Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Arizona UPRISING -- Anatomy of a Stone Wall or Doomed to Repeat History?

Once upon a time, in the great and progressive land of AZ, lived an ugly, wicked governor. Central casting, looking for someone who had already played the role, apparently took one of the characters from the Wizard of OZ and installed her on the Ninth Floor of the Arizona State Capitol. Her name was Jan.

Looking to out do her triumphant rise to glory, when she signed SB 1070 into law in 2010, Jan set her sights on an even bigger prize, re-instituting the Spoils System of state employee personnel management.

Jan, in her "wisdom" thought she could also out do Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Tea Party and Koch brothers' darling. Mr. Walker, had concocted a scheme almost immediately upon taking office in January 2011 to eliminate the right of state employees to collective bargaining.

But Scott Walker misunderestimated the resolve of the people of his state, who had a rich tradition of organized labor. To make a long story short, in order for the people of Wisconsin to hold the arrogant new governor accountable, they rallied around the clock for weeks at at time -- literally. (To review the history of the last year in Wisconsin, I urge you to read UPRISING by John Nichols).

The Wicked Witch of AZ, er, Governor Jan, thinks she can out do Scott Walker. Perhaps because she thinks the people of Arizona have less regard for organized labor. Perhaps her SB1070 victory in 2010 made her think she was invincible. Whatever her reasons, Jan has embarked on a journey to undo one of Arizona's progressive political traditions* by eliminating the Merit System of Personnel Management for state employees.

But I digress.


In December 2010, Brewer offered the proposal citing a Goldwater Institute report as proof the current system is broken.

In 2011, interested parties began making Public Records Requests (the Arizona version of FOIA or Freedom of Information Act requests) to find out what Brewer had up her sleeve.

Not wanting to tip her hand, Brewer's lackeys refused to disclose. Those interested parties eventually sought the intervention of the Arizona State Ombudsman.

Our role is to help people who are having a problem with an agency of Arizona state government or a public access dispute with a state or local governmental agency.
We help by first listening to the person's complaint. We then discuss their rights, options and explain the programs/procedures that may already be in place to resolve the problem. In some cases that may be all the help the person needs.
In other cases we work with the agency on a citizen's behalf to find a remedy that is fair and appropriate.
We also have the authority to conduct a formal investigation if the seriousness of the case warrants.

In a 14-page report culminating a nearly year long investigation, the Ombudsman concluded that the Arizona Department of Administration and the Governor's Office both improperly refused to comply with the records requests on this subject.

Ironically, ADOA and the Governor cited Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission v Fields, 206 Ariz. 130 (App. Div. 1, 2003), claiming Legislative Privilege as justification for refusing to disclose.  I will not now get into why this is ironic. Rather I will refer you to Arizona Eagletarian posts from October and November 2011 for background.

If you want more detail on Jan Brewer's stonewalling on this public records request, read the Ombudsman's report.


* In my initial research, I found reference to the Arizona Legislature, in 1969 passing a law authorizing and on January 1, 1970 Maricopa County enacting a Merit System.
The purpose of the Merit System is to provide a uniform and equitable system of personnel administration for employees in the Maricopa County classified service that is based on merit principles and free from political patronage.
Excerpt from a legal dictionary on Patronage:

The patronage system thrived in the U.S. federal government until 1883. In 1820 Congress limited federal administrators to four-year terms, leading to constant turnover. By the 1860s and the Civil War, patronage had led to widespread inefficiency and political corruption. Where patronage had once been confined to the cabinet, department heads, and foreign ambassadorships, by the 1860s low-level government positions were subject to patronage. (emphasis added) 

Now, about the notion of being doomed to repeat the lessons of history...
Let me recite just a lesson or two that Arizonans should consider when deciding whether to allow Brewer to succeed in her insidious quest to make all state employees "at-will:"

  • In the 1990s (which is also when this (ALEC-related) notion of eliminating the merit system was talked about with increasing frequency), Wall Street was wooing Congress with talk of how antiquated Glass-Steagall was. Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999. George W Bush was installed as President as a result of the 2000 election. By the end of Bush's second term, the ramifications of the Glass-Steagall repeal were unavoidable and Wall Street suffered a catastrophic meltdown.
  • AZSCAM, an outgrowth of hubris and lack of accountability in the Arizona Legislature is but one scandal highlighted in this story on
  • Arizona in 2011, especially from June 30 until December was one humongous melodrama of GOP abuse and power grabs regarding Independent Redistricting.
If you think that Jan Brewer has ANY concept of moderation or "self-control" when it comes to exercise of political power then I have some Pacific Ocean front property in the West Valley that I'd love for you to consider buying.

Jan Brewer CAN be held accountable to the people of Arizona but only by way of judicial decisions or threat of citizens organizing to exercise civil liberties. John Nichols was not just whistlin' Dixie when he wrote that:

It is certainly true that nothing so horrifies today's false constitutionalists as the actual exercise of civil liberties. -- UPRISING, page 19
In Wisconsin, more than ONE MILLION voters signed recall petitions demanding removal of Scott Walker from the governorship.

Jan Brewer KNOWS that she stirred up a lot of discontent last fall when she tried to decapitate the AIRC. She also knows that had she not decided to cool her jets (rather than continue trying to usurp the AIRC) she would have galvanized voters here. Just weeks after Russell Pearce was successfully recalled, by the way. A Brewer recall is still a possibility. If she overreaches, it becomes even more likely.

How many Arizonans rallied at the Capitol for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday a couple of decades ago?

How many Arizonans rallied at the Capitol to protest SB 1070?

Jan Brewer does not think very many people will be upset if she succeeds in re-instituting the Spoils System.

She might want to play chicken with Arizona's working class, just like the GOP supermajority is doing with the AIRC this week.

Will you let her get away with it?

The revolt in Wisconsin... had its truest roots in the long hot constitutional summer of 1787 and the even longer striving to form a republic where citizens would have the authority to check and balance the factions that might turn the governing process into a tool of the economic elites.
America is still occupied with the great struggle between the Madisonian faithful, operating on the founding premise that the people are the only certain defenders of the republic, and those who would consolidate power for political and financial gain.   UPRISING, page 23

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