Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving From the International Space Station

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 3:30 PM

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren show us what Thanksgiving dinner is like aboard the International Space Station.

Arizonans Say, Raise State Taxes to Pay for Education

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 2:30 PM


The ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy recently conducted a poll covering a number of issues. When people were asked what is the most important issue facing Arizona voters, they put education at number one (32 percent), with immigration (17.1 percent)  and the budget (16.1 percent) coming in distant seconds. It's good news that the Republican screaming about immigrants invading our country and the state budget bankrupting taxpayers is taking a back seat to concerns about the way we educate our children here in Arizona.

So what did the people polled say they wanted to do to improve education? A strong majority—65.8 percent—agreed with the statement, "I would be willing to pay higher state taxes to improve Arizona's public schools." Democrats and liberal Independents agreed in large numbers—84.4 percent and 86.2 percent—while Republicans and conservative Independents came in just a little shy of agreement—43.3 percent and 49.7 percent.

The pollsters gave their respondents a chance to go the other way on this, asking how they felt about the statement, "I prefer that Arizona reduce funding for state services such as public schools, universities and public health rather than raise taxes." A feeble 23.5 percent agreed. Even on the Republican side, only 35.6 percent of Republicans agreed that it's OK to reduce government services to keep taxes at their current level.

If this poll is anywhere near accurate, Arizonans are willing to pay higher taxes to improve education—theoretically, anyway. That number would probably come down if voters were faced with a choice. One of the rules I've heard from politicos about tax initiatives submitted for voter approval is, you need to have at least 60% of the people on your side in the months before the election to win on election day. Lots of people who like the idea of paying more for services in theory change their minds when it comes time to fill in the "Yes" bubble on their ballot. But even with that caveat, a 65.8% majority in favor of more taxes to improve education is impressive.

So. Democrats. Maybe it's time to take the risk of suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous negative ads and come out strongly in favor of increasing funding for education, even if it means raising taxes for some people. You can strengthen your case by reminding people that Arizona's top one percent of earners pay 4.6 percent of their incomes on state and local taxes while the lowest 20 percent pays 12.5 percent. It's not "soaking the rich" to make them pay their fair share in taxes, which would allow us to fund our schools at a level where our per student funding is, oh, say, 40th in the nation rather than 49th.

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Troublemakers Documentary on Early ‘Land Artists’ Screens Saturday at The Loft

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 1:30 PM

Michael Heizer, "Circular Surface, Planar Displacement Drawing," 1969. - COURTESY OF MOCA TUCSON
  • Courtesy of MOCA Tucson
  • Michael Heizer, "Circular Surface, Planar Displacement Drawing," 1969.

Way back in 1970, artist Robert Smithson had tons of basalt rock hauled out into the red waters of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Mixing the rock with mud and salt crystals, Smithson made a massive spiral, 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide. Today Smithson’s monumental “Spiral Jetty” still spins its arc into the lake. Sometimes submerged, sometimes visible, depending on shifts in water level, it’s a place of pilgrimage for art lovers.

Smithson was just one of the wave of “land artists” who created a new art form in the 1960s and '70s, carving up terrain in the wide-open spaces of the West and reshaping it into giant works of outdoor art.

“Artists left the gallery system in New York and wanted to do art out in nature,” says Sam Ireland, the new director of Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art. “They were getting away from the commercial galleries and the buying and selling of art.”

This Saturday night, MOCA sponsors a single screening at The Loft (3233 E. Speedway Blvd.) of Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art, a brand-new documentary on the movement. According to Ireland, the movie is “a look back at the beginning of the movement.” Also known as “earth art,” the new genre grew in tandem with the period’s dawning environmental consciousness. “The land artists were taking the elements of art–line, light and color–and doing them on a large scale. And the personalities were on the same big scale as their work.”

Continue reading »

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Who Wants To Be a Pima Community College Board Member?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 12:24 PM

Former state lawmaker Demion Clinco is among four applicants to a vacant seat on the Pima Community College board.
  • Former state lawmaker Demion Clinco is among four applicants to a vacant seat on the Pima Community College board.
Carolyn Classen at Blog for Arizona has the list of applicants for the Pima Community College board seat being vacated by David Longoria:
· Rene Teyechea – Teacher, Desert View High School

· Demion Clinco – Former AZ House Member – LD 2/ Current, President & Executive Director of Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation

· Miguel Cuevas – Former TUSD Board Member – 4 years / Current, Operations Manager at AFNI Inc.

· Georgia Brousseau – Retired TUSD School Principal & former PCC Governing Board member (District 3 and 2 for total of 9 years)

As in the recent past (appointment of Martha Durkin to the District 5 seat), Pima County School Superintendent Dr. Arzoumanian will impanel a Community Advisory Committee which will interview the eligible candidates and provide their recommendation(s) to her, who will then make the final decision on appointment. So stay tuned.

America's Got Talent is Coming to Tucson

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 11:00 AM

This should be your exact costume. - BIGSTOCK
  • BigStock
  • This should be your exact costume.

So, you want to be famous. Well, get your act together because America's Got Talent is on the hunt for new contestants.

From KXCI:

KXCI 91.3FM Community Radio and The Rialto Theatre are hosting a Gong Show style talent search in downtown Tucson at The Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 28.

The first 100 performers through the door are guaranteed an audition in front of talented and influential judges including, David Fitzsimmons; Editorial Cartoonist for the Arizona Daily Star, Cathy Rivers; Music Manager and Executive Director for 91.3 FM, Bridgitte Thum; Comedian, hostess for KXCI Community Radio and Founder of “The Lonely Hearts Club” Podcast, Rusty Boulet-Stephenson; Art Director and host of “The Current” on 91.3FM and more!

Four winners of “Gong Show” will snag a fast pass to the front of the line for the Season 11 auditions for America's Got Talent in Phoenix on Dec. 3.

Music, Comedy, Dancing, Juggling, Under-water Basket Weaving! The stage is set and ready for you.
Doors are at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.

This "fast pass" doesn't sound quite as good as the ones you can get at Disney Land, but it's something. Nov. 28 is this weekend (which is ridiculous because wasn't June basically yesterday?) so get going on your, uh, underwater basket weaving. 

AZ Capitol Times: State Lawmakers Refuse To Comply With Public Records Request

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:01 AM

The sorts of records that lawmakers turned over when asked for text messages. - ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
  • Arizona Capitol Times
  • The sorts of records that lawmakers turned over when asked for text messages.

Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times are finding it difficult to get state lawmakers to comply with pubic-record laws when it comes to text messages:

Four months ago, the Arizona Capitol Times set out to learn how much of the state’s business is being conducted on smartphones, via newer technologies like text messages, social media chats and third-party messenger applications.

Under the state public records laws, we requested electronic messages sent among top state elected officials of both parties and their top staff. The request covered only communications about state business, and only during a period of about a month, from when lawmakers debated and approved the state budget to the close of the 2015 regular legislative session.

As it turned out, lawmakers use text messages and third-party messengers to talk to each other about state business all the time.

But getting access to those messages, which most experts and public officials agree are covered under the state public records laws, can be extremely difficult.

It took the Capitol Times months of relentless reminders to get ahold of even the most trivial of those texts – such as a message revealing that Republican Rep. Justin Olson likely ate a turkey sandwich for lunch on March 3.

Legislative Democrats and the Governor’s Office have largely provided the records, with some exceptions and many redactions.

But after four months, House Republican leadership has only provided a fraction of the requested messages, and only after dozens of follow-up emails, many phone calls and discussions of legal action.

And Senate President Andy Biggs has rejected the request altogether.

Biggs alone argued, through his spokesman, that text messages among elected officials about state business are not public record – as long as the communication doesn’t happen on a state-provided phone.

The state doesn’t provide lawmakers with phones, and public records attorneys say that’s clearly not how the law works, anyway.

Experts say the responses by House and Senate leadership illustrate the vast amount of time and effort it takes to access these records, barriers that would be insurmountable to the average citizen. They argue the stall-tactics and denials create a roadblock to government transparency.

And they say if lawmakers don’t turn over the records in a reasonable timeframe, they’re breaking the law.

“If they’re dragging their heels, they’re breaking the law,” said David Cuillier, director of the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona and a public records law expert. “Our lawmakers are breaking the law, which is ironic.”

Dan Barr, Arizona’s top First Amendment and public records attorney, said Biggs, who is also an attorney, is likely aware that the public records law requires he provide the records.

But unless he faces a lawsuit, there are no consequences to ignoring the law.

“The Republican leadership in the Senate is, frankly, just daring you to sue them,” Barr said.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Segregation and Desegregation, TUSD Schools and Tucson Charter Schools

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 3:47 PM


Segregation and desegregation in Tucson schools has become such a hot topic recently, I decided to do a little research to see how the ethnic and racial numbers break down in TUSD schools. As I looked over the numbers, I began to be curious about what they look like in Tucson's charter schools as well. I've read often that charters tend to be more segregated than district schools, and I wanted to see if that was true here. I found that all the data I needed is on the Arizona Department of Education and TUSD websites.

I gathered together enrollment stats on 75 charters in Tucson—I believe it's a fairly complete list of the city's charter schools—using information from the Arizona Department of Education website. Then I did the same with the 85 TUSD schools listed in the enrollment stats on TUSD's website. TUSD keeps its enrollment information current, compiling each school's ethnic and racial composition on a daily basis, but the most recent numbers I could find for charters is from October, 2014, so I used the same date for TUSD to create an accurate comparison.  

Of Tucson students in publicly funded schools (I didn't include private schools in my research), 73 percent are in TUSD schools and 27 percent are in charter schools. Hispanics make up 61 percent of the total student population, 25 percent are Anglo and the remaining 14 percent are divided among African American, Native American, Asian American and Multi-Racial students.

Here is a graph showing the overall ethnic and racial compositions in TUSD and Tuscon's charter schools.


There's a large difference between student populations in TUSD and in Tucson charter schools. Charters have 11 percent fewer Hispanic student and 16 percent more Anglo students than TUSD. Though the numbers of other students are far smaller, it's clear that African American, Native American and Multi-Racial students are underrepresented at charters compared to TUSD—there's a consistent one-to-two ratio—while Asian American are slightly overrepresented at charters.

The numbers indicate there's a significant white (and Asian) flight from TUSD schools to charters, which indicates that charter schools are more segregated than TUSD schools. But the difference may be greater or smaller than the numbers imply. After all, students attend a variety of schools with unique ethnic and racial mixes, not the TUSD school district or charter schools as a whole. So my next question is, what are the ethnic and racial compositions of the schools students attend?

The chart below shows the percentage of students in TUSD and Tucson charter schools who attend schools with various ethnic and racial compositions. 


Continue reading »

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Iskashitaa Hosts 3rd Annual Refugee Thanksgiving Celebration

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 2:00 PM

The Refugee Thanksgiving feast will feature foods from all over, using some gleaned ingredients. - ISKASHITAA/ FACEBOOK
  • Iskashitaa/ Facebook
  • The Refugee Thanksgiving feast will feature foods from all over, using some gleaned ingredients.
Working with a dual purpose to both serve Tucson's refugee population and to actively eliminate food waste, Iskashitaa Refugee Network helps connect the people with the food and fruiting trees to the people who need it. Through innovative gleaning initiatives, the organization collects thousands and thousands of pounds of produce, including citrus, carob, pomegranate, dates, olives and more, that would otherwise be left on the ground to rot.

In celebration of the community surrounding Iskashitaa, the organization will be hosting their third Refugee Thanksgiving Day event in the courtyard between Desert and Patio Courtyards Apartments (1411 and 1417 N. Alvernon Way), and Las Casitas (3835 Fairmount St.) to serve up the the multiculturalism, generosity, hospitality and gratitude that the holiday seeks to celebrate.

Serving over 150 U.N. refugees from Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia and more, the event seeks to draw attention the growing refugee crisis, which is the largest since World War II. The meal will feature a diverse array of foods prepared using those same edible plants that Iskashitaa gleans throughout the year. Prepared by both refugees and members of the community, traditional Thanksgiving dishes will be served alongside Nepalese fermented pomegranate seeds, pickled pumpkin seed paste, mole poblano, Somali sambusas, Afghan kadu (pumpkin stew), and chile verde. Vegetarian and vegan options will be available.

The event will also highlight a special campaign suggesting people “Save a Turkey, Stuff a Pumpkin” this Thanksgiving to cut down on waste. 

Iskashitaa's Refugee Thanksgiving Day event takes place on Thursday, Nov. 26 from 2  until 4 p.m. While it is largely intended for refugees and volunteers, Iskashitaa is inviting anyone interested in their mission to join in on the celebration. If you'd like to lend a hand to Iskashitaa for this or other events, call 440-0100 or e-mail

And, remember, it's almost citrus season, which means you should start thinking about scheduling an Iskashitaa gleaning for that backyard bounty.

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Staff Pick

Black Friday on Fourth Avenue

Shop local on one of the biggest days for sales and deals of the year! Come to… More

@ Fourth Avenue Fri., Nov. 27, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. From Sixth to Seventh Street

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Popular Content

  1. America's Got Talent is Coming to Tucson (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  2. Arizonans Say, Raise State Taxes to Pay for Education (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  3. Troublemakers Documentary on Early ‘Land Artists’ Screens Saturday at The Loft (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  4. AZ Capitol Times: State Lawmakers Refuse To Comply With Public Records Request (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  5. Who Wants To Be a Pima Community College Board Member? (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)

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