Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Did JD Mesnard THREATEN to revive #HB2305?

State Rep. Jevan D. Mesnard has threatened to declare war on the 146,000 voters who signed the referendum petition in 2013 to freeze #HB2305.

On Monday, he issued the following email message, sent to every member and staffer in the Arizona House:
From: "J.D. Mesnard" <JMesnard@azleg.gov>
Date: April 14, 2014 at 7:30:16 PM MST
To: ".All House Users" <AllHouseUsers@azleg.gov>, ".ALLSUSER" <ALLSUSER@azleg.gov>
Subject: RE: HB 2665 - two-committees issue / emergency clause
Dear Colleagues,
As you know HB 2593 from last session was interpreted to require separate committees for the Primary and General elections. While that was never the intent of the bill (a point that is not really in dispute), we have nevertheless been dealing with that hassle ever since. Subsequently many of you have come to me, from both chambers and both sides of the political aisle, asking me to move a clarification/fix bill through this body as quickly as possible. I have done my best to oblige. After soliciting input from many of you and incorporating feedback from earlier drafts of the bill from anyone who wished to provide it, I introduced HB 2665.
The bill resolves the two-committee issue moving forward while addressing the various scenarios that different people face because of the two-committee requirement we've had since last September. At the same time, I have done my best to keep the “politics” out of the bill. My goal was to have a clean bill that was bi-partisan or, really, non-partisan in nature. After all, we all benefit from having this issue resolved as quickly as possible. To that end, I included an emergency clause in the bill so that we would not have to continue dealing with two committees once the bill is (presumably) signed. As you are probably well aware, there were not enough votes to preserve the emergency clause during the House vote. Sadly, the bill passed largely along party line for reasons that I still don’t understand to this day. It subsequently moved over to the Senate where an emergency clause was added back on in committee. I am hopeful that the emergency clause stays on there as I would very much like to put this hassle behind us. This is a sentiment that many of you have shared and expressed for the last several months (and I am certainly looking forward to the end of some of your pestering…er, I mean, pushing for this fix!). If the emergency clause gets on the bill then we will have immediate closure. If it does not, then we will continue to deal with this hassle for a few more months. I do not see why we would choose the second option for ourselves. The bill is good policy; it should not be controversial. It is about one issue and one issue only: one committee or two. The emergency clause is about whether we all want to continue dealing with the two-committee headache for months longer or to end it now. I prefer the latter. But it’s up to you.
I am sending this email because there have been a variety of rumors floating around about what is or isn’t happening with my bill. Some even seem to think I have some sort of “nefarious” motives. I find this perplexing given my openness and best efforts to be as fair as possible with what should be a non-controversial bill that we all want to see pass. In addition, some outside entities have encouraged some of you to try to leverage the bill for something else. As I have said from the beginning that I want this bill to be clean, and have tried to keep partisan issues out of it, I will, likewise, not allow it to be leveraged for something else. HB 2665 will stand on its own merits. I simply want to resolve the two-committee issue as quickly as possible, as I know you all do.
So it comes down to this: If the emergency clause gets on in the Senate, and I have enough commitments on the House side to preserve it, you have my word that I will not allow anything else to be included/attached to the bill. This has been my promise from the beginning and has not changed but I am reiterating it now so that it is crystal clear. If, however, the bill moves forward as a “partisan” bill, with insufficient support in the Senate/House to preserve the emergency, then I will, regrettably, be forced to treat it as a partisan bill. As such, I will no longer be concerned about keeping it clean of other partisan policies that some may be interested in adding to the bill. The choice is yours.
Thank you for your time and consideration! Please let me know if you have any questions…
Sincerely,
Representative J.D. Mesnard
Arizona House of Representatives, District 17
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Rep. JD Mesnard is playing hardball, and we believe he's threatening to pass partisan anti-voter laws if his colleagues don't vote for House Bill 2665. As he explains below [above], HB2665 will help candidates like presumed gubernatorial front-runner Doug Ducey avoid getting into trouble with election officials for not keeping separate campaign committees for the primary and general election. Mesnard needs an emergency clause in order to get Ducey and other impacted off the hook. If Mesnard doesn't get his way, he will "regrettably, be forced to treat it as a partisan bill. As such, I will no longer be concerned about keeping it clean of other partisan policies that some may be interested in adding to the bill. The choice is yours." Mesnard issued the threat in an email on Monday sent to all legislative members and staff (see entire email above).

Democratic members we have talked to believe Mesnard is referring to elements of the now-repealed House Bill 2305, the multi-pronged attack on voting rights that Republican legislators passed last session, and then repealed this year after our successful Protect Your Right to Vote Committee referendum put it on ice and qualified it for the November ballot. Several members -- including HB2305 sponsor Senator Michelle Reagan and Rep. Ethan Orr -- have pledged not to pull an end-run on voters by trying to piece-meal HB2305 into law. However Mesnard, House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Andy Biggs have made no such pledge. All Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said when the repeal of HB2305 was debated was a highly parsed statement indicating that he did not know of any efforts to pass the get-tough-on-voters measures individually. But that was several weeks ago.

I'm sharing this with you in hopes that you will publish Mesnard's threat for your readers and viewers, but also endeavor to ask him what "partisan" measures he and his colleagues intend to tack onto HB2665 if he does not get his way. If he was -- as we must presume -- talking about the elements of HB2305, that would obviously be hugely controversial and a cynical and partisan declaration of war on the 146,000 Arizona voters who signed the Protect Your Right to Vote petitions.

Thank you for any consideration and attention to this important issue,

Robbie Sherwood
ProgressNow Arizona and Protect Your Right To Vote Committee
480-246-7944

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Please CALL J.D. Mesnard at (602) 926-4481 AND email him at JMesnard@azleg.gov to ask him to clarify his intentions and let him know what you believe the limits of his action on this matter should be.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Redistricting -- Vindication, three years later UPDATED 4-16-14

The initial spark that led to firestorms a plenty in the 2011 cycle revolved around refusal of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to hire Republican mapping consultant National Demographics Corporation. NDC is headed up by Rose Institute of State and Local Government fellow Doug Johnson, who submitted a grossly deficient proposal in response to the AIRC RFP that spring.

Now we learn that Rose Institute founding director David Alan Heslop has been convicted in a scheme involving bribery and money laundering in California.
The founding director of Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government, per a plea agreement, has pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
David Alan Heslop, of Templeton, entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday, court records show. He will next appear before Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald on June 30 for sentencing, according to online court records.
Per his plea agreement, the remaining eight felony counts against Heslop were dismissed.
Heslop’s attorney, David W. Shapiro, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Heslop faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from his offense, whichever is greatest.
Heslop and three others were indicted in May 2012 in connection with allegations of an elaborate bribery and money laundering scheme involving construction projects for the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians, including an ill-fated casino the tribe was trying to build on its land.
 Former AIRC Commissioner Andi Minkoff wrote letters to the current AIRC and to the California redistricting commission describing the experience the first AIRC had dealing with NDC. Heslop was a principal in NDC when the first AIRC contracted the firm.

Granted, I don't know the extent of Heslop's involvement with NDC in 2011, but the relationship between Heslop and Johnson was longstanding and the record still reflects that NDC's 2011 proposal was grossly deficient.

This should provide complete vindication for the current AIRC and especially its chair, Colleen Mathis for having voted with Democrats McNulty and Herrera to select Strategic Telemetry to consult on the map drawing process nearly three years ago now.

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By the way, the mapping consultant selection was one of the issues in the Leach lawsuit. The case still has seen no action since last fall and is stuck in Maricopa County Superior Court with no trial date. I wonder when Judge Brain will ask counsel for the plaintiffs (Liburdi and Hauser) if Freeman was correct in his speculation, that the suit has been abandoned. If so, the suit should probably just be dismissed.

As an aside, Lisa Hauser's name showed up last week in a notice for the public to submit comments about people being considered for appointment to the Maricopa County Superior Court bench.

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The AP package of redistricting stories apparently will be released piece by piece, from time to time. The latest story reports that some states have tried to remove politics from the process but Arizona's effort fell short. At least Loyola Law professor Justin Leavitt was interviewed for the latest story.
Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey and Washington state also have set up commissions to redraw district boundaries after the new census every 10 years. A handful of others have formed panels to redraw only state legislature seats.
States set up their panels with different outcomes in mind, said Justin Levitt, an associate professor of law at Loyola University in Los Angeles, the creator of a website that tracks state redistricting efforts, http://redistricting.lls.edu/index.php. [...]
Arizona residents voted to give the job of redrawing legislative and congressional district lines to an independent bipartisan commission in 2000, but getting politics out of the process has proved elusive. The commission’s first effort produced a decade long court battle after Democrats argued that the five-member panel did not create enough competitive districts. That court challenge ultimately failed, but new maps drawn in 2012 are back in court. 
From where I sit, corporate media (of which the AP sits squarely in the heart thereof) wrongly suggests that you can take the politics out of an inherently political and adversarial process.

Regardless, Heslop was among the first of "experts" to opine that because competitiveness is last on the list of criteria Arizona's voters approved for guiding the map making process, it was the lowest priority. Based on what we now understand Heslop's values to be, it's no wonder he told the first AIRC "communities of interest" as a factor was more important than competitiveness. He also cleverly recognized that communities of interest apparently equated to "likeminded voting blocs," the antithesis to competitiveness.

Heslop's prioritization in that regard illuminates the motivation of AIRC Commissioners Freeman and Stertz having advocated for selection of National Demographics. It's also fair to speculate about the connection between Sean Noble/Koch brothers' Dark Money having been invested in creation of faux outrage targeting the AIRC in general and Mathis, McNulty and Herrera in particular in 2011.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

NDC president Doug Johnson talked to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in 2012, claiming it was all just a contract dispute.
Johnson described the lawsuits and indictment as merely a contract dispute problem. He said the federal government is prosecuting the case because it involves a sovereign Indian tribe.
"It's essentially a contract dispute the U.S. attorneys are involved in," Johnson said.
According to the indictment, the tribe received federal funds at the time of some of the alleged crimes.
Johnson said Kovall was involved in a number of Rose Institute projects over the years due to his expertise in tribal and environmental issues, and had worked as an environmental lawyer for Arco.
Heslop was the director of the Rose Institute for 30 years, Johnson said.
Interesting to note that Doug Johnson, the guy who drew the maps that ended up giving the Arizona GOP supermajorities in both chambers of the Arizona Legislature thought a scheme involving allegations of substantial fraudulent activity was a simple contract dispute.
The indictment and lawsuits allege the defendants persuaded the tribe to spend tens of millions of dollars it didn't need to so the defendants could benefit.
Allegations
The 48-count indictment alleges a sophisticated scheme in which Bardos would pay Heslop kickbacks from construction contracts he was awarded by the tribe, based on Heslop's and Kovall's recommendation. Heslop would then dole out portions of his alleged kickbacks to Kovall and Shambaugh.
Over the span of three years, Bardos is said to have earned millions of dollars from the tribe for allegedly substandard work. Between May 2007 and June 2008, Bardos allegedly paid Heslop a $683,000 kickback for Heslop's recommending that the tribe hire him to oversee construction projects, according to the Riverside County lawsuit. [...]
Heslop's attorney, Robert Sandler, said his client will be completely vindicated in court.
"He's absolutely innocent," Sandler said. "I've been doing this for a long time, and it's really a remarkable, wonderful thing when you have a client who is innocent."
If Heslop was innocent, why did he plead guilty to conspiracy? It's not like he couldn't afford to pay his defense attorney.

UPDATE 4-16-14

https://slo.edhat.com/site/tidbit.cfm?nid=132242

http://www.pe.com/business/business-headlines/20140408-indian-gaming-third-defendant-pleads-guilty-in-2.8-million-bribery-scheme.ece

The stories linked above reference a 20-page DOJ statement of findings document signed by Heslop. I will try to obtain a copy of that document and will post it when I do.



Monday, April 7, 2014

For what does Yarbrough's "Values Action Team" really stand?

On the first day of the 2014 legislative session, state Sen. Steven Yarbrough (R-LD17/Chandler) introduced SB1062.
Sen. Yarbrough leads a bipartisan group of legislators and citizen group leaders known as the Arizona Values Action Team which supports public policy that is pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-school choice and pro-religious liberty.
First, the "bipartisan" claim is dubious at best. If there actually is tangible team membership, any Democrats would likely only be token and needed solely to blunt the reality of Dominionism being exclusively a Republican political sect.

Second, the Arizona Eagletarian has already made the connection between Yarbrough's VAT and Christian Nationalism or Dominionism.

Terms like Dominionism and Value Action Team might sound innocuous, or possibly even noble (Sean Noble? Nah...) but the SB1062 controversy showed clearly that what this "team" really pushes is government control over personal conduct. Personal conduct that causes NO tangible harm to anyone. Or, as Mike Huckabee put it,
"Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women," Huckabee told his audience at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in downtown Washington. "That's not a war on them. It's a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it." (emphasis mine)
Why is Mike Huckabee, or Steve Yarbrough, or Eddie Farnsworth (who sponsored, in the House, a bill identical to SB1062) so concerned with what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom? Granted, that wasn't the direct subject of SB1062, but Dominionist Republicans have not been shy about that aspect of their legislative agenda for Arizona or America.

So, imagine my surprise when last evening on 60 Minutes, Morley Safer reported on Billion Dollar Art Battle Steeped in WWII History.


Starting at about 3:28 into the video,
Art thought to be worth over a billion dollars. Art piled on shelves. Much of it art the Nazis declared to be degenerate. It was art taken from the walls of museums and from Jewish-owned galleries and collectors. All of it acquired by Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius's father. He was a leading art dealer chosen by Hitler to sell the art to customers abroad for hard currency. Much of it featured in a 1937 degenerate art show in which Hitler wanted to show Germans what he regarded as the decadence and depravity of modern avant-garde art.
Last year, when I posted a quote attributed to a WWII German propaganda minister, there was a little bit of push back. After all, what about Godwin's Law, which applies when Hitler is invoked in an online discussion?
Godwin's law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one's opponent) with Nazis – often referred to as "playing the Hitler card". The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics, or racial superiority, nor, more debatably, to a discussion of other totalitarian regimes or ideologies, if that was the explicit topic of conversation, since a Nazi comparison in those circumstances may be appropriate...
About totalitarian regimes...
Totalitarianism or totalitarian state is a term used by some political scientists to describe a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible.
Can there be any doubt about the natural end result of what Cathi Herrod advocates for and what Yarbrough does his best to implement (when he's not busy skimming taxpayer funding from his School Tuition Organization) by legislation?

If you doubt, consider one of the biggest hot button issues in contemporary America, women's right to make their own health, reproduction and even abortion choices. I have no problem with anti-choice advocates believing that abortion is an abomination. I know NOBODY who think terminating a pregnancy is something to celebrate. But for the STATE (legislatures in Congress and 50 states) to make that decision and mandate that a woman cannot make the decision for herself, IS totalitarian.

Again, I ask you, can there be any doubt that the natural end result of allowing Cathi Herrod and her lackeys, like Steve Yarbrough, to triumph will be a totalitarian state?

Should we be concerned? Not unless we are complacent and ready to abdicate our responsibility as citizens.




If we Rise UP! We WILL overcome.




We will overcome Dominionism. Overcome Citizens United. Overcome McCutcheon.

Friday, April 4, 2014

AP Redistricting story -- timing suspect; tone misleading? UPDATED 4-7-14

On Sunday, March 30, an AP story with Bob Christie's byline, about Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission started showing up on various news websites including local radio station KTAR.com, midwest newspaper Kansas City Star and the news site for the Mohave Daily News (Bullhead City, AZ).

This is all well and good, right? People need to understand and be made aware of the significance of independent redistricting, don't they?

Well generally, AP stories are written for and published about newsworthy events. Remember, news stories are supposed to answer certain questions like WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and less often but still important, HOW and WHY.

So, what newsworthy event did Bob Christie tell people this time? I can't find anything in any of the places I saw (I have a google alert for Arizona Redistricting) that reveal any new issue, event or other happening. Therefore, I am left to guess about why this story was published. The only related items I am aware of is the fact that a full year has transpired since the trial wrapped up in Harris v AIRC.

Oh, and there's that pesky Arizona Legislature and the fact that recent history demonstrates a tendency to, once they pass the budget bills, to attack the most controversial issues. Last year, it was HB2305. The voter suppression provisions lumped together into HB2305 were first introduced very early in the session, but HB2305 was the last bill passed before ending the session in June 2013.

There is no shortage of controversial issues on tap this year, most notably the wholesale undermining of public education by expanding programs to fund wholly unaccountable private schools with taxpayer funds.

The GOP leadership in the legislature may think that we have forgotten about SCR 1003, Periodic Reauthorization of citizen initiatives. This resolution was a clandestine strategy to abolish the Independent Redistricting Commission. Of course, that's not the only thing citizens have enacted that the legislature doesn't like, but they REALLY hate that they don't get to choose their own voters. This fact is fully documented in more than 400 of the 700+ posts on the Arizona Eagletarian.

So, WATCH them like hawks because no bill or resolution is truly dead until they adjourn the legislative session Sine Die.

But there's more...

Christie's story on Sunday included cheap shots made by the first chairman of the AIRC, Steven Lynn. Notably,
Steve Lynn, the commission's chairman during its first 10 years, said the latest commission appeared much more politicized that the one he chaired.
"The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time," Lynn said. "Clearly, we did a better job of it than the current commission. The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time.
He points to the commission's split decisions on consultants, lawyers and the final maps themselves.
"All of those decisions that were made this time around were made 3-2 with the chair siding with the Democrats on the commission," Lynn said. "All of those decisions when I was chair were made 5-0, all inclusive, and they were not political."
Not only is the statement made by Lynn categorically false, the fact that Christie reported Lynn's words as fact is a clear demonstration of journalistic malpractice.

It is no secret to anyone who has paid any attention to Arizona politics over the last four years that the current redistricting cycle entailed a high level of controversy. There is, however, documented record, in the official transcripts and audio/video recordings of the proceedings of the AIRC as well as detailed coverage provided on an ongoing basis, by this blog. The archives to both are neither hidden nor difficult to access. I recommend to Mr. Christie that he familiarize himself with Google search functions. Additionally, other archival resources are no doubt available to the AP of which he might avail himself.

Nevertheless, Lynn's cheap shots, according to the Arizona Capitol Times and it's Yellow Sheet Report, caused AIRC Commissioner Scott Freeman to unleash "Geyser-sized Steam of Frustration."

Here's what Freeman posted on Facebook:
Arizona’s 2001 commission had unanimity on major staffing decisions and approved the final state and congressional maps 5-0 and 4-1. Contrast the 2011, “sham” commission, where all significant votes were 3-2 party-line affairs. The state Democratic party essentially drew the 2011 maps. In fact, that’s something I said when the commission voted on them in January 2012. Instead of maps drawn [insert dramatic music] “in the smoke-filled rooms or down in the basement of the state Capitol,” Arizona got maps that were the product of work by a state Democratic party official and (maybe) a commissioner. During critical mapping periods, this official communicated extensively with one commissioner by phone and met at the home of another. That official even had a direct tie-in to the server of the Commission’s D.C.-based mapping consultant. (I didn’t even have that – and I’m on the Commission!) These commissioners didn’t cop to this behavior during the mapping process. Instead, this information finally came to light after the 2012 election and also during on-going litigation concerning the 2011 maps. It gets worse, but this is FB.
Now, my good friend Mr. Freeman is a fierce litigator (as I understand it) and as such should (and I can reasonably assume DOES) know that a comparison of the 2001 and 2011 commissions based on "unanimity on major staffing decisions" and near unanimity on the final maps is NOT a logical or rational measure of -- as Mr. Lynn said,
"The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time," Lynn said. "Clearly, we did a better job of it than the current commission. The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time. 
It is, however, an indication that Mr. Freeman was lashing out with verbal fury at a situation over which he did not have as much control as he wanted. Every last aspect of his comment is dripping with that fury and frustration. He may have every right to be frustrated. And he certainly has the right of free speech to say what he wants, right? Maybe. Remember, he is not just any Joe Blow. He's a government official, an Independent Redistricting Commissioner.

Remember the brouhaha over the highly partisan Espresso Pundit blogger Greg Patterson's nomination to serve on the Arizona Board of Regents? Last year, Phoenix New Times reporter Ray Stern noted about Patterson,
Patterson let his popular news-and-opinion blog go dark for a year after he was appointed to the eight-year term as Regent by Governor Jan Brewer, implying in his last blog post of 2012 that writing about university and Board of Regents issues could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
Scott Freeman would do well to reflect on his political compadre Patterson's admission. Then again, Patterson was the focus of a potential firestorm of his own making. Freeman is well past his screening, appointment or confirmation.

Freeman's entire rant, while lacking solid legal and factual foundation (he DID have his chance to have his say during the Harris trial more than a year ago), is entirely partisan political raving. He's entitled to such ranting and raving... technically, as a citizen. So, why did Patterson acknowledge the conflict of interest while Freeman -- with a lazy and complicit corporate media -- lets the current redistricting official get away with it unchallenged?

He's only expressing opinions about the impropriety of the actions of his colleagues, right? Isn't he a whistleblower? That might wash except for the FACT that litigation on the issue of allegations of impropriety demonstrated NO violations of law; NO violations of the public trust; NO violations that would allow the slanderous claims made by Steven Lynn and Scott Freeman to find one iota of legitimacy.

Now, what does Freeman conveniently fail to address in his partisan rants?

First and foremost, the role of Koch brothers' funded UNfair Trust and the persistent and insidious role of GOP hacks David Cantelme and Mike Liburdi. While Freeman rants about speculated connections between Democratic redistricting commissioners and others who may have had influence on mapping decisions, did Freeman disclose the number, length, frequency or subject of phone calls he had with Cantelme, Liburdi or convicted felon John Mills?

Oh, sure, Mills wasn't convicted yet when he was communicating with Freeman, his Republican colleague Rick Stertz or with Cantelme or Liburdi. But Mills WAS on the taxpayer-funded payroll of the Arizona House of Representatives ALL the while.

If AP reporter Christie was exercising due diligence on the matter, he likely would have been able to find incumbent (from 2001) moderate GOP state lawmakers who are just as sure about Mills' influence in lumping them in new districts with more extreme right-wing incumbents during that first redistricting cycle. Those moderate GOP incumbents lost their primary elections in 2002 just like Ben Quayle lost his Congressional primary with David Schweikert in 2012. But you don't hear Freeman complaining about Mills.

Anyway, Freeman responded to a comment on his Facebook post:
The public has limited remedies. You can’t vote out those that you did not vote in. The Governor tried to toss the Commission’s chair, but the Arizona Supreme Court essentially countermanded her. (If three words had been added to her removal letter, the court would have had a tougher time restoring the Chair.) Citizens (Republicans) filed two lawsuits, which are in process. In one, a trial was conducted a year ago before a 3-judge panel in federal court. No ruling yet. The other suit has seen no activity since the summer, which could mean many things, including that the suit has been abandoned. Both lawsuits are long shots given the legal standards the plaintiffs must surmount. I’m not sure, however, why the federal court has taken more so long to rule on the case that was tried last year.
and
Former Commissioner Herrera has fled the scene. In litigation, he shamelessly denied exchanging anything other than idle pleasantries with the Dem official. He was then confronted with the phone records showing numerous calls, some very lengthy and late at night during critical mapping periods. These calls were on more than one of his phones, including his mobile. He stammered through the testimony. I'm sure he was viewed as quite a liability and jettisoned. And actually, I don't think they cared about anything too much beyond implementing their designer districts and seeing how far they could go with eliminating incumbents, including one of their own (Rep Patterson). One line move was based upon the location of a commissioner's residence, which was a moment more shocking and unseemly than the Chair's serial phone calls and quid pro quo offer on the mapping consultant.
Now, about those conflicts of interest. Who, in the corporate media dares to call Freeman on what are obviously unseemly and unprofessional remarks?

In fact, the Capitol Times just fanned the flames.

Now, about Steven Lynn's compunction to lie outright (or did he just have a memory lapse, forgetting that his chairmanship wasn't as perfect as he wanted it to be?), a key case in point is found in the 160-page transcript of the AIRC meeting on June 25, 2002. Pertinent to this situation are remarks by then Democratic Commissioner Andi Minkoff, on pages 127-140. Excerpts that illuminate the truth about this situation include (emphases are mine):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, my fellow Commissioners. I ask you to bear with me, because I have a lot to say. It may take a few minutes. 
For the first time, I've written out some remarks. I want to make sure I didn't forget anything. There has been a lot that has happened that has caused me concern. I want to take the opportunity to express some of it to you. [...]
As I said earlier, I intend to vote against the proposed Legislative District map. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain my negative vote.
When Proposition 106 was passed by the voters in the 2000 General Election, I really believed it would result in a significant change in the makeup in Arizona's Legislative and Congressional Districts. I believed the people of Arizona were sending a message that not only were they unhappy with districts drawn by and for incumbent legislators, but they wanted districts in which their votes mattered and in which they had a say in who would represent them in the Legislature. In short, they wanted a choice. I believe that it was our mandate to draw districts that gave them that choice. I do not believe the plan before us is responsive to that mandate. [...]
I believe that the decision by the Commission to preclude further testing and the possibility of creating Competitive District Number 6 in Maricopa County was not only a serious error but violated our mandate under the Arizona Constitution. 
Initially, there was a three-two vote in favor of testing Competitive 6. Then, suddenly, after a break, there was an unexplained reversal of the vote and a four-one vote against any further testing or consideration of the proposed competitive district, an action that may very well have caused those observing our process to look at the trend of events with doubt and confusion.
Perhaps Commissioner Freeman can be forgiven for not having read all of the transcripts from meetings of the 2001 IRC. 

But Steven Lynn's claim that under his chairmanship, everything was conducted out in the open, and that there were no lapses in integrity, are patently false. Record of the proceedings of the 2001 AIRC appears to contain evidence -- or at least probable cause to believe -- that open meeting law was violated in decision processes under Lynn's leadership

Freeman's chosen method of expressing his concern is poignantly contrasted with how Commissioner Minkoff expressed hers. She did so thoughtfully, carefully and on-the-record.

I wish Freeman would have demonstrated the same professionalism in carrying out his duties as a commissioner as Minkoff did. Alas, as another person commented on Freeman's Facebook post, "Politics gets nasty, doesn't it? Doesn't matter where we live."

Democratic Party officials and activists did not throw hissy fits in the form of faux controversies during the first redistricting cycle. They did plan ahead, however, for the next cycle. Evidence abounds showing that the Arizona Republican Party dropped the ball, thinking they had everything already "fixed." With Koch (and other Dark) money, they've been playing catch-up ever since.

The fact of the matter is that because of Cantelme and Mills, the current redistricting commission did not fulfill the voter mandate to provide nearly as many competitive districts as they could or should have. 

One need look no farther than record of the conduct of current GOP state lawmakers (like Senate Pres Andy Biggs) who arrogantly disregard the need to work for the common good and to consider anything other than right-wing excess to see that there is too little electoral competitiveness.

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Bob Christie owes ALL of the people who read his publication of Steven Lynn's lies an apology and a correction.

Scott Freeman owes the people of Arizona the service he swore an oath to provide and to do so without undermining it with partisan innuendo in conflict with said oath.

Perhaps somebody morally owes Arizona taxpayers reimbursement for the brazenly partisan activities carried out by convicted felon John Mills as he served the Arizona Republican Party since the start of the 2001 redistricting cycle.

David Cantelme and Mike Liburdi owe Arizona voters an accounting for where 100 percent of the funding originated for their effort to undermine independent redistricting from the planning stages in 2010 (or earlier) until now.

Last but by no means least, corporate media, including but not necessarily limited to the Arizona Capitol Times (whose parent company is now in bankruptcy because of its involvement in potentially fraudulent mortgage foreclosure processing schemes), KTAR, the Kansas City Star, Mohave Daily News, the Arizona Republic and any other enterprise that may cover the current situation with the AIRC owe their readers, listeners and viewers due diligence when publishing stories purporting to be news.

UPDATE     UPDATE    UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE

Apparently, Christie's story was part of a national package on redistricting, the central focus of which was the GOP has built-in advantage in fight for US House. I don't know how many outlets published the main story along with Christie's. That seems to explain the timing but still doesn't account for lazy reporting former AIRC chairman Lynn's claims as fact.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Immoral Arizona Legislative Leader -- This is why we fight!

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Andy Biggshot, in floor debate on House budget HB2703 waxed eloquent, philosophical and incredibly arrogant. In this clip, he invokes George Washington, saying,
Government is raw power. Government is raw power. Government is not compassionate or merciful. That is left to individuals, but government is raw power where it imposes its will on people.
In a sense, if the quote is true and correct, Biggs is right. Put in perspective however, Washington was not trying to maintain civil society in the 21st Century. He was declaring that a new nation was born and by his use of the power vested in him BY THE PEOPLE, he was letting all the world know that the new nation would not be destroyed by force, from without or within.

But Andy Biggshot isn't the Father of a New Nation. His charge is much different.

By the way, here are a couple of other George Washington quotes for you to chew on:
I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my Country.
In less than a minute and a half, Biggshot makes it very clear that he is NOT interested in promoting the public good. In fact, he used Washington to justify quite the opposite of public good. He clearly espouses neoliberalism and no doubt was jumping for joy at yesterday's McCutcheon ruling by the Supreme Court. Washington also said,
Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
Might he have been intending to warn US (you and me) against scoundrels like Biggs? One more,
Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.
Clearly having betrayed the trust the people of Arizona have put in him as Senate President, Biggs has snuffed out whatever spark of conscience he may once (if ever) have had. It is important to recognize that government IS raw power, and we need, now more than ever, for those lawmakers who do recognize they are charged with serving the public good to Represent.Us more forcefully and vigorously than ever.

In light of McCutcheon, I give you a snippet of what that ruling may mean for us in the near term.



Consider Arizona Republic columnist EJ Montini's reflection, just after Charles Keating died,
I was in the room full of reporters years ago when Charlie Keating, then accused of racketeering, fraud and conspiracy, as well as influence-peddling, was asked by a reporter if his political donations to five U.S. senators, including our own Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Dennis DeConcini, had spurred the politicians to intervene on his behalf.
"I want to say in the most forceful way I can, I certainly hope so," Keating said.
So, Arizona Democrats and anyone ready to end the immoral journey Biggs and his GOP cronies have set us to, RISE UP! 

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By the way, I have another post begging to get written, about redistricting and the AP news story that showed up on Sunday out of the blue. But it's too late tonight for me to do another one. So, be on the lookout for it Thursday evening.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Budget's almost done, what mischief can we expect? Plenty!

By no means will it be a slam dunk getting Gov. Brewer to sign the FY2015 budget that is all but finalized by the legislature, extra $900,000 gift to the private prison industrial complex notwithstanding.

Scuttlebutt at the capitol has it that Senate President Biggs and Brewer may have a deal anyway, with Biggs possibly undoing some of the changes made by the House last week. What the bills will actually say by the time they are delivered to Brewer is still anyone's guess, however.

As the Republic story on the House budget bills indicates, there were some shady dealings going on regarding a $3 billion behavioral health services contract.
The maneuver by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, on behalf of Magellan Health Services, got cellphones buzzing, sent rules attorneys scurrying to the floor of the House of Representatives and held up final work on the House budget package late Thursday night.
In the end, the House reversed its earlier decision and rejected Stevens' ploy to force a re-bid of the contract, which serves 75,000 children and adults with mental-health and substance-abuse problems in Maricopa County.
But the issue is not dead: Stevens and Magellan supporters said they will push their case in the Senate, where the budget debate now turns.
Beside the fact that the legislature in this, and other cases this session, is trying to take over executive branch functions by writing contract specifics into bills, Stevens does NOT represent ANY portion of Maricopa County. So why is HE involved? Can the answer to that be anything other than LOBBYISTS. Can there be any doubt that John Kaites, a former member of the legislature, now a lobbyist for Magellan is pulling Stevens' strings?

Let's see how much of a watchdog the Republic has the balls (or backbone) to be now. It's website says they are going to do even more investigative journalism. Do they really have what it takes to tackle this situation and investigate it deeply enough to root out the shadiness?

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Now, about that $900,000 wet kiss Kavanagh is giving to the private prisons. Craig Harris, Arizona Republic senior reporter, quotes House Minority Leader Chad Campbell,
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell of Phoenix was incensed by the additional money for GEO.
He voiced disappointment on the House floor late Thursday during the budget debate and again Friday, telling The Arizona Republic that the request "came out of nowhere."
Some lawmakers, he said, learned of the addition to the House budget hours before members began voting on it.
Campbell said Kavanagh is responsible for pushing the proposal through the House with support from all but one Republican: Rep. Ethan Orr of Tucson.
"This is somebody getting a handout," Campbell said. "It's unnecessary. This came out of nowhere — I mean that. No one said a word about it. It wasn't in the Senate budget, it didn't come as a request from DOC. There's something really shady here." 
But did it come out of nowhere? I don't think so.

On the Saturday prior to the start of the legislative session (January 11), I posted about our good friend John Kavanagh and his love affair with the private prison industrial complex. That post referenced a column by EJ Montini, who referenced a story by Craig Harris on the private prisons. My post also referenced a rebuttal op-ed by Kavanagh that the Republic published.

Campbell has had to deal with more than 750 House bills and resolutions, not to mention the number of Senate bills that passed and then had to be considered by the House. Might Harris, whose beat apparently includes covering prison issues, have remembered and referenced the three items published by the Republic in January on this subject? Gosh, my beat doesn't even cover private prisons and I remembered it.

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Now, we can expect the legislature to be finished with the budget possibly in just a day or two. What happened last year after they finished the budget? HB2305, for one thing.

We KNOW that there are a number of controversial bills that either or both chambers have been sitting on for a some time. I would be surprised if we do NOT see them trying to sneak several of those measures through, just like Kavanagh tried to do (and may yet have succeeded) in giving some sugar ($900,000 worth) to the private prisons.

EVERY single controversial issue could be on the table, INCLUDING individual portions of what was included in HB2305, including Montenegro's (HB2281) companion bill to SB1062 (pun intended), to expansion of the taxpayer giveaway to private schools, to expansion of Yarbrough's nest egg (STO bill, HB2291) and many more.

So, BE ON THE LOOKOUT. You can count on the Republican legislature vigorously trying to sneak through some bad bills.

Friday, March 28, 2014

AZ Govt Budget -- wonder if Brewer will sign it; Mendez explains his opposition

To many, watching legislative debates can be tremendously dull. They certainly are not scripted by television producers wanting to keep viewers captivated. But in some ways, it's better reality TV than what passes off as reality on American television these days.

However, Speaker Andy Tobin, who is running for Congress this year, may have a sore arm from bending it so far to pat himself on the back claiming these budget bills are so great for Arizona. That claim, of course, is bullshit, which is also a fair way to describe some reality shows on broadcast television.

On the other hand, there were some gems from tonight's debate. One was state Rep. Juan Mendez' (D-LD26/Tempe) explanation of his vote in opposition to the "feed bill" (primary budget bill HB2703). A rough transcript of that explanation is posted below, along with additional detail on what Mendez wanted to see in the budget.

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Too many people have shared their stories with me, too many people who soon might have to find some other means of health care after they find themselves at the end of their 5-year lifetime enrollment cap on AHCCCS, while still at the edges of so many other decisions, crucial and now alone as we vote for a budget that not only turns our back towards those in need but leaves us all with a deficit next year.
All but guaranteeing that the light at the end of our silo-ed Human Services is turned off as their budgets have been choked or bled while we recklessly neo-liberally sign blank check tax breaks trying to convince the public that there are "Job Creators" who sit on thrones blessing us with jobs. When we all know a healthy working class who can contribute to our economy with real demand is what creates jobs.
Rich people investing less taxes into our state does not create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small.
What does lead to more employment is a circle-of-life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers with healthcare and a living wage can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring.
A healthy consumer is far more of a job creator than some perverse selfish ivory tower removed from society ideology.
I ask you to think about your vote. Please do not toss cutbacks to insurance corporations who've already partnered with our state and cannot guarantee to bring more jobs than the ones they’re already bringing.
I ask that you envision our state and your role as something more than only limited to administering poverty and managing social discord so that neither interferes with corporate profits.
Because too many students from underfunded schools who will soon be playing Hunger Games for funding under the title Student Success have shared their frustration for the lack of investment in their potential and for the blindness that refuses to acknowledge that the new national geography of jobs is based on the locations which can turn out the most college educated workers.
States with a higher percentages of skilled workers offer high wages not just because they have many college educated residents and these residents earn high wages.
A worker’s education has an effect not just on her own salary but on the entire community around her. The investment in crucially preparing all of our students for success and not just those already succeeding changes our local economy in profound ways, affecting both the kinds of jobs available and the productivity of every worker who lives there, including those who do not choose higher education. 
The absence and uncertainty of investment in our community is what ultimately reduces the number of competitive industries which choose to do business with us. Which limits what we can offer to retain students after we invest in their education.
We must scrap this budget and put together a more respectful budget. 
Childcare Subsidy:
Funding for the childcare subsidy which will take many low-income working poor families off the waiting list and provide those families with subsidies for childcare.
Since 2008, the state has reduced spending on childcare subsidies by more than $70M.
The number of low income working poor families receiving subsidies has been reduced from 27,400 to 7,600 since 2004.
More than 400 childcare centers and regulated in-home childcare providers have closed since 2012.
Housing Trust Fund:
Funding for the Housing Trust Fund will provide for the development of affordable permanent and transitional rental housing units, homelessness prevention, aid for disaster-related housing needs, funding for the rehabilitation of existing units, and developing and preserving housing in rural Arizona and on tribal lands.
Dental Coverage under AHCCCS:
During the recession, dental programs that existed under AHCCCS were eliminated. One was the emergency dental program for the regular AHCCCS population. ER visits for oral pain and infection have skyrocketed in the last several years due to the elimination of the emergency dental program. Reinstating this benefit will shift these patients back to dental offices, which are equipped to provide appropriate treatment and services, and will reduce the cost shifting and treatment burdens on ERs and hospitals.
We must put together a budget that grows the kind of environment that businesses, which are competing for educated workers saddled with debt are proud to move to.
If we want someone to move their business to Arizona that business has to ask their workers to put their kids through our overwhelmingly underfunded schools.
If we want workers to move here for education or work they need to know they are protected with more than only 5 years of AHCCCS.
Please recognize how this budget limits our shared prosperity.
A budget you can force past us today means nothing if it undermines the conditions on which prosperity tomorrow depends. 
Ask yourself if your vote today is to ensure that our shared long term public goods are not undermined by short term private interests.
I understand the extreme right has been active in championing the pursuit of unbounded consumer freedoms, elevating consumer sovereignty above social goals and actively encouraging the expansion of the market into different areas of people’s lives.
Precisely what we’re told government isn’t supposed to do.
With a responsibility to protect jobs and to ensure stability ask yourself if your vote is securing our shared prosperity and not prioritizing the economic growth of one sector or the bleeding of another.
Instead of a state narrowly framed as the protector of market freedom in the unbounded pursuit of profit over people lets work on a meaningful vision of protecting our shared prosperity.
Our role of government should be to provide the capabilities for people to flourish within our ecological reality, our budget should reflect more vision.
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Now, the budget bills go back to the Senate. Those that are not identical to the Senate version will be subject to a final vote in that chamber. The Arizona Republic quoted Sen. Majority Leader John McComish (R-LD18/Ahwatukee) as saying, "My belief is we'll swallow hard and vote it out."