Thursday, August 16, 2018

Congressman Grijalva Receives Award for "Best Constituent Services"

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 4:00 PM

  • Ruben Reyes

Congressman Raul Grijalva received the first-ever “Democracy Award” for best constituent services from the Congressional Management Foundation, an organization based in Washington, D.C. that works directly with members of Congress to ensure that they are effectively serving the citizens of their districts.

Representative Grijalva and his staff were selected for this award out of 441 other congressional offices nationwide.

On Tuesday, August 14 Grijalva hosted a reception for the award at El Pueblo Neighborhood Center. The congressman received high praise at the event from his staff and the residents of Congressional District 3, but he insisted the recognition should go to his team.

“I’m very proud to be associated with this staff and having our office recognized as the outstanding office in Congress for taking care of people and helping them navigate all the things they have to confront,” Grijalva said during his opening remarks. “Those of us that are members of Congress, we get all the attention, good and bad, but the work of providing service to our constituency, that constitutes what the staff of the district does.”

One of Grijalva’s staff members, Alexandra Martinez, read a letter from a Tucson resident named Eric Lowe who couldn’t attend the event but greatly benefited from the services that Grijalva’s office provides.

Lowe, a former D.C. resident, was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) after being exposed to severe toxic chemicals. His condition made it extremely difficult to tolerate normal working and living environments, so he moved to Arizona on doctors’ recommendations because of the supportive climate.

After relocating, Lowe found it extremely challenging to find suitable housing for his medical condition “due to the nature of most conventional building materials, pesticides and other chemical cleaning agents used in those buildings” and was “rendered effectively homeless” because of it. Grijalva’s office helped to expedite his Social Security disability payments, lawyer fees and full back payment. Lowe wrote that this was a “life-saving intervention at a time of absolute critical need.”
  • Ruben Reyes
On a similar note, David Goodman, another Tucson resident, took the stand to express how Grijalva continuously supports the veteran community and the adversities they face. While working at Fort McClellan, an army base in Alabama that housed chemical weapons before being shut down in 1999, Goodman was unknowingly exposed to toxic chemicals and suffered greatly from it.

He said the federal government refuses to acknowledge and take responsibility for the hazardous conditions. After a decade of attempts, bills that could prevent this kind of disaster in the future never make it to the House floor due to lack of support.

“Mr. Grijalva has supported [H.R.3666] for years, and has gone further than just co-sponsoring this bill,” Goodman said. “He has formally requested a committee to convene a hearing on this matter. I am here today as an Arizona district three resident, but more importantly, I am here as a proud advocate for those poisoned veterans across the country that are too weak to fight.”

In an interview after the event, Grijalva told Tucson Local Media that the biggest caseload his office sees is veteran affairs. He said his team helps veterans with “everything from disability to medical coverage, to taking general discharge and making it an honorable discharge, and getting them what they deserve for their time in service.”

“If we can help a person, we dig in, and if it’s an issue that we can’t help, we’re honest,” he said. “I think that helps the credibility of what these people do.”

Grijalva explained that because of his background is social service, his office is set up with a case management component, so they follow each case much like a social service agency. He believes that residents sometimes don’t realize his office is a close-proximity resource, and that him and his team work as advocates for the residents.

“Our district is unfortunately an underserved area, so we have to pump up the service that we do,” Grijalva said. “And the cases are many times very involved, very difficult, especially now with all the immigration stuff going on, it's particularly difficult to try to get people, try to remedy their situation because it’s harder to work with Homeland Security than it was in the past, they are much stricter on enforcement and less discretion and less compassion.”

However, he did give credit to the Tucson-based Veterans Administration and Social Security Administration for being a great help in his office’s ability to serve constituents. During the event, Grijalva and his staff members thanked the federal and state agencies that they work with on a daily basis: U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, Department of Veteran Affairs, Western Passport Center, Social Security Administration, Department of Education, IRS and foreclosure prevention services.

By utilizing these agencies along with his influence as a U.S. representative, Grijalva said he takes his ability to help people very seriously.

“We are advocates,” he said. “And I think if people see us not just as merely paper pushers but more importantly, once we take their case, we become their advocate.”

If you are a resident of CD-3, you can visit this website to learn about the specific services that Representative Grijalva’s team offers.

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Arizona Runner Up on Worst Highway Upkeep

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 3:22 PM

  • Tucson Local Media File Photo

Arizona ranks second lowest on highway spending per driver, only beat by Michigan, according to a new report by financial news site 24/7 Wall Street. The state spends an annual $239 per driver on state highways.

"While the article doesn't draw a direct connection between per capita spending and the quality of state infrastructure, it does demonstrate how poorly Arizona funds its transportation infrastructure," wrote Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry in a memorandum, highlighting the report.

He also wrote that the Pima County is still looking at ways to fund transportation needs and that the state gas tax would be the best source. The tax that everyone pays when they fill up their tank is meant to fund road repair. But the state has been sweeping those funds for years to cover other needs, like paying for highway patrol.

As well, Arizona's gas tax is below the national average, and the state hasn't raised it since 1991. In the interim, 44 other states have, according to The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan nonprofit.

Huckelberry wrote that he will continue to advocate for increasing transportation spending at local, state and national levels.

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Town of Marana Developing Plans to Treat Contaminated Water

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 1:23 PM

  • BigStock
During a standing room only study session on Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Marana Town Council members said they support building water treatment centers in response to recent news of contaminated wells.

Marana residents who live in the affected residential areas have been asking the Council to treat the tap water ever since news broke last month of two types of contaminants exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory levels. Marana had been sending out mailers informing Marana Water users of the contaminants since December 2016.

The contaminants, PFAs and 1, 4-Dioxane are unregulated compounds that Marana Water staff found in the two separate water systems that feed Saguaro Bloom and Continental Reserve. These compounds have been found in water sources all over the country, including elsewhere in the Tucson Metro Region.

According to the EPA, the risk exposure for the dioxane health advisory level is one in one-million, over a lifetime. Adverse effects include kidney and liver damage. Marana’s levels go as high as two-and-a-half times the advisory level.

Marana Water Director John Kmiec said the EPA is due to release new standards for soil and groundwater contamination this fall, but there’s no guarantee they will meet their deadline. Arizona currently has no set guideline, but some states have set their own, which vary widely. For example, the EPA’s health advisory level for 1, 4 Dioxane is 0.35 parts per billion, but Alaska set their standard at 77 parts per billion and New Hampshire’s is 0.25.

Several town residents spoke at the meeting, expressing concern over the water and satisfaction that the Council seemed on board for treatment as soon as possible.

Saguaro Bloom resident Joyce Reid called the contamination a health hazard and said she’s “happy to hear that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Shawna Larsen, a cancer survivor, said the low odds of risk exposure are no comfort to her.

“I heard the presentation using the phrase ‘one-in-million chance,’” she said. “Well my chance is over. That already happened. So what I’d really like to be able to tell my coworkers is, ‘I live in Marana. They had a problem. They put in a treatment facility. It’s working great. They’re testing it consistently. And we’re really happy where we’re at. We’re living in our dream home.’”

Vice Mayor Jon Post was the first council member at the meeting to say he thinks the town should build the treatment plants, followed by a chorus of applause. As far as a funding source, he suggested that an additional sales tax might be an option.

“Just one-tenth of a percent for the town of Marana is $1 million a year,” he said. “It’s not even something that people that shop in Marana would even notice. But yet, it would be a revenue stream that would guarantee us quality water for our residents.”

Two water treatment centers, built around the contaminated wells, would cost about $13.5 million to build and then run for 20 years, about $1.5 million less than a previous estimate the town manager shared with Tucson Local Media.

Marana and other local jurisdictions, along with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, are continuing to investigate whether the contaminants came from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base or another source, but so far no definitive source has been identified.

Councilmember Roxanne Ziegler said she’s definitely in favor of treating the water but not fond of creating a tax to pay for it. She suggested holding off on capital improvement projects to divert funds to cover the treatment centers right away, and hopefully recover the funds in the future.

“I don’t want to play the blame game right now, but I’m all for fixing this and then going back and recovering what we can if indeed it was Davis Monthan or some other area,” she said.

The contamination levels in a number of the wells has dropped since the town began testing the water in late 2016, though a few have slightly increased. Kmiec said there’s no way to know if the wells that are dropping will continue that trend.

Marana Water looked at other options besides treating the water, but advised against them. One of those options is “water blending,” which happens when a contaminated system is connected with a clean system.

One such project was already in the design stages, connecting the water systems that serve Continental Reserve and the Twin Peaks area, for the benefit of optimal water usage rather than to dilute contaminants. It should be completed in the next two years. But Kmiec said Marana Water found the blending technique had a low effectiveness rate at bringing the contaminants down to and maintaining a comfortable level.

The Northwest Recharge, Recover, and Delivery System is another project in the works, to be constructed in 2023. It’s a joint pipeline project with Marana, Oro Valley and Metro Water to transport water that all three jurisdictions have stored by the Marana Airport.

Another option is looking at accessing Central Arizona Project water, but would take a considerable amount of infrastructure, treatment and precaution. Kmiec said because of these challenges, this option “quickly fell off the radar.”

Town Manager Jamsheed Mehta said the town staff will put together a proposal on how and when to build the treatment centers, which should be ready to present to council sometime in late-September to early-October.

Mayor Ed Honea said the council wants to see the treatment facilities happen as quickly as possible.

“We have to work on financing and everything else, but that is not the most important issue,” Honea said. “The most important issue is cleaning up the water, and we’ll figure out the financing down the road. It may be from three or four different sources.”

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Claytoon of the Day: Troll

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 9:53 AM

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Ducey, Republicans Leave $56 Million For Child Care Sitting On the Table

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 9:49 AM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock

Doug Ducey and his Republican legislative cronies had $56 million in federal money waiting to be spent to help cover the cost of child care and early childhood education for low income families. They refused to spend it.

The state didn't have to put up a penny. All it had to do was add a $56 million line item to its budget, and more low income children would have access to child care services. Ducey and the Republican legislative leaders knew the money was there, they were urged to put it in the budget by child care advocates and by Democrats in the legislature. They just decided not to do it.

When a story in the Sunday Star brought the unspent $56 million to my attention, I contacted Michelle Crow, Southern Arizona Director of the Children's Action Alliance, for more details. Next I talked to Democratic Rep. Randy Friese, who represents LD-9, my legislative district, to find out why the money didn't make it into the budget. The more I learned, the worse things got.

In March the federal government included $5.2 billion in its budget to increase the quality of child care and early childhood education across the country. Arizona's cut of the funds is $56 million, which is supposed to be added to the $125 million Arizona already receives to subsidize child care and early childhood education for children from low income families.

Right now, there's not enough money to subsidize child care for all the children who need it. As bad or worse, the amount the state allocates per child doesn't cover the child care provider's costs. The state Department of Economic Security's "Reimbursement Rates for Child Care" schedule is based on what the services should cost. The problem is, the reimbursement rates haven't changed since 2000. The state is still using an 18 year old rate schedule created at a time when the minimum wage was $5.15 an hour. Today it's $10.50.

It's actually worse than that. The DES reimbursement is only 75 percent of going rate in 2000. It's no surprise Arizona has among the lowest reimbursement rates in the country.

Continue reading »

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Claytoon of the Day: A Star is Scorned

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 8:52 AM

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Claytoon of the Day: Wonderful Son

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 9:27 AM

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Tired Of Those Annoying Political Phone Calls And Fliers?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 4:04 PM


Are you tired of all those political robocalls and calls from earnest volunteers? Did you know, they're tired of talking to you too?

Are you tired of all those glossy, oversized postcards from candidates touting their accomplishments — and maybe running down their opponents? Did you know, they're tired of sending them to you too?

Just vote. When campaigns find out you've sent in your ballot, they'll leave you alone. No more (or almost no more) calls. No more (or almost no more) oversized postcards. You can sit back with the beverage of your choice and watch the political circus unfold before your eyes, knowing you've done your patriotic chore. Better yet, volunteer for the candidate(s) of your choice and be one of those phoners or the doorbell ringers helping to get out the vote.

Send in your ballot!

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Brew Haha Comedy Showcase Presents: Chris Thayer @ Borderlands Brewery

Brew Haha at Borderlands Brewery is Tucson's longest running independent comedy show. It features nationally tour headliners… More

@ Borderlands Brewing Company Mon., Aug. 20, 8-10 p.m. 119 E. Toole Ave.

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