Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cartel wars come to Arizona

Only a week after the Arizona Primaries, Governor Jan Brewer is running ads linking her opponent Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to Obama, unions, and the "boycott cartel."

OK, agreed, for some of us, these linkages are reasons to vote for Goddard, but his portrayal in these attack ads is damming. Blog for Arizona has an embedded video, and there is a similar but different radio version airing on 1330AM during the daily John C. Scott political talk show. (Personally, I think the radio ad is stronger than the TV ad.)

Not to be outdone, the Democrats are claiming that Brewer is ensconsed in a "lobbyist cartel."

In a previous post, I wrote about Brewer's ties to private prison lobbyists.

But the Democrats' list of "lobbyist cartel" members in Brewer's cabinet is impressive-- in a bad way, of course. At least now we know where she gets her ideas. :)

Press release from the Arizona Democratic Party:

Governor Brewer, cut ties to your lobbyist cartel
As Arizona's working families struggle through crisis after crisis,
Brewer surrounds herself with special-interest lobbyists who profit

PHOENIX -- It's time for Gov. Jan Brewer to cut ties with her staff of special-interest lobbyists. They, not Brewer, are running the 9th floor, and Arizona is suffering the consequences -- we remain dead last in school funding and we lead the pack in job losses and foreclosures.

Brewer's campaign staff and governing staff are overrun with lobbyists, particularly those with direct ties to prison privatization. Brewer's lobbyists have been leaders in the efforts to privatize Arizona's prison system at the expense of public safety. Here's a quick Who's Who:

Campaign Manager Chuck Coughlin is a registered lobbyist and president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, which has represented Corrections Corporation of America.

Campaign Spokesman Doug Cole is a registered lobbyist for HighGround Public Affairs Consultants.

Governor's Office Chief of Staff Eileen Klein was a registered lobbyist.

Governor's Office Communications Director Paul Senseman was a registered lobbyist.

Governor's Office Deputy Communications Director Mark Genrich is a registered lobbyist.

Governor's Office Deputy Chief of Staff Richard Bark was a registered lobbyist.

Governor's Office Policy Adviser Kevin Kinsall was a registered lobbyist.

Today, Brewer and her fellow Republicans on the general-election slate launched a noisy, coordinated assault on Democrats who fight for hard-working Arizonans. Yet Brewer was eerily quiet throughout August as her handlers' deep ties to private prison lobbyists were exposed in the wake of murderers escaping from a private Kingman prison.

(NOTE to the Dems: nice press release, but it can't compete with a TV ad. Buy some air time. We need to save this state!)

Monday, August 30, 2010

I was going to write this, but Arianna Huffington beat me to it

Remember all of the right-wing blather about the Constitution last winter when President Obama was trying to push health care reform through the Congress?

Blah, blah, blah, we have to stick to the Constitution! The Constitution doesn't say the federal government should provide universal health care, so we shouldn't do it!

"It's not in the Constitution!" was used repeatedly as an excuse to do nothing to solve the country's multiple problems. Republicans proudly wore the badge of "Constitutional Conservative"-- until Arizona's chief wing nut Russel "Father-of-SB1070" Pearce came up with another popular white supremacist idea-- anchor babies.

What's a Constitutional Conservative-- a defender of the Constitution's purity-- to do?

The Constitution clearly says that any baby born in the US is a US citizen. There are no qualifications to that statement-- no stipulations about race, ethnicity, religion, parental citizenship-- or exclusion for mixed race Hawaiians born in the early 1960s. For a humorous look at the Congressional debate that took place when the 14th Amendment was passed originally, check out this Daily Show link..."I know it's hard to be tough on babies, but..."

Now that prominent national whities like US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have picked up Pearce's anti-anchor baby idea, things are getting progressively scarier, and right-wingers are coming out of the woodwork to speak out against the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

To put all of this Constitutional rhetoric into perspective, the Huffington Post published Republicans Hot, Cold on Constitution last week. The article is full of interesting factoids about politicians using the Constitution-- when it suits them-- and offering changes when it doesn't. According to Huff Post, Republicans have offered 42 amendments to the Constitution in this session, and the Democrats have offered 27.

Both numbers are shockingly large in my opinion, and all of these amendments-- and the anchor baby rhetoric, in particular-- smack of political grandstanding and just plain hogwash.

Our forefathers-- in their infinite wisdom-- made it really difficult to amend the Constitution-- thank God (or our elected officials would have thrown the country into the abyss in the name of ideology long ago.)

Does anyone remember the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)? (I do, and here is a photo of my ERA bracelet-- none of those plastic things for us feminists. We knew we were going to be wearing these ERA bracelets for a long time as we fought for equality for women.) The ERA was an amendment to the Constitution that would have guaranteed equal rights under any federal, state, or local law and would have prohibited discrimination based upon sex. It received the required 2/3 vote of each house of Congress-- a feat that seems miraculous now-- but failed to be ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures by the 1982 deadline (10 years after it was originally proposed).

The whities who are blabbing about an anchor baby amendment aren't serious. They're using this issue as another wedge to pit races and ethnicities against each other... divide and conquer, and by the way, don't forget to vote for the wise whitie who can save you from the Hottentots and the Mongol hoards. (Sarcasm here, check out the link.)

All I can say is that it is a sad day in America when anyone outside of Mesa listens to Russel Pearce's ideas.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who writes Tucson's real estate development contracts? Cuz I don't think they know what they are doing (Part 1)

I have lived in Tucson for almost 30 years, and repeatedly, I have seen the City of Tucson-- and the taxpayers-- get screwed on real estate development.

I am not a high-powered lawyer, but I have written and signed a few contracts in my day. My multiple life experiences lead me to ponder one question: Who writes the real estate development contracts for the City of Tucson? Why do I ask? Because-- regardless of the deal-- it seems as if the city (AKA "we") end up with the short straw.

The latest example of this-- the Vista Sierra Apartments in midtown-- was featured in the local section of Sunday's Arizona Daily Star.

The article is a bit confusing about ownership of the now-closed, low-rent apartment complex saying, "For now, at least, Vista Sierra belongs to the Metropolitan Housing Corp., an independent nonprofit created by the city's Metropolitan Housing Commission. It bought the complex in 1996 from the original developer."

So, is this owned by the city or not?

The problem is the Vista Sierra apartments were purchased 14 years ago with the same basic cooling system problem that closed it down this summer.

This is a very expensive problem, since, according to the Star, "The chiller's pipes are in the building's foundation. [yikes!] They're hard to get to, expensive to repair. The fix will cost a million dollars - nearly half what the assessor estimates the place is worth."

When I bought my historic house in 2004, I paid for a home inspection, so I knew-- in great detail-- that I was buying a very cute 1933 house with problems (AKA an adorable, old dump).

Did the city commission a "home inspection" on the Vista Sierra Apartments? If they did, why the heck did they buy it? Really, this sounds like a sweetheart deal for the original developer.

"The [Metropolitan Housing] corporation is almost entirely government dependent, from subsidized rents to federal and local grants, including two recent city grants totaling $133,000. And it's the city - which boarded the windows and helped residents move [emphasis added] - that will probably ride to the rescue to clean up this mess one day. The city is broke, but it's HUD's preferred buyer," the Star reports.

Maybe I'm a dunce, but if the city owns this dump, how can the city be the preferred buyer? This sounds like a scam to me.

This article says that Metropolitan Housing Corp. defaulted on the mortgage for this property, but it also says the apartments are "almost entirely government dependent."

"'We don't have a pot of funds ready to buy this property, so that's clearly a challenge,' said Albert Elias, Tucson's housing and community development director. 'I think the only way that this could work is if we worked in partnership with some other (agencies),'" again quoting the Star.

So, why would we re-buy this dump that we shouldn't have purchased in the first place?

Again, I ask: "Who writes the real estate development contracts for the City of Tucson?"

Watch for more articles in this series...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I love Paul Krugman

Yes, there I said it, "I love you, Paul Krugman."

Why am I in love with a NY times columnist? Because he's not afraid to tell it like it is.

In a column entitled Now That's Rich in Sunday's NY Times, Krugman called for an end to the Bush tax cuts, which will sunset at the end of 2010-- unless the Congress votes to extend these budget-busting give-aways to the rich.

Several weeks ago, Republican lawmakers-- like our 2 Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl-- started the spin to save the tax cuts for their rich cronies. Earlier in the summer, they voted to deny extension of unemployment benefits because paying these benefits would increase the deficit; at the same time, they were promoting extension of the Bush tax cuts. (It is blatantly obvious whose side they are on.)

The Faux News spin on the sunset of the Bush tax cuts is that Obama is a tax-and-spend liberal who wants to push through the largest tax increase in history-- or some such drivel.

The truth is that Obama wants to extend the miniscule part of the Bush tax cuts that benefits the middle class, while ending the tax cuts for the richest 0.1% of the US population.

According to the Tax Policy Center, full extension of the Bush tax cuts-- originally instituted in 2001 and 2003-- would add $3.7 trillion (with a T) to the budget deficit over the next 10 years. (Click on the link for the full sobering report.)

I say, let's finally give up on trickle down economics and end the give-aways to the richest 0.1% of Americans. Bush and his Republican-controlled Congress (including John and Jon) wrote each of them a check for $3 million. Enough is enough. Don't buy the lie. End welfare to the rich.

Vote today!

Today, August 24, is primary election day in Arizona. For those of you who were asleep in high school government class, a primary election is when the major parties pick their candidates to run in the November general election.

Several statewide offices will be decided in November, including governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction. In addition, Congressional representatives (CD7 and 8 in Southern Arizona) and US Senate will be decided, along with many state Legislative races.

For Arizona Democrats and progressive independents, there are many, many well-qualified candidates running for offices. I am not going to make any predictions or endorsements because pretty much any of the Democratic candidates in contested races would do a fine job. For predictions, you can check out other progressive blogs like Random Musings.

If you don't know where to vote, check out this link on the Pima County Recorder's website.

A few years back, Pima County made it much easier to vote by instituting early mail-in ballots and early voting sites. These services have been very popular and successful according to the County Recorder's statistics.

If you have an early ballot and have not returned it, it's too late to mail it. You can drop it in a ballot box at any polling place today-- no waiting in line.

Also, if you would like to always vote by mail (after today), you can request to be on the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL). Once you are on the PEVL, the County Recorder's office will automatically mail a ballot to you.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why SB1070? Because Brewer and Pearce Are Beholdin' to Private Prisons

There are a myriad of reasons why people either support or denounce SB1070, Arizona's harsh anti-illegal immigration bill.

Pro: "America's under attack! The brown people are coming to take our jobs! Stop the border-crossing terrorists and drug dealers."

Con: "This is a racist policy-- and an unfunded mandate-- that could foster racial profiling, discrimination and wrongful imprisonment."

On a recent Rachel Maddow Show, she offers some interesting facts regarding Governor Jan Brewer's and Arizona State Senator Russel Pearce's steadfast support for anti-illegal immigration legislation.

Both Brewer and Pearce have strong ties to the private prison industry-- particularly Corrections Corporation of America, the corporation that holds the contract to hold federal prisoners (including suspected illegal aliens.)

Although Brewer has 2 close aids who have worked with and/or lobbied for the private prison industry, Pearce has even closer ties. Private prison corporations have donated the maximum amount to his campaigns, according to Maddow's research. To repay them, he sponsored legislation to transfer Arizona's entire prison system to private corporations and was the father of SB1070, which would increase prison populations dramatically.

Frankly, they're both opportunistic sleezeballs.

More than 1000 Signs Removed from Tucson Streets

On Monday morning, I posted a rather fiery blog post about political signs being removed in midtown Tucson.

Well, I kicked a hornet's nest with that story.

After multiple e-mail exchanges with the Ward 6 Office-- including Steve himself-- and neighborhood association leaders, I learned that the sign sweep was not in just Ward 6 but citywide. I also learn that only illegally-posted signs would be removed.

According to data provided by Councilman Kozachik, 1140 illegal signs were removed, including 865 political signs and 275 non-political signs. (Personally, I think that this is a waste of manpower-- volunteer manpower in posting the illegal signs and city staff manpower to remove them.)

Anyway, I want to thank Councilman Kozachik for providing the above data and clarifying the sign blight situation.

For information regarding legal vs illegal signs on city streets, check out this brochure published by the City of Tucson.

BTW, in my note back to Steve, I suggested that he could really help with the neighborhood blight caused by graffiti, illegally tall grass and weeds, and illegal dumping of trash and discarded furniture in the curb lawns by slum lords (long before a scheduled bulky pick-up). Blight begone!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Political signs coming down in midtown Tucson

Midtown Tucson with its mix of funky old houses and mid-century in-fill is an economically and culturally diversely part of Tucson. But at its core, it's heavily Democratic.

Due to the fluke of city-wide City Council elections and a marginally performing Democratic Party incumbant, midtown's Ward 6 is now represented by Republican City Councilman Steve Kozachik.

This summer, as always in an election year, political signs are popping up all over town. According to my neighborhood's newsletter, some residents (not sure how many) are concerned about the blight caused by political signs in and around our neighborhood. As a result, our neighborhood president contacted the Ward 6 office about this, and Kozachik's office has agreed to remove all political signs not on private property.

This statement from our recent newsletter bothers me: "City personnel are removing ALL [political] signs from the intersections for the next three weeks."

I also understand that political signs can be unsightly. In my opinion Tucson has hundreds of unsightly signs and billboards. What is Kozachik's opinion on the sign code regulations?

I take issue with removing political signs right before the primary and general elections. I see this as an unnecessary intervention and an infringement of free speech. The Arizona primary will be held in 8 days. Half or more of those signs will be removed soon after that.

Legislative District 28 (which includes Ward 6) has 5 Democrats running for the Arizona Legislature. There are also many highly qualified Democrats who are vying for Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction-- not to mention the hotly contested Congressional District 8 (Gabrielle Giffords' seat) and the US Senate race for John McCain's seat.

My point is: Republican Councilman Kozachik is more than happy to remove signs because, in reality, he will be removing primarily the signs of hard-working Democratic candidates, thus hurting their name recognition and wasting valuable campaign funds.

This is a problem. If the signs have been placed in accordance with city sign ordinances, they should not be removed. If you live in midtown, contact Kozachik's office at ward6@tucsonaz.gov and tell him that you value free speech and you want him to leave the signs as they are.

I understand the concerns about neighborhood blight. If Kosachik wants to help midtown neighborhoods, get after neighborhoods with illegally tall grass and weeds, broken furniture in the curb lawns, and graffiti.

UPDATE: For an update to this story click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Should the RTA take over SunTran? I vote "no"

For several weeks, the issue of SunTran control has been bouncing around the City Council Chambers and the media.

Today as the Tucson City Council considered whether or not to relinquish control of the SunTran bus service to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), pro- and anti-RTA demonstrators gathered outside (1, 2). The Teamsters Union (below) supports the move to RTA because they believe the RTA will provide a more stable funding source for the bus service and, therefore, the union members. Bus riders and representatives from Casa Maria Soup Kitchen (above) protested against the move to RTA because they fear steep fare increases and cuts to services if the regional authority takes over the buses.

Yes, the city is strapped for cash, but I disagree with the proposal to transfer SunTran to the RTA.

First of all, the vast majority of SunTran riders (in the neighborhood of 80-90%) are residents of the City of Tucson; this alone should be reason enough for the city to retain control. SunTran riders are people who don't have other transportation, can't afford to park or can't find parking where they work (ie, the University of Arizona), or can't drive, ride a bike, or walk to their destinations. Often-- but not always-- these people just can't afford cars.

If SunTran were controlled by a regional authority, Tucson would have one equal vote along with several smaller suburban cities-- such as Oro Valley or Marana. Obviously, potential suburban bus riders have different needs than the poor people and students who ride the city buses. Although Tucson is the biggest city in this group and has the most riders, it would be one voice among many at the RTA table.

RTA claims that it has solid funding, and this is why the Teamsters are supporting the RTA take-over. According to a radio interview between former City Councilman Steve Leal and activist Brian Flagg of Casa Maria, RTA would increase fares-- perhaps even doubling them-- if they take over SunTran.

The tragedy of all of this is that it pits workers who are fighting for their jobs and a living wage, against riders, who are fighting for affordable transportation and a means to get to their jobs or school. These groups should stick together, rather than battling against each other. At the end of the day, drivers and riders have more in common than they may believe today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arpaio on a hit list? So, what else is new?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a media whore.

The big news out of Maricopa County yesterday was that (reportedly) a Mexican drug cartel has put a $1 million reward on Arpaio's head.

So, what else is new?

Arpaio has built his nationwide reputation as the toughest sheriff in the US on the backs of inmates and immigrants. I suspect there has been a price on his head for many years-- thanks to his notoriously poor treatment for inmates and his immigrant sweeps in Phoenix, as well as in the deserts around it.

CNN and other major news channels are carrying the story ab out Arpaio's text message threat today. I found a link to the text message image on theNoisy Room blog.

Right off the bat, I'm suspicious of this text message. Do drug dealers have particularly bad spelling skills? Here is an excerpt:

"Miyon d dolares por la k?besa d arpayo i dies mil dls por kualkier amerikano ..."

I can't even count the numbers of spelling errors in this message fragment. I can understand that Mexican drug dealers may not be able to spell English words very well, but this text looks like really poor Spanglish. I can see spelling a few words wrong to make the message harder to trace, but, personally, I think this looks like a hoax.

Monday, August 2, 2010

We are all workers

Walking down Madison Ave last night after dinner, I saw this advertisement for Levis. Initially it struck me because I identify with the egalitarian message, "We are all workers."

We are all workers-- except for those who aren't-- that is the 1% of the population who are living off of our sweat and their accumulated wealth and the mostly Republican politicians who do their bidding.

As I was reading the NY Times this morning and eating breakfast at the hotel, Paul Krugman's editorial reminded me sadly of this small black boy in his "workers'" uniform.

Krugman predicts more unemployment for American workers and continued intransigence by Republican and conservative Democrat lawmakers and the Federal Reserve.

Republican and conservative Democrat members of Congress have repeatedly blocked legislation to help workers. Recent examples include the long battle to extend unemployment benefits earlier in the summer and last week's demise of the so-called jobs bill which would have given community banks more funds to lend to small businesses to create jobs.

While conservative members of Congress want to hold the line on deficit spending if the expenditure will help workers (ie, 99% of us), they are all for retaining the Bush era tax cuts for the rich.

As Krugman puts it, "The point is that a large part of Congress — large enough to block any action on jobs — cares a lot about taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, but very little about the plight of Americans who can’t find work."

So, no problem with spending to help the rich. Check out this video that shows the devastating impact of the Bush tax cuts on the US economy. (These cuts must sunset if we really want to get out of debt.)

Krugam laments that this trend will not end as long as the public's outrage is unfocused.

Tea Baggers are outraged-- but for the wrong reasons, in my opinion. Many of them are calling for less government-- except for the government that provides their Social Security checks.

Hello, People, less government is what we are suffering from now. When unemployment is looming near 10% and the Congress refuses to take action, that's serious. When cities like San Jose, California are laying off fire fighters, that's serious. When Arizona is laying off teachers and furloughing thousands of workers, that's serious.

Where's the outrage? Wake up.