the lie. Vote NO on Prop 401.

P.S.-- As a snarky side note to the PR firm, you've got a run-on sentence in the blue section at the top. :)

UPDATE October 4: The Arizona Daily Star posted a story about the groups for and against Prop 401. They reported that as of last week, Prop 401 supporters have raised $47.000, while the Protect Local Control committee has raised $320.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Neighborhood groups hold community forums on Props 400-401

Today, September 30, and Monday, October 4, two neighborhood groups will host community forums on Propositions 400 and 401, which will be on the November ballot.

Prop 400 would increase the city's sales tax to pay for core services (police, fire, parks) (1, 2), and Prop 401 would change the city's charter (1,2).

The Tucson City Council voted in July to allow both initiatives to be put on the ballot. The sales tax increase would help the city balance its budget, but it has been a contentious issue on the City Council, with Councilman Steve Kozachik offering alternative Plans C and D to City Manager Mike Letcher's Plans A (Prop 400) or Plan B (15% across the board cuts).

Prop 401, although more esoteric, also has been very contentious. Prop 401 is the baby of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC); this big business group claims that the City Charter should be changed because city government doesn't run efficiently* and because it's old. The grassroots opposition to Prop 401 takes issue with the huge Mayor and Council pay increases that are included. (I am against Prop 401 because it increases the power of the city's bureaucracy [particularly the unelected city manager] and, therefore, makes government less accountable.)

Want to learn more about these initiatives, ask questions, or voice your opinion? Check out one of these forums. The last Props 400-401 forum, hosted by Ward 6, was a standing-room-only event (above). (Kozachik called the event "lively;" other attendees described it as wild political theater.)

Tonight, the Southside Neighborhood Association Presidential Partnership (SNAPP) will host a community forum on both Props 400 and 401 from 6-8 p.m. The event will be at the El Pueblo Activity Center Multi Purpose Room, 101 W. Irvington Road. The entrance to the parking lot is south of Irvington Road on Nogales Highway.

University area
On October 4, the Feldman Neighborhood Association will host a community forum on only Prop 401, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event will be at the chapel of St. Luke's Home at Lee and N. First Ave.

* Regarding the efficiency of city government: well, anyone who has been following the downtown hotel hell (1, 2, 3, 4) or the other Rio Nuevo real estate deals could make a case for inefficiency. But, personally, I don't think bigger bureaucracy is going to fix it. I believe we need strong leadership. Prop 401 should have been broken up, which would have allowed people to vote for the parts they favor.

Are Congressional Republicans myopic? Or just really bad at math?

Last week, the national Republican Party unveiled their Pledge to America. If you watched the brilliant Jon Stewart piece on this, you know that the much-ballyhoo'd Pledge is the Same Old Sh-- from the Grand Old Party (AKA, the Party of No Ideas): tax cuts for the rich (AKA, trickle down economics); elimination of "Obamacare" (AKA, pay-your-own-way health savings accounts); traditional values (AKA, we hope everyone has forgotten those gay sex scandals); control spending (AKA, we hope everyone has forgotten our deficit-spending binge under Bush II); reduce government (AKA, we hope everyone has forgotten those earmarks and bail-outs we voted for); support the troupes; stand by our friends; tort reform; yada, yada, yada.

There was much comparison in the media of the Pledge to America and the Contract with America, Newt Gingrich's document from the early 1990s when the Republicans took control of Congress. As Stewart so aptly pointed out, the Pledge to America is "not even a sequel [to the Contract with America], it's a shot-by-shot remake." He proceed to show clips of long-term Congressional Republicans like House Minority Leader John Boehner (above, courtesy of NPR) spouting the same ideas in 1994 - 2004 as they outlined last week in the Pledge.

The grand finale was Boehner 2010 side-by-side with Boehner of the past saying exactly the same words with the same emphasis and pacing. (How's that for living up to your stereotype of the Party of No Ideas?)

Fast forward one week...

Pundits are now analyzing and commenting on the content of the Pledge to America, and more data are being released about the dismal state of the economy. ("Drat, we thought we could get by with soundbites!" Boehner is overheard saying in Southern Ohio tanning spa.)

- The Economic Policy Institute released a report that says the Republicans' job creation plan (AKA, give more money to the rich) would result in the loss of 1.1 million jobs. (I guess they are the only ones who have not heard that giving money to the rich is the least effective way to stimulate the economy and jobs and that trickle down economics doesn't work.)

- The 2010 Census data revealed that the gap between rich and poor is widening (duh), and that poverty has increased in most states. (So, why have Republicans vote against extension of unemployment repeatedly? Why are they holding extension of the middle class tax cuts hostage? Why did they try to block Obama's jobs bill? Why do they want to eliminate the public safety nets of healthcare reform and Social Security? Why? Because all of these things are unfriendly to the corportists. They represent the multinational corporations of America-- not the people.)

- Robert Reich said on NPR that the middle class can't go any deeper into debt and can't work longer hours. They're doing everything they can to survive.

And besides all of this, their plan just doesn't add up. They want to repeal healthcare reform and make all of the Bush II's tax cuts (especially those for the ultra rich) permanent PLUS cut government and cut the deficit.

George Bush I called trickle down economics "voodoo economics" when he ran against Ronald Reagan for president. What the Republicans are proposing with the Pledge to America is "voodoo math". Healthcare reform and sunsetting Bush II's tax cuts on the richest Americans save us BILLIONS of dollars. If Congressional Republicans are allowed to accomplish these two goals, the US economy will be hurt even more. Also, decreasing the size of government means eliminating government jobs. On the NPR's Diane Rehm Show, one commentator said that even if the Republicans take government spending back to Reagan era levels + cut more, we would still be no where near a balanced budget.

The bottom line is: the Pledge to American is a hoax. Don't buy the lie.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Giffords stands with the middle class and fiscal responsibility

The Arizona Daily Star reported today that CD8 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords chose to stand with the middle class and fiscally responsible-- rather than caving in and going along with those who want to continue the budget-busting Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.

Forty-seven House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama saying that they would support extension ofall of the Bush era tax cuts.

Obama has been promoting keeping the Bush tax cuts for people who make less than $250,000 but allowing the cuts to expire for the richest Americans.

Although the Republicans have been pushing the IDEA of fiscal responsibility (in order to win over the Tea Bagger vote), they also have been pushing hard to make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, which add BILLIONS to the deficit.

This fall Republicans have been willing to let all of the tax cuts expire-- even cuts for the middle class-- if they can't get continued give-aways for their rich cronies. When will they give up on trickle down economics?

I am seriously disappointed that these DINOs wrote a letter of support for this fiscally irresponsible Republican plan, but I am proud of Giffords for not caving. Go, Gabby.

The ramifications of wealth disparity: Robert Reich gets it

Robert Reich is one of my heroes. He gets it (unlike the delusional Tea Partiers who also were on National Public Radio [NPR] this morning, but more on those jokers later).

Here is a quote from his interview today on NPR. (Check out the link for the whole interview.)

"[The middle class] can't go deeper and deeper into debt. They can't work longer hours. They've exhausted all of their coping mechanisms," he says. "And people at the top are taking home so much that they are almost inevitably going to speculate in stocks or commodities or whatever the speculative vehicles are going to be. ... Unless we understand the relationship between the extraordinary concentration of income and wealth we have this in country and the failure of the economy to rebound, we are going to be destined for many, many years of high unemployment, anemic job recoveries and then periods of booms and busts that may even dwarf what we just had."

Tucson's downtown hotel: City Council tosses the hot potato back (Part 4)

The debate about whether or not the City of Tucson should go hundreds of millions of dollars into debt to build a mega-hotel downtown crescendo'd yesterday during a 2-hour Executive Session of the Mayor and Council.

You'll remember that at last week's City Council meeting, Councilman Steve Kozachik couldn't get a second on a motion that began with the question: "What is the City of Tucson’s legal obligation to the design, development and building of the Convention Center Hotel?" and ended with a formal motion that would tell the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board (RN) that the city would "not backstop or issue any bonds to secure the completion of the Tucson Convention Center Hotel, Parking Garage and Convention Center Expansion" and the city would "not approve any additional expenditures for the Convention Center Projects until RN has negotiated an acceptable GMP [guaranteed maximum price] and funding plan for the project."

Later in the week, the RN Board tossed that hot potato back at the City Council.

At yesterday's City Council meeting, the Council voted 7-0 on the following motion by Kozachik:

I move that we direct staff to proceed as discussed in Executive Session, and to negotiate the following:
a) an agreement with RN for financing the Project that satisfies the direction given by the Legislature.
b) a reduced GMP for the project, as well as reduced developer and design/build fees
c) resolution of issues relating to the use of local subcontractors; and
d) acquiring additional security from the hotel operator

I move that staff not return to Mayor and Council for any further action unless these terms are accomplished.

"Direction given by the Legislature" refers to the RN Board's original charge by the Arizona Legislature to oversee expenditure of RN funds. According to Kozachik, that means that RN cannot "toss it into our lap"... again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We want those 8 million jobs back

Don't forget, Ed Schultz's One Nation Working Together March is this Saturday, October 2, in Washington, DC.

The Nation recently posted a great background piece-- For Jobs, Justice, and Education. In a nutshell, the article talks about the plight of working families in America, tone-deaf Republican and Blue Dog Democrats who are fighting for the rich (instead of working for workers), and the rationale behind the march.

Here is a small excerpt.

"...we should be investing in rebuilding America, thereby helping to close the jobs gap, which will then help close the budget gap.

"Instead, as we careen toward a possible double-dip recession and a second round of devastating home foreclosures, the extreme right-wing media machine is desperately trying to discredit the idea that America's government can and should move aggressively to create more jobs...

"Nothing they say should persuade our leaders to throw America's working families under the bus. We are in the middle of the biggest economic crisis in half a century. Through its negligence and recklessness, Wall Street has already forced a brutal austerity program on Main Street. The role of America's government is to mitigate its effects and reverse the damage, not to make things worse by heaping suffering on top of suffering. This is not the time to abandon schools, shut down clinics, ignore crumbling infrastructure and forego job creation. This is not the time to take more away from families and communities that are already losing so much. We don't need a public austerity program on top of the private sector–imposed austerity that we are already enduring.

"But some members of Congress apparently think they should focus on closing the federal budget gap, even if it means letting millions more American families tumble. They are mistaken. America's workers find themselves in a deep hole. You don't cut your way out of a hole. You grow your way out of a hole. We can afford to invest more in America's long-term success. We are the wealthiest nation in the world. We should not be giving billions of dollars to companies like Halliburton abroad, while closing hospitals at home.

"...the American people finally will be able to choose between two movements: one that wants to demagogue problems and divide us, and another that wants to promote solutions and unite America."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tucson's downtown hotel: Historical context of a complicated project (Part 3)

The saga of Tucson's proposed downtown mega-hotel has been a continuing drama for a few years. To offer an historic context to the current pending decisions, here is a series of news articles.

The original Request for Proposals
Downtown Revitalization Development Opportunity, Convention Center Headquarters Hotel
July 2007-- three years ago! No wonder Tucsonans are frustrated!

Economic downturn in the west
Brookings report finds LV among hardest hit
Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 2009.

City Council starts to debate the wisdom of the hotel project
Dialogue is changing on downtown hotel project
Inside Tucson Business, February 2010.

Local businesses are pro-development
Downtown vision, future is in new hotel, TCC
Inside Tucson Business, February 2010.

Are convention centers and hotels the great investment that developers say they are? (AKA the $190 million question.)
Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy
by Heywood Sanders for the Brookings Institution, 2005.
This reports reveals not-so-rosy statistics about many cities that have built new convention hotels and convention centers to boost economic development. Sanders, an academic, was interviewed by local media in the spring of 2010, but the City Council gave him minimal time to explain his findings. It's important to note that the Brookings report was published in 2005; the economy has only gotten worse since then. In his interview on the John C. Scott show, Sanders said many US cities have traveled the convention center hotel road that the City of Tucson is now on. Some put up the funds and built the hotels; others decided to be more prudent and not build. It is scary to ponder what this huge debt could do to these heavily-leveraged cities if the US economy, in general, and unemployment, in particular, do not pick up soon.

Hotel Industry Fights Back
The Rhetoric vs the Facts: What the Brookings Report Fails to Reveal
The International Association of Exhibition Management pushed back after the Brookings Report was published in 2005.

Another "debunking" of the Brookings' Report, 2005.

Local hotel owner/opportunist wants a piece of the action
Chamber backs city lease after hotel upgrade
Arizona Daily Star, June 2010.

Using city bonds to upgrade hotel is a bad idea

Even the Arizona Daily Star doesn't go for Lopez's idea for lining his own pockets with Rio Nuevo funds. June 2010.

Desperate construction workers want jobs
Workers flock to back TCC hotel construction

Arizona Daily Star, June 2010.

More questions than answers
These questions need to be answered before we OK a convention hotel
In Inside Tucson Business, Councilman Steve Kozachik uses the media to push for answers from Garfield Traub (the hotel developer) and from the Mayor and Council, June 2010. This article is a thorough overview of the funding and the issues.

Phoenix convention hotel occupancy less than 50%
Downtown Hotel Hell
A dose of convention hotel reality from Phoenix, thanks to the Tucson Weekly, September 2010.

Hotel hell devolves as bloggers offer options to City Council
Give downtown hotel site to the Apache Indians
A View from Baja Arizona blog on the Tucson Citizen website, September 2010.

Sensing the fear of local politicians, the hotel's developer offers another funding plan
New hotel-finance plan unveiled
Sensing that local politicians lack the will to go hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to finance and build the hotel, Garfield Traub offers an alternative funding plan, according to Arizona Daily Star, September 2010. GT suggests the creation of a real estate investment trust (REIT) which would finance the hotel. The problem with this idea is that the city would own all of the risk if the hotel sits empty, but the REIT would reap the profits if all goes well. (This is a really bad idea for the City of Tucson!)

The City Council and the Rio Nuevo Board play hot potato with the project
To build or not to build-- who's decision is it anyway? Apparently, we don't know. When the Arizona Legislature created the Rio Nuevo Board to oversee expenditure of the RN funds, Kozachik and others (including me) thought that meant they would oversee and make decisions on projects like the downtown hotel, but the RN Board passed the buck back to the City Council last week. On Sunday, the Arizona Daily Star called for someone to make a decision.

Three years, many plans, and millions of dollars later, Tucson still doesn't have a downtown hotel. Now what? As I have said many times, I do believe that Tucson would benefit from a larger, updated downtown convention hotel, but after having heard multiple interviews with Sanders about his convention hotel research, I am convinced that now is not the time for Tucson to take on massive debt and that the GT proposal is not the right plan for Tucson in 2010.

Stay tuned for future developments.

Tucson's downtown hotel: Who's on first? Rio Nuevo Board passes hotel back to M&C (Part 2)

The tortured saga of Tucson's new downtown hotel has been a long and twisted one.

Do we need a giant, glittering new hotel downtown?

How much will it cost?

Who should pay for it?

Who will own the debt?

Who will get the profits?

Tucson's Mayor and Council have been waffling around these questions for years with no resolution. The downtown development drama got exponentially more complicated when the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature created the Rio Nuevo Board to oversee how Rio Nuevo's funds are to spent in the future. Over the summer there were public squabbles between the Mayor and Council and the Rio Nuevo Board. (One example: the RN Board didn't approve of the M&C using downtown parking garage spaces to pay off a legal settlement with developer Scott Stiteler because of a contract dispute.

These stories led me-- and I'm sure other Tucsonans-- to wonder who's really in charge? Did the Legislature clearly delineate the responsibilities of the RN Board and how they are to interact with the Mayor and Council? It appears not.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik has been pushing the City Council to drop the mega-hotel project-- at least until the economy improves. He also believes that whether or not to finance and build the hotel is in the hands of the Rio Nuevo Board-- or it was until they punted late last week and said the hotel fiasco belonged to the city.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, "...the project is in … well, "chaos" may be too strong a word, but "confusion" is not. Mix in confusion with political posturing by both the City Council and the Rio Nuevo board and the result is unacceptable. Especially on a project of this size and involving so much taxpayer money."

Here is the text of Kozachik's September 24, 2010 memo to the Mayor and Council, which he released after the RN Board ducked out of the hotel business (even though it is not clear that they lawfully can walk away from it-- since they are supposed to be in charge of how the Rio Nuevo funds are spent.)

SUBJECT: Responsibility for Decision-Making on the Proposed Convention Hotel

There seems to exist a condition of leadership paralysis with respect to making a decision about proceeding with the Convention Center Project. The Rio Nuevo Board has suggested shifting the decision-making responsibility back to the City, where that authority resided prior to the Board having been seated by the State Legislature. With over $230 million in taxpayers’ dollars in the balance, the City must make sure that all relevant questions are answered openly and publicly.

1. Who is legally responsible to make the decision to proceed with the Hotel?
State Legislation placed the legal obligation to adopt a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) and finance plan on the Rio Nuevo Board. And, the Master Development Agreement for the project is between Rio Nuevo and the developer Garfield Traub. What is the role of the Legislature in the decision by the Board to shift that burden to the City? Legally, how does the change in relationship affect the Master Development Agreement? Does a new agreement need to be negotiated?

2. If the District shifts responsibility to the City for the hotel decision, what role does the District now play in approving any contracts related to the project?
The Legislature stated that no TIF money could be spent on any projects other than the Hotel and related project elements until a Notice To Proceed had been issued by the District. If no such NTP is issued, what are the City's options with respect to funding any other projects with TIF revenue? What role does the District then have in those decisions if they have shifted the duty/right to negotiate a hotel package to the City?

3. What other areas are affected by a change in the relationship?
What is the cost for putting together a finance program, that is, a bond package? Does the District have any financial obligation to assist in funding those costs with TIF dollars, or is it a General Fund obligation? Who negotiates the bond package? Who is involved in approving the terms of the package?

Subcontractor bids have expired. There will be a cost involved with re-submitting and re-evaluating a new set of bid documents. Do TIF dollars pay for those new costs, or is that a Developer cost to be borne by Garfield Traub? With the "owner" now out of the decision-making picture, who is to review and approve the bids with Garfield Traub?

There is no GMP. Previously, the District and the City have both been evaluating the proposed GMP submitted by Turner/Sundt. Is the City now in the position of making a unilateral decision with respect to the acceptability of the GMP and negotiating a new one in the event it concludes the existing price is too high? What role does the District now play in that process?

If the City puts together a funding package, does the District have any remaining role in its approval? If not, does this, in effect, constitute tacit agreement by the District that the City now controls the use of the TIF for this, and other projects the City deems appropriate use of those funds?

What we know is this:
a) There remain serious questions to be answered with respect to the financial viability of the Hotel.
b) In the present Convention Center Hotel market, there are numerous real-life examples that demonstrate the financial down-sides possible in operating a facility such as this.
c) There is no private sector money included in the financing of this project and the developer has openly indicated that he is unwilling to absorb any of the risk.
d) The “Team,” as described in the Master Development Agreement, with whom the District is to negotiate a Guaranteed Maximum Price and a finance plan, is comprised of commission-based firms who therefore have no incentive to produce for the City the lowest possible price for a high-quality product.
e) The taxpayers’ voice has been left out of the conversation. If the Rio Nuevo Board passes to the City the responsibility for making this decision, it is the Mayor and Council who are responsible to the taxpayers for whichever choice is elected, not the Rio Nuevo Board.
f) The voters are being asked to approve a sales tax increase along with a package that includes a significant salary increase for Mayor and Council. When the voters see those propositions on the ballot, their vote will reflect the level of trust they have for the governing body.

There appears to be a strong sense of urgency on the part of those who stand to benefit financially from this project that the District step aside and the City simply approve a funding plan that ultimately places the taxpayers at risk for what may well become an under-performing property. The decision to make this level of commitment comes while we are in midst of negotiating a GMP, in the midst of our trying to balance the FY2011 and FY2012 budgets, and in the midst of an effort by some in the City bureaucracy to convince the taxpayers of our need to adopt a sales tax increase. To take on a debt of this size while so many critical fiscal issues are unresolved is irresponsible.

It is time we protect the taxpayers’ interests and make a firm decision that, at this time, we cannot take on the burden of a risky capital project such as this. It is unfortunate that the District is now trying to absolve itself from fulfilling the leadership role in this matter that it was formed to exercise.

Nonetheless, the Board’s decision to stand down on the decision and place it back in the hands of the City does not obligate us as leaders in this community to approve a debt burden that is clearly inconsistent with the other fiscal realities with which we are faced. The timing is wrong, the finances are uncertain, and therefore the project must stop now until the market has improved to the point where some level of private sector investment can be included in the plan.
(Emphasis added.)

Tucson's downtown hotel: To be or not to be? (Part 1)

Since he took office, City Councilman Steve Kozachik has been trying to hold the Mayor's and other council members' feet to the fire on the new downtown hotel deal.

The issue of whether or not to build a mega-hotel downtown has been complicated by Tucson's ongoing budget problems-- thanks to a downturn in the US economy, high unemployment and poverty in Arizona, cuts in funds from the state government and an over-reliance on tourism, sales tax, and the housing boon statewide.

All of this has been coming to a head since the City Council voted to send Prop 400, a 1/2 cent sales tax increase, to the voters this November. Labeled the "core tax", it theoretically will be spent on core services-- police, fire, and parks-- but, as I understand it, that is not an iron clad promise.

City Manager Mike Letcher proposed 2 plans to balance Tucson's budget-- Plan A being pass the sales tax and Plan B being across the board 15% cuts in all city departments (including police and fire). (Plan B, I think, is a particularly stupid idea because it plays into the hands of the people who tried to pass Prop 200 last fall. They contended that the City Council didn't value police and fire and would cut those services unless they were protected by the charter changed proposed in Prop 200, and here you go-- not even 1 year later, Letcher's Plan B proposes just that!)

As his answer songs, Kozachik has proposed Plan C and the hybrid, updated Plan D. I am not endorsing Kosachik's Plan D whole hog, but I do agree with him when he says that there are steps that the City Council can and should take now--regardless of whether or not the sales tax passes. For example, included in Plan D are items like eliminating cars and car allowances for city employees (check this link and scroll down to see who gets this now); a 2% decrease in pay for city employees making above $96,000; increased "cost recovery" related to Parks and Recreation programs (ie, increased fees); a sliding scale Sun Tran fare increase; and much more. The kicker at the end of Plan D is killing-- at least for now-- the hotel project:

"Because of the uncertain impact on the General Fund, advise Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board that the City will not entertain any further consideration of funding proposals associated with the Downtown Convention Hotel until the sales tax has sunsetted (see below.)

"In the event sales tax fails at the ballot box, City will not entertain funding proposals for the Hotel until State-shared sales tax receipts to the City exceed those identified in “sunset” provision cited below."

According to Kozachik (the sole Republican on the City Council), he presented Plans C and D as points of discussion and wants to discuss/debate the ideas with other members of the City Council. The problem is that the Democrats on the City Council didn't want to discuss the plans.

At the September 21, 2010 City Council meeting, Kozachik also made this motion to tell the Rio Nuevo Board that the city was washing its hands of the hotel project proposed by Garfield Traub.

Convention Center Hotel and the City of Tucson

What is the City of Tucson’s legal obligation to the design, development and building of the Convention Center Hotel? The Master Development Agreement identifies the Agreement is between the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District (The Owner) and Garfield Traub (The Developer).

The signature page of the Master Development Agreement states that the Mayor signs “Solely in connection with the City’s obligation and agreements pursuant to Sections 2.2.2, 4.1.14 and 4.2 of this agreement”

Section 2.2.2 relates to the construction of the East entrance and states that the agreement “obligates the City to expeditiously pursue mutually agreeable methods for funding the CC East Entrance Construction Fund” The City complied with this obligation by issuing additional Certificates of Participation.

Section 4.1.14 relates to the City issuing permits during the design phase and states “City agrees to expedite to the fullest extent possible plan review and approvals as well as the issuance of all permits and consents required for the project.” The City has complied with this obligation.

Section 4.2 relates to the City issuing permits after completion of the Design Development Period and states “City agrees to expedite to the fullest extent possible plan review and approvals as well as the issuance of all permits and consents required for the project” The project has not been approved and therefore the permits will not yet be issued.

Clearly, The City of Tucson has no contractual obligation to fund the project. In light of the dire financial condition in which the City finds itself, the City should not risk one more dollar of the taxpayer’s money on this project.

I move that the City of Tucson advise Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board that 1) at this time we do not intend to backstop or issue any bonds to secure the completion of the Tucson Convention Center Hotel, Parking Garage and Convention Center Expansion and 2) The City will not approve any additional expenditures for the Convention Center Projects until RN has negotiated an acceptable GMP and funding plan for the project.

This declaration of intent will allow the RNMF Board to decide if the project is financially viable in its current form and to decide if alternative funding methods are available. That obligation is clearly delineated in the MDA under Sections 4.1.13 and 6.6.

Section 4.1.13 assigns to Garfield Traub the responsibility of securing a Design Build Contract with Turner/Sundt and to negotiate a GMP, advising Rio Nuevo as that is developed.

Section 6.6 assigns to Rio Nuevo the responsibility of obtaining funding for the Project. The City of Tucson is explicitly not mentioned in the development of a financing plan.

We, as the City of Tucson, cannot simultaneously tell our citizens that we need for them to pass a ½ cent sales tax because we are in dire financial straits and also tell them that we are obligating their money to a $225 million project that has significant risks and assumptions associated with it. The turn in the economy has dictated that this type of risky project should not be placed on the shoulders of the citizens of Tucson.
(Emphasis added.)

The motion didn't go anywhere because no one seconded it. For Kozachik's Ward 6 update on the meeting, check this link. To watch the City Council meeting online, check out Channel 12.

I do believe that Tucson needs larger, updated hotel accommodations downtown, but I don't agree that the city should go hundreds of millions of dollars into hock for decades to build it. (Here's a hint: there is a reason why the bankers aren't financing this.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Greg Krino: One scary guy

If you drive around midtown Tucson, you can't help but see Republican Greg Krino's smiling white face on hundreds of very expensive, 4-color, illegal signs (1,2).

Krino is an opportunistic, young Republican write-in candidate challenging Democrat Paula Aboud for her state senate seat in LD28. Aboud and Krino are in a four-way race with former state Representative Ted Downing and Green Party activist Dave Ewoldt.

Normally, Republicans don't bother with LD28 because it is overwhelmingly Democratic-- "about 36,000 Democrats, 22,000 Republicans and 24,000 others spread out across the political spectrum," according to the Tucson Weekly.

While Aboud, Downing, and Ewoldt duking it out from the center to the far left, Krino has the extreme far right all to himself. You know all those things that progressives don't like about the current legislature and Governor Jan Brewer? Let me refresh your memory, in case you have suppressed the last 2 legislative sessions: no support or core services for families, kids, or the poor; minimalist public health; privatization of everything including education, prisons, and parks; give-aways (AKA tax breaks) to the rich and to hell with everyone else; demonization of undocumented workers, etc.

Well, Krino marches in lock step with these Republican core ideas-- hence my headline. He's a scary guy.

I heard him on the John C. Scott show the other day. People-- like former Congressman Jim Kolbe-- are saying that Krino is a "rising star" in the Republican party. When Scott asked him about his stance on issues, Krino said that government should get back to basics-- police, fire, and roads... period.

Yikes! You'll note all of the government services that are not on that list: education, prisons, public health, providing a safety net or support for the poor.

I know this "back to basics" is popular rhetoric amongst the tea bag types this year, but I seriously don't think people realize how this would impact them if these wing-nuts get elected.

As an aside, those 4-color signs are expensive. Obviously, this guy has big money behind him. The corporatists really like having the Arizona Legislature in their pocket.

UPDATE, October 8: Most of Krino's illegally-placed 4-color signs are gone from city streets now. You'll note his new illegally-placed signs are the standard red/black type, no 4-color smiling photo, and still no indication that he is an extremist Republican.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is this the end of communism? Or the end of capitalism?

This week news outlets reported that a Chinese company may buy part of General Motors (GM). Apparently, GM sells more cars in China than in the US.

I don't know if this is some bizarre PR move or if GM just wants to show its connection with Chinese consumers or both, but National Public Radio reported that GM's Cadillac brand will be financing a film commemorating the Chinese Communist Revolution.

Ronald Reagan and Chairman Mao are rolling in their graves.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It ain't over 'til it's over: the Goddard 'Surge' vs the robocalls

I just returned from the Women for Goddard gig with a list of my soon-to-be 20 new best friends -- women I have to call and convince to vote for Terry Goddard for Arizona governor. Between 100-150 women gathered tonight to collect lists and calling procedures. If last night's Women for Goddard event was that big, that means hundreds of women will be calling Pima County Democratic women to encourage them to vote for Goddard and other Democrats on the ticket.

Hillary Clinton used the same women-calling-women strategy in 2008, came to Tucson herself (instead of sending the second string, sorry, Michelle), and won Arizona-- despite Obama endorsements from Raul Grijalva and Janet Napolitano.

With the state and federal Republicans' abysmal voting records on women's issues (AKA, reproductive rights, healthcare, education, and poverty), it would be amazing to me if any women-- except the ultra-rich or those with ties to an ultra-conservative, highly-repressive religion popular in Arizona-- would vote Republican.

Feeling pretty good on my way home, I was thinking about the new Goddard-Brewer polling data that was sent out today. From the Goddard press release:

New polling data released today indicates Terry Goddard is gaining ground on Jan Brewer in the race for Governor of Arizona.

The poll, conducted on behalf of Project New West, shows that in one of the more conservative Congressional districts in Arizona, Terry Goddard has moved to within single digits with 45% of the vote, Brewer at 52%.

"Jan Brewer has failed to bring new jobs or new business to Arizona. She has failed us on education - and is willing to cut even more from the education budget. Times are bad, and voters are recognizing that Jan Brewer is not the kind of decisive leader we need, to lead us out of this mess," added Goddard.

The huge gain of more than a dozen points since a Rasmussen poll on September 8, shows a dramatic shift in momentum as voters learn about Terry Goddard, his success as Attorney General, and his plan to bring new jobs and support business expansion in Arizona.

OK, Terry, sorry, man, but there are a few things wrong with this press release information.

1- It is frickin' awesome that you have gained a significant number of percentage points in a conservative district; 52% Brewer vs 45% for you puts you in striking distance-- especially considering the army of scared progressive out their working for you. (But here comes the but...)

2- But you really can't compare the new data with the Rasmussen robocall data. To use research terminology, you're comparing apples with oranges. :) To compare these polls, the surveyors would have had to ask the same questions in the same way (live person vs robocall computer) in the same order to the same types of voters (ie, likely voters, not likely, anyone who answers the phone and speaks English, anyone who has a land line, etc.) Also, I believe that the puny Rasmussen polls (500-600 likely voters) are supposed to be representative of statewide demographics, which would be most heavily weighted for Maricopa County-- rather than just looking at one district. (Speaking of statewide data, do either of these groups-- Rasmussen or or Project New West-- have Spanish-speaking surveyors. I doubt it.) Having a research background, my guess is that only a certain type of person-- and not me-- would answer a computerized telephone survey. In my opinion, that skews the Rasmussen data as much or more than their conservative bent. (And here comes another but...)

3- Believe it or not-- this is good news. I hope I'm not giving away the secret strategy here, but my guess is that Goddard is trying to follow in Napolitano's footsteps (ie, win big in Pima and other blue/purple areas outside of Maricopa to take the state). So, if the Rasmussen polls are heavily weighted to Maricopa-- who cares what their data says?

Woo, hoo. Volunteer. Donate. Vote! Go Goddard. Beat the Bruja.