Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Baltimore -- history lessons not learned, now repeating.

If you read my blog, you likely already have read elsewhere about rioting the last couple of days in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

I'm a child of the 1960s. Rochester, NY was home for my first thirteen years. My parents read to me as a young child. In fact, I learned to read with the Cat in the Hat at around the age of 4. It was contemporary literature back then.

I can recall reading newspapers upside down sitting across the table from my aunt before I even started Kindergarten in 1959. Later, there were headlines about riots in my home city in 1964.
Police brutality was the hot-button issue that was the universal experience of blacks. Numerous cases of alleged abuse were common knowledge in black neighborhoods.
One of the most flagrant cases was that of Rufus Fairwell in August, 1962. The police department promised to publish the findings of an investigation into the incident. At the last moment it refused to do so. No officers were disciplined for the brutality. A Grand Jury investigated the case and delivered its findings: Fairwell did not assault the policemen; they did not assault him. Yet Fairwell suffered two cracked vertebrae and severe damage to his eye. He appeared at his hearing in a wheelchair.
Other cases of brutality were reported... 
In the 1960s, race riots took place in numerous cities in the US. Harlem (NY), Watts (LA), Philadelphia, Detroit, Newark, and too many more.
Over the course of three days and two nights in July 1964, thousands of Rochester’s African American residents rioted in the streets of the city’s low-income neighborhoods. In the stifling summer heat, rioters smashed storefront windows, looted neighborhood merchants and clashed with police, exposing the city’s long-simmering racial tensions. In the seven years following the Rochester riots, more than 750 race riots erupted in numerous American cities, leaving over 200 dead, injuring nearly 13,000 and leaving many African American urban neighborhoods in ruins.
Obviously, I was too young then to realize the significance of President Johnson's major civil rights initiatives, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since then, however, I've come to recognize the 1960s -- a century after the Civil War -- to have been a significant remnant of the inability of American government and civil society to adequately carry out the charge(s) in the Preamble to the Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
If the laws and public policy of our country and state do not advance those ends, it's time to rethink them. The laws and public policy that is, not the purposes set forth in the Preamble.

President Johnson convened the Kerner Commission to try to figure out what happened and how to fix it.
President Lyndon Johnson formed an 11-member National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in July 1967 to explain the riots that plagued cities each summer since 1964 and to provide recommendations for the future. The Commission’s 1968 report, informally known as the Kerner Report, concluded that the nation was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Unless conditions were remedied, the Commission warned, the country faced a “system of ’apartheid’” in its major cities. The Kerner report delivered an indictment of “white society” for isolating and neglecting African Americans and urged legislation to promote racial integration and to enrich slums—primarily through the creation of jobs, job training programs, and decent housing. President Johnson, however, rejected the recommendations. In April 1968, one month after the release of the Kerner report, rioting broke out in more than 100 cities following the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
This makes me reflect back on the movie Selma, which portrayed Johnson as somewhat reluctant to take action to intervene regarding racial tensions.

So, last evening, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston posted an op-ed he wrote that echoes MLK's sentiments from the 1960s.
Monday’s riots in Baltimore offered a powerful warning about what lies ahead for America if its epidemic of inequality continues. But will we understand the message in the chaos?
“A riot is the language of the unheard,” the Rev. Martin Luther King said. What gets lost in translation is the logic that motivates rioters, whose inability to articulate their frustration finds expression in rocks thrown at police, looting neighborhood stores and setting fires. To outside observers, these actions appear irrational and self-defeating.
But their rhetoric is as old as civilization. Riots are a way for the oppressed to make their frustration known in the vain hope that those in power will respond with better policies. 
This insight is nothing new, for there is no new thing under the sun.

Professor Robert Reich has been calling attention to the problem, without reference to race, because the fundamental issue is the inequality, not ethnic heritage.

Another Pulitzer winner, Chris Hedges regularly calls attention to related issues. In 2012, he published Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Next month, his latest book, Wages of Rebellion, will be released. Notice in the left hand column of this blog, I quote Hedges.
The inability of the liberal class to address our reality leaves the disenfranchised open to manipulation by demagogues.
Liberal politicians, elected leaders and business leaders have been at a dramatic disadvantage in their efforts to address our reality since the publication of the Powell Manifesto in August 1971. 

Hell, even the Arizona Republic is or at least has been in deep denial over what constitutes voter suppression. They blew off concerns over the efforts of the GOP controlled legislature, and our new Secretary of State Michele Reagan, to further disenfranchise voters. 

In 2013, we succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put HB2305, Reagan's Voter Suppression Act, on the 2014 ballot so voters would have the chance to veto it. Thinking themselves clever for devising a way to subvert the referendum, the first act of the Arizona Legislature in January 2014 was to repeal HB2305. 

In 2015, that august body proceeded to enact some of the provisions from HB2305. Broken out into separate bills, some passed and were signed into law, some died. You and I both know they are already scheming to go at it again in 2016 to further disenfranchise likely Democratic voters.

That is why Hedges is audacious enough to use R words like "revolt" and "revolution."

The course that America and Arizona have been on since I was in high school has only exacerbated the disenfranchisement of the poor and ethnic minorities.

The problem, my friends, is Capitalism Gone Wild.


The social tensions driving rioting in Baltimore or in Ferguson or in whichever city is next (and there WILL be more) will only be relieved by addressing the underlying problems caused by unregulated capitalism which manifest as unfair labor practices such as ever lower wages under threat of off-shoring jobs. The same threats push uncompensated overtime and plenty of other stress inducing practices. And that stress causes physical and mental illness and domestic violence which are now epidemic in America.

Given time, I could tie numerous other contemporary societal ills to this argument.

But really, it is well past time for a revolution of economic and political thinking and action.

David Cay Johnston wrote that, "Upheaval will end when political classes listen to more than just the rich."

That is nothing you and I can expect anytime soon from elected officials or candidates for policy or lawmaking offices anywhere in our state or country... UNTIL those officials recognize the threat of THEM losing their power as elected officials. 

What you'll read from commenting trolls, perhaps some newspaper editorials and most certainly from people like Ted Cruz running for president, instead will be rhetoric to blame the poor and the minorities. This time, there could be enough academic documentation and historical record to demonstrate just how wrong those Republicans are and have been.

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To that end, I offer a Christian solution. No, not the Dominionist or Kochtopus gobbledygook that has dominated the Arizona Capitol for years. A different kind of Christian. More like what we could reasonably expect if Jesus Christ were actually making the rules. The Presbyterian Church of the USA recently published a report titled, Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a New Gilded Age.
Recommendations 
In fulfillment of the assignment of the 220th General Assembly (2012) to provide a biblically-grounded witness for current discussions of tax reform, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy recommends that the 221st General Assembly (2014) approve the following statement of principles and recommendations on justice in taxation, and receive the supporting rationale and resources for study:
I. Principles and Covenant Framework 
It is a basic mark of a healthy social covenant that all share in the society’s benefits and burdens. Just taxation is a foundational part of a moral society’s answer to poverty and its close relatives, inequality, economic insecurity, and social immobility. Just taxation is also a key tool for enabling communities to thrive, for advancing science and culture, and for sustaining democratic institutions. Each citizen has an affirmative duty to contribute to the common good by paying their fair share of taxes. 
I emphatically recommend reform-minded Americans become familiar with this 40-page report.

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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy (well, at least a DETERMINED) Earth Day, Arizona!

As you know (from recent blog post), the REACTIONARY Arizona Legislature was working on imposing a plastic bag ban ban, SB1241. The ALEC-model bill passed and Scrooge McDucey signed it into law.

Fast forward a few weeks, and here we are on Earth Day. Scrooge McDucey conducts himself in office with utter disregard for the will of the voters on environmental, economic and educational matters. In light of his disrespect for Main Street Arizonans, local environmental activist Stacey Champion today established an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to manufacture and distribute reusable grocery bags.



McDucey clearly believes that for the next three years, he does not have to answer to the citizens of Arizona. That's not necessarily a correct assumption on his part. We can turn public perception and help people understand what plutocratic lawmaking and public policy means to everyday Arizonans.

Please join me in supporting this excellent campaign.

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When the legislature confronts controversial issues, if it seeks to actually represent the people and fairly legislate the matter, it may need (and often does incorporate) study committees to gather differing perspectives and insights. In this case, it was not done. SB1241 was changed late in the legislative session without adequate public hearing.

Instead, this was a raw power play on the part of the ALEC-owned GOP leadership to circumvent sound government (municipalities which have the duty and responsibility of managing trash collection and processing). SB1241, with dubious justification, preempted cities', towns' and counties' authority.

In other words, it was a REACTIONARY move contrary to the health and safety interests of Arizonans.

Therefore, in order to provide necessary study materials for the legislature and governor, I now ask you to begin sending your USED single-use plastic grocery bags to Scrooge McDucey, Andy Biggs and David Gowan. the more, the better. We can help them understand why it's important for municipalities to have the authority to properly fulfill their responsibilities.

Scrooge McDucey, governor
1700 W Washington St, 9th Floor
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Andy Biggshot, senate president
1700 W Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

David Gowan, speaker of the house
1700 W Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

One friend recently told me she was concerned that sending the bags to leadership at the capitol would prevent the bags from being recycled. However, if we adequately get the attention of political leaders at the capitol, we can eventually win and therefore enable Arizona cities and towns to make the best decisions on this important issue.

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.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

NN15 -- Netroots Nation Phoenix in July 2015 -- Scholarship vote!

In just a few months, the Netroots Nation's 2015 conference will convene in downtown Phoenix.

Thousands of progressive activists will converge for fellowship, training and inspiration and leave at the end more prepared and determined to make great things happen in their hometowns and communities.

Over the course of July 16 - 19, roughly 80 panel discussions and 40 hands on training sessions will be presented on key topics related to issues and strategies for effective advocacy.

The Arizona Eagletarian hopes to represent and share as many insights as I can absorb and report to you on this blog. I represent YOU. You can help me get to the conference. I have applied for a scholarship to get the conference fee paid, which will allow me to attend.

Please cast your vote for the Arizona Eagletarian!


Yes, it's a competition. But you may vote for more than one person, but only one time for each person you deem worthy of your vote.

VOTE FOR ARIZONA EAGLETARIAN!

Thank you.



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Price of admission: 1 share of Pinnacle West stock!

Recently, the board of directors of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, parent company of Arizona Public Service, released it's 2015 Proxy Statement. The 92-page document has some juicy and potentially very significant tidbits you may want to know about.

First, PinWest's annual meeting will be held on Wednesday May 20, 2015 at 10:30 am (MST) at the Heard Museum on Central Avenue in Phoenix. It says the purposes of the annual meeting are:
  1. to elect ten directors to serve until the 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (Proposal 1);
  2. to hold an advisory vote to approve executive compensation (Proposal 2);
  3. to ratify the appointment of our independent accountants for the year ending December 31, 2015 (Proposal 3);
  4. to consider a shareholder proposal, if properly presented at the Annual Meeting (Proposal 4); and
  5. to transact such other business as may properly come before the Annual Meeting and at any adjournments or postponements thereof.
Apparently, in order to vote, one must be a shareholder of record as of the close of business on March 15, 2015. According to the proxy statement, if you become a new shareholder now, tough shit. You can't even get in to the meeting. And speaking of transparency (were we speaking of transparency?), check this out. From page 9 of the statement,
In order to attend the Annual Meeting, you will need to present a valid picture identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, and either:
  • the Internet Notice or the top portion of your proxy card if you are a shareholder of record (each Internet Notice or proxy card admits up to two shareholders);
  • or a copy of a brokerage statement showing ownership of our stock as of the close of business on the record date if you hold your shares in street name (each brokerage statement admits up to two shareholders).
Please do not carry items such as large handbags and packages to the meeting, as we reserve the right to inspect any items brought into the meeting. Weapons are prohibited in the meeting. We also reserve the right to prohibit bringing cell phones, pagers, cameras, recording devices, and other items into the meeting room.
Would I be off base to interpret that last paragraph to mean that not all stockholders will actually be subject to search? Might a person holding only one or a few shares get more scrutiny than institutional (pension fund) holders? Of course, it's a very good thing to prohibit weapons. But if they don't like you, they will likely be more vigilant about checking to see whether you have a cell phone that can take pictures or record video or audio.

But really, it's the shareholder proposal that intrigues me.

Essentially, because corporate lobbying (especially the way PinWest and APS do it) exposes the company to adverse risks, and because shareholders rely on information provided by the company to determine if it is acting in the best interests of shareholders, the proposal is for the board to report annually, disclosing company policy on both direct and indirect lobbying, lobbying expenditures, membership in organizations like ALEC, and how the Board went about authorizing those lobbying activities and expenditures.

And what do you know, the Board of Directors recommends shareholders refuse to approve the proposal. First, the supporting statement,
Shareholders encourage transparency and accountability in the use of staff time and corporate funds to influence legislation and regulation, directly and indirectly. Pinnacle West Capital does not comprehensively disclose its trade association memberships, nor payments to special interests groups on its website. Absent a system of accountability, company assets could be used for objectives contrary to the long term interests of the company.
Pinnacle West Capital spent approximately $800,000 on federal lobbying in 2013. (opensecrets.org) This figure excludes spending on memberships or contributions to organizations that write and endorse model legislation, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where Pinnacle West Capital serves on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. It also excludes contributions to trade groups such as the Edison Electric Institute, where Pinnacle Capital West [sic] is a member. Additionally, in 2013 Pinnacle West Capital’s subsidiary Arizona Public Service donated $4 million to nonprofits that executed an anti-renewable power advertising campaign which created national controversy. (Berman, ‘‘Why the Dark Money Debate Matters’’, AZCentral.com, April 5, 2014)
We encourage our Board to require comprehensive disclosure related to direct, indirect and grassroots lobbying.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS RESPONSE:
YOUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS UNANIMOUSLY RECOMMENDS A VOTE AGAINST PROPOSAL 4.
Pinnacle West is committed to complying with the law, our policies and our values when engaging in any type of lobbying or political activity. Pinnacle West’s Political Participation Policy (the ‘‘Policy’’) is set forth on our website in our section on Corporate Governance (available at www.pinnaclewest.com). The Policy provides that our Company and our subsidiaries participate in the democratic process to advance our long-term business interests and the interests of our customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders.
Political interaction is important to shareholder value. As a vertically integrated utility, APS is highly regulated and its operations are significantly affected by the actions of elected officials at the local, state and national levels, including the rates it can charge customers, its profitability, and the recovery of the costs of its investments in infrastructure. When it is in the Company’s best interest, the Company has a responsibility to our customers, shareholders and other stakeholders to be an active participant in the political process, to inform policy and decision makers of our views on issues, and to develop and maintain strong working relationships with governmental decision makers. While the proponent claims that lobbying exposes our Company to risks, we believe that the failure to engage in critical public policy developments that impact our business would represent a far greater risk to shareholders’ interests.
Some translation may be needed. Here's mine:

Pinnacle West is committed to doing everything it possibly can to not get caught violating laws. Among the strategies we use, we heavily lobby Congress, the Arizona Legislature, the Arizona Corporation Commission AND the people of Arizona (to propagandize, thereby creating the public perception that what we want changed in law is the right thing to do in all cases). We do so in order that legal compliance is -- as much as possible -- changing laws and the regulatory environment so that what we want to do is made to be legal before we get caught. Especially in doing something we haven't yet had enough time to sweet talk or strong arm lawmakers/regulators into seeing our way.

The expression, "The Policy provides that..." engulfs a wide range of ambiguity. "... our Company and our subsidiaries participate in the democratic process to advance..." Does the policy authorize (the company MAY...) or require (the company SHALL)? I don't know the answer to that question, but I do recall that during the 2004 legislative campaign, when I assisted candidates for the Arizona House in soliciting Clean Elections $5 qualifying contributions, more than one APS employee declined out of fear of retaliation from company management for contributing to candidates not authorized by the company.

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Of course, I am not conversant in laws pertaining to attendance at annual shareholder meetings. But it occurs to me that if one purchases one or more shares of stock now, that person should be lawfully authorized to attend the meeting, even if he or she is not allowed to vote.

At the close of business today, Pinnacle West common stock shares traded at $63.04.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

About Trash Burner Bob Stump...

Remember last month when Checks and Balances Project director Scott Peterson sent a public records request to the Arizona Corporation Commission seeking access to communications Trash Burner Bob Stump, Gary Pierce and/or current ACC chair Susan Bitter Smith or their staff had with Arizona Public Service and its parent, Pinnacle West Capital? The records request was dated March 2nd.

Since it's been about six weeks and Peterson had not heard from the ACC, he advised local media by email earlier today that his organization had begun preparations to sue for that access.
Checks and Balances Project Prepares to Sue Arizona Corporation Commission to Enforce Public Access to Records
Watchdog Seeks Commissioner Bob Stump’s Text Messages with APS Lobbyists, Executives about Customer Access to Low-Cost Solar
April 14, 2015 – Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) announced today that it has hired Dan Barr of Perkins-Coie to prepare a lawsuit to enforce public access to records of Commissioner Bob Stump of the Arizona Corporation Commission concerning his contacts with Arizona Public Service (APS) lobbyists and executives over customer access to low-cost solar. Barr informed the Commission today it must respond immediately or face a lawsuit. Such a lawsuit would be grounded in significant legal precedent under Arizona law.
“It’s been over a month now since the Checks and Balances Project submitted a request for Commissioner Bob Stump’s text messages and other records of his interactions with APS management and lobbyists regarding people’s access to low-cost solar energy,” said Scott Peterson, executive director of C&BP. “There’s no reason for the Commission to hide these records and a lawsuit is the last resort. But we’re telling the Commission today that if we have to take this to a judge, we’re ready to do so.”
Mr. Barr has more than 25 years of experience in the area of civil litigation involving constitutional, employment, media and political law issues. He has represented several news media organizations, including the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona.
About Checks and Balances Project
C&BP is a national public watchdog that seeks to shed light on the influence of corporate management and lobbyists on government officials who stand in the way of the growth of clean energy. In a number of states, utility commissioners are acting almost as consultants to the utilities they are charged with overseeing. The range of favoritism is wide – from casual remarks to open assistance to help a regulated utility shop for a favorable state judge. There seems to be an emerging trend, which is why C&BP is taking a systemic look to see what is going on in state public utility and state corporation commissions. To learn more, visit our website at checksandbalancesproject.org.

# # #
Not long after the Checks and Balances Project issued the press advisory, Barr heard from a staff attorney at the Corp Comm. The agency claimed to have mailed a response on April 8 to the March 2 request, and then emailed a copy of the April 8 letter.





Bridget Humphrey, ACC staff attorney claims that much of the requested information is not available. Odds are, however, this is just a typical stonewall by a government agency that's about to have a very bright light shined on it. It will be interesting to see what corporate media reports on the matter, and to see how it all shakes out.

My hunch is that a whole lot of squirmin's going on and one or more corporation commissioners are quite uncomfortable about it.

In a sense, this is parallel to recent national news that Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez has been indicted for influence peddling in Congress. Corruption is corruption regardless of whether the influence is sold by Democrats or Republicans. More than anything, this is an indictment of Citizens United and McCutcheon. Since SCOTUS had indicated there was no proof that large campaign donations caused corruption, cases like this ultimately will document what social scientists have already researched and documented.

Since we're apparently not seeing much action from Republican AZ Atty. Gen.  Mark "I am not a crook" Brnovich on investigating obvious corruption in Arizona government, I'm hopeful that Peterson's organization can make some headway.

We also know that when citizens go to court in Arizona seeking access to government public records, things eventually open up.

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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.

Monday, April 13, 2015

So bad even GOP lobbyists are fed up?

In a sense, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Arizona State University professor emeritus David Berman spoke recently at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe about our state's first governor, George W. P. Hunt. Berman said that today, Arizona is at a polar opposite position politically from Hunt's time as president of the convention that developed the first state constitution.

Hunt was a force to be reckoned with, a strong voice for establishing a populist state government.

Our current governor, Scrooge McDucey, as we already know, is indeed a polar opposite to Hunt. McDucey is far more interested in what will enrich his benefactors than ensuring the executive branch of state government serves the people of Arizona.

The contrast between the two political leaders -- from different eras -- is incredibly striking. I will explore that contrast even more on this blog once I finish reading Berman's new book, George Hunt: Arizona's Crusading Seven-Term Governor.

For now, however, I must point out a significant paradox. Berman's research into Arizona political history has demonstrated the underlying reason for Hunt's need to crusade. Early Arizona revolved not around scenarios from John Wayne movies but rather the corporate interests (largely mining and railroads) that had been exerting undue influence on public policy and lawmaking at the state capitol.

From Berman's perspective, scandals like AZSCAM gave life to the biblical notion that there is no new thing under the sun.

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Will any of you (regular readers of the Arizona Eagletarian anyway) be surprised to learn that the 2015 regular session of the legislature disgusted me tremendously?

The leading indicators (similar to leading economic indicators, but in this case, leading political indicators) for the last few years have been screaming out warnings of what the Koch, Cathi Herrod and Alec-driven politicos would be doing as soon as they developed a solid enough base of political power.

In 1980, a mythology emerged with the election of Ronald Reagan. Widely known as Voodoo Economics, Reagan's people called it "supply-side" and "trickle down." Led by economist Milton Friedman, they sold the nation, and the world, on the fantasy that enacting public/economic policy and laws to deregulate and privatize EVERYTHING, and cut taxes on the richest citizens, would make everything peachy for working and middle class America. Those financial advantages would "trickle down" to the rest of us, Main Street America.

Now, 35 years of experience has proven that myth to be about as far from reality as a society can get.

Yet, in spite of the facts, Scrooge McDucey, AZ Senate Pres. Andy Biggshot and House Speaker David Gowan -- really the only three elected officials who had any substantive say in the development of the FY2016 state government budget -- went, as the latest pop culture expression goes, "all in" on the Voodoo. The House Ways and Means committee, which has the ostensible purpose of figuring out ways and means to pay for the functions of state government, spent the entire session laser-focused on bills to cut revenue sources.

Many people -- nearly all of them smarter than me -- have eloquently documented that the myth of Voodoo Economics actually plays out in massive exploitation and greed, imposing overwhelming oppression on the vast majority of Arizonans (as well as in every other state).

Now comes AD 2015, a year when quid pro quo ran amok at the Arizona Capitol.

You do not have to take my word for it. Long time Republican lobbyists and community leaders are now speaking out.

Kevin DeMenna, who has been lobbying in Arizona for more than 30 years, in an op-ed published by the Arizona Republic, wrote recently,
Like the proverbial dog that finally caught the car, it's time to confront the question of what to do next. A solid effort to reboot Arizona government by updating or eliminating outdated programs, processes, and laws belongs on the agenda. There is always room for improvement.
Because he makes his living by sweet talking state lawmakers, his criticisms are not harsh and his suggested solutions do not necessarily hit the mark. But he does recognize the increasingly problematic conduct and does give hints about situations that are gravely in need of reform.

The fact is, populists (including populist Republicans) have been pointing to solutions for decades. However, the reigning cabal has persistently resisted enacting the solutions that have been staring them in the face for more than a generation. Clean Elections is a big one. Incrementally chipping away at it since inception and inviting the increasingly lopsided accumulation of power by monied special interests, we now have exactly what Koch/Herrod/ALEC want.

Community leader (and Maricopa Community College District Board member) Dana Saar, in a letter to the Arizona Republic wrote,
Now that another Arizona legislative session has ended, will our lawmaker's efforts improve our overall quality of life?
After all, isn't that why we paid them and for which we should all hold them accountable?
I don't remember seeing any form of enduring outcomes or ends that guide Arizona's legislation or policy. The old saying from Alice in Wonderland, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there" seems to be Arizona's legislative model.
It's time for our state leadership to establish a publicly accessible strategic plan that identifies a pathway to what citizens of Arizona consider their reasonable and attainable outcomes.
The Harvard Strategic Planning process identifies essential first steps in the development of a results-based accountability system and asks the following questions:
Where are we? What do we have to work with? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? These questions are easily answered if one brings the community's vision to the table. (emphasis mine)
Both DeMenna and Saar obviously recognize the same problems anyone paying attention would see. They may not easily embrace the solution-oriented approach Democratic lawmakers and activists suggest, but I have to rejoice that people of all political backgrounds are getting fed up with the status quo at the Capitol. If people from all points on the political spectrum DO come together to discuss the community's vision, common ground can be found.

When that happens, we'll be able to see, as Ralph Nader wrote in Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.
Many major changes can be accomplished in areas where self-described liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and progressives all agree on the goal, not because they are pushed to these stands by pressure groups, but because they feel it is the right thing to do. But beyond words, it requires what Republican Bruce Fein calls "advocacy without an agenda."**
In the meantime, people like Saar and DeMenna might want to look back and recognize that the leading indicators have been there all along and the fundamental reform necessary (along with ideas they may have worth considering) is to stop electing people who have the hooks of the Koctopus, ALEC and Cathi Herrod into them so deeply that they can't make independent judgments and decisions in the best interests of Arizona and its people.


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** Pages 4-5 in the hardbound edition. Nader footnotes that the Fein quote comes from an interview he conducted with Fein on October 31, 2013.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why is the AZ Legislature intent on imposing urban BLIGHT throughout our state? UPDATED 5:50pm 4-1-15

Nothing in contemporary society (Arizona, the United States and really, the entire world) is as UBIQUITOUS as the single use plastic bag and single use plastic product packaging. It's been about 48 years since Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate was encouraged to pursue a career in plastics.



Even if "Ben" didn't pursue that career, plenty of others did. Now these items are literally EVERYWHERE, having proliferated throughout the entire civilized world. Probably even to many areas that are not highly populated.


Don't Trash Arizona, a joint effort between the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and ADOT (AZ Dept. of Transportation), says,


  • It costs taxpayers more than $3 million every year to clean up litter along Valley roadways. There is an additional cost to the economy when businesses and tourists fail to return to our state due to a poor impression. (and that's not counting what gets cleaned up by volunteers)


  • ADOT crews remove 500 bags of trash every weekday just from Maricopa County freeways alone. This equals about 1.6 MILLION pounds of trash every year.


  • Litter is not only ugly, it is unsanitary and can cause environmental and health problems. Cigarette butts, for example, along with plastics and other types of litter, contain toxic chemicals that can end up in storm drains and contaminate our water systems. (emphasis mine)



  • Of course, Arizonans have been recycling plastics, paper, glass and aluminum cans for years. So much so that municipal governments contract with private (small business) companies to process the items in the BLUE trash bins.



    United Fibers, a recycling facility in Chandler, separates the loads brought to it by recycling trucks into paper, plastics, aluminum cans, etc. After the sorting process, one of the main products United Fibers produces is cellulose insulation used in homebuilding.



    But before it gets to that stage,





    ... it has to be sorted. The reason the items on the conveyor belt are blurry is because they move fast.

    Yet, the workers aren't able to catch every plastic bag (or other item composed of plastic film). Here's what happens next,


    This machine has to be stopped several times each day to cut and pull the plastic film (mostly single use plastic bags) out of the rollers.

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    SB1241, a bill changed in the Arizona House of Representatives to prohibit political subdivisions from banning single use plastic bags, was a response to news that municipalities now want to actually take action that will reduce the cost of government, reduce the cost of trash collection and processing, and protect the beauty of our great state. How in the world can these boneheads get away with claiming to be for reducing the cost of government while doing stupid stuff like this?

    Yesterday, the Arizona House passed SB1241 on a close to party line vote with only one two Democrats voting with ALL [but one, Noel Campbell, LD1] of the Republicans to TRASH ARIZONA. The bill is scheduled for a final vote in the Senate today.

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    It's time for Arizona citizens to get real about our state legislature. A number of bills this year, including this one that may go to Gov. Scrooge McDucey as early as today, have as a shamelessly obvious end result -- intentional or not -- that they will impose BLIGHT on our cities and towns by making it more difficult to reduce sources of trash problems.

    In this case, SB1241 preempts municipal regulation of (prohibits bans on) single use plastic bags by retail establishments. The irrational justification for this draconian piece of legislation is found in explicit language in the bill.

    C.  The legislature finds that small businesses are particularly sensitive to costs and expenses incurred in complying with regulatory actions of a city or town. The legislature further finds that inconsistent regulation by cities and towns hinders a small business from benefiting from free and open competition. 
    Except that no testimony before any committee in the House (the subject of the bill was entirely different when it was passed by the senate on February 23) demonstrated that ANY regulation by cities, towns or counties of any environmental problem, issue or concern, would or even could prevent small businesses in any Arizona jurisdiction from competing for customers.

    If the Arizona Legislature were anything other than the sick and pathetic body of plutocratic policymaking that it is, legislative testimony in committees would require thoughtful consideration of all sides of issues BEFORE any legislation is approved. But we know that just is not how it works at 1700 W. Washington in Phoenix.

    Once upon a time, Democrats and Republicans in the legislature worked together. Not so much anymore. Because the Republicans own the lawmaking power in our state, the ramifications go well beyond the fact that the interests of Main Street Arizonans are completely disregarded.

    In practice, we NOW see how even when the GOP wants to represent the interests of small businesses (well, that's what the bill says anyway), they really don't.

    The cost to big grocery and convenience store chains for implementing proposals like those being considered by the Flagstaff and Tempe City Councils, would be minimal. Especially given that stores like Fry's and Sprouts have already acclimated customers to bringing their own bags with an incentive (Sprouts still offers a nickel discount for each reusable bag a customer brings with them), or Trader Joe's with a contest giveaway drawing for those who do likewise.

    In 2014, California became the first state to institute a statewide ban on plastic bags. It goes into effect in July this year.
    SACRAMENTO, CA - Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation imposing the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, driven to action by a buildup of litter and damage to aquatic ecosystems.
    Tell me, can you honestly believe chamber of commerce claims that a statewide ban (in California) is going to cause that state's residents to move out of state or even those in towns that border other states to go to those other states to buy groceries and other consumer goods?

    How, therefore, could it be rational for Arizona lawmakers to forbid cities to institute bans? Just because California did it and we're impetuous teenagers who refuse to do it just because our "socialist" neighbor to the west did it?

    Is it rational for Arizona to consider the preemption based on advocacy from chambers of commerce representing BIG grocery chains (even though they deceptively invoke the term "small business?") without testimony from actual small businesses needlessly harmed by the proliferation of single use retail plastic bags?

    Is it rational for Arizona lawmakers to narcissistically throw tantrums when the federal government does something they don't appreciate (or understand) and then turn around and without fully vetting a proposal impose their short-sighted will on the jurisdictions that actually have to cope with the problem?

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    SB1241 will likely end up on Scrooge McDucey's desk today or tomorrow. It's time to call his office and tell him it's time to stop the spread of this insidious BLIGHT. Tell him to VETO SB1241 so that local jurisdictions will have the opportunity to find ways to address this ugly problem.

    The plastic bag problem, that is. It will take much more to fix the corruption and dysfunction that is the Arizona Legislature itself.

    The Arizona governor's Office of Constituent Services can be reached at 602-542-4331 or by email contact form.

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    UPDATE               UPDATE               UPDATE

    A source at the Arizona Senate just advised me that the final vote on SB1241 will likely take place tomorrow.

    Therefore, please contact key potential swing votes in the senate TONIGHT and ask them to vote NO, including:

    Carlyle Begay 602-926-5862  or (and) email cbegay@azleg.gov

    Jeff Dial 602-926-5550 or (and) email jdial@azleg.gov

    Steve Pierce 602-926-5584 or (and) email spierce@azleg.gov

    Adam Driggs 602-926-3016 or (and) email adriggs@azleg.gov

    Catherine Miranda 602-926-4893 or (and) email cmiranda@azleg.gov

    Bob Worsley 602-926-5760 or (and) email bworsley@azleg.gov