We get it: You've got busy lives. You've got to get the kids to school, the parents to their doctor appointments, the dog to the vet. You've got to get to work on time. And after watching the presidential race this year, you're truly sick of the ugly spectacle that the political arena has become.
Well, we're here to cut to the chase and give you some straight-up advice about who you should vote for next month.
This week, we're bringing you some advice about the propositions and the candidates for some of the local offices on the county and state level. Next week, we'll be rolling out more endorsements online at The Range and in the print edition, so if you still need some advice about who to vote for in the legislative, school board and other races, stay tuned.
Prop 205: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
The War on Drugs has proven to be a colossally expensive failure. The United States spends far too much money with really lousy results.
It's past time that the nation stop locking people up for smoking dope. It's less dangerous than alcohol. Legalization in Colorado, Washington and elsewhere has not created a hazy hellscape of marijuana-crazed zombies eating all of the Twinkies. In fact, life has gone on pretty much as it has before. You know why? Because people who like weed can always score weed and they've been walking around high for years. It's just that some people's lives have been destroyed because they had a brush with the law while holding a joint or a pipe.
Is this initiative perfect? No, but it's better than the status quo. It creates a regulated system so that you won't have a pot shop on every corner. It generates tax revenues from marijuana sales that go to help with drug treatment and Arizona's schools, which could sure use the bucks. And you know what? It's your best chance to send a message that the laws against weed are archaic and unfair. It's a sure bet that state lawmakers aren't going to take any steps towards decriminalizing weed, so this is your only chance to make it happen.
Vote Yes on Prop 205.
Prop 206: The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act
The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act would increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2017 and, in steps, boost that to $12 an hour by 2020. It would also mandate at least a few sick days for workers and set a $9 minimum wage for tipped workers.
We're all for it. The gap between the rich and poor just keeps growing in the United States and far too many of our fellow Arizonans live below the poverty line. While businesses complain that they can't afford such a high wage, they always say that when a minimum wage is proposed—and then they end up being able to afford it.
We doubt that raising the minimum wage is going solve all our economic problems, but—as with the recreational marijuana initiative—it's a safe bet that state lawmakers are not going to make the effort to raise the minimum wage themselves. (Far too many of our Republican lawmakers don't believe in a minimum wage, period.) In fact, in this last session, lawmakers made it impossible for cities and towns to increase minimum wages in their own jurisdictions. That's rotten politics and it's time to send them a message: Stop preempting local authority or the voters will override you.
Give people on the low end of the economic spectrum a better tomorrow.
Vote Yes on Prop 206.
District 1: Brian Bickel
Since winning election in 2012, Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller has been an embarrassment. She's leveled false charges, such as her claims that transportation dollars have gone missing, or that developers need to pay bribes to get their projects approved, or that she didn't have anything to do with a recent lawsuit against the county by the Goldwater Institute, that she doesn't use her personal email for public business, even though emails from her former staffers show that she instructed them to do just that. In other words, she's a big ol' liar. And when she gets caught telling her lies, she never apologizes. She just starts shoveling another pile of bullshit.
While she purports to be a champion of the taxpayer, she is really just someone who automatically takes a contrary position, even if it hurts Pima County residents. She has opposed efforts to retain the largest private employer, Raytheon, even though her own husband works there. She voted against suing the state when Gov. Doug Ducey and the GOP legislature tried to illegally push a bunch of expenses down onto county taxpayers. As the lawsuit was in the courts, she insisted the county had no case. Well, guess what? The county won the lawsuit and saved taxpayers nearly $16 million. That's right: The biggest break in your county tax bill came over Ally Miller's objections.
Miller is so paranoid that she can't talk to the media unless it's an outlet that is going to kiss her ass, like the KVOI morning jocks, the astonishingly ill-informed J.T. Harris or the dingbat online blog Arizona Daily Independent. (Recently surfaced emails show that Miller scripted her appearances with Harris and the editor of ADI would send over articles for Miller to approve, with the groveling ADI editor groveling with questions about whether Miller was praised enough in the story. Irony of ironies, Miller then accuses the other media—the Weekly, the Arizona Daily Star, the Tucson Sentinel—of being corrupt because they cover the lunacy that takes place in her office. And she doesn't have the guts to talk with the reporters at Arizona Public Media or even Bill Buckmaster, who is easily the most fair journalist in Southern Arizona.
In short: If there's a public official in Southern Arizona who behaves like Donald Trump, it's Ally Miller.
Her defenders ignore all the lunatic moments because she challenges Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and the other board members—but they do so at their peril. Ally Miller isn't fit to run a lemonade stand, much less county government. The woman has burned through more than a dozen staffers in just one term—and if you talk to them, they say the same thing: She is paranoid, domineering, unbalanced and, in general, a terrible boss.
Brian Bickel is the kind of Democrat that moderate Republicans should consider supporting to help restore some measure of sanity to their party. He's a former Marine who had a long and successful career as a healthcare administrator and was willing to step up to challenge Miller despite the long odds against him in a district that leans heavily Republican.
Vote Brian Bickel in District 1.
District 3: Sharon Bronson
Democrat Sharon Bronson has plenty of accomplishments to boast about in her two decades on the Pima County Board of Supervisors. She helped forge the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, an ambitious program to finally identify and protect Pima County's most sensitive environmental areas while also laying out the best areas for future development and creating a partnership between county government and the federal government to make it easier to deal with the challenges of the Endangered Species Act. She has worked to keep Kino Hospital open for southside residents while reducing county costs and improving the service via a partnership with the UA (and now Banner Health).
She has supported a major modernization of the county's sewer system that vastly improved the treatment of waste while reducing the stink we used to endure on drives along I-10. She's been an advocate for the transformation of the Pima Animal Care Center, which has sharply reduced the number of animals that it puts down—and with the new animal care center on the way, that number will drop even lower. She has championed The Loop, the extraordinary trail system that combines riverbank protection with a public park that links the entire metro area for walkers, joggers and cyclists. And despite the economic challenges that came with the Great Recession, in recent years, Bronson has been among the supervisors who have kept Pima County property taxes relatively stable—at least until the state dumped additional expenses on county government. And even after that happened, Bronson pushed to sue the state and won, meaning she and the board majority were able to cut taxes this year.
We'd say that's a record that earns a sixth term on the Board of Supervisors.
Beyond her record, though, Bronson is the only elected official who stands between sanity and insanity in county government. Her opponent, Republican Kim DeMarco, is Supervisor Ally Miller's mini-me. Should she win, Miller would have the votes to turn Pima County government into Kooksville. The last time the GOP held a majority on the Board of Supervisors, in 1992, they messed things up so quickly that it took years for the county to recover—and there were millions of dollars paid out in lawsuits for all the bad decisions that were made. And those Republicans were way less nutty and way more together than the bunch that wants power this year.
Vote Sharon Bronson in District 3.
Pima County Sheriff: Mark Napier
A U.S. Justice Department indictment of your No. 2 is never good news—and while details remain sketchy, it sure seems like there's plenty of trouble with some of the RICO funds seized by the Pima County Sheriff's Department. We don't know if all the allegations of mistreatment of deputies under Democratic Sheriff Chris Nanos hold water, but we do know that Nanos has done himself no favors by refusing to debate Republican challenger Mark Napier. And from what we saw of his press conference last week—where he awkwardly read a statement promising to get to the bottom of any misuse of forfeiture dollars and defending himself against charges leveled by Rich Carmona, the former surgeon general and longtime Sheriff's Department volunteer before refusing to take questions—Nanos is not the most skilled communicator.
Napier says he's cut from a different cloth than some other Republican sheriffs around Arizona—guys like Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio, who humiliate prisoners and stoke racial tensions for political gain. He's got a long history with the Tucson Police Department, where he rose from patrolman to captain. At the University of Arizona, where he now works as an administrator of the Parking and Transportation Department, he's signed onto a diversity task force. And in his conversations with us, he comes across as a levelheaded cop with the right priorities.
Vote Napier for Sheriff.
Pima County Assessor: Bill Staples
When it comes to the job of county assessor, the most important thing is making sure your neighbor has a home value close to yours so that you're both getting a square deal when local elected officials set the tax rates. While there are always going to be a few people who are unhappy with their property values, Democrat Bill Staples has done a great job keeping property values properly adjusted despite the many fluctuations he's seen over the 12 years he's been in office. Vote Bill Staples for Pima County Assessor.
Arizona Corporation Commission: Bob Burns, Bill Mundell, Tom Chabin
The current crop serving on the Arizona Corporation have done an amazing job of destroying the reputation of the regulatory agency, which is designed to be the watchdog of the public against the schemes of monopolistic utilities. Instead, thanks for all the dark money that Arizona Public Service has been poured into the 2014 races for the ACC, the commissioners now look like lapdogs for the utility as it seeks to wipe out Arizona's growing rooftop solar industry and increase electric bills via arcane meter measurements.
The only shining light on the current commission is Republican Bob Burns, who has called for an investigation into APS's campaign spending. One of the other Republicans seeking office this year, the appointed commissioner Andy Tobin, has repeatedly blocked the resources that Burns has sought to shine a light on the dark-money spending that APS has been doing. It's quite astonishing that APS's parent company is doing an internal investigation in into APS's political spending, the FBI is looking into APS' political spending, and yet the majority of the Corporation Commission—which specifically is supposed to oversee the utility—has turned a blind eye. For that alone, Tobin deserves to go down in defeat, while Burns deserves another term.
We'd also like to see the two Democrats, Bill Mundell (who previously served on the ACC as a Republican) and Tom Chabin, join the ACC. Both have promised to support Burns' call for an investigation and both promise to watch out for consumers rather than the utilities. Let's put an end to the insider dealing and make sure the Arizona Corporation Commission returns to its role as a watchdog for the citizens of Arizona.
Vote Bob Burns, Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin for Corporation Commission.
Tucson Unified School District school board elections
When it comes to Tucson Unified School District there are several truths that exist every election season no matter who runs for school board—incumbent, campaign newbies or those who return again and again like the late Judy Burns. To those on the outside or without kids in school, it must seem like TUSD is a political circus, and to some extent they are correct. But it's important to remind everyone that this is crazyland Arizona—inadequate education funding, and allowing vouchers and charters are part of the landscape that only make it harder for school districts to thrive. Add in this crazyland and, yep, you have circus. There's no doubt that the current board majority have made mistakes and could use a few lessons in better public messaging and campaigning, but we do think their hearts are in the right place and we'd like to give them another chance to do right by the public and our kids. However, it is with trepidation that we recommend you cast a vote for incumbents Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez. There is a third seat open and there is no way in hell we recommend you return Mark Stegeman. We ask that you give with all your heart a vote to Betts Putnam Hidalgo. Stegeman has proven over the years to be a divisive figure. Although the current board majority doesn't get it right every time, having Betts' leadership in place will do what's needed to give this board the conscience it so desperately needs right now.
Vote Kristel Foster, Cam Juarez and Betts Putnam Hidalgo