Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sustainability -- AZ Republic can't see the Forest because of Burning Garbage

Since converting over to its paywall system of access for its online news and editorial proclamations, our state's largest newspaper seemed to be finding its voice on an issue or two. However, in its lead editorial for Sunday, September 30, the Arizona Republic has suddenly caught a case of laryngitis.

In overanalyzing (nitpicking and finding fault where they want to find fault and ignoring the KOOKY elephants in the room regarding) individual candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), the editorial board (bored?) becomes selectively oblivious to the ramifications of its recommendations.

How quaint the zingers, no doubt devised by the Republic's chief KOOK (and ALEC bottle washer) Doug MacEachern, aimed at Democratic incumbent commissioner Paul Newman.
Newman, meanwhile, is a fierce and provocative partisan. It is difficult to fathom work getting done at the commission with a microphone anywhere within Newman's reach.
Here, the editorial board's own fierce partisan(s) project their counterproductive nature onto Newman. The incumbent has been a fierce and provocative ADVOCATE for developing our state's most abundant renewable energy source (SOLAR) into usable electricity and for protecting the precious air, water and other key resources for the quality of life of Arizonans.

ACC chairman Gary Pierce and incumbent Brenda Burns are NOT up for re-election this year. But if voters succeed in re-electing Bob Stump and putting another former state senate president (Bob Burns) on the commission, that will mean FOUR current or former ALEC members.

Newman is not the only Democratic incumbent unreasonably targeted by this incredibly narrow-sighted action by the Republic. They give Sandra Kennedy a backhanded compliment saying her negotiating skills seem better suited to the state legislature than to the ACC.

The Republic's assessment of Democratic candidate Marcia Busching is legitimate and very much on the mark.
Busching would bring a strong reputation for thorough, studious preparation earned on the Clean Elections commission, another complex public service. She already is almost as versed in Corporation Commission issues as the incumbents.
However, NOWHERE in the editorial does the newspaper address what will actually happen if, in January 2013, the ACC is comprised of Gary Pierce, Brenda and Bob Burns, Bob Stump and Marcia Busching. NOWHERE. And like a lot of what has taken place in Arizona politics over the last few years, the ramifications of an ACC with this membership ARE foreseeable.

In the lead up to the paywall conversion, Republic Media executive vice-president Randy Lovely touted the Republic's role as "your primary source for government accountability and investigations." A welcome development, IF it IN FACT becomes what it wants us to believe it is.

Yet, in THIS editorial, when endorsing Bobs Burns and Stump (there has to be a meme in there somewhere), the Republic BLINDLY claims that Stump is "widely considered the most cerebral current commissioner." If the Republic's ACC beat reporter believes that, he has NOT been paying attention to the action. While Stump boasts a Harvard education on his resume, he is generally the least engaged of the current five commissioners.

When the Arizona Eagletarian reported, earlier this month, on CRONY CAPITALISM that runs rampant at the state capitol, the story included video footage of Bob Stump boasting about the greatness of burning garbage in west Phoenix. Trash Burner Bob Stump's "cerebral" nature thinks it is perfectly acceptable to subject us to breathing smoke generated by burning plastic and other toxic materials into prevailing winds that would carry it over all or most of the Greater Phoenix area and into Eastern Arizona.



For the Republic to report that Jan Brewer has appointed more partisan judges than the previous several governors is nice to know. But what can we do with that information? This year, NOT MUCH. The front page story about Sheriff Arpaio's failure to protect child victims of sex crimes IS something we can use this year. Hopefully, it will help Maricopa County voters recognize the need to replace him.

But for the state's largest newspaper, whose columnists have been decrying the KOOKOCRACY for years (dating back to when Jon Talton still wrote for the Republic), to endorse Trash Burner Bob Stump and Bob Burns (who Brewer also appointed to the Appellate Court Commission on Appointments, which screens applicants for judgeships) is nothing short of journalistic malpractice.




Redistricting -- Litigation: latest IRC briefs filed

In the federal court lawsuit filed by the plaintiff group headed up by Wes Harris (Case 2:12-cv-00894-ROS-NVW-RRC), alleging that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission unlawfully diluted the voting strength of Republican voters, the IRC filed two briefs on Friday, September 28.

  • Response (a 4-page document) to plaintiffs' rule 56(D) motion; and
  • Reply in support of request for judicial notice (a 5-page document)
Previously, plaintiffs had filed the rule 56(D) motion hoping to get the IRC motion to dismiss denied. 

The rule 56(D) motion, according to the IRC brief, is a stalling tactic without merit. The Arizona Eagletarian, on August 9 included excerpts from the IRC motion to dismiss this case, citing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as saying this kind of case is “more likely to encourage politically motivated litigation than to vindicate political rights.” Scalia's observation certainly seems to be on the mark here.

Plaintiffs (by way of counsel David Cantelme) opposed the IRC request for judicial notice claiming such a request is only reasonable when the items subject to the notice are not in dispute. Cantelme says the items, in this case, are very much in dispute. 

In due time, we will get word from the court on what will be denied or dismissed or still be subject to court consideration in this action. This may be the case subject to a court hearing on October 31. Yes, it IS difficult to keep the lawsuits straight in my mind.

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In the meantime, Wednesday morning, the Arizona Court of Appeals will hear the open meeting case. I plan to attend and will post about it later that day (or evening).


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vernon's coming out to play!

Last week, Republican Congressional candidate Vernon Parker seemed pretty reluctant to cross verbal swords with his Democratic opponent Kyrsten Sinema. One of the two will represent the voters and citizens of Arizona's newest District in the 113th Congress beginning in January 2013.

Yesterday, Parker's campaign issued a press release in response to Sinema's invitation six days prior to debate on education priorities.

PHOENIX -- Congressional Republican Candidate Vernon Parker will go head-to-head with his Democratic opponent in a televised debate next month hosted by Channel 8 Horizon. The forum will provide an opportunity for Parker to outline his plans and goals for CD9 and to juxtapose his position with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s radical leftist agenda.
Just last week, Sinema challenged Vernon Parker to a debate about education. And while Parker believes education should be a pivotal element of the debates, he does not believe it should be the only element. Parker believes voters in CD9 deserve to know where both candidates stand on the issues important to them, including how both candidates plan to get the economy back on track and Arizonans back to work. 
That press release was followed by a letter from Vernon to Kyrsten:

September 24, 2012
Kyrsten Sinema
23 E Baseline Rd. D-202
Tempe, AZ 85283

Dear Kyrsten,
Thank you for your letter on September 18 requesting a debate on television. Today I have informed KTVK and KPNX that I will participate in their proposed debates.
I sincerely look forward to debating you on all of the issues including education.
As you know, during your time in the Arizona Legislature our kids have continued to fail at the basics. According to NAEP only 32% of Arizona 4th graders are proficient or advanced in reading skills, and only 35% are proficient or advanced in math skills. That means our education system is failing nearly 70% of our kids. It’s appalling.
However during your time in the Legislature you focused your energy on passing “medically accurate” sex education, in fact you introduced this legislation nearly every year. While I agree sex education is important, even more important is to teach our kids to read, write, and do math. I believe the people of Arizona would agree with me.
Sadly for Arizona kids, this is just another example of you putting your radical agenda above their needs.
I support educational choice, bringing innovation to the classroom, holding teachers accountable, ensuring funding is protected for public schools, protecting and increasing Pell Grants and making sure money destined for the classroom isn’t wasted by Washington bureaucrats. In Congress, I will work to reform NCLB as it clearly is broken, and push for constant testing which will allow for immediate remediation so that our kids can get the educational intervention they need and don’t fall drastically behind. I will enumerate even more priorities I have for education reform in the weeks to come.
I look forward to these debates and will see you on the trail.
Sincerely,
Vernon Parker
Now, what do the press release and letter REALLY tell us about Vernon Parker and his campaign?

First, Vernon Parker is short on answers and long on wedge issues. Under the guise of civility and politeness, the first thing he does is throw an inflammatory bomb attempting to define Sinema as a "radical leftist." Of course, how credible can such claims be when Sinema has shown tremendous ability to overcome obstacles as a lawmaker. From her campaign website:
Sinema brings passion and knowledge to the causes she fights for – and a unique ability to win. In 2011, Kyrsten was lauded by the Arizona Republic for her “remarkable” ability to “partner with Republicans in both the House and Senate” to pass legislation while remaining “a staunch defender of key Democratic priorities.” 
When you examine her record in the Arizona Legislature, it will be difficult to believe the outrageous and poorly constructed claims that Parker makes about Sinema. Consider also Sinema's book, Unite and Conquer, which has been out since 2009. A reader review posted on Amazon in 2009:
If someone is starting out in politics and wants to learn, from Kyrsten's experience, both how to fail at gaining legislative victories -- and MORE IMPORTANTLY how to succeed -- then this is a must-read primer. Funny at times, this is a well-written manifesto by an up-and-coming politician who's learning how to succeed in building coalitions. In fact, any reader will benefit from taking on board her ideas.
It is refreshing when a politician is willing to address her failures and learn from them, as well as showing how she learned to succeed.

The television ads Parker and/or Republican PACs and SuperPACs are running on his behalf are even more "out there" than what is in the press release. Ironically, "out there" is how they are trying to portray Sinema. But it's going to backfire on them.

Beyond that, I'm not going to have to defend Sinema or any of her positions on issues. She will do that very well for herself. Forcefully, effectively, without raising her voice. But clearly, Parker will continue to inadvertently define himself in ways that may have appealed in 2010 to the Tea Party. But this is NOT 2010 and the Tea Party is already an anachronism.

The verbiage in the press release is intriguing enough and tells us plenty about Parker. The letter however, is interesting in that something written by professional communicators appears amateurish and unprofessional.

The first acronyms -- KTVK and KPNX -- are easily decoded by anyone in the Phoenix area who reads the letter. Those are the call letters for two television stations, Channels 3 and 12 respectively. If Parker's campaign did not intend the letter to be read by anyone except the addressee (Sinema), leaving that explanation out would be no problem. Since Parker's campaign released the document to others (it was posted on Facebook by someone known as AZGOP), that assumption begins to falter.

The next two acronyms are a bit more problematic. What exactly is NAEP? Now, I'm not that clueless. I can do a Google search and make an educated guess. But there are multiple possibilities. Again, Parker's press release and letter to Sinema, either were written or at least proofread and approved by the campaign Communication Director.

By the way, in order for me to fully decode Parker's letter, I would also have to guess, or search or ask someone what NCLB he was talking about. My hunch is that it is the No Child Left Behind Act. But, with Parker having a full time, highly trained communication director on staff, why should I have to guess? Doesn't that enhance the probability of misunderstanding?

Parker's communication director is Alyssa Pivirotto.  The Ms. Pivirotto who so eloquently guided Wil Cardon to victory over Jeff Flake in the Republican primary for US Senate. Ooops, sorry, Cardon did NOT beat Flake -- despite spending several million of his own dollars on the campaign.

How well did Cardon's negative ads work for him? By the way, on June 8 Channel 10 ran the following news story about Cardon's negative ad strategy. It's quite enlightening. Pivirotto's Linked-in profile says she started as communication director with Cardon in May. So, her fingerprints are all over the ad Channel 10 reports about.


Of course, Vernon Parker is not Wil Cardon. But he did hire Cardon's communication director. And it's pretty clear that Pivirotto's negative campaign style is on display already. As is her lack of attention to detail.

Democratic campaign veteran Barry Dill is in the Channel 10 clip and provides key insight. He says negative ads work BUT only when they are true. Exactly HOW FAR over the line have Parker and those financing ads on his behalf already gone?

What have we learned about Vernon Parker so far?

We know from his written communications that he wants to APPEAR to campaign civilly, but very much will address the shiny objects known as wedge issues rather than compete with Sinema on the essence of his ideas.

To look macho, Parker says he wants to cover all of the issues, not just education, when they appear on Arizona Horizon (tentatively scheduled for October 18). But that's just another shiny object.

Arizona Horizon is a half hour program that generally doesn't go more than 25 minutes. Having appeared on the KAET Channel 8 current affairs broadcast myself in January, I can tell you that time goes by in what seems like the blink of an eye. At best, we will see each candidate make a few very superficial points on more than one issue or maybe get to discuss in a little bit of depth one issue, maybe two.

There will be so much more to write about on the CD9 race in the days and weeks to come.

Stay tuned to the Arizona Eagletarian to get beneath the surface and explore what is really taking place.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Hey Vernon, Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are! UPDATED 9-22-12

The most high-profile Congressional race in Arizona features two well educated, very bright candidates that media outlets and non-profits are practically falling all over themselves to showcase for Phoenix area voters, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker.

Both are political veterans seemingly with a lot they want to tell voters about themselves. Sinema has served in the Arizona Legislature. Parker has been Mayor of hoity toity Paradise Valley.

Both have law degrees. Both started their collegiate careers at community colleges. Both have compelling personal stories.

The Arizona Republic describes the race thus:

Republican Vernon Parker and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, emerging from hard-fought primaries in the newly created 9th Congressional District, have wasted no time lacing up their gloves for the Nov. 6 general election.
Conservative blog site Red State calls Parker a "rising star."
The GOP candidate is rising star Vernon Parker, a charismatic conservative with experience as a successful mayor, and as an official in both Bush 41 and 43 Administrations. His campaign has focused on creating jobs and restoring our nation’s economic growth.

With all of this set up for a dynamic Congressional campaign between two apparently very capable individuals, I have to wonder why Mr. Parker is CHICKEN to go face-to-face or toe-to-toe with Sinema. Is he REALLY afraid to debate a girl?

That's not to demean Sinema. I have every confidence that she would make me look silly if I were to debate her face to face on any of the issues relevant to the CD9 Congressional race today. But I still would owe it to the voters to do it anyway.

If Vernon Parker is so easily intimidated by a Democratic opponent, could he be strong enough to take a stand against the leaders of his Congressional caucus even if his conscience told him they were wrong?

How do I know that Parker has been playing the role of the chicken?

Each of the following organizations or media outlets have approached both campaigns. A group that meets regularly for lunch may be able to accommodate one candidate if the other does not show up, but advocacy groups like Children's Action Alliance and media outlets do not want to appear biased for either side and will only make the time if both candidates commit and show up.

Each of the following have reportedly approach both campaigns but have not been able to make arrangements to have Parker appear.
  • National Association of Retired Federal Employees (Sinema appeared, Parker a NO SHOW)
  • Children's Action Alliance 
  • University Club Foundation 
  • Arizona Republic/KPNX Channel 12 
  • KAET Channel 8, PBS - Horizon 
  • KNXV, ABC Channel 15 
  • KSAZ, FOX Channel 10
  • KTVW, Univision Channel 33
  • KJZZ Radio FM 91.5


On Tuesday (Sept 18), Sinema challenged Parker to a debate on education.

Today Arizona 9th Congressional District candidate Kyrsten Sinema challenged her opponent Vernon Parker to a debate on education, delivering a letter to his campaign.
“Education is central to our economic future and to the next generation’s prospects, ” said Sinema. “People deserve to hear candidates for Congress lay out our ideas and our concerns.

That day, I called Parker's campaign office and spoke with a young man who identified himself as "Joe" and verified that Parker had received the letter. I asked if Parker was going to participate in such a forum with Sinema. He said it was unlikely Parker would be able to schedule a time for it. Another young man, "Trent" said the same thing. They gave me the phone number for a newly hired press relations person named Alyssa Pivirotto.

Late Wednesday, I was finally able to speak with Ms. Pivirotto. Much smoother than either Joe or Trent, but she was equally non-committal. She said that she would have to talk with people who will not be available before late Friday about the possibility of setting up a debate on education.

Two years ago, to the day, a California newspaper reporter opined about then GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman refusing to sit down with anyone from the San Francisco Chronicle.
This time, not only did we get the most passive-aggressive of all kiss-offs — the dreaded scheduling conflict — she kind of rubbed it in. (emphasis mine)
“We’re doing lots of editorial board meetings. I met with the Sacramento Bee this morning, I met with the LA Times yesterday, I think we’re at the San Jose Mercury News this week,” Whitman said. “So, it’s just a matter of how much time I have to do editorial board meetings versus town hall meetings, versus policy meetings, versus other things. So, one giant schedule for the next 45 days and we just had to pick and choose what we thought was, you know, what we could do with the time available.”
I had told Ms Pivirotto that I needed to hear back from her on Thursday (yesterday). She said that there was no way anything could be worked out by then. I said I understood that it would take time to make specific arrangements, but it shouldn't take that long to decide to accept the invitation. I even called her late Thursday afternoon (left a voice mail message).

Crickets.

The one big question, besides "will you accept the challenge" I had hoped to ask Pivirotto is "where exactly will Parker be appearing for the next seven weeks to engage voters directly?"




If what RedState says about him is true, then WHY is Vernon Parker so afraid of Kyrsten Sinema?

So afraid that he refuses to accept FREE MEDIA?!

Of course, Parker is welcome to prove me wrong -- by accepting Sinema's invitation and those of other groups and broadcast media.

UPDATE

Vernon Parker's press relations person, Alyssa Pivirotto had indicated to me the last time we spoke (Wednesday, 9/19) that she would get back to me after talking with the unnamed individuals who would be able to decide whether Vernon Parker would accept the invitation/challenge to debate issued by the Sinema campaign. She said she'd be able to talk with them by Friday.

It is now Saturday and there has been no response. I have not heard back from Ms. Pivirotto nor from Joe or Trent.

What is Vernon Parker afraid of?


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Heist: Who Stole the American Dream" to be Broadcast October 2



Yesterday, I learned that Frances Causey's documentary film, Heist: Who Stole the American Dream will be broadcast October 2 on Link-TV.

Frances Causey is on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Center for Investigative Journalism and was a consulting producer on John Dougherty's documentary Cyanide Beach.

Frances Causey is a documentary filmmaker and public interest journalist who began her career with CNN where she spent 14 years as both Senior National Desk Editor and Field Producer. Frances was a senior member of a team honored with two News and Documentary Emmys for coverage of the Olympic Park and Oklahoma City bombings. Her latest film Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? is being distributed worldwide and will premiere on American television on October 2, 2012. Frances was recently honored with Canada’s Women’s International Film and Television Jury Award for her work on Heist.
Reviews include:

HEIST..."has the virtue of taking the long view of a crisis that recent films like “Inside Job” and “Too Big to Fail” have only sketchily explored. It makes a strong case that government regulation of business is essential for democracy to flourish. It makes a strong case that government regulation of business is essential for democracy to flourish." --   Stephen Holden, New York Times
"HEIST earnestly paints the picture of a democracy slowly and methodically being nudged toward oligarchy with help from all sides." -- Mindy Farabee, LA Times 
"Perhaps the best film yet about the roots of today’s economic conditions in the U.S., domination of public policy by corporate interests, and grassroots resistance that has emerged in the past few years." -- TheWorkSite.org

A CNN Interview with Frances Causey



Be not mistaken, we CAN take back our country and the economy from the plutocrats and encroaching oligarchy. We will NOT do so with third party politics, though there are people involved today with the Green Party and Libertarian Party who have ideas that can contribute to the revolution. But ultimately the revolution must be, and can only succeed when it is a revolution of ideas.

It will take resolute focus and determined political action within the system we have now. But overthrowing the fundamental structure of American government is a fools dream. To the contrary, a number of steps that have already been initiated must be taken to fulfillment.

First and foremost, Move to Amend, overturning the Citizens' United ruling by the Supreme Court, must be accomplished.

Link TV can be found on Dish Network Channel 9410, Direct TV Channel 375, and some cable and closed (government and educational institution) television systems. When I learn the scheduled broadcast time, I will blog again about this movie.




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Redistricting -- Litigation update

On Friday, September 7, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission filed a response in support of its Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit brought in federal court by the Legislature which seeks to get the entirety of Independent Redistricting in Arizona declared unconstitutional.

Previously the AIRC, in its Motion to Dismiss, cited case law showing that the Elections Clause in the US Constitution has been construed by federal courts to mean the legislative process including citizen initiative and referendum. This latest brief expands on that point.
...the Supreme Court long ago, however, established that the Elections Clause does not impose restrictions on a state’s lawmaking process. Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355, 367-68 (1932). Instead, the Elections Clause gives states broad authority to regulate federal elections, while also establishing Congressional authority to preempt state requirements. Gonzalez v. Arizona, 677 F.3d 383, 391 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc) (citing Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S. 549, 554 (1946)). Because the Elections Clause does not favor a state legislature over decisions of its citizens, or other lawmaking processes established in a state constitution, the Legislature’s claim should be dismissed.
-- snip --

Despite the Legislature’s argument to the contrary, the Supreme Court has never held that the Elections Clause’s use of the term “Legislature” grants exclusive authority to each state’s legislative body to draw congressional lines. Rather, the Court has held that this term refers to the state’s legislative process, as defined by its constitution, and that a state retains authority to define the lawmaking process it will use to regulate the times, places and manner of congressional elections in accordance with the Elections Clause. Smiley, 285 U.S. 355; Ohio ex rel. Davis v. Hildebrant, 241 U.S. 565 (1916). As the exclusive source of legislative power, the Arizona Constitution serves as a blueprint for the exercise of legislative authority.
In Arizona, the people vested legislative authority in the Legislature, but also reserved for themselves the power to enact laws and constitutional amendments independently of the Legislature. Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 1, § 1(1); see also id. art. 2, § 2 (“All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”). The Legislature is but an instrumentality created by the Arizona Constitution to exercise a part of its sovereign prerogatives, namely, the lawmaking power. State ex rel. Jones v. Lockhart, 76 Ariz. 390, 395, 265 P. 2d 447, 452 (1953). By reserving the power to amend the Constitution themselves, the people retain the power to alter and reshape the legislative power of the state and the processes by which legislative enactments become law. The citizens exercised this authority in 2000 to create the Commission and did so in compliance with the Elections Clause. (emphasis mine)
The Commission exercises its legislative power pursuant to procedural and substantive requirements established by the voters. Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 2, § 1(14)-(17). Moreover, the Commission remains accountable to the people – the source of its delegated power – because its power can be removed through a voter initiative or a measure referred to the people by the Legislature. Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 1, § 1(2); id. at art. 21, § 1.1 Indeed, the Arizona Supreme Court has definitively held that the Commission acts as a legislative body under Arizona law, through delegation of legislative power from the people. Ariz. Minority Coal. for Fair Redistricting v. Ariz. Indep. Redistricting Comm’n, 220 Ariz. 587, 594-95 ¶ 19, 208 P.3d 676, 683-84 (2009). The Legislature’s argument that this interpretation was made in deciding the state court’s standard of review does not alter the nature of the Commission’s constitutional authority.
The Legislature relies almost exclusively on a sentence in Smiley, which says the term “Legislature” means the state’s representative body, but neglects to cite the following sentence which states that “[t]he question here is not with respect to the ‘body’ as thus described but as to the function to be performed.” 285 U.S. at 365. Thus, the Court held a functional analysis must be performed when construing the term “Legislature” under the Elections Clause. Id. The functional analysis applied by the Court in Hildebrant and Smiley, and recognized in Hawke v. Smith, 253 U.S. 221 (1920), does not require redistricting to be performed solely by the Legislature but rather pursuant to the state’s legislative process, which in Arizona, includes the citizen initiative. Wash. State Grange v. Wash. State Republican Party, 552 U.S. 442, 451 (2008) (“The States possess a broad power to prescribe the ‘Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,’ Art. I, § 4, cl. 1, which power is matched by state control over the election process for state offices.”).
Significantly, Smiley and Hildebrant demonstrate that the Elections Clause does not exempt state legislatures from the normal course of regulation by state constitutions. Smiley, 285 U.S. at 365. Where the U.S. Constitution calls upon the state legislature to engage in lawmaking, a state constitution’s supremacy as to legislative authority remains intact. Id. at 365-69; see also People ex rel. Salazar v. Davidson, 79 P.3d 1221, 1231 (Colo. 2003) (the U.S. Constitution does not grant redistricting power to the state legislatures exclusively and the state may draw congressional districts via any process it deems appropriate), cert. denied sub nom. Colo. Gen. Assembly v. Salazar, 541 U.S. 1093 (2004). (emphasis mine)
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I expect to receive, within the next few days, a document listing each lawsuit, its current status and what due dates and hearing dates have been set for each. Currently, a hearing on the AIRC Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit where the poor, downtrodden Arizona Republicans claim that their vote has been diluted will take place on October 31 at the Sandra Day O'Connor federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix.

Three documents were filed by counsel for plaintiffs (first named plaintiff is our good friend Wes Harris) in that case on Friday, Sept 7. 
  • Response to Motions to Dismiss (68 pages, including a "Plan X," sample maps and 13 pg resume for and two affidavits from a Republican redistricting consultant whose claims Harris et. al. rely on for their "heart rending" story of why they are having their political voice/vote diluted) Essentially attacking Strategic Telemetry and claiming all decisions were made strictly for partisan purposes. 
  • Response opposing request for judicial notice previously made by the IRC and proposed intervenors (4 pages). "In their motion, the IRC seeks judicial notice of the truth of cherry-picked statements recorded in hearing transcripts." Cantelme apparently thinks this will prejudice his case and since he disagrees with the items about which the IRC seeks judicial notice, he cries, "not fair."
  • Plaintiff Rule 56 motion asking the court to deny the IRC motion to dismiss (three pages). Language in this document seems like a Hail Mary pass to me, hoping to get the court to order that Cantelme and Liburdi get to proceed with discovery. If I recall correctly, one of the things they want to be able to do is to get recorded depositions from the five commissioners in their desperate hope of finding something (fishing expedition) on which they can point and say, "AH HA! We knew it!"
My overall impression from a quick overview look at these three documents from Harris and company is that somebody has put a helluva LOT of money into this. Which takes us back to UNfair Trust. The lobbying group reportedly comprised of GOP leadership of the Arizona Legislature, the AZ GOP Congressional delegation and undisclosed money sources (one of which that had been potentially identified as early as February or March 2011 was Arizona Diamondbacks' General Partner Ken Kendrick).

The legal and geographic information system consulting costs on these documents alone has to have been enormous. So, we are back to the influence of DARK MONEY on Independent Redistricting in Arizona for the current cycle.

Here's a Bill Moyers program from a few months ago on that subject. It's long, but if you want insight on DARK MONEY influence in this process, it might be worth your time.




There is also NO QUESTION in my mind that before ANY map drawing took place in 2011, David Cantelme had already plotted with somebody (whoever is supplying the funding for this outrageous quest) to proceed with the attack on the process that we see in the documents filed last Friday.

Recall that Cantelme verbally assaulted me in July 2011 with what amounts to a blatant and brazen disclosure of this strategy.
However... Cantelme revealed much more than he wanted.
After expressing his outrage that I swore at him by calling his client unFair Trust, he began an aggressive verbal attack aiming to get me to engage on his terms.  He repeated his attack, rapid fire, for what seemed like a couple of dozen times.  I never took the bait.  But I did repeat, as many times as he attacked, that I refused to engage on his terms and would not take his bait.
What was he trying to get me to do or say?
He asked repeatedly if I was against allowing Latino voters to be protected by the Voting Rights Act.  When I refused to answer his question he alternately said it was because: I was afraid; or I did not want Latinos to be protected by the Voting Rights Act.
I have to give them credit (or blame) for not giving up. But I have not given up either.

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When I receive the chart or list of hearing dates and filing due dates, I will post them.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Arizona 2012: Neck Deep in Crony Capitalism

Republican Crony Capitalists have brazenly thumbed their noses at the best interests of the citizens and voters of our great state very recently. Well, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1936 warned about what we see happening with the Republican crony capitalists in Arizona today.





On Friday, August 31st, Jan Brewer's Corrections Dept. chief, Charles Ryan issued a contract for 1,000 new prison beds to be provided by Chuck Coughlin's client firm, CCA, Corrections Corporation of America. Those familiar with current events in Arizona will recognize the name Chuck Coughlin. He is a close confidant and adviser to the Arizona governor. He was also a political operative smack in the middle of the Fiesta Bowl scandal. The new contract was issued despite a flurry of calls and email messages sent to the governor telling her not to let this take place.

Chad Campbell, Minority (Democratic) Leader in the Arizona House of Representatives had this to say about the latest slap in the face to Arizona taxpayers:
Numerous reports show the state stands to lose millions of tax dollars on the deals Governor Brewer and her Tea Party legislative allies continue to make with for-profit prison operators. We absolutely should not reward this company with a multi-million dollar contract if it will waste the state’s resources,” Campbell said.
Saving the taxpayers money and protecting public safety is not a partisan issue. Yet Brewer and the Republican leadership have ignored evidence that shows private prisons are unsafe and waste the state’s money. The bottom line is we need to protect safety while protecting tax payer dollars and expansion of private prisons does neither,” Campbell said. (emphasis mine)

Julie Erfle, who blogs at Politics Uncuffed had this to say about the situation:
We all know it’s better to invest in prisons than in education, right? I mean, why not throw millions at a declining prison population instead of spending it in the classroom?
Last week, buried among the headlines of the Republican National Convention, sandwiched between Clint Eastwood’s conversation with a chair and Governor Brewer’s accidental endorsement of Barack Obama, was an article about the awarding of an additional 1,000 private prison beds to Corrections Corp of America.
Never mind that independent studies have shown private prisons to be costlier than state-run facilities. Never mind that private prisons, including those in Arizona, have had serious safety concerns, including an escape by three prisoners that resulted in the death of an Oklahoma couple. Never mind that the state’s prison population has actually decreased.

Besides thumbing their noses at Arizona voters, issuing this contract to CCA, of course, flies in the face of the persistence of false myths these days that Republicans somehow are more thrifty with taxpayer money than Democrats.

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This takes me to perhaps the second most blatant example of crony capitalism in our great state in recent history. While Jan Brewer and her cronies put Public Safety in jeopardy for fun and profit, the Republican majority in the Arizona Corporation Commission HAS PUT, especially for the greater Phoenix area, Public Health squarely in harm's way.

In June, the ACC voted 3-2 (Republicans Gary Pierce, Brenda Burns and Bob Stump voting in favor with Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Paul Newman dissenting) to allow development -- by a relative of former Republican state lawmaker Robert Blendu -- of a WTE (waste to energy) facility to burn MSW (municipal solid waste) to generate electricity for Mohave Electric Cooperative. The facility will be built in Phoenix but will credit the Mohave County (in rural northwest Arizona) utility for meeting renewable energy requirements.

The United States' sixth largest city, Phoenix has the 2nd worst air quality in the country, according to the American Lung Association. Naturally, the Brewer administration, to perpetuate a hoax on the people of Maricopa County, disputes that report. From the Arizona Republic:
The air over Phoenix is no longer the most-polluted in the nation, but local officials say even second place - the region's ranking in the American Lung Association's annual air-quality report card - requires an asterisk.
In its report released today, the association lists Bakersfield, Calif., as the metropolitan area with the dirtiest year-round air. Bakersfield, which was second in year-round pollution in 2010, also had the most-polluted air when measured with daily readings.
Metropolitan Phoenix dropped one position from its dirtiest-air ranking in 2010 and, as state and county regulators did last year, they said the high ranking for year-round pollution is skewed by the inclusion of data from an air monitor in Pinal County, 40 miles from downtown Phoenix.
"We don't believe this report is a truly accurate representation of air quality in the Valley," said Henry Darwin, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. "We are very committed to improving the quality of air that we breathe, and the air quality in Phoenix is getting better."

Of course, Brewer's ADEQ director doesn't believe our air is bad. But tell that to the bazillions of people in Maricopa County with asthma, other respiratory diseases and year-round respiratory allergies. 

  • Total population (per 2010 US Census): 3,817,117
  • Pop. under 18 (2010 US Census): 1,007,861
  • Pop. over 65 (2010 US Census): 462,641
  • Pediatric Asthma: 94,502
  • Adult Asthma: 270,565
  • Chronic Bronchitis: 118,825
  • Emphysema: 50,819
  • CardioVascular disease: 890,564
  • Diabetes: 227,264
  • Estimated population under Fed Poverty level: 625,090
That list of people (ALREADY) at risk of respiratory distress from poor air quality suggests that you either will directly suffer additional harm or know people who will -- as a result of this egregious case of CRONY CAPITALISM.

Bob Blendu, by the way, is director of the proposed Scottsdale Commerce Bank, a connection he no doubt hopes will grease the skids for finding capital financing to build the boondoggle.

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On July 16, the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter filed application for rehearing the Trash Burner case. The five page document exposes the brazenness with which the three Republican members of the Corporation Commission disregarded public health concerns and its own rules. From the application:
The evidence upon which the Commission’s Decision relies is based not on that actual data but instead upon the testimony of a single witness who has a financial interest in this matter. That witness testified that he sorted through a partial truckload of garbage to determine its content even though he did not know where the garbage came from or whether it was residential or commercial. He speculated as to recycling rates that could be applied to the garbage. Once those recycling rates were applied, he came up with a biogenic percentage that substantially exceeds the biogenic contribution to electricity produced at any WTE facility in existence. (emphasis mine)
That is not substantial or credible evidence.
-- snip --
An agency must comply with its own rules. The history of the REST [Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff] rules shows that municipal solid waste was excluded as a renewable energy resource at the time the REST rules were drafted and considered by the Commission. The Commission cannot through the arbitrary application of the waiver and pilot program provisions circumvent the requirements of the rules.
If the Commission wants to include municipal solid waste as a renewable energy resource, then the only lawful course of action available to it is to amend the REST rules. For whatever reason, the Commission has declined to do so in this case and instead has circumvented the existing rules to approve the RPG WTE facility. As a result, the Commission has violated its own rules.
In August, the ACC denied the application for rehearing. Sierra Club's attorney, Tim Hogan filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court on its behalf on September 4. ACC staff attorneys have 60 days in which to prepare and file a response to the lawsuit.

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On August 10, at a forum during a meeting of Rotary 100 in Phoenix, the six candidates for the three ACC seats up for election this year, answered questions about the trash burner project. Three Republicans (incumbent "Trash Burner Bob" Stump along with Susan Bitter Smith and former Senate President Bob Burns) defended the ACC decision. The three Democratic candidates (Marcia Busching along with incumbents Sandra Kennedy and Paul Newman) articulated their opposition.





A bit of reflection on the comments of each of the candidates is in order.

After the question was posed about burning trash for energy, incumbent "Trash Burner Bob" Stump took the mic and began his comments with a standard tactic hoping to establish the credibility of what he was about to say. That "evidence" is in stating that ACC professional staff has "hundreds of years of combined experience." Google the expression "hundreds of years of combined experience" to find a wide range of sales pitches attempting to establish their authority in whatever field. Stump used the expression a couple of times in the video.

"Trash Burner Bob" Stump, the only current candidate who actually did vote to approve the trash burner project tries to assuage the audience concerns by saying the project promoters must still obtain air quality permits from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Maricopa County Air Quality Dept.

Consider, however, that ADEQ is an executive branch agency who's director serves at the pleasure of Gov. Jan Brewer. We already know how Jan Brewer feels about Crony Capitalism (recall the private prison bed contract above).

So, how do you think the application for an air quality permit would go for the Blendu brothers?

Maricopa County is governed by a five member Board of Supervisors. Currently, four of the five Supervisors are Republicans. Consider a recent situation with the Maricopa County Air Quality Dept. to see how easily cronies can get problems fixed there.

Republican state Rep. Amanda Reeve (chair of the House Environment committee) received an email complaint from constituent John Kowalski. Kowalski had received a Notice of Violation from the Maricopa County Air Quality Dept. related to parking in an open field for an event his group sponsored.

MCAQD enforcement policy:
The purpose of the Enforcement Policy is to provide a consistent reasonable process for documenting air quality violations, notifying alleged violators, and initiating enforcement action to ensure that violations are addressed in a timely and appropriate manner.
Kowalski asked Reeve to intervene (excerpt from email below):
Hi Amanda,
I hope you are weathering the legislative session well…it’s been quite an intense couple of months! Thanks for all you’re doing for the State and our District. I know that you are very busy, and I hesitate to ask for your intervention. I am reaching out to you as Chair of the House Environment committee and I’m trusting that this will be an easy matter to resolve.
--snip--
SCORE has since received Complaint #242196 alleging violations of Maricopa County Air Pollution Control Regulations. The notice states, “All violations must be corrected immediately…”; however, since SCORE had use of the land for only that one day, there is nothing to correct now. It is SCORE’s understanding that they are instead subject to a fine and that is why I am asking for your assistance in getting this alleged violation dismissed. I had considered reaching out to Maria Baier who you know is the State Land Commissioner but I wanted to check with you first.
Please advise at your earliest convenience as SCORE has only 10 days to respond.
Thanks in advance,
John
Of course, with Mr. Kowalski explicitly asking for a favor, and with him being a talk show host and self-described "Ambassador and Media Personality" it is Rep. Amanda Reeve who is now in position to implicitly expect a return on HER effort on Kowalski's behalf.

If she were to express reluctance due to ethical concerns, he 1) had a fallback plan (contact the State Land Commissioner, a Brewer appointee) and 2) he would be in position to regularly disrespect and insult Reeve on local airwaves AND personally in front of the many small business contacts he implies that he has.

So, it is no surprise that Reeve reached out to MCAQD in a most polite and gracious manner.
From: Amanda Reeve [mailto:AReeve@azleg.gov]
Sent: Monday, April 18, 2011 3:07 PM
To: Richard Bohan - GRCX; William Wiley - AQDX
Subject: FW: Maricopa County - Violation Notice
Gentleman [sic],
I apologize for bothering you with this request, but it does pose a rather interesting problem. Will you please review the attached e-mail and provide me with your thoughts so that I might be able to get back to Mr. Kowalski with an answer.
Thank you,
Amanda
The result (next day) was quick and decisive:
From: William Wiley - AQDX [mailto:WilliamWiley@mail.maricopa.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 12:02 PM
To: Amanda Reeve
Cc: Kathy Houed - AQDX
Subject: RE: Maricopa County - Violation Notice
Representative Reeve,
After looking at all the data ( NOV. aerial photo, land use agreement, 2 complaints we received), we will rescind the NOV to SCORE. They will receive a copy of the violation with the notation ”rescinded “ on it.
Thank you for interceding on this. (emphasis mine)
Bill
In an apparent declaration of brazenness, Ms. Reeve replied:

From: Amanda Reeve [mailto:AReeve@azleg.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 12:03 PM
To: William Wiley - AQDX
Subject: RE: Maricopa County - Violation Notice


Fantastic news, Bill! Thank you for your prompt response on this. I greatly appreciate it.


Amanda A. Reeve
State Representative
Legislative District 6
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
ph: 602.926.3014
fx: 602.417.3048
areeve@azleg.gov
Notice the time/date of these last two emails. ONE MINUTE after MCAQD director Bill Wiley sent the message to Reeve that he had FIXED the violation because she interceded, she replied with her thanks.

I should hardly need to spell out the power relationships, incentives and implied potential consequences of non-compliance with a House Environment Committee chair request of a county Air Quality Dept. director. MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky's explanation (link provided below) of pressures brought to bear on mass media can provide insight on this issue. Particularly Chomsky's fourth filter.

But I digress.

"Trash Burner Bob" Stump, in the video clip discussed the fact that only up to 90 percent of the energy derived from the trash burning process would be credited to Mohave County as renewable. He explained that the "non-biogenic" portion of the burned trash would not qualify for the credit.

That very explanation, however, is the "smoking gun." Because NON biogenic fuel is that portion which consists of plastic and other items that were not made from something that "grew." You know, like trees as opposed to PLASTICS (Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson). Trash Burner Bob admitted in public (not that it was a secret) that the Blendu brothers' WTE (Waste to Energy) project to burn MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) will burn at least 10 percent non-biogenic waste. Think about whether you or someone you know and love suffers from any of the conditions that are exacerbated by having to breath toxic smoke.

Bob Burns, for his part, indicated that he thinks WTE should be included in energy source portfolios to the extent that air quality would not be jeopardized (I paraphrased). I've observed Mr. Burns for years in the Arizona Legislature. He is no friend of the working class and may not even know what the word "egalitarian" means. None of what he had to say would give anyone any indication that he would, if elected to the ACC, advocate for anyone other than his Republican cronies.

Susan Bitter Smith's answer to the trash burner question revealed her perspective as an elected official.   She has more than 30 years experience in nonprofit management, has served as President of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District and has been active in Arizona Republican circles for a long time.

Mrs. Bitter Smith mentions the "judgement of the commission" similarly to Stump's "hundreds of years of combined staff experience." Both of which are designed to get the listener to think it's just fine to delegate thinking and the authority that comes with casting a vote to the Republican commissioners. "Trust us, we know what's best for you." But do they even CARE about you?

On the other hand, the Democratic candidates all expressed concerns about the project and the technology itself. Marcia Busching cited conversations she had recently with executives with Republic Services. She said they believe this project is not feasible.

Trash Burner Bob later attempted to discredit her remarks by claiming that because Republic Services would be a competitor, their perspective should be disregarded altogether. But REALLY, should you trust the judgment of a man that thinks it's acceptable for you to breath the toxic smoke from burning plastics?

Commissioners Kennedy and Newman, because they are very familiar with the facts of the trash burner case, said that there is no way this project should be allowed to go forward. Kennedy said the "buck should stop at the Commission." She's right.

-----

It is certainly true that crony capitalism is not the exclusive domain of one major political party or the other. The saga of state Rep. Ben Arredondo (D-Tempe) makes that point clear.

Arredondo has been charged but has not yet come to trial. So we do not know if he will be convicted. His alleged crime: actually getting caught trying to repay for the free football tickets and such. There is ample evidence that most members (both parties) of the Arizona Legislature accept favors such as free tickets to sporting events and other entertainment.

However, the root of THIS particular evil in Arizona is a political system that effectively escapes accountability. In our state, there has been too little accountability because -- for the last two decades -- Republicans have dominated state government, but even more so the last two years.

The fact is, on several instances dating back to the mid-1990s, members of the legislature have proposed banning ALL gifts to lawmakers. Bribery of lawmakers is not a new concept. It's been a part of Arizona history from the beginning (see Berman's book).

Because of Republican domination, they are the ones who brazenly go about acting as if they do no wrong and dare people to hold them accountable.

The situations cited above are NOT isolated. They are only examples of a system that certain people have learned to exploit to the detriment of the rest of society.

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The Arizona Eagletarian chronicled the independent redistricting process to raise public awareness and enhance civic engagement in the process. To continue the effort to enhance accountability on the part of public policy determining bodies (specifically, the Arizona Legislature and the Corporation Commission), I continue to offer my insights toward the same end.

Accountability is dependent on (enough citizens) understanding the system, becoming aware of the issues as they arise, and making the voices of everyday citizens heard in those venues. The two incidents cited above were enabled because neither Gov. Brewer nor the Republican majority on the Corporation Commission have sufficient "fear of the Lord" to cause them to take seriously the interests of those to whom they must give account.

The meaning of "fear of the Lord" can and is debated in religious and theological circles. I use it here to reflect the respect that elected officials, those to whom our authority as citizens is delegated, must have for those from whom they derive their authority. There is plenty that can be written about who does and does not show that respect for citizens in our state. I want to keep it simple and just say that when Brewer and the Republicans on the ACC thumb their noses at the interests of everyday Arizonans, they just ain't got no fear of the Lord.

YOU can and must cause that condition to change.

Boston area community development organizer Jeanne Dubois has been quoted as saying, "organized people and organized money build power."

In Arizona today, in spite of how much we might (or might not) have in the way of organized money, we can still organize people. For the next two months, the objective is to organize people to understand the issues and VOTE. After that, organizing people to, on an ongoing basis, hold elected officials accountable, can be effectively carried out.

As David Berman's book points out, Progressive and Populist reformers made positive impact in territorial Arizona. We will learn from the lessons of that history and continue the ongoing fight.

Tension between the interests of organized Big Money and those of Working and Middle Class Arizonans will always exist. There is no need to resign ourselves to a powerless, victim minded life. The system works for those who work it. We WILL work it and we WILL see results.

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Don't expect to get a candid viewpoint from the corporate media that dominates messaging in Arizona. The largest newspaper in the state, the Arizona Republic and KPNX Channel 12 in Phoenix are both owned by Gannett. Other local broadcast news outlets are also run by big corporations.

Corporate media these days presents a facade of impartiality. However, it has had a strong bias, favoring the Bottom Line, for years.

Republicans claim that it's all "Liberal Media." On the other hand, Liberals, or Progressives, often believe the media has a conservative bias. Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT, however, sees it as a corporate media problem. And I agree with him.

For me, the real bottom line is that we are up against more than just a corrupt politician here or there; more than just a rancid political party or even just a problematic two party political system. We are up against a paradigm of political thinking, a pervasive myth buttressed by a corporate media that cannot help but promote CRONY CAPITALISM.

We can (and must) persist to overcome the immediate obstacles to political reform. Those immediate obstacles will come at us full bore over the two months leading up to the general election, fueled by super PACs emboldened by Citizens United.

But to make an ongoing difference for the genuine liberty and freedom of working class America, we need to set our sights even higher.

We must Move to Amend the United States Constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

But we need to set our sights even higher.

We must carry out a REVOLUTION, a revolution of ideas. We must shift the dominant mental paradigm among Americans in our day.
“We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln
When citizens understand and live by this revolutionary idea we will make it a reality for our children and grandchildren.

We must.






Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Redistricting -- Auditor General, Special Audit Report released

On the first business day of September 2012, Tuesday the 4th, by the way, Arizona Auditor General Debra K. Davenport issued her final report on the audit she was ordered by the GOP supermajority on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and GOP leadership of both chambers to conduct.

The full audit report is 38 pages long, with a two page highlights (or executive summary) document also posted.

The purpose, as state at the beginning of the full report:
The Auditor General is appointed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, a bipartisan committee composed of five senators and five representatives. Her mission is to provide independent and impartial information and specific recommendations to improve the operations of state and local government entities. To this end, she provides financial audits and accounting services to the State and political subdivisions, investigates possible misuse of public monies, and conducts performance audits of school districts, state agencies, and the programs they administer.
The Auditor General's conclusion (from the highlights):

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission) is established by the State Constitution to create congressional and legislative districts every 10 years. This special audit focused on all paid and accrued expenditures the Commission incurred during fiscal years 2011 and 2012, including a description of and the purpose for professional and outside services, travel, other operating expenses, capital equipment, and noncapital equipment. The Office of the Auditor General does not make any recommendations in this report. (emphasis mine)

In other words, after several thorough examinations (not only by the Auditor General), NOBODY found ANY impropriety in the administration of the financial affairs of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission as conducted from when members were sworn in (February 2011) until the end of the period examined by the auditors.

Hence, all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Republican members of the Arizona House and Senate was NOTHING but a dog and pony show. I expect that any shenanigans those Republican members had hoped to have stirring up controversy before the 2012 general election have gone up in smoke. Smoke coming out of their ears, no doubt.

Congratulations are in order for AIRC staff, especially executive director Ray Bladine and deputy executive director Kristina Gomez, as well as the five members of the commission, especially Colleen Coyle Mathis.

Of course, this is still not the end of the process. Several lawsuits are still in the works and must wind their way up through appeals as far as the non-prevailing side dares to take them. There may be additional news on that front later this week.

As always, I will keep you posted as I learn more.