Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Congressman Raul Grijalva Does His Own SOTU Response

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 10:42 AM

Southern Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva was unimpressed with President Donald Trump's State of the Union.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Charter School Reform Legislation: The Good, The Bad and The Unknown

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 3:25 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock

SB 1394
, a bill intended to bring more oversight and regulation to charter schools, hasn't gone anywhere yet. Like lots of other bills, it's waiting to be considered, amended or ignored to death.

The bill has some good stuff in it, but it also has a loophole big enough to drive an eighteen wheeler through packed tight with all the state's Charter Management Organizations. That means lots of charter schools, including the entire BASIS chain, won't be bound by the new regulations.

There are charter schools, and then there are Charter Management Organizations.

Everyone knows about charter schools. They're buildings filled with teachers and students, just like other schools. (Online charters are the exception, where students work at home sitting in front of their computers [or that's the plan anyway. Whether they're actually sitting and working is another matter]). Like school districts, charters are supported by taxpayer dollars, but with fewer regulations and restrictions.

But not everyone knows about Charter Management Organizations. CMOs work with one or more charters. In some cases, they're outside management companies hired by the schools to take care of things like administrative and accounting duties. In other cases, the CMOs run the whole shebang. They're like school districts in charge of their schools, overseeing everything from curriculum to purchasing to the hiring and firing of administrators and teachers.

Not all charters use CMOs, but lots do, including well known Arizona-based charter chains like BASIS and Great Hearts. Arizona also has charters that belong to national chains, like Imagine Schools with 12 Arizona campuses and online schools like Arizona Virtual Academy, which is part of the publicly traded corporation, K12 Inc.

Charters with CMOs get money from the state based on how many students are enrolled just like everyone else, but they send a portion of their money upstairs to the CMO, where it disappears from sight. In the case of the charter chains I mentioned above, the schools send nearly everything upstairs.

Continue reading »

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Politico: Bannon and the Trump Crew May Have Border Wall Town Hall in Tucson on Friday

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 2:25 PM

Someone is gonna make money on this wall deal. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Someone is gonna make money on this wall deal.
Is there any chance we could seal them all in Biosphere 2 for the next hundred years? Politico reports the Trump gang may be descending upon Tucson:

In what amounted to a kind of #MAGA field trip, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, baseball legend Curt Schilling, and former Sheriff David Clarke convened to discuss a new plan for building a wall along the southern U.S. border. Blackwater founder Erik Prince phoned in from South Africa.

With Congress refusing to pony up the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for the project, his allies now are plotting to kick things off with private money and private land.

The idea, which began in December as a Florida man’s quixotic online crowdfunding campaign, is becoming something more, well, concrete. Big name Trump supporters like Bannon, a former Trump campaign and White House strategist, have flocked to the project. And they have initiated talks with the Israeli firm that constructed that country’s border fence with Gaza, the group told POLITICO. They expect to hold a town hall in Tucson, Arizona, as soon as Friday and to visit the border in Laredo, Texas, next week.

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Democrat Randi Dorman Launching Mayoral Campaign Next Week

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 1:38 PM

Randi Dorman
  • Randi Dorman
Randi Dorman, a developer, downtown advocate and patron of the arts, plans to announce her mayoral run next week.

The release from Team Dorman:

Local businesswoman and Chairwoman of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, Randi Dorman will be holding an event for the public to announce and celebrate her campaign for Mayor of Tucson.

“I’m Randi Dorman, I’m a mom, I’m a businesswoman, I’m the Chairwoman of the Downtown Tucson Partnership and I am pleased to announce I am running to be the next Mayor of Tucson.

Nearly two decades ago I made the life-changing decision to leave a successful career in New York City to join my husband in downtown Tucson. I fell in love with the natural beauty, the culture and especially the people of Tucson and knew that this was the right place to settle and start a family.

In 2002 we and our partners found an old ice factory on the edge of downtown and converted it into Tucson’s first residential loft development. People told us we were crazy, that no one would live downtown. But we could see it so clearly.

And at the end, we saw our vision become reality - giving a piece of Tucson’s rich history new life for the next generation. That philosophy has guided me in everything I’ve done in business, downtown and the arts.

Just like our vision for the ice factory, we must work together to create a vision for Tucson. A vision that includes jobs that provide Tucsonans with the opportunities we all need; that encourages our children to stay and raise their families, that empowers small businesses to grow and new businesses to come here so that we can build the vibrant, thriving economy we deserve and a better quality of life.

It won’t be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. But “good enough” is no longer good enough.

It’s time we create a vision for what Tucson can be for the next 20 years and beyond. Let’s do it together.”

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Friday, February 1, 2019

County Administrator Proposes Use of General Fund for Road Repairs

Posted By on Fri, Feb 1, 2019 at 3:11 PM

A map included in County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's memo detailing which roads are eligible for repairs paid for by general fund revenues. - PIMA COUNTY MEMORANDUM
  • Pima County Memorandum
  • A map included in County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's memo detailing which roads are eligible for repairs paid for by general fund revenues.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wants to take a portion of the fiscal year 2019-2020 general fund and put it toward road repairs in unincorporated areas.

In a memo to the Board of Supervisors published on Wednesday, Huckelberry recommended a plan to repair arterial roads in unincorporated parts of the county that receive use from at least 40 percent of vehicles originating from towns or cities nearby.

The general fund consists of mainly property taxes, and Pima County residents pay those property taxes regardless of which municipality they live in. County officials believe it would be most fair to use general fund tax revenues in areas outside of specific towns or cities that still receive significant use from residents of those places.

Earlier this month, Huckelberry requested the Pima County Department of Transportation conduct a study that would determine which unincorporated county roads meet the 40 percent criteria. A map and list detailing the roads deemed eligible was attached to the memo, which can be found here.

The transportation department also included “recreational gateway roads” that lead to popular tourism destinations. These roads are also being considered for road repair funding because they are frequently used by out-of-town visitors who contribute to the local economy through hotel bed taxes, according to a county press release.

Huckelberry wrote that local and neighborhood roads would not be eligible for the repairs, since they aren’t widely used by the general public. Transportation staff and the county administration are reportedly working on a separate plan for repairs on those roads using state-shared transportation funds.

The press release indicated if the board approves the use of general fund revenues for road improvements, the priority of roads to be repaired will be determined after the start of the 2019-2020 fiscal year in June.

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Arizona Lawmakers Agree on Crucial Drought Contingency Plan

Posted By and on Fri, Feb 1, 2019 at 9:06 AM

The Central Arizona Project canal system spans 336 miles and brings 1.5 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River down past Tucson. - LILLIAN DONAHUE / CRONKITE NEWS
  • Lillian Donahue / Cronkite News
  • The Central Arizona Project canal system spans 336 miles and brings 1.5 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River down past Tucson.

Arizona lawmakers beat a midnight deadline set by the federal government by just a few hours Thursday, agreeing on a plan to balance drought and water supplies in the Colorado River Basin.

The goal is to keep water levels in Lake Mead from plummeting so low there wouldn’t be enough water for the millions of people throughout the Southwest depending on it. For Arizona, that could mean losing about a seventh of the state’s annual water allotment to the Central Arizona Project, which provides much of the state’s water.

Although Arizona has signed off on the drought contingency plan, California’s Imperial Irrigation District may delay the basin-wide deal. According to the Desert Sun, the district wants $200 million to restore the Salton Sea.

Water managers expect Mead’s levels to drop low enough that by May of this year, there would be a shortage declaration and reduced water allocations. The plan Arizona approved will mitigate those cuts.

Arizona was the last of the three Lower Basin states to approve a Drought Contingency Plan, and it’s the only state that required legislative action to put the plan in place. If Arizona had missed the midnight deadline, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and power in the west, said it would impose its own drought plan on the entire Colorado River Basin.

The plan is a stop gap approach to manage water shortages, and will be in place until 2026. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, which make up the Upper Basin, signed their drought contingency plan in December.

“Lake Mead is essentially overallocated,” said Sarah Porter, who directs the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University. “There is more water going out of Lake Mead than coming in.”

What the drought plan would do

According to Porter, part of the plan sets a schedule of voluntary cuts that users agree to take to keep lake levels sustainable. The plan also designates rules on when users can take water out of the reservoir.

The plan, which had bipartisan support, aims to keep lake levels high enough to try and avoid a catastrophic shortage in Arizona.

“Arizona has a really hard task because we would take the largest cuts of any of the users, and we need to have our legislature approve singing on to DCP,” Porter said.

What’s behind the plan?

The 19-year drought has forced Southwestern states to orchestrate a plan for more sustainable water usage from the Colorado River.

If the lake levels dip too low, Arizona consumers could also see higher water rates.

This isn’t the first time Arizona has experienced hard policy reform to ensure there’s a water supply.

The lower basin agreed to a plan similar to the DCP in 2007, though the cuts weren’t nearly as dramatic as those Arizona faces now.

“We’re looking at significant decreases in Colorado River deliveries,” Porter said.

The Bureau of Reclamation will declare an official shortage and water cutoffs if Lake Mead’s water level drops below 1,075 feet above sea level. That hasn’t happened yet, but water managers predict it could occur as early as May. At 1,050 feet, stricter cutoffs would be imposed.

Who will feel the most pain?

Arizona has sealed a bittersweet arrangement that addresses how water users would share the pain of a water shortage, Porter said.

Pinal County farmers will be among the first users to take a cut if there’s a drought declaration.

“Long term, those Pinal County farmers are looking at needing to have other supplies of water,” Porter said. “The DCP has included provision for those farmers to be able to develop or redevelop infrastructure to pump groundwater out and they can use groundwater for their operations.”

Brian Rhodes, who farms 15,000 acres of land near Eloy, believes that will be devastating for the agriculture industry.

“Without some type of mitigation proposal, the alternative is Pinal County farmland no longer becomes viable for a large percentage,” Rhodes said. “That is detrimental for not only the farmers like myself, but you’ve got so many industries that are being supported by the farming operation.”

Pinal County ranks in the top 2 percent nationwide in the total value of agricultural sales, according to a study from the University of Arizona’s Agriculture and Resource Economy.

Rhodes said regardless of the Legislature’s decision Thursday, agriculture still will be forced to increase sustainability efforts.

“Even under the mitigation and other proposals that are on the table, we’re still looking at a lot less available water going forward,” Rhodes said. “The drought is something that’s out of anyone’s control. We’re going to all have to adjust to a new frontier as far as water availability and from what we’ve been used to.”

The plan provides farmers with more water than they would receive if lawmakers can’t come to a decision, said Dave Roberts, chief water resources executive for Salt River Project.

“I wouldn’t say they’re in good shape, but they’ll be better off than they would have been,” he said.

The benefit is that the plan will ultimately provide certainty and help protect groundwater in the Southwest, Porter said.

Cronkite News reporter Lillian Donahue contributed to this story.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Koch Education Initiative? Buyer Be Very Wary

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 2:40 PM


Will Arizona be among the [un]lucky five states to be part of the new Koch Network education initiative? The states have yet to be named, but I suspect Arizona is on the radar, given the Koch Network and Governor Ducey's mutual admiration society. We know KN loves Ducey's vociferous support of vouchers, and Ducey loves KN's money in equal measure.

The Koch Network announced its decision to put money into education — until recently, it has deferred to other right wing, privatization/"education reform" groups — during its latest summit at Indian Wells, California (about 5 hours down the road from here), where all it takes to get in the door is a commitment to pledge at least $100,000 to the cause.

The announcement came a day after one of the Koch folks' rare kumbaya moments, a celebration of the bipartisan support for the First Step Act, signed into law by President Trump in December to reform the criminal justice system. Friend-of-Obama Van Jones was on board, and he praised the Koch Network's support of the legislation. So was First Son-in-law Jared Kushner (whose interest in the subject was probably spurred by his father's stay in prison [put there by Chris Christie, but that's a whole 'nuther story]).

Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a signal KN is planning to make nice with progressives in the future. Lower incarceration rates, along with fewer laws restricting drug use, have long been part of the libertarian platform. On a number of social issues, libertarians' "less regulation, more freedom" agenda coincides with the progressive viewpoint.

However, the Koch Network is trying to sell its new education initiative as another attempt to join hands with people on the other side of the aisle. Some of its spokespeople went out of their way to praise teachers, who they usually lump together with evil unions and failing schools. The elevator pitch for their new initiative sounds kinda not bad, until you get into the details.

Continue reading »

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Co-Sponsors Violence Prevention Legislation

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 1:16 PM

  • Courtesy of U.S. House of Representatives

This week U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) introduced the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act of 2019 (S. 265).

The bill intends to streamline law enforcement efforts on local, state and national levels to better prevent violent acts of mass casualties.

Through the implementation of a Joint Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Task Force (comprised of federal threat assessment experts, state and local law enforcement officials and mental health service professionals) a national strategy would be created to “prevent targeted violence through threat assessment and management, and evidence-based processes to identify individuals that exhibit patterns of dangerous behavior that may precede an act of targeted violence,” according to a press release.

Since perpetrators of these crimes can act anywhere at any time, the task force is supposed to help state and local law enforcement agencies access the same resources for combating these threats as the FBI and Secret Service.

The task force would be able to make recommendations on how to implement protocols for local law enforcement agencies to effectively preempt dangerous attacks. The bill requires these recommendations to reflect the different needs and resources of communities across the country, in order to prevent the enforcement of a national standard.

These recommendations would be funded through grants awarded by the Department of Homeland Security. Grant money would also be available to community stakeholders such as local governments, tribal organizations, educational institutions and nongovernmental organizations who create “community-based behavioral threat assessment and management units.”

The bill specifically requires recommendations for a Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management School Violence Prevention Program for educational institutions across the country.

A one-page briefing of the bill created by the office of Sen. Rubio states: “We have the expertise to combat the targeted violence plaguing our schools, places of worship, and public spaces, but we have yet to fully implement it to prevent attacks.”

“We must provide law enforcement with the tools they need to keep Arizona families safe and secure,” Sen. Sinema said in a press release. “I will work every day to protect Arizonans from senseless, tragic acts of violence.”

U.S. Representatives Brian Babin (R-Texas) and Val Demings (D-Florida) introduced a companion bill in the House.

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Brian Regan

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