Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Daily Agenda: Is Open the Best We Can Hope For?

Posted By and on Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 9:12 AM

click to enlarge The Daily Agenda: Is Open the Best We Can Hope For?
Mask up and stay in school!

Ducey is still the governor, and still not in charge of the border … Start your own police force … Anyway, let’s go!

Gov. Doug Ducey declared yesterday
that “Arizona schools are open and they will remain open.”

But as schools welcome children back following a winter break where many gathered and traveled, they’re finding that staying open amid a once-again surging pandemic, often without relying on masks to help curb the spread, is difficult and requires a lot of stop-gaps. 

Perhaps the best measure of the struggle to keep schools open is substitute teachers — the poor souls who keep 30 screaming children in line on a moment’s notice when a teacher gets sick. Without them, all hell breaks loose.

But after nearly two years of pandemic-ing, many of the state’s underpaid, under-appreciated and generally mistreated substitutes have finally had enough, the Republic’s Yana Kunkchoff and Megan Taros report. When you have to find substitutes for the substitutes, you’re in trouble. 

Meanwhile, thousands of kids are getting sick as the vastly more transmissible omicron variant rips through schools (though only 54 Arizona kids have died from COVID-19), KJZZ’s Rocio Hernandez writes. Only 29 percent of Arizona kids under 19 have received at least one shot of the vaccine.

And kids, who can no longer turn off the webcam for a quick break, are having a hard time adjusting to returning to real classes. School officials say kids are showing more aggressive behaviors and shorter attention spans, the Daily Star’s Genesis Lara writes. 

While teachers and school administrators generally don’t want to return to remote learning, many schools literally can’t afford to because of the way school funding formulas limit remote learning, Kunichoff explains. 

But if politicians demand schools stay open, the least they can do is ensure that everyone, including students who can’t receive vaccinations, feels as safe as possible at school. And they can acknowledge that “open” doesn’t always make for better learning, as one student in New York shared a few days ago.

The universities are doing an OK job with student mask and testing requirements and staff vaccination requirements, a model that clearly doesn’t stop the spread, but at least puts effort toward constraining it. 

Educators were pleasantly surprised when Ducey didn’t use his State of the State speech to tout a revival of his unconstitutionally implemented school mask ban. But many of the schools bullied out of bans by the short-lived policy haven’t yet voted to mask up.

While Ducey appeared on Fox News to talk about school closures in Chicago, which is still not in Arizona, schools around the state readied for students’ return. They’re confronting a wave of cases and a wave of resentment from parents, who also feel stretched these days. 

Somehow, two years in, we still haven’t figured out how to keep schools open safely because the conversation continues to be wrought with politics. Just like the rest of the pandemic.

A wave of generosity struck the Arizona Agenda today, so we’re offering you 22% off our annual subscription price in honor of the start of the 2022 legislative session. To sign up as a paid subscriber, click the button below. You’ll lock in the lower price for 12 months and get access to the comments section and some paywalled content. But our general philosophy has been to keep the paywall very minimal and hope that you supporters of locally owned and operated journalism will still pay us. Prove us right! Subscribe at the discounted rate of just $62.40 per year.

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Speaking too soon, probably: Ducey is poised to actually finish two terms in office after winning both through elections instead of appointment, which is a rare exception in Arizona government, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda reports. 

Why do we elect an assessor anyway?: No luck so far in the appeals process for former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, who is now in prison after convictions for running a Marshallese adoption scheme. Petersen appealed charges in Arkansas, one of the three states where he ran his operation, but the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his punishment, the Associated Press’ Jacques Billeaud reports. 

Make City Halls Great Again: The City of Glendale could replace its brutalist City Hall with a modern $70 million city complex complete with a park and amphitheater, the Republic’s Renata Clo reports. The rendering of the proposed new City Hall looks like it could be part of ASU’s downtown campus. (We’ll let you decide whether that’s a compliment.) 

You could just tell the public their names: Some Scottsdale police officers were disciplined over the hit-and-run arrest of Yessenia Garcia, who video evidence showed did not commit a hit-and-run. Garcia spoke out about the arrest in an ABC 15 story, and the Scottsdale Police Department conducted an internal investigation. But the department won’t say who was disciplined or how. 

Speaking of police: Queen Creek started its own police force after decades of paying for police services from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Republic’s Chelsea Curtis reports. The town’s population has exploded from about 4,000 to 70,000 during that time. 

Those liberals in Sierra Vista: The editorial board at the Sierra Vista Herald wants Senate President Karen Fann to step down as the leader of the chamber. The board pointed to Fann’s response to the Maricopa County report about the audit problems, noting that she issued a statement despite not reading the report itself.

“At this moment, with deep fractures among Republicans and Democrats at the capital, the need for effective leadership is a priority. Fann has lost the confidence of moderates within her own party and is only useful to conservatives as long as she does their bidding,” the editorial board wrote.

Still looking for more information here: Former Department of Corrections director Charles Ryan was “experiencing a mental health crisis” when the Tempe Police Department arrived at his home, the department said yesterday. It’ll be up to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office whether he’s charged, and the department didn’t provide any updates on his condition.

They’re not too different: On Friday, you’ll see what the governor thinks the state’s revenues will look like when he releases his executive budget proposal. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Legislature’s number-crunchers, puts out its own revenue estimates. So, who’s closer to correct? An analysis last month shows it’s a tight race between the two budget projections. (Thanks to legislative-report-finder extraordinaire Beth Lewallen for flagging this.)

Ducey, border czar: A group of more than 20 GOP members of the Legislature will hold a press conference today at the Capitol to call on Ducey to “use authorities provided as Commander-in-Chief of Arizona to stop the illegal border invasion of Arizona, and to commit to providing him the resources he needs to accomplish that mission,” a press release says. The lawmakers will be joined by two former Trump officials who are now with Citizens for Renewing America. Ducey already announced a multi-state border governors idea and posted some model language for Arizona members of Congress to use. (We’re sure Sinema and Kelly are readying their keyboards to file it.)   

A hard job made harder: Some Arizona nurses leave their full-time hospital jobs to become travel nurses instead because the pay is better, KJZZ’s Lauren Gilger reports. Valley hospitals report staffing shortages and increased costs for travel nurses as the omicron surge taxes their systems. 

You can really go down a rabbithole on this: Congress’ January 6th Committee responded to right-wing claims that a Queen Creek man, Ray Epps, was an undercover operative with the FBI when he attended the Jan. 6 insurrection. The crux of these claims involves Epps being listed on the FBI’s most wanted list when people were asked to identify those who participated in the insurrection, then being removed from the list later. The committee said on Twitter that it interviewed Epps, who said he “was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on Jan 5th or 6th or at any other time, & that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.” 

No pesos, no problems: The Walmart in Nogales, Arizona, no longer accepts pesos, and it’s causing Mexican travelers some headaches, the Nogales International’s Angela Gervasi reports. 

Help us help you: When we left our old jobs, we got knocked off a lot of press release listservs from government bodies, advocacy groups and candidates. We’d like to be added back to your lists, please! You can add our emails: and

Want to be able to pay your taxes with Bitcoin? If Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers’ Senate Bill 1127 passes, you’ll be able to pay all sorts of money you owe to the government using cryptocurrency. 

The bill allows state agencies to set up agreements with crypto issuers to accept cryptocurrencies as payments for fines, fees, penalties, rent, taxes and other charges. 

As we’ve noted before, some Democratic lawmakers want to know if their colleagues, especially those who are working on crypto issues, have significant amounts of coin themselves. (Dogecoin, unfortunately, is not among the assets politicians are required to disclose in Arizona.) Is Rogers secretly a crypto queen? 

Jim Lamon’s new campaign video caused us to question, repeatedly, “let’s go WHERE?” The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate’s 30-second spot gives some very brief campaign positions on border security and “rigged elections,” all followed by “let’s go.” For example: “If you are pissed off about the direction of our country, let’s go.”

Maybe you can already see where this is going because you’re quicker than us. Good for you. We didn’t put it together until the end, when Lamon says “Let’s go Brandon,” the stand-in for “Fuck you, Biden.” 

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