On August 6, Carlyle Begay was sworn in as the new LD7 state senator, taking the seat vacated by Jack Jackson Jr. when he resigned to become the Obama administration's liaison to Native American tribal governments for environmental issues.
In this video, from a January 23 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Energy and Military committee, Begay appealed for recommendation to the full senate for confirmation to serve on the board of directors of the Greater Arizona Development Authority. Besides presenting himself, Begay also gives a brief description of GADA.
Did I mention that Begay's appointment has proven already to be highly controversial. Thus far, I had been skeptical of the controversy, but now am having to give it serious consideration.
Begay's predecessor thinks he will be a fine senator. That may or may not be how it plays out. However, let's consider a couple of things.
First, just who is state Sen. Carlyle W. Begay?
In the video, Begay describes an impressive educational and professional background. But some of the other things he says, and what members of the senate committee say in return, give us important clues to who he is and what citizens of LD7 can expect from him.
First, Begay mentions his father who has served as a long-time tribal (Navajo) liaison to Peabody Energy (which bills itself as the world's largest private sector coal company). Begay talked about how important it was to hear about those issues as he was growing up. No doubt father and son are both proud of each other.
But having grown up in a home where the idea of burning coal to generate electricity is the foundation of that family's prosperity is, to me, a significant Red Flag.
Peabody provides the (capital to deliver) coal to Salt River Project's Navajo Generating Station. A lot of Navajo Nation members provide the labor. We already know that SRP holds the Arizona Legislature by the short and curlies. SRP also has been a MAJOR player (and funder) of ALEC. We also know that ALEC has declared war on Renewable Energy Standards in every state. [...]
By the way, last week attorney Tom Ryan (who represents state Rep. Albert Hale) suggested to me that he believes Begay to be a Trojan Horse of sorts sent by Senate President Biggs. Ryan said he thought Begay's senate appointment and his relationship with Senate President Andy Biggs parallels that of former state Rep. Sylvia Laughter and former House Speaker Jeff Groscost. [...]
The more I think about it, the more I think Tom Ryan is probably right that Begay (who may honestly be a Democrat, but seems to be an ALEC-leaning one) is really a Trojan Horse.Within literally seconds after the Senate third read vote was taken on SB1473 (sometime after midnight), tweets and Facebook messages started showing up. Here's what happened with that vote.
I explained to friends last night,
One of the budget bills, SB1473 passed the senate on third read by one vote. That one Yea vote was from fake Democratic Sen. Carlyle W. Begay. The ONLY "Democratic" senator to vote YES on this and several other of the budget bills.One tweet came from Avondale City Councilman Lorenzo Sierra,
Some well-earned "I told you so's" from @AzEagletarian are in order. #azlegI had to ask him what he was talking about. He replied,
— Lorenzo Sierra (@sierra4avondale) March 7, 2015
@AzEagletarian You warned us on Begay long ago.While recognition is nice, there really wasn't anything any of us could do to intervene in the appointment process that put Begay in the Arizona Senate to begin with. And I have to credit Tom Ryan for his persistent attention to the problem of Carlyle Begay. Tom brought the issue into focus for me. And Tom did try to intervene.
— Lorenzo Sierra (@sierra4avondale) March 7, 2015
It certainly would have been nice if we had seen Begay lose in the 2014 LD7 Senate Democratic primary election to then state Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, a U.S. Army veteran. Three key factors influenced the Begay primary election win, Citizens United, along with the fact that there is no Democratic Party organization in LD7 (mostly Navajo and Apache counties) and that there are pronounced integrity weaknesses/deficiencies in the election systems in both Navajo and Apache counties.
Make no mistake, news reports indicating more ballots were counted (which was reported by the Associated Press) than were cast is not a minor problem. It's a matter of election systems integrity. If there are ANY weaknesses, it puts ALL results in doubt.
In the 2014 campaign, two Independent Expenditure organizations provided the bulk of the $48k used to defeat Peshlakai. They were Arizona Democrats for Educational Equity, chaired by Christina Martinez who also has served as Arizona head of DFER (Democrats for Education Reform, an organization dedicated to promoting charter schools (which movement, in turn, is greatly responsible for undermining traditional public K-12 education)). The other big IE funder for supporting Begay was our good fiend... er, friend, Mario Diaz and "Friends of Arizona."
By the way, two of the Democratic heroes in the AZ Senate last night, and gosh did they offend the apparently very thin-skinned Andy Biggshot:
Steve Farley (D-LD9/Tucson) above and Ed Ableser (D-LD26/Tempe) below
Arizona Capitol Times reported this morning,
Begay, D-Ganado, drew the ire of his fellow Democrats for voting against the majority of his caucus. Begay negotiated several measures that will benefit tribal communities, including $1.2 million in infrastructure funds on the Navajo Nation, and a bill he sponsored that would waive tuition for high school students wishing to take classes at tribal colleges was approved earlier in the day. [...]
Begay acknowledged that his vote may result in a backlash from some Democrats, but defended his decision.
“My goal here isn’t to worry about being reluctant. My goal is to do the job that’s in front of me today,” Begay told the Arizona Capitol Times. “And as small or big as those opportunities are, you’ve got to take advantage of them.”
But his House counterpart, Democratic Rep. Jennifer Benally, said she was “ashamed” that Begay traded his vote on the GOP budget that cuts education in order to get an amendment into the budget for a $1.2 million transportation appropriation for the Navajo Nation.
“If this was truly reflective of what the Navajo Nation needs, this amendment would not be offered. We would be looking at education… We don’t look at infrastructure before education for our children,” she said.
While Begay’s vote proved crucial on several budget bills, a deal could not have been struck were it not for two other senators compromising at the eleventh hour. Republican Sens. Adam Driggs and Bob Worsley, both holdouts for much of the week, voted for the budget bills after brokering a deal with the Governor’s Office that lessens cuts to universities.All of which is, of course, the reality of the situation.
Put another way, former candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission Kara Kelty posted this blurb to Facebook this morning:
It's hard to put my finger on which is the most offensive: 1) the passing of an ill-conceived budget in the dead of night with last minute policy insertions in order to kill transparency; 2) the Orwellian double speak coming out of the Governor's office touting bi-partisanship and "opportunity for all" in said budget or; 3) the cuts to the universities after candidate Ducey's endless stream of campaign ads falsely accusing Fred DuVal of having raised tuition?Of course, all three are fair characterizations and all three of them are highly offensive to thinking Arizonans.
So, where do we go from here? By the way, just as Begay was the only Democrat that got bought off by GOP leadership, only one Republican in the House voted against SB1473, John Christopher Ackerley (R-LD2/Sahuarita). He's the guy who beat Demion Clinco last November. Besides the fact that there are obvious conflicts in his stated values (not necessarily conflicts of interest, but conflicting values), he becomes the Ethan Orr of the 52nd Legislature, an obvious election target for Democrats next year. Because GOP leadership wants to keep him in the fold (for 2017 and beyond), I doubt they gave him any grief about voting against any of the budget bills.
Anyway, that's the latest. But it's not the final word. It's probably been a LONG time since a budget was passed this early in the year. Those bills won't take effect until July 1. We will see what kind of citizen action options/ideas surface between now and then. We will also be watching to see what further mischief the legislature causes before the session shuts down Sine Die.
Today, March 7, 2015, is the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday was televised around the world. Martin Luther King called for civil rights supporters to come to Selma for a second march... On March 21, the final successful march began with federal protection, and on August 6, 1965, the federal Voting Rights Act was passed...
Longtime friend James Kimes recently penned the following to reflect on this date and the event 50 years ago.
The Selma anniversary offers lawmakers and policy makers a prime opportunity to move from symbolism to substance. We must reject discriminatory laws, practices, and policies that serve only to relegate justice and fairness to the back of the bus. In setting budgets, it should be remembered that secrecy and lack of transparency sow discontentment and distrust.
We who believe in fairness and justice cannot rest until it comes!
James Kimes, Prescott Valley, Arizona
We SHALL overcome. And I DO mean here in Arizona.
Lest anyone this I'm being petty or narrow minded or vindictive for partisan reasons, consider that it would be a much longer blog post if I were to also include any in-depth reflections on the budget bills at issue last night and this morning.
The fact of the matter is that economic theory is pretty straightforward in expounding on the difference between austerity and prosperity. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. They don't co-exist in the same economy at the same time.
What Begay did last night is fairly characterized as selling out both the legitimate constituents of LD7 and the people of Arizona as a whole. For a measly amount (from a government funding perspective) of not much over a million dollars for narrow purposes, he jeopardizes the entire economic prosperity of many destitute people all over Arizona. I'm not talking about handouts. Rather, the prosperity that comes with jobs based on economic demand.
In terms of psychology, his sell out is short-sighted and narcissistic. Ironically, that paltry amount for LD7 and the Navajo Nation will not foster growth of an economy that can sustain jobs in general.
Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
— Revolutionary Quotes (@QuoteRevolution) March 7, 2015