Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2021 at 1:48 PM

click to enlarge Mark Finchem is peddling conspiracy theories, again. - GAGE SKIDMORE
Gage Skidmore
Mark Finchem is peddling conspiracy theories, again.

In late September, the Republican-backed “audit” of votes in Maricopa County confirmed—yet again—that Joe Biden had legitimately won the electoral votes of the State of Arizona. To summarize: This was an unprecedented extra review of votes based in conspiracy theories that happened after certification of the results by the (Republican-led) Board of Supervisors, conducted by a company who had never audited an election before and whose founder claimed the election was rigged beforeconducting the audit—all while costing Maricopa County millions of dollars in the process.

The entire recount was a mess and a circus. An expensive mess and circus. Despite a prior agreement to cover expenses, GOP state senators forced the Maricopa County and taxpayers to foot the bill for new voting machines following the audit under threat of the state government pulling hundreds of millions in revenue sharing funds.

We should not let a similar costly frivolity occur here in Pima County.

Sadly, the cancerous movement to hamper Arizona democracy is somehow still growing. Conspiracy-fueled advocates of “Stop the Steal” have yet to back down despite the fact that even the partisan-led, amateurishly handled Cyber Ninjas report demonstrated no evidence of widespread voter fraud. State Senate President Karen Fann can claim any nonsense she wants, but Arizona’s election was completely aboveboard.

Still, on Friday Oct. 15, the GOP push to invalidate the legitimate results of the Arizona 2020 Presidential Election returned in force. An e-mail statement from former President Donald Trump claimed that “A new analysis of mail-in ballots in Pima County, Arizona means the election was Rigged and Stolen [sic] from the Republican Party in 2020, and in particular, its Presidential Candidate.” This is patently false, but what’s new?

Just when you thought talk of an Arizona recount was dead… here we go again.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 2021 at 6:45 AM

click to enlarge U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema sits silently as immigration reform advocate Karina Ruiz, right, confronted her on an airplane flying from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4, 2021. - SCREENSHOT VIA TWITTER
Screenshot via Twitter
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema sits silently as immigration reform advocate Karina Ruiz, right, confronted her on an airplane flying from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4, 2021.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona ignored Karina Ruiz, a local leader who advocates for immigrant communities, when the activist approached her on a flight to Washington, D.C., Monday to urge the senator to commit to passing a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. 

In a video she posted on social media, Ruiz walked down the airplane aisle and stopped next to Sinema, who was sitting in an aisle seat with a laptop in front of her and wireless earbuds in her ears. 

“I’m being vulnerable right now to you. My dad passed away last year, and he didn’t get to reunite with my family. I don’t want to disturb you, but at the same time, I want to see if I can get a commitment from you, Senator,” Ruiz said. 

Sinema sat silently, staring down. 

“This is my life and the life of millions,” Ruiz continued. “I’d just like to hear from you. Can we get a commitment from you to get a pathway to citizenship for millions like me?”

Sinema continued to sit silently, staring down. 

“All right, Senator, you don’t want to respond. Thank you for your time,” Ruiz said, and walked away.

For years, Ruiz has pushed for different versions of federal legislation that would give thousands of immigrants like her, who arrived in the country at a young age, and her family a pathway to citizenship. Locally, as a leader of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Ruiz has worked to reform state laws that prevent undocumented students from accessing in-state tuition. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Aug 3, 2021 at 6:45 AM

File photo by Micah Bledsoe/Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, 11 other Republican governors and more than 200 GOP lawmakers on Thursday filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

The 1973 court decision for women’s reproductive rights set a precedent for a constitutional right to access to abortion – and has been challenged ever since. The current nine-member court has a 6-3 conservative majority after the confirmation of the Trump administration’s three nominees – Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch – and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, which was filed by Mississippi.

One legal expert at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU predicts the court will continue to chip away at Roe v. Wade without making the more controversial decision to eliminate it completely.

“Court watchers believe that the chief justice (John Roberts), in particular, is more institutionally minded and does not want the court to appear overly political,” associate professor Kaiponanea Matsumura, an expert in reproductive rights, told Cronkite News. “The question is whether any of President Trump’s appointees share the chief justice’s sense of restraint.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 11:48 AM

click to enlarge Without consulting local officials, Gov. Doug Ducey told FEMA that Pima County didn't want FEMA's help in setting up a new vaccination center. - GAGE SKIDMORE
Gage Skidmore
Without consulting local officials, Gov. Doug Ducey told FEMA that Pima County didn't want FEMA's help in setting up a new vaccination center.

Few people will argue that Gov. Doug Ducey has done an outstanding job in battling the coronavirus in Arizona. Twice, the state has been a global hotspot for the outbreak; he refused to shut down nightclubs (including those owned by the family of his own healthcare advisor) until the disease got so out of control that most public schools had to launch the fall semester remotely; he thinks so little of testing to determine the extent of infections and path of the virus that he wants to stiff Pima County on testing expenses despite getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to do just that; he totally botched the rollout of the state’s online vaccination registration system; and when he got tired of taking heat from the press in weekly COVID press conferences, he just quit having them.

But Ducey’s latest move may be his most appalling: Telling the federal government that Pima County didn’t need additional vaccination clinics.

Pima County officials have been working with FEMA staff on various vaccination efforts. FEMA and Pima County were in talks to set up vaccination clinics that would provide 6,000 Pfizer shots a day for three weeks, along with a second three-week clinic that would provide second shots and the possibility of a two-week clinic to provide two weeks of Johnson & Johnson shots. All told, that would have provided about 200,000 more vaccinations in Pima County.

But first, FEMA had to run the plan by the state. And that’s when Ducey said no.

Asked about Ducey’s shot-blocking of Pima County last week, Arizona Health Director Cara Christ said too many state resources would be used for the setup—which is laughable on its face, given how Ducey is squirreling away COVID relief dollars so he can once again cut taxes for Arizona’s wealthiest residents.

But let’s say Arizona is just too broke to speed along the vaccination process for Pima County residents. Ducey could have reached out to Pima County officials to find out if they’re willing to foot the bill, but he didn’t bother. (That’s not surprising, given that in his imperious way, Ducey rarely talks to his fellow elected officials when making his COVID decisions.)

Turns out, Pima County is ready to take on those expenses—and yesterday, Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, along with all the local mayors—Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Marana Mayor Ed Honea, Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield, South Tucson Mayor Bob Teso and Sahaurita Mayor Tom Murphy—all signed a letter asking Ducey to reconsider his decision.

“Pima County is prepared to provide any and all assistance in setting up this POD such that it does not require resources from the state,” they wrote. “In addition, the vaccine supplied by federal policy will not deduct from the state vaccine allocation.”

The local elected leaders said that the POD “potentially provides another 300,000 or more vaccines that would be targeted for our low-income and minority communities. We understand the state has declined to accept the federal offer for a variety of reasons. We would appreciate you reconsidering this position in asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish a federal POD in Pima County.”

We can only speculate on why Ducey turned down the FEMA offer. (The resources spin is obviously a dodge, given the state’s strong financial position.) Does he not want the Biden administration to get credit for vaccinating people in Arizona? Does he not care how long this stretches out? Does it somehow distract from his recent efforts to appear to be the big hero of the crisis? Does he just hate Pima County?

Whatever is going on in his head, Ducey should quit acting like an absentee stepdad who needs to be in control of everything on the rare occasions he decides to help out. He needs to approve Pima County’s federal site immediately. The sooner people are vaccinated, the sooner we’ll be past this pandemic. And hey, if he blames it on some underling, Ducey can pretend to be a hero again!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2021 at 2:48 PM

click to enlarge Volunteers assist drivers at COVID-19 vaccine point of distribution at the University of Arizona’s Campus Mall. - THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
The University of Arizona
Volunteers assist drivers at COVID-19 vaccine point of distribution at the University of Arizona’s Campus Mall.

Working directly with the State Department of Health, bypassing Pima County Health officials, the UA plans to open a state vaccine Point of Distribution (POD) on the UA mall. This will be detrimental to the county efforts to get vaccines into the arms of the most vulnerable in our community.

Since the pandemic began, UA leadership’s efforts to be ground zero for all-things-COVID have negatively impacted the surrounding community. They refused to mandate testing for off-campus students, falsely claiming a constitutional ban. The City and County funded the work. The UA invited students back into the region while the pandemic was surging. The result was the UA ZIP code becoming the countywide COVID hot spot. Now comes the UA sidestepping the regional health care authority and dealing directly with Gov. Ducey, establishing a campus vaccination POD. Vaccination doses going to the state POD will count against the county’s allotment.

This week the state has reduced the Pima County vaccine allotment by 40%. What the state takes for the UA POD, decreases the amount the county has to administer at other sites. A recent mobile vaccination site led by Pima County Health was conducted with the intent of addressing the disparity that exists in vaccine distribution. At that site, 72% of the vaccines given went to Hispanic residents. Hispanics constitute only 3.7% of people vaccinated at state-run POD’s.

The Pima County Health Department is the health authority for this region. The UA’s newest effort to gain attention, by becoming the local 24/7 state-run POD, will have a negative impact on the county efforts to vaccinate a diverse population. Including those unable to navigate the new state operated registration system. The vaccine supply is controlled by the state. The UA must not exploit its relationship as an arm of the state by effectively "skimming doses off the top" while the county continues operating in a position where demand is significantly outstripping its state allocation.

Steve Kozachik represents Ward 6 on the Tucson City Council.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Friday, January 22, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 12:43 PM

click to enlarge Nice tie, cowboy! - GAGE SKIDMORE
Gage Skidmore
Nice tie, cowboy!

State lawmaker and weird-uncle-you-desperately-avoid-at-family-gatherings Mark Finchem has always been one of the nuttier lawmakers at the Capitol since his election to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2014, what with his bills to make gold legal tender, his links to far-right organizations like the Oath Keepers and the Coalition of Western States, and his peculiar fashion choices.

But Donald Trump’s loss in the presidential race last November has led the Oro Valley Republican to buy a first-class ticket on the crazy train. He led the day-long meeting at a hotel near the Capitol in December that featured Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani laying out numerous crazy theories that were unsuitable for actual courtrooms, including the notion that Biden’s win was illegitimate because Arizona is home to 5 million undocumented immigrants (which would mean 5 out of 7 Arizonans are undocumented, but OK).

Finchem, who was on hand for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C., cheered on the storming of the U.S. Capitol. He tweeted a photo of the rampage with the comment: “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.” Of course, it didn't take long for Finchem to blame Antifa for the disgraceful display of his fellow "patriots" during the D.C. rampage.

Finchem’s D.C. adventures have led to an ethics complaint at the House (which probably won’t go anywhere).

But you won’t read any more tweets from Finchem. As reported by the gang at Arizona Capitol Times, this week, in solidarity with the now-banned Trump, Finchem deleted his Twitter account after tweeting a promise to boycott Lowe’s after the Loew’s hotel chain canceled a fundraising event for Sen. Josh Hawley. “This is what Hitler and Stalin did, what next camps? Ovens?” Yes, we all know it’s a slippery slope from canceling an event reservation to the Holocaust.

Giving up his 55K or so followers, Finchem has moved over to the right-wing Twitter knock-off Gab, where his new handle is AZHoneyBadger, presumably because he considers the fierce creature a spirit totem or something. (In case you’re not familiar, a hysterical YouTube clip of a narrator goofing on honey badger footage with lines about how “honey badger doesn’t give a shit” went viral a few years back.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 11:16 AM

click to enlarge Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: "The - only way to overcome the division is for Republicans to finally recognize and - call out the MAGA cause for what it is: a movement entrenched in white - supremacy, in entitlement, and in loyalty to one man, rather than country." - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy Photo
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: "Theonly way to overcome the division is for Republicans to finally recognize andcall out the MAGA cause for what it is: a movement entrenched in whitesupremacy, in entitlement, and in loyalty to one man, rather than country."

Just one week ago, members of the 117th Congress took the oath of office. Raising our right hands, we swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I took this oath two years ago, as well, and cited it when I voted to impeach the president the first time, following the Mueller report. This week, I’ll vote to impeach the president a second time, following the rampage he organized.

This past November, we held a free and fair election. Due to record turnout, President-Elect Biden won by a significant margin. Rather than concede with grace, President Trump began spreading propaganda—baseless lies—that the election was rigged, that votes were stolen, and that he won by a landslide. This movement was either actively supported, or at best ignored, by Republicans who were elected on the same ballot.

On Jan. 6, this propaganda campaign climaxed to an all-out assault on our democracy when the President of the United States instructed a violent mob to attack government buildings and officials. Doors and windows were smashed, lawlessness and chaos took over, and in what felt like an instant, my colleagues and I became victims of domestic terrorism under the dome of what we thought was one of the securest and most symbolic buildings in the world.

But the truth is, it wasn’t an instant. This wasn’t a peaceful protest that happened to spiral out of control. What unfolded was the result of a disturbing trend that had been brewing and growing, without scrutiny and without consequence, for the last few years.

There is no question that the attack on the Capitol was harrowing. To see a place so sacred and meaningful defiled and disrespected is extremely heartbreaking. Yet, what’s even more devastating, and downright disturbing, is the attitude that we should simply gloss over the attempted coup from last week to find unity amidst the wreckage.

We are at an impasse. We simply cannot move forward from here without holding the President and his party accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. The only way to overcome the division is for Republicans to finally recognize and call out the MAGA cause for what it is: a movement entrenched in white supremacy, in entitlement, and in loyalty to one man, rather than country. For too long, Republicans have either been complicit in the face of this President or have dutifully fallen in line with him. So they, too, are responsible for the pillage that occurred.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2021 at 7:19 AM

President Donald Trump met with top military officials and gave his approval to activate the D.C. National Guard three days before he encouraged a mob of angry protesters to take their grievances to the U.S. Capitol.

A Pentagon memo released Friday offers these insights, as well as the first detailed timeline of the bungled law enforcement response to Wednesday’s insurrection.

The timeline shows that the planning started at least as far back as Dec. 31 and included discussion with select Cabinet members of the potential need for Pentagon reinforcements.

But it also leaves many questions unanswered, including why the U.S. Capitol Police declined repeated offers of assistance from military officials and the full extent of how much Trump knew about the security planning or was involved in decision-making.

The memo, first reported on by NBC News on Friday evening, presents a limited account of the days before the insurrection, and reports have questioned the completeness of the Pentagon’s version of events and the effectiveness of its planning and response. But the memo may well provide a partial roadmap as legislators call for an investigation into how pro-Trump protesters breached the Capitol in a riot that left five people dead, including one Capitol Hill police officer. Three officials who supervise the force have already submitted resignations.

Here’s what we know so far, and what we don’t.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2021 at 1:00 AM