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.

Monday, September 20, 2010

LaWall uses scare tactics and half-truths to campaign against medical marijuana

As political junkie, I have attended numerous public forums, City Council meetings, Pima County Board of Supervisers' meetings, and even Arizona Legislature sessions, but tonight's "educational" forum on medical marijuana (Prop 203) was the weirdest, most one-sided and contentious non-debate that I have ever witnessed.

In a nutshell, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall [check out the seriously under-the-radar website link] used this public forum (and a Pima County facility) to give her personal opinion on medical marijuana, scare the audience, and campaign for a No vote on Prop 203. (Isn't this unethical behavior?)

At the onset, LaWall said that the meeting was not a debate or a public forum but simply an educational meeting. She said her goal was to "educate and inform" the audience about Prop 203. Fair enough but that is not what transpired.

LaWall's slanted slide show, her "facts" about medical marijuana, and editorial emphasis on certain key points made it obvious that she was not providing education; she was using her office to campaign against medical marijuana.

Early on, in the non-debate, the mostly pro-203 audience of about 40 people began to challenge her "facts". For example, she said that marijuana was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a "medicine" and that it has not been research-tested. (Earth to Barbara, the FDA has not approved St. John's Wort for depression, black cohash for menopause, or any number of herbal remedies and supplements, but drug stores and health food stores are selling them.)

Marijuana has not been approved as a medicine because there are no pharmaceutical companies producing marijuana pills and funding multi-center clinical trials. Since it is illegal in most states, there is no economic incentive to pay millions of dollars to test it. (Drug research in the US is based on capitalism, not on the overall public good.) On the flip side, there have been loads research articles providing anecdotal evidence and case studies on the benefits of medical marijuana.

Regarding research testing of Controlled Substances, in the US most research is funded by the federal government or by drug companies. After the free-wheeling 1960s when Timothy Leary. Ram Das, Andrew Weil, and others at Harvard Medical School were conducting clinical trials of, writing about, and/or experimenting with mind-altering drugs, the Nixon administration clamped down on experimentation (research or otherwise), and medical research into potential benefits of controlled substances was suppressed. (Research funding is a political football.)

I digress. Back to tonight's political theater... instead of answering questions from the audience, LaWall became defensive, skipped through some slides, threatened to have people removed, and solicited help from uniformed police officers to control the crowd of citizens with legitimate questions. Since LaWall refused to call on people who raised their hands early on, audience members started shouting questions and comments.

For example, she answered one of my questions, but only when I said I was a journalist and asked, "Do you want me to write that you refused to answer audience questions?" When I raised my hand with a follow-up question, I was ignored-- along with many others.

Eventually the audience turned to heckling, but, seriously, LaWall deserved it. One breast cancer patient shouted out how much medical marijuana has helped her over the past 2 years of chemothearpy. Community activists accused LaWall of abusing her elected office by using the public forum to voice her personal opinion. Outside, a cancer doctor and palliative care cancer nurse told me that LaWall just doesn't understand the benefits of medical marijuana to their patients.

The meeting lasted about 30-40 minutes, since LaWall refused to answer the vast majority of questions or address comments from the audience. This was a pathetic performance by an elected official.

On November 2, 2010, Arizona voters will again have the opportunity to approve medical marijuana (Prop 203). Arizonans have approved medical marijuana at least twice before in my recollection. What makes the 2010 vote different? In 1998, Arizona voters got tired of voting for initiatives and then having the Republican-controlled Legislature not enact the voters' wishes. Consequently, the Voter Protection Act was passed. This forces the Legislature to enact laws approved by the voters. (Watch out for this because Republican legislators are trying to undermine our initiative process.)

Old hippies, stoners, cancer patients, people with chronic pain and other medical conditions improved by marijuana, and other freedom-loving Americans who want less government control of our lives-- mark your calendars. I'll make it easy for you. Here are the election-related deadlines you need to know:

- To vote on November 2, you must register by October 4, 2010. You can register to vote here.
- The first day of early voting and the day that early ballots are mailed is October 7, 2010.
- You can also request to be on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). This means you automatically always get a ballot in the mail. (You can change this at any time; you can also drop the ballot off at a polling place on election day. It's easy, trust me.)
- The last day to request an early ballot is October 22, 2010. Here is a list of early voting sites.
- Election day is November 2, 2010. If you don't know where to vote, check out the Pima County Recorder's website. And, again, thanks to Republicans, you have to take an official government identification with you to the polls.

Also, while you're voting for medical marijuana, vote for Arizona Democrats. Statistics show that most people don't like the way the Republicans are running this state (ie, 2nd in poverty, 50th in education, worst unemployment in 27 years). It is long past time to throw those bums out!

In the future, looks for public forums on zoning for medical marijuana. Counties and cities around Arizona will be trying to control usage, dispensaries, and cultivation. Don't let them undermine your rights!

Marijuana, the City Council, Goddard and aliens-- events abound this week

What's a politically active Tucsonan to do this week? Today and tomorrow (September 20-21) multiple meetings and events have been scheduled on top of each other.

Today and tomorrow evening, beginning at 5:30 p.m., Women for Goddard is hosting phone-banking parties. We will be calling women voters and encouraging them to vote for Terry Goddard for Arizona governor. If you are a woman with a cell phone, contact Women for Goddard at for details.

Medical Marijuana
Also, tonight-- 5:15 p.m. at the Copper Room at Randolph Park-- Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall will tell us everything we ever wanted to know about marijuana-- or at least medical marijuana in Arizona. Arizona voters will get a chance to vote-- again-- on the decriminalization of medical marijuana. (Arizonans have approved medical marijuana at least twice before, but somehow the Legislature has been able to not enact the wishes of the voters.) Here is an excerpt from LaWall's promo:

Proposition 203 is a ballot initiative to be voted on during the general election on November 2, 2010. If approved by the voters, the initiative will enact a group of statutes titled the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Act,” to include a new Chapter 28.1 in Title 36 and amendment of Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) § 43-1201. If adopted, the new law would decriminalize possession, sale, and cultivation of marijuana for certain purposes under state law and would provide for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and offsite cultivation locations.

Tucson City Council
Also, Tuesday is another one of those big days for the Tucson City Council. Beginning at noon with a study session and continuing through the evening with the regular meeting and call to the audience, beginning at 5:30 p.m. For weeks, Councilman Steve Kozachik has been trying to hold the other council members' feet to the fire regarding budget cuts and the downtown hotel boondoggle.

As usual, the City Manager's office is telling voters to vote for another sales tax increase to pay for core services (police, fire, parks) or face a 15% across the board cut in services-- Plans A and B-- as if these are our only 2 choices. Kosachik unveiled his Plan C in late August and a Plan D more recently. You can read his ideas here.

I agree with Kozachik that there are some budget cuts the city could make now-- like getting rid of city cars and car allowances for staff, trimming top salaries by 2%, increasing some fees, etc. I also agree with him that they should stop fiddling around with that overly expensive downtown hotel project. Having worked in PR for many years and having planned events in Tucson, I strongly believe that we need a better hotel in downtown, but the long-term financial risk of this project is too great. As we know, the city has gotten itself into several bad land deals (1,2); this one would hurt us greatly if it did not live up to it's rosy projections.

Since the city is overly reliant on sales tax and tourism-- and both are down-- we need to make tough choices.

If you're sick of politics by the end of the week, check out The Glow in Oracle. Fifty local artists-- including moi-- will display lighted sculptures, while 20 musical acts provide the ambiance.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

If Obama isn't a US citizen, then neither is McCain

One of the more bizarre political rumors in recent years is the ongoing questioning of President Barack Hussein Obama's citizenship.

Although he was born in Hawaii-- after it became a state-- and although his birth certificate is on the Internet, birthers still believe that he is not a citizen.

Yesterday, when I was researching John Sidney McCain III's voting record, I came across this information from the Washington Post on McCain's place of birth. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone!

Friday, September 17, 2010

John McCain and Jon Kyl, who are you representing? Cuz, it ain't us

Here are 2 headlines from today:

Jobless rate for Arizona highest in 27 years

Arizona is now No. 2 in poverty

Given the dire employment situation in Arizona, you'd think that our do-nothing Senatorial duo-- John Sidney McCain III and Jon Kyl-- would have supported President Obama's jobs bill yesterday.

But no. Rather than voting to help Arizona's unemployed, Arizona's small businesses, and Arizona's community banks, they both voted in lock step with other obstructionists in the Party of No.

McCain and Kyl have a long (and identical) records of voting against workers. For their complete voting records, check Project Vote Smart- McCain and Kyl. When are we going to put them out of work?

Have Arizonans finally realized that the wing-nuts in the Legislature are just nuts?

Arizona has been groaning under the stress of Republican leadership for decades, but the last few years of their draconian financial management have been devastating.

This week new research from Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy reveals that 68% of Arizona voters disapprove of the way that the Arizona Legislature has been handling the state's finance.

Yippee! Does this mean that Arizonans have finally woken up to just how crazy our legislature is? I sure hope so.

According to a very concise synopsis on the Random Musings blog, "In the poll, 61% of Republicans, 76% of Democrats, 67% of Independents and 68% overall disapproved or strongly disapproved of the job that the Arizona legislature has done with the state's budget."

For the full report, check out this ASU link.

I hope the government-in-a-bathtub people are paying attention.

The vision thing: I vote for Hurricane Hazel for mayor

As I have said on many occasions, Tucson lacks "the vision thing". In my opinion, we need a strong mayor to lead us out of our economic and social problems-- not stronger bureaucrats, which is what Prop 401 would give us.

Hurricane Hazel has been mayor of the 6th largest city in Canada for 33! years-- 11 terms. Eight-eight-year-old Hazel has a 92% approval rating, a vibrant city, and no municipal debt. Check out her story.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's up with Chase Bank's website?

Officially, J. P. Morgan Chase's online banking website went down in the early hours of Tuesday, September 14-- affecting 16.6 million customers, including me. (Well, my employer, actually, since my money is in a local credit union.)

I have not been able to sign on to our small business Chase Bank account all week, and it's now Thursday-- day 4 of my personal Chase outage.

What's up with that?

Hey, Chase, I'm sure there are thousands of unemployed webmasters and web security experts out there. Maybe you need to hire more staff? Or different staff? Or English-speaking American staff? Or pay them better?

Get it together!

P.S., Chase, I don't believe that you don't know what caused this.

P.S.S., Also, while I have your attention, you need to hire more people for your "customer service" telephone lines. I have called you multiple times, and your "customer service" lines either ring and ring or are busy. Again, there are plenty of people looking for work. Hire someone! You obviously need more competent staff.

Props 400-401 townhall today

Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Kosachik will be hosting a townhall on 2 propositions which will be on the November ballot-- Prop 400 which would increase the city's sales tax to pay for core services (police, fire, parks) (1, 2) and Prop 401 which would change the city's charter (1,2).

Want to learn more about these initiatives, ask questions, or voice your opinion? Come to the Ward 6 office, 3202 E. 1st Street, at 6:30 p.m. today (Sept. 16). In addition to Kozachik, City Manager Mike Letcher and City Attorney Mike Rankin will be in attendance.

Here's a news clip from KVOA about tonight's meeting.

An Congress-- Not?

If you follow downtown politics and development/non-development, you know that it has been a rocky road littered with bad real estate deals, broken dreams, and random glimmers of hope.

Last fall there was a big hullabaloo when downtown landlord and developer Scott Stiteler evicted 3 businesses (Tooley's, Preen, and Metropolis Hair) and 4 galleries (Dinnerware, Firestone, Rocket, and Central Arts [above]) on Congress to make way for a 7000-square-foot sports bar owned by Mr. An of Sakura fame.

I'm sure, at the time, Stiteler thought that Mr. An would be a more solid tenant than these funky small businesses and galleries, but that Congress Street gallery row-- coordinated for the most part by David Aguirre of Dinnerware Artspace-- created a very popular art scene and drew large crowds downtown to view rotating exhibits (1,2,3,4, 5, 6, 7).

Construction-- or destruction, actually-- started in the spring. Walls were knocked down to make way for the glittering new sports bar. The Arizona Daily Star trumpeted Mr. An's move downtown.

Now, construction appears to be stalled. Word on the street is that Stiteler is stuck with an empty shell with dirt floors, no tenants paying rent, and no Mr. An.

As Joni Mitchell sang, You don't know what you got 'til it's gone. You paved paradise and put up a parking lot..

Sept. 18, UPDATE: I received e-mails from Stiteler and Councilman Steve Kosachik on this story. According to Stiteler, construction and renovation inside structures on 200 block of Congress Street continues. He said that An and others are interested in the space but would not be more specific regarding future tenants. No time frame for completion was offered. Apparently, when the 1912 structures were gutted, they were found to be in rougher shape that anticipated. Watch for further developments on this story..

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Migrant Trail: Walk a mile in their shoes

Illegal immigrants. Beheadings. Drug trafficking in the desert. Gang violence in Mexico. SB1070. Yada, yada, yada...

Rightly or wrongly, Arizona's SB1070 pushed immigration and border issues to the forefront in this election season.

Misinformation about immigration and the border abounds. For people who want to know more about migrants, gangs, the drug trade, and how it all relates to Americans, I suggest these movies:

- El Norte

- Sin Nombre

- Maria Full of Grace

- Traffic

- Plan Columbia

Watch these and then tell me who the real victims are. I'll give you a hint: It's related to poverty... on both sides of the border.

Republicans and 'illegal' immigrants: Since when has breaking the law been a problem for Republicans?

Migrants from Mexico and Central America have become political footballs this election season (1, 2) -- thanks for the most part to Governor Jan Brewer, Russel "Racial Purity" Pearce, Pearce's baby SB1070, John and Jon (Arizona's Senatorial Do-Nothing Duo), and a herd of Democrats who are trying desperately not to look like progressive cream puffs.

Despite all of the right-wing rhetoric about border violence, the statistics show that the border situation is improving (crime down, crossings down). Yes, gang violence in Mexico-- due to the drug trade and poverty-- is up, but migrant workers aren't the cause of that violence. They are victims-- even more than we are.

Arizona's right-wingers pontificate about migrants breaking our laws! by crossing the border illegally! Given the bevy of crooks and liars-- literally-- that the Arizona Republican Party has put forth as candidates this election season, I'm surprised that breaking the law is a problem.

Check out these links for Andrew Thomas, Tom Horne, Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Steve May for current examples of Republican corruption and Ev Mecham and J. Fife Symington III for historical reference.)

Some people shrug this off as the wild west, but personally, I'm shocked by this widespread corruption in Arizona's Republican Party. I'm also shocked that the Arizona electorate is duped into voting for these crooks and liars.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tucson City Charter: 'It's old, so let's get rid of it.'

This morning Arizona Public Media aired a balanced report on Prop 401 by Robert Rappaport.

Several pro-401 corporate talking heads were interviewed, and Tom Prezelski, former state legislator and chair of the grassroots Protect Local Control coalition, provided the anti-401 opinion.

Two of the pro-401 group's arguments that were aired today don't hold much water in my opinion.

A representative from Cox Communications who was identified as the head of the Yes on 401 group pumped up the cost savings which would be earned from consolidated elections. (I can't give you her name because she is not identified on the Yes on 401 website. I think that it is telling that they do not name the officers of their committee on their website. Maybe the pro-401 group is not as diverse as they would lead us to believe. Just look at the parent company's membership list.)

The nameless head of Yes on 401 said that by having the entire Tucson City Council elected in the same year we would not only same money, but the Council would be more likely to work together, since they were elected in the same year. (Well, maybe, but I don't see much evidence of this in the Congress or the Arizona Legislature. That assertion is just unsubstantiated PR, in my opinion.)

What the nameless head of Yes on 401 is not saying is that by electing the entire City Council in the same year, forces with enough money could sweep the entire Council-- thanks to the corporate personhood/campaign finance ruling from the Roberts court. Who would have the money to do this? The corporatists from the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC)-- Diamond Ventures, TEP, Jim Click, Chase Bank, O'Reilly Ventures, SW Gas, Tucson Realty and Trust, etc.-- the same people who are bringing you Prop 401. How convenient is that?

Another pro-401 argument that is regularly touted is the "it's-old-so-let's-get-rid-of-it" argument. Local lawyer Jeff Rogers offered that rationale this morning on the radio. Personally, I think this is the weakest argument the SALC corporatists have.

The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the "Star Spangled Banner", the Statue of Liberty, the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the works of Shakespeare, my Mom, etc., etc. (should I go on?) are all older than Tucson's City Charter. Should we throw them out "because they're old?"

Let's not be fooled by big money. Vote No on 401.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Buzz words abound at Prop 401 kick off

The weather is cooling down, just as the politics heats up in Tucson and across the nation.

Yesterday, the Yes on Prop 401 supporters held a press conference to formally kick off their campaign to change the Tucson city charter. As you may remember, I waxed poetic last spring about the City Charter Changes and why I opposed them then-- and still oppose them now. (Old stories linked here in chronological order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.)

In the Arizona Daily Star and on the John C. Scott Show, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC)-- the corporatists who have been pushing for the City Charter Changes-- have been trumpeting the idea that the City Charter Changes have broad support-- from Tea Baggers to Democrats to unions and, of course, the rich white men who started this process.

Given the signage at the rally, I wonder how many of these people really understand what they are theoretically supporting. For example...

Do the unions understand that they are supporting a HUGE pay raise for mayor and council while their members are being furloughed and/or laid off? Also, by backing SALC, the unions are siding with the corporatists -- the dreaded management, as my steel worker Dad would have called them.

Do the tea baggers understand that those rally signs spouting catchy slogans like "Cut bureaucracy," "Demand accountability," "Cut costs" and "Streamline government" have absolutely NOTHING to do with the City Charter Changes? No bureaucracy is being cut; in fact bureaucracy will be strengthened and consolidated in the City Manager's office. There will be less accountability because the power will be with the manager-- not the elected officials. The only cost savings is in the consolidation of election cycles, but that money will be spent on the pay raises. (Hey, tea baggers, I know you are easily manipulated by the media, but you and the Libertarians should be more against this more than I am!)

Call me a Pollyanna, but I still believe in elected government and accountability to the people. For these reasons, boys and girls, I oppose Prop 401.

If these City Charter Changes pass in November, the most powerful person (mostly likely a white man) in Tucson will be the unelected city manager.

I believe that the city of Tucson could be run more efficiently, but making the city manager more powerful, paying the mayor and council more, scaring departments by eliminating their civil service protection, giving the mayor a tad more power is not going to do it, and shifting election cycles.

The current city government structure is flawed-- in my humble opinion-- because we have 7 people (city manager, mayor, and 5 council members) with about the same level of power + a gaggle of council and city staff also with some power. Consequently, we have a camel government -- one designed by committee.

Tucson has no Harry Truman. Tucson has no strong leader and no vision. Tucson has no one with the cojones to say, "The buck stops here."

Tucson needs a strong leader-- not another bureaucrat. Vote NO on 401!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Save the middle class: Big Ed wants you to march on DC

Ed Schultz, homespun radio progressive from Fargo, ND and now an MSNBC pundit, is organizing the One Nation March, to be held on October 2 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

According to Big Ed's website, "The march aims to bring working people, young people, retirees, civil rights activists and many others together on the Mall to show the obstructionists in Congress that we are many and diverse, strong and that united-and we will fight together for the American Dream...

"Working people can make a difference when we rely on ourselves and act collectively. We are America. And together we can make our voices heard."

Let's fight for the middle class. DC is quite a ways from Tucson. Maybe we could have a local march?

Here are the details from Big Ed's website.


Our nation stands at a critical crossroads. The 30-year drive for a low-wage, high-consumption society that imports more and more of what it consumes has hit the wall.

Millions are unemployed, with little recovery in sight. A record number of Americans who want desperately to work have been jobless for more than 6 months.

At the same time, Wall Street continues to roll up big profits. Banks and corporations have made off with trillions of public dollars, while small businesses can't get loans and cities are being forced to make cuts to public education and public safety, harming our children and our communities.

Obstructionists in Congress are doing everything they can to stop anything that helps working people, and they are scapegoating workers for the demise of the economy. Public sector workers are being cast as selfish, auto workers are being blamed for the troubles of the auto industry, and teachers are being blamed for an education system in need of support.

Working people are frustrated and angry-incensed by the government's inability to halt massive job loss and declining living standards on the one hand, and the comparative ease with which Republicans in Congress, with help from some Democrats, have done their best to make the world safe again for JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and CitiGroup, on the other.

Just as we have seen through history, fear mongers in our country have seized on that anger and are working hard -- unfortunately with some success--to use justifiable anger about a failing economy to divide us.

We have to fight this hateful demagoguery that only benefits our foes, and we can't do it alone. History has taught us that the best way to fight the forces of hatred is to address the economic policies that led to our economic suffering, and that our fight must draw its strength from an alliance of the poor and the middle class-everyone who works for a living.

It is against this backdrop that we join ONE NATION.

ONE NATION is a multi-racial, civil and human rights movement whose mission is to reorder our nation's priorities to invest in our nation's most valuable resource - our people.

The organizations that have come together to form ONE NATION believe that our goal should be a future of shared prosperity, not stubborn unemployment and a lost generation. Workers should be able to share in the wealth they create, and everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve the American Dream - a secure job; the chance for our children to get a great public education and the opportunity to make their own way in the world; and laws that protect us, not oppress us.

ONE NATION is a long-term effort to reverse the dangerous economic course of our country over the past four decades. It brings together organizations from across the progressive spectrum-labor, civil rights, environmental, faith and many others-recognizing that none of us alone have been able to achieve our priorities, whether they are large-scale job creation, labor law reform, immigration reform, investing in public education or other concerns, and that we will not realize change until these priorities belong to all of us.

ONE NATION shares the labor movement's policy agenda: An economy that works for all; good jobs, fair jobs, safe jobs, and more jobs; reforming Wall Street; repairing our immigration system; quality education for every child; and ensuring that everyone in America has the opportunity to contribute to and strengthen our country. Restoring workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively is at the heart of the policy agenda.

The ONE NATION march on Washington on October 2, 2010 will charge up an army of tens of thousands of activists who will return to their neighborhoods, churches, schools and, especially, voting booths, with new energy to enact our common agenda. And on the same day, the labor movement will walk door-to-door in targeted states around the country, bringing the same message to union members exactly one month before the fall elections.

The march aims to bring working people, young people, retirees, civil rights activists and many others together on the Mall to show the obstructionists in Congress that we are many and diverse, strong and that united-and we will fight together for the American Dream.

Many of our unions are already committed to work as a part of ONE NATION. The unions of the AFL-CIO proudly join this coalition and pledge to work collectively to add our support to this great effort.

Working people can make a difference when we rely on ourselves and act collectively. We are America. And together we can make our voices heard.

Here is the FAQ about the march.
When is the March?
Saturday, October 2, 2010. We will begin at 12:00 noon and will end at approximately 4:00 pm.

Where is the March?
The March takes place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial located on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Is the event open to the public?
Yes, this event is open to the public. This event is also a family friendly event.

Is this event open to the media?
Yes. Media credentials and other logistics information may be obtained from the ONWT Communications Office which can be reached at 202 263 4529 or by email at

What happens if it rains?
The March will proceed rain or shine.

Will there be food, beverage and bathrooms available on site?
Yes, there will be portable bathrooms and water on site.

Can I bring signs?
Yes, you can bring signs that promote the values of One Nation Working Together.

What arrangements are being made for persons with disabilities?
Special accommodations will be made for persons with disabilities. Please contact with any questions.

Where can I stay in the DC area?
There are many hotels in the D.C. area that are close to the March event site. To learn more about union hotels in the Washington, D.C. area, visit the Unite Here website.

Additional information about Washington, D.C. can be found at

Can I make a donation to support the March or ONWT?
Please send any donations by check to:
One Nation Working Together Campaign
1825 K Street, NW Suite 210
ATTN: Matt Reents
Washington DC, 20006