Saturday, August 27, 2016

Zona Politics: Your Primary Election Round-Up!

Posted By on Sat, Aug 27, 2016 at 9:03 AM

August 28, 2016 from Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel on Vimeo.

On this week's edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: Former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and Pima County Democratic Party Latino Caucus Chair Vince Rabago join me to talk about Tuesday's upcoming primary election. We discuss the crowded Republican primary in Congressional District 1, the showdown between Matt Heinz and Victoria Steele in in the Congressional District 2 Democratic primary, the GOP primary in the Corporation Commission races, the race between Pia County Attorney Barbara LaWall and her challenger, Joel Feinman, in the Democratic primary; the race between Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller and her challenger, John Winchester, in the GOP primary; and the three-way race between Steve Christy, Marla Closen and John Backer in the GOP primary in the District 4 race for the seat now held by the retiring Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll. We also dig into the latest on the lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute against Pima County regarding World View Enterprises and the recent expansion of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Tune into Zona Politics at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on DirecTV, Dish and broadcast. You can also hear the show at 5 p.m. on KXCI Community Radio, 91.3 FM. Or you can watch the show online right here.

Here's a rush transcript of the show:

(Jim Nintzel) Hello, everyone. I'm Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we're here to talk Zona Politics. The political herd will be winnowed with the primary election on Tuesday, August 30. Joining me to talk about some of the top races, former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton. Thanks for coming down from Phoenix, Jonathan.

(Jonathan Paton) Thank you.

(Nintzel) and Pima County Democratic Party Latino Caucus chairman Vince Rabago. Gentlemen, welcome to Zona Politics

(Vince Rabago) Great to be here.

(Nintzel) Let's start off with this Congressional District 1 race. Jonathan, you were the actual Republican nominee in that race four years ago. This year, there are, what, five candidates? Seven candidates on the ballot? Two have already dropped out. You're down to five candidates over there. And it looks like, to me, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu may have the advantage in that, but Gary Kiehne, the rancher who almost won last time, is putting up a pretty good fight. And you've got Wendy Rogers in that race from Phoenix, who also seems to be really taking some punches at Paul Babeu. What's your read on that race?

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Silicon Valley Businesses Move to Phoenix—Because It's Cheaper

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  • Courtesy of
Governor Ducey loves to talk about businesses fleeing states with high business taxes and onerous regulations to come settle in Arizona. It hasn't worked out exactly as planned. Our U-Haul lots aren't overflowing with moving trucks carrying California businesses here, though we've seen a bit of an economic upswing lately. That includes high tech businesses from Silicon Valley setting up outposts or situating in Phoenix. But according to a New York Times article, their primary reasons for moving here aren't our business-friendly taxes and regulations. The more important reason is, Silicon Valley is crowded and expensive, and by comparison, Phoenix is wide open and cheap.
As start-ups across San Francisco and the Silicon Valley try to contend with high salaries and housing costs, many are expanding to lower-cost cities in the West. . . . For Phoenix, which is about a 90-minute flight from San Francisco, the Bay Area’s loss is its gain.
That doesn't mean businesses are deserting Silicon Valley for Phoenix, however. New tech jobs are being added in both places.
At the end of last year in the Bay Area mega-region — including both the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan areas — there were 530,000 tech and engineering jobs, a 7 percent increase from a year earlier. Phoenix has about one-fifth as many tech jobs, but the total grew 8 percent from a year ago, according to Moody’s Analytics.
According to the Times article, Phoenix is something of a newcomer in tech job growth compared to other areas of the country. When it comes to the percentage increase in tech jobs from 2010 to 2015, Phoenix ranks 14th with an 18.6 percent increase, compared to a whopping 71.6 percent increase in San Francisco, a 28 percent increase in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 27.3 percent increase in Boston, a 27.2 increase in Detroit and a 22 percent increase in Salt Lake City. Phoenix may be adding tech jobs, but not at a breakneck pace.

Lower business taxes may figure into the high tech equation, but the perks in lower costs for businesses and employees rank far higher. An example:
Housing [in Phoenix] is much cheaper [than in Silicon Valley]. The median home price in the Phoenix metropolitan area is $221,000, according to Zillow. In San Francisco, it is $812,000.

For Ms. Rogers and others, that is a far bigger perk than an extra vacation or a raise in California. Instead of renting a rundown house in Redwood City and commuting an hour or more to work, she now lives 10 minutes from the office in a house that is twice the size — with mortgage payments that are half the cost of her California rent.
It helps, of course, that Phoenix built a light-rail system and has revitalized its downtown, making the city a more attractive place for young high tech workers to live. The light rail didn't come cheap, of course. It was built with new taxes, not tax cuts. Some added tax dollars to improve our schools, our roads and other social and infrastructure needs we've left unaddressed would be a stronger draw for new businesses than a few dollars cut from their tax bills.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

World View Case Moves Forward After Motion Denied

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Pima County Superior Court Building - JONATHAN HOFFMAN
  • Jonathan Hoffman
  • Pima County Superior Court Building

On Monday, Aug. 22, Judge Catherine Woods heard oral arguments regarding Pima County’s motion to dismiss the suit brought by the Goldwater Institute that challenged the legality of the World View Enterprises deal. Pima County was represented by attorneys Regina Nassen and Andrew Flagg, while the plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Jim Manley and Veronica Thorsen of the Goldwater Institute.

The hearing was to decide if the case should be dismissed or proceed. Both Ms. Nassen and Mr. Manley had submitted briefings to the court which were reviewed by Judge Woods in advance. The arguments were presented in open court on Monday by both sides, giving the judge an opportunity to ask questions. Nassen presented first, then Manley, then a rebuttal by Nassen.

Nassen spent most of the time arguing as if the case was in the trial phase instead of arguing in favor of dismissal. She argued specific interpretations of statutes, terms, and standing. When arguing for dismissal, those sorts of things asserted by the plaintiff are assumed to be true so that the focus of the hearing can be narrowed to whether or not there is a case to be made. When Manley spoke, his first statement was to make that point. He then went on to address the arguments made by Nassen. 

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Greg Miller Out At the State Board of Education

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 4:42 PM

  • LinkedIn
Wednesday afternoon the press released the news that Greg Miller, current president of the state Board of Education, quit. Not only will he no longer be board president, but he says he plans to leave the board entirely. Miller and Ed Supe Diane Douglas have feuded since she stepped into office in January, with Ducey generally taking Miller's side, so it's surprising to hear that, according to Howard Fischer's article, Ducey may be behind the ouster.
Greg Miller said aides to the governor told him they wanted him out as the top board official. Miller said Ducey, who is due to make new board appointments as early as this week, believed the change would help smooth over what has been at best a rocky relationship between the board and state schools chief Diane Douglas.
Miller is the CEO of Challenge charter school in Glendale, and his wife Pamela is executive director and vice president. His daughter Wendy is principal. The school appears to be doing well, as do the Millers. According to the school's 2012 tax forms, Greg made $121,875, as well as $26,956 in "Retirement and other deferred compensation." His wife Pamela made the same. Wendy made $99,167. There's the question out there whether Challenge charter benefits from Miller's school board presidency, but it's only a question. I've never seen any evidence that the school benefits from his political influence.

Which makes this paragraph from Fischer's article fascinating, especially the passage I've highlighted in bold.
[Miller] said he agreed to quit [the board] if he could control the wording of the press release, the timing of the announcement and got some assurances that the charter school he runs would get "political protections that I no longer could provide.''
Fischer, a very careful reporter, put quotes around the words, "political protections that I no longer could provide,'' meaning they're Miller's words. Is Miller saying his school has benefitted from political protection? Why would that be necessary? Is he implying he's afraid Douglas might use her office to target the school, or is there something else we should know?

I'm guessing Miller's statement will be clarified sometime in the near future. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 89. "No More Reading Tea Leaves" Edition

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 3:45 PM

  • Illustration from Photospin image
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock
Bill Buckmaster went and did it. On his Aug. 10 radio show, Bill asked his guest, Doug Ducey, "What is the next step for getting more money into the classrooms?" In the next few minutes, Ducey, employing his usual word-salad-sprayed-through-a-garden-hose style of answering questions, said lots of things about improving education but never said a word about increasing funding. What we were pretty sure we knew about Ducey's position since the beginning of our "Next Step" Watch is now official. No. New. Money.

Here's some of what Ducey said, with commentary.

•"[Prop 123] put additional resources into K-12."
Well, yes and no. True, there's more money flowing into schools courtesy of Prop 123, but calling it "additional resources" is heavy-duty political spin. This isn't additional funding, it's giving the schools part of what the legislature withheld illegally starting in 2009. We don't pat bank robbers on the back for returning the money they stole, do we? And we don't say the bank has "additional resources" when it gets its money back.

•"I want to see our teachers better rewarded."
Great. I assume "better rewarded" means higher salaries, though I have to admit, it's dangerous to make assumptions. Maybe Ducey wants to pass out "Good Job!" medals that teachers can wear with pride as they try to figure out how to pay their rents and mortgages and put food on their family tables. But beyond Prop 123, which raised our teacher salaries a bit, where will we get more money to make our salary schedules competitive with other states?

•"I want to see results and outcomes that come from additional resources."
So. If Ducey doesn't see enough "results and outcomes" from the "additional" Prop 123 funding, he's not likely to give schools more money. And if he sees strong "results and outcomes," that means we don't need any more money, right? Brilliant! Ducey's "No more money" argument wins either way.

Continue reading »

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 3:17 PM

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Newsweek published its 2016 America's Top High Schools listings. I'm not a fan of these things. Their criteria are usually questionable, and they favor schools in high rent districts, making it look like those schools are doing a better job educating their students than schools in low rent districts. But this one is more interesting than most because it has two lists: one just considering student achievement and the other factoring in students' economic status.

Let's start local. University High is in 30th place on the Newsweek list. It's the second ranked Arizona school, below Tempe Preparatory Academy in 15th place. The only other Tucson-area school on the list is Catalina Foothills High, which came in 310th.

What, no BASIS schools, which do so well on the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools List? Nope, not here. The reason is, Newsweek asks for the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, and since BASIS doesn't provide lunch for its students, it couldn't provide the information.

Newsweek's listings include the percent of students on free or reduced lunch for each school, which adds a side order of economic reality to the menu. What you learn from those numbers is, low income and high rankings don't mix. Only one school in the top 50 has more than half of its students on free/reduced lunch, and that school is at 50.8 percent. A total of four schools topping 50 percent make it into the top 100. University High, with 16.4 percent on free/reduced lunch, isn't one of the four.

My favorite part of the Newsweek's listings is its Beating the Odds 2016 list, which factors in the percentage of low income students in the schools. As you might expect, the list is wildly different from the original Top High Schools list.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

BASIS Schools: On Beyond Charters

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 4:15 PM


If you haven't been paying attention lately, you may not know that BASIS, which began with a single charter school in Tucson, now has charter schools in three states as well as two U.S. private schools—three more are scheduled to open—and a private school in Shenzhen, China. My, how BASIS has grown.

This post is more a BASIS update than an analysis. A lot of this information was new to me when I started looking into BASIS's current status, so I'm guessing it's new to many readers as well.

According to the BASIS.ed website, "We Manage 21 Public Charter Schools, 5 Domestic Private Schools, and 1 International School." Looking through the schools listed on the website, I count sixteen charter schools in Arizona, two in Texas and one in Washington, D.C., which only comes to nineteen, but either way, that's a lot of charters. Of the five private schools, two are open and running—in Brooklyn, NY, and Silicon Valley, CA—two are scheduled to open this fall—in Fremont, CA, and McLean, VA—and one in Manhattan is scheduled to open in 2017. The Shenzhen, China, school has been open, I believe, for two years.

From the look of things, BASIS has been more active lately opening new private schools than new charters. The tuition for the U.S. private schools is around $25,000, and in China it ranges from $21,000 to $30,000, depending on grade level. Comparing that to the $7,000, more-or-less, Arizona charters receive per student may explain why BASIS is moving aggressively into the private school sector.

At this point, I admit, I'm entering territory where I'm completely out of my depth: the various incorporations in various places which are part of the BASIS family. So here are the facts I know with a few questions and concerns thrown in.

The three main BASIS entities are BASIS.ed, BASIS Global and BASIS Independent Schools. Riding on top of the three is BASIS Educational Ventures. According to its website,
BASIS Educational Ventures is a holding company for three subsidiaries: BASIS.ed, BASIS Independent Schools, and BASIS Global. It supports growth, facilitates efficient management and manages the BASIS brand.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"Have You No Sense of Decency?" Part 2: Decency Edition

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2016 at 2:47 PM

  • Joseph Welch
A few days ago, I wrote about the famous takedown of Senator Joe McCarthy in 1954 by the attorney Joseph Welch, which began McCarthy's downward political slide. Welch said,
"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. . . . Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"
Cruelty. Recklessness. No sense of decency. Sixty-two years later, that fits Donald Trump like a glove.

Trump, we have learned again and again, has no sense of decency. But what about decent Republicans who are disgusted with their presidential candidate and are willing to put country over party? Are there any of those? The answer is a resounding yes.

Senator Susan Collins is the latest Republican to come out against Trump (though who knows, there may be more before you read this). 
"Donald Trump, in my judgment, would make a perilous world even more dangerous," Collins told CNN's Jamie Gangel. "I worry that his tendency to lash out and his ill-informed comments would cause dangerous events to escalate and possibly spin out of control at a time when our world is beset with conflicts. That is a real problem."
And there's the letter signed by 50 Republican security officials.
Fifty of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Mr. Trump, the officials warn, “would be the most reckless president in American history."

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Fire up your Flux Capacitor and spend Labor Day Weekend going Back to the Future with Marty… More

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