Tuesday, June 19, 2018

District 3 Democratic Candidates Focus on Housing, Education and Equal Representation

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 1:12 PM

LD-3 Democratic candidates speak with audience members after a public forum on May 30, 2018. - KATHLEEN B. KUNZ
  • Kathleen B. Kunz
  • LD-3 Democratic candidates speak with audience members after a public forum on May 30, 2018.

Andrés Cano was seven years old when environmental activists fought for his grandmother. She was poisoned by beryllium inhalation from a manufacturing plant in South Tucson during the early 1990s.

Betty Villegas was just out of high school when she and her friends drove people without transportation to the local polling place to cast their votes.

Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford was settled into her third career in the tourism industry when she was exposed to the legislative issues of the time, which inspired her to change her career once again.

These events were the seeds that rooted a passion for public service in the three of the Democratic candidates for Arizona’s 3rd Legislative District, who spoke at a community forum hosted by UNITE HERE Local 11, CASE Action, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), Progress Now Arizona, Our Voice Our Vote (OVOV), Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Wins.

These are advocacy organizations and labor unions that work to further the goals of underrepresented communities. By working as a coalition, the groups have established a series of town hall meetings to discuss important statewide issues in anticipation of the Aug. 28 primary election.

The theme of the evening was definitely civic engagement. Gathered in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers meeting hall, a few dozen people made up the audience and about half were already members of the advocacy organizations, who spend their days going door to door asking Arizona residents which political issues matter to them.

“The work that you’re doing right now, knocking on doors in 100 degree weather, is exactly the type of conversation that we need to invest in,” Cano said in his opening remarks. “When I’m talking to people at their doorsteps, they say ‘Gosh this is the first time a candidate has knocked at my door.’ And I think we’re going to change that in 2018.”

Cano said that LD-3 is a special place in Southern Arizona and needs to be protected. It includes the University of Arizona campus, the downtown area, several historic neighborhoods and the Pascua Yaqui Nation. He is running for an open seat in the House, since Rep. Macario Saldate is on his last term and Rep. Sally Ann Gonzalez is running for a seat in the Senate.

Cano spoke with a smile on his face about officially filing for candidacy on May 14, his 26th birthday. Echoing the frustrations of voters in the district, Cano said Arizona’s Democratic party has not paid enough attention to young people, Latino people and working families.

Cano, Villegas and Bedford all agreed they want to make the state and federal resources readily available to the Tucsonans that need them. Some of the audience members voiced their personal issues regarding health care and low-income housing, and all three candidates jumped to write down their information and get them in contact with the right people.

Villegas, who is running for an LD-3 Senate seat, said her campaign is focused on housing reform. For 17 years, she served as the Affordable Housing Program Manager for Pima County. Villegas said there’s no one in the current Arizona legislature who has experience with affordable housing issues.

“In District 3, 50 percent of the people are paying over 50 percent of their income towards housing expense,” she said. “It’s not going to be too much longer before we’re another San Diego. The cost of housing is continuing to go up, and we need to find new ways of trying to help and trying to cut that."

Villegas is also a long-time local volunteer who has served on numerous commissions in the Tucson area. She said those experiences gave her an deeper understanding about her community before she ran for office.

“It’s so important to be civically engaged and community engaged. It gives you a voice at the table, and as a Latina, we are sometimes missing at that table,” she said. “On the historic preservation commission, I’m the only person of color there. So I’m constantly telling the people that appoint me and that appoint others: ‘We really need to get a more diverse commission.’"

Bedford is running for another seat in the House for LD3, since she is hitting her term limit as a state senator. Having served as either a state senator or state representative since 2003, she believes being present at community forums like this one is an important part of her job and she attends around 50 each year.

Wearing that familiar red Arizona Educated United T-shirt, Bedford was vocal about her frustration with Gov. Doug Ducey and his failure to support public education in Arizona. She said the state’s low rankings in education funding motivates her to keep running for office.

Villegas agreed that education should be a first priority in all budget discussions going forward.

“We need to build a strong coalition as elected officials, as elected Democrats, and we need to say to them that we are not budging on anything else until this education issue gets fixed once and for all,” she said. “Our community is demanding that we do that. They are ready for us to do that.”

Cano chimed in on this topic and said the fact that both Maricopa and Pima community colleges get no money from the state government is a travesty, adding that business leaders, who are often Republicans, tell him they want to see more funding for higher education.

“They realize that what we have to do if we want to move folks into good paying jobs and have a good workforce where we can track investment from small businesses to big businesses—it’s education; it’s workforce development.”

These comments supporting the #RedforEd movement were timely as the forum came to a close, and LUCHA members presented a call for signatures in support of the Invest in Education Act. This act proposes a 3.46 percent tax increase for individuals earning over $250,000 and households earning over $500,000, as well as a 4.46 percent increase for individuals earning over $500,000 and households earning $1 million or more.

If the initiative qualifies for the November ballot and is approved by voters, 60 percent of the expected $690 million in tax revenues will go toward raising teacher salaries and the remaining 40 percent will go toward improving public school and educational operations.

On Monday, June 25 there will be a debate between all Democratic candidates running for Arizona House and Senate seats from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Sabino Room of the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center at 1303 E. University Blvd.

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New Ballot Initiative Promises Cheaper Electricity Bills and Cleaner Air

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 12:49 PM

How does $5 off your monthly electricity bill sound? Most would say good, but relatively insignificant. How about $4 billion in savings statewide and half your electricity comes from renewable energy sources? That’s a future the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot initiative is promising all residents and businesses by 2040.

With a growing population in Arizona — 3.2 million new residents are expected to come in the next 30 years — plans are beginning to form regarding how Arizona will provide electricity to such a large number of people.

The Natural Resources Defense Council funded a study that compares two possible futures: one where Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power build new gas-fired power plants, and one where almost every utility provider, except the Salt River Project, sources 50 percent of their energy from clean renewable mediums like solar and wind farms by the year 2030.

An energy firm called ICF conducted this study using their Integrated Planning Model and a few variables established by the NRDC. According to Dylan Sullivan, an senior scientist at the NRDC, the IPM is a big deal.

“IPM is a detailed model of the electric power system that is routinely used by the electricity industry and regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to assess the effects of environmental regulations and policy,” Sullivan wrote in his analysis of the study.

He explained that this model is designed to consider almost every possible factor of the electricity system and the effects of its operations. Capacity of power plants, technology performance and maintenance, public demand, government policies, prices of resources, the weather — you name it. From there, it finds the most cost-effective way to meet the needs of Arizona’s growing customer base.

According to the study released in early June, when the 50 percent renewables plan is in effect, the IPM predicts the following:
  • The average electricity bill would be $3 lower each month in 2030, and $5 lower each month in 2040. Combining these savings from across the state would total to more than $4 billion. That’s $4 billion going back into our economy.
  • Arizona would meet future electricity needs with solar projects that are built and run in-state rather than using gas plants that rely on imports from other states. This will create jobs for Arizona residents.
  • The investment in renewable energy and storage can reduce the carbon footprint. It would lower annual carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 by 4.6 million tons, which is the same as the annual emissions from 900,000 cars.
  • Dylan Sullivan, Natural Resources Defense Council

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Claytoon of the Day: The Chump Foundation

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 10:40 AM

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Monday, June 18, 2018

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: Border Edition

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 6:00 PM

On November 15, 2016, I wrote my first post after the presidential election. The headline was Trump Human Rights Erosion And Termination Watch (THREAT Watch). I was afraid of what this nation would become under a Trump administration. At the same time I hoped my fears would prove to be unfounded. I wanted to find, a year or so later, that I had been an alarmist.

Based on what is going on right now at the U.S./Mexico border, the Trump administration has gone beyond the threat of eroding and ending human rights in the country. It has moved into action. We are staring directly into the abyss.

Anyone who condones or rationalizes what the administration is doing at the border to infants, toddlers, boys and girls up to the age of 18, and to parents whose children are being torn away from them, is aiding and abetting the destruction of this country as we know it. I'm sorry, but if you claim that you can retain your sense of decency and not condemn what is being done to children and families in our name, you have already lost part of what makes you a decent human being. You share the guilt with the monsters who put this zero tolerance immigration policy into motion and the border guards who are implementing it.

I have to be honest and admit, as a citizen of this country, I share the guilt and shame as well, even though I condemn what is going on with every fiber of my being.

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#RedforEd Initiative Would Hike Taxes on Rich to Pay for Schools

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 4:30 PM

Tucson High School teachers Marea Janness (left) and Aida Castillo-Flores (right) sign up volunteers for petitioning sites at an INVESTinED gathering on June 6. - TORI TOM
  • Tori Tom
  • Tucson High School teachers Marea Janness (left) and Aida Castillo-Flores (right) sign up volunteers for petitioning sites at an INVESTinED gathering on June 6.

Marea Jenness, a Tucson High School biology teacher, keeps a megaphone in the trunk of her Mercury Mariner. With the Red for Ed movement becoming a staple these days, she stays ready in the event of more protests.

Jenness is one of thousands of Southern Arizonans who support a citizen-led ballot initiative that increases tax rates on high-income earners to address underfunding in public schools.

Proponents estimate the increase would raise $690 million annually. The proposal would increase taxes on individuals who earn more than $250,000 a year and couples who earn more than $500,000.

The coalition needs 150,642 valid signatures by July 5 to place the Invest in Education Act on the November ballot, but they’re shooting for at least 200,000. David Lujan, director of The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, said the group is on track to getting the signatures they need by the deadline.

Invest in Education organizers hadn’t released a statewide count, as of this week, of how many signatures they had gathered so far. But if they can get enough signatures to put it before voters in November, they stand a decent chance of winning at the ballot box, according to a recent poll discussed at a June 6 INVESTinED news conference in Phoenix with the Children’s Action Alliance and other education advocates.

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Claytoon of the Day: Yappy Jesus

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 10:05 AM

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Friday, June 15, 2018

In Which I Find Myself Agreeing With (1) John Huppenthal and (2) The Charles Koch Institute

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 10:00 AM

  • Courtesy of BigStock
[Gulp!] OK, here goes.

I rarely find people I disagree with more fundamentally than John Huppenthal and the Koch Brothers. But sometimes the universe allows for rare moments of alignment. I'm putting these odd moments of agreement with Huppenthal and the Brothers Koch into one post even though they concern very different issues to amplify the weirdness of the moment (also to spare myself the task of doing this twice). And—this is a plus for me—I find our similar positions are at odds with people and organizations I disagree with as fundamentally as I usually disagree with Hupp and the Kochs.

First, John Huppenthal. A story on public radio station KJZZ talks about one of the major downsides of the letter grades Arizona gives to its schools, namely, schools with lower income students tend to get lower grades, which stigmatizes the students, the teachers and the schools. One of the few nearly undisputed facts in educational research is that no matter where you go, students from lower income families tend to do worse on standardized tests than students from higher income families.

Or, as John Huppenthal put it in the story,
"Here we have this letter grading system that comes in and is beating, to put it bluntly, beating the hell out of schools that are serving the most at-risk populations."
John, I couldn't have said it better myself. To be honest, you said it a hell of a lot better than I did.

Huppenthal's statement is followed by one from Lisa Graham Keegan, who thinks the grading system is not perfect but pretty good. Keegan, like Huppenthal, is an ex-Arizona lawmaker and education superintendent. She has continued to be a player in Arizona's education politics, pushing her destructive privatization/"education reform" agenda forcefully and successfully with a succession of Arizona governors and legislatures. So for a brief, happy moment, I find myself allied with Huppenthal against Keegan. (John, who is a regular commenter here, will most likely rain on my parade and explain how I'm distorting his and Keegan's positions, but I'll savor this rare moment of apparent confluence until the two of us lock horns again.)

Then there's the Charles Koch Institute, which — spoiler alert — is on the same side as I am, lined up against the Goldwater Institute. Imagine my surprise.

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Claytoon of the Day: Free Kool-Aid

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 9:15 AM

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Summer Safari Nights

Summer Safari Friday Nights 2018 Date: Every Friday until August 3, 2018 6:00 pm — 8:00 pm… More

@ Reid Park Zoo Fri., May 18, 6-8 p.m., Fri., May 25, 6-8 p.m., Fri., June 1, 6-8 p.m., Fri., June 8, 6-8 p.m., Fri., June 15, 6-8 p.m., Fri., June 22, 6-8 p.m., Fri., June 29, 6-8 p.m., Fri., July 6, 6-8 p.m., Fri., July 13, 6-8 p.m., Fri., July 20, 6-8 p.m., Fri., July 27, 6-8 p.m. and Fri., Aug. 3, 6-8 p.m. 3400 E Zoo Court

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