Saturday, February 24, 2007

Arizonans: Guard lands, change 1872 Mining Law

Coronado National Forest AZ

TUCSON -- A big crowd was downtown today to say no to mining in the Santa Rita Mountains, and support public-interest reforms to the outdated federal 1872 Mining Law.

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) chaired the first meeting of his new environmental subcommittee.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was also there. The proposed unpopular Rosemont mine is in her district 8. She did a good job listening closely and asking questions.

Both reps are doing a fine job for S. AZ in congress.

Gabby's smart media man CJ Karamargin sent me her opening statement.

I would like to thank my colleague, Rep. Grijalva, for inviting me to participate in this hearing today.

I know the issue we're discussing is a significant one, and I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
Let me state right up front that I have very deep concerns about an 800-acre open-pit mine in one of the most scenic areas of Southern Arizona.

The potential environmental impacts of this mine to the Santa Rita Mountains are profound. Water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, traffic hazards - the list is truly disturbing.

In my view, the residents who are worried about these impacts have some very legitimate reasons to be concerned.

The Santa Ritas are a national treasure. Anything that might threaten them must be taken seriously.
To be sure, this is why the Pima County Supervisors have taken a strong stand they have against this mining proposal.

But this specific mining proposal is only part of the reason behind this hearing. Another is the 1872 Mining Law. I think it is astounding that this law was already 40 years old when Arizona became a state in 1912.

It is telling, in my view, that the 1872 law has no environmental, public health or safety provisions.

Mining, of course, has a long history in Pima County and throughout Arizona. Its contributions to our economy, political development and culture are well-known. But it is precisely because of the inability of 135-year old mining law to respond to the needs of our communities today that congressional oversight and review of the law is needed.

I look forward to hearing testimony from all sides of this issue.

Today's hearing is the start of a new congressional effort to reform the 1872 Mining Law and mining in general on American public lands.

I enjoyed the solid testimony today from Pima County, City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, Lainie Levick, the visiting Secretary of State of Wisconsin, Roger Featherstone, and others.

Let's hope the House passes a good reform bill, and that it may have a chance in a Senate controlled by pro-mining Sen. Reid (D-NV).

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cheney wrong again on global warming cause

WASHINGTON -- Who cares what all the world's scientists say, VP Dick Cheney continues to wrongly mislead about global warming pollution, continuing the Bush Administration's dirty legacy of fossil fuel politics over science.

It's another embarrassment for America every time Bush's Darth Vader veep opens his mouth.

Arizona and the southwest will suffer hotter and drier conditions now and in the future with no help from Bush/Cheney and their hot air gang.

Keep jumpy horse danger at rodeo, not city streets

TUCSON -- As the father of a 4 year old girl, I am very sad at the death of Brielle Boisvert of Sonoita yesterday at the Rodeo Parade on the south side.

I am not a big fan of ranching, but I like horses and the non-motorized Rodeo Parade.

Unfortunately, people are often injured in the rodeo parade. Brielle shouldn't have been alone on that big horse with a wagon right behind her. But looking out life's rear window is always 20/20, and its too late now for her.

I ride horses, and I'm a big strong guy. When a horse is spooked and wants to run, it takes all my power just to just stay on, and maybe stop the horse after a minute. Even then, sometimes I get thrown. A five year old has no chance.

Perhaps we should remove easily spooked and dangerous half-ton+ horses from Tucson's streets, and start a rodeo bike parade in 08?

Keep the horses and wagons where they belong at the Rodeo Grounds, not on Tucson streets where it is more likely horses will get scared and panic with tragic results.

I'm sure the parents, wagon driver, and parade organizers are devastated. RIP, Brielle, and best to the family in this very tough time.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

AZ politicians want DNA of 75k more people a year

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill to require police to spend $4M more a year to seize DNA from everyone arrested in the state.

SB 1267 is sponsored by Mesa Republican Chuck Gray.

Gray's bill goes way too far, mandating police to seize DNA from an estimated additional 75,000 people a year, and again exposes the GOP as the party of big police state government.

So much for any presumption of innocence until proven guilty. An arrest does not mean you are guilty of any crime, only a conviction in court does.

Gray's bill has no provisions that would require police to show a need for DNA samples, or to allow those arrested but innocent to get their DNA removed from police databases.

Currently, DNA sampling in Arizona is wisely only allowed after conviction in cases where it may be needed, such as rape and murder, and also all felonies. Certainly there are appropriate uses of DNA evidence in modern crime fighting, and convicted felons should be dealt with appropriately. But DNA is much more than fingerprints, and seizing DNA from everyone arrested would be severe over-kill and a big violation of our American civil liberties.

Gray's bill is almost certainly a violation of the US Constitution Bill of Rights 4th Amendment that protects Americans, it says: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The full Arizona Senate should reject Gray's unwise bill, but likely won't.

If not, Governor Napolitano should veto.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pima broadens move to protect lands from mining

Hon. Richard Elias (D), Chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors

TUCSON -- This morning the Pima County Supervisors widened their opposition to mining beyond the Santa Rita mountains to include all conservation lands county wide.

The wise unanimous bi-partisan support to protect our air, water, health and quality of life was impressive.

Supervisor Ann Day (R) summed up the issue nicely by saying, "mining isn't what people here want."

Reform of the outdated and damaging federal 1872 Mining Law will take center stage Saturday, during a congressional hearing by US Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) at the county hearing room downtown starting at 10am.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cops look at border vigilantes in migrant murders

TUCSON -- From today's Chicago Tribune story, U.S. border clampdown has violent side effects.

"Because three of the gunmen were white men and the other a Hispanic man with limited Spanish, authorities are looking at the prospect of vigilantism, according to Pena and Pinal County Sheriff's spokesman Mike Minter."

Pena is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's special agent in charge of Arizona.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Leal, Trasoff have good idea on arts eviction fund

TUCSON -- City council members Steve Leal and Nina Trasoff have asked city Rio Nuevo staff to look into how much could be put in a fund, to help downtown artists facing possible state mandated evictions from their warehouse district spaces.

This is a wise move to investigate. It seems like it wouldn't cost too much of the Rio Nuevo budget.

A closely connected and bigger issue is, should the artists be forced by the state to move?

It's an unwise move to have forced eviction of artists. Kicking people out would mirror damaging past urban renewal mistakes. Mistakes we shouldn't make again in Tucson.

Tucson needs the downtown warehouse district to thrive, and that won't happen if its most dedicated people are pushed out. If booted, many artists may not return to downtown.

Where is the Governor on this? It's her AZ Dept. of Transportation that has issued the eviction notices. Certainly there are more reasonable options.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mitigate pollution & heat from growing TUS flights

TUCSON -- Many are excited about the growth of quality air service here at TIA, including me and my family. We never fly Phoenix. The JetBlue NYC connection is great.

New non-stops to Austin, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, and elsewhere are good for Tucson travellers, but more flights pump more pollution and heat into the increasingly dirty hot air of Pima County.

Airports are big sources of pollution, and the urban heat island effect -- which is especially bad in summer. As TIA grows, pollution and heat from it grows.

As we reap the economic benefits, we need to mitigate health and quality of life effects, especially to southside residents near the airport.

What will TIA, airlines, frequent flyers, and government do to mitigate pollution and heat from our busy and growing airport?

It can and should be done.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

BLM conservation lands need more than a nickel

TUCSON -- The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a federal agency within the US Interior Dept., is responsible for more of your public land than any other agency.

BLM's National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) is supposed to protect scenic monuments and places such as the San Pedro River, similar to National Parks, but it is suffering under Bush/Cheney.

I did some calculations on the President's FY 08 budget, and found:

BLM's NLCS gets $49.2M

BLM's 847 NLCS units, places such as the Ironwood Forest National Mounment seen here, cover 42.3M acres, 2061 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and 5203 miles of National Historic and Scenic Trails.

BLM NLCS gets $1.16 per acre, or $58k per unit.
Note: This is a high estimate as river and trail funding is not included, calculating these would make funding accurately even lower.

The National Park Service gets $2B

NPS 390 units cover 84M acres.

NPS gets $23.81 per acre, or $5.1M per unit.

So for every dollar NPS gets, BLM NLCS gets a nickel ($20:1).

BLM's complicated 'multiple use' viewpoint makes NLCS management even more demanding in many cases than National Parks.

NPS deserves and needs the money, and so does BLM for NLCS.

US Reps. Grijalva, Renzi, Giffords, Filner
and others should reject Bush/Cheney and push for more NLCS funding.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bush Blochs investigation of staff protection agency

UPDATE, 2/13: Bloch backs off


Special Counsel Staff Afraid to Meet with Investigators in Monitored Offices

WASHINGTON — A slow-moving investigation of retaliation complaints within the federal agency charged with whistleblower protection has ground to a halt due to obstruction by the probe's target, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The beleaguered head of the Office of Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, is now insisting that when outside investigators contact staff members to set up interviews, the investigators must make the appointments through his office.


-- from PEER

Friday, February 09, 2007

Migrants killed by bandits, or border vigilantes?

TUCSON -- At least four immigrants have been shot and killed recently in Arizona, including children, and others wounded.

The first shooting and murder was near Eloy, where men in camo are said to have stopped a vehicle full of suspected migrants and opened fire.

Thursday's triple murder was near the Silverbell Mountains, northwest of Tucson. The top photo of the scene shows a man dead in the pickup bed.

The Derechos Humanos Coalition made this comment: A horribly violent attack yesterday. Although it is still not clear who the shooters were or what their motivations were, it is crystal clear that our policies, which have shifted traffic into remote, dangerous areas, and created the lucrative business of underground human smuggling are to blame for the increasing violence we are seeing in our communities. Anti-immigrant and hate rhetoric, xenophobic policies, vigilante activity, and the tragedy of migrant deaths are the direct results of our border and immigration policies, period.

Eloy and the Silverbells are far from the border, reducing the likelihood that these attacks were by border bandits. Bandits can be a problem, and they may be responsible here, but they are not known to murder people they are trying to rob.

Some minutemen and other border vigilantes, seen here on the border with high powered guns, are known to threaten violence against migrants. Perhaps some of them are now carrying out threats by gunning down migrants?

The possibility of border vigilantes being responsible for these murders and shootings deserves serious investigation.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Biodiesel in city fleets a better plan for air & health

TUCSON -- The city is moving toward using B20, a 20% biodiesel blend, in trash trucks and other diesel fleet vehicles.

This is a good idea. No conversion required, just start using B20.

Biodiesel reduces smoke, stink, and global warming pollution.

Using biodiesel also helps Tucson do more to curb America's expensive war-causing foreign oil addiction.

When replacing vehicles, the city should keep and buy more diesels, and fuel them with B100 pure biodiesel for even more benefits.

My family uses biodiesel to power our VW TDI, and it works great.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tucsonan who 'wanted the hell out' killed in Iraq

Photo: Son wanted 'to get the hell out of Iraq'

RAMADI, IRAQ -- After not being allowed to leave the war on time, another Tucson soldier was killed during weekend fighting in the Iraq war.

Spc. Alan E. McPeek, 20, died Friday during a battle in Ramadi the Bush Department of Defense said.

His dad said he "wanted to get the hell out of Iraq... he had already served his required time there and should have been safe in Germany when this happened."

RIP, Alan. Your death saddens us all.

We have to end Bush/Cheney's horrible lost war now.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Use Pima 'waste' water for stream habitat on mtn.

MT. LEMMON AZ -- Pima County and the US Forest Service are investigating the best ways to use treated wastewater up here on beautiful Frog Mountain.

An excellent use of the water is restoring and recharging Sabino Creek and the Sabino Canyon watershed, which flows down from Summerhaven.

Using precious rare water to try to make snow for marginal skiing is not wise. We have to depend on mother nature for snow.

I predict most Summerhaven and Pima County residents will want the water used for habitat improvements.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Arizonans need TUS-PHX daily commuter train

PHOENIX -- Traffic on I-10 is bad will only get worse. Arizonans need a Tucson-Phoenix daily commuter train. My family and I would use it as a relaxing and economical alternative.

Downtown Tucson has a wonderfully welcoming historic depot.

A passenger train makes sense, and I applaud the Governor and other leaders trying to make it happen.

The Union Pacific Railroad should help by sharing or helping build new tracks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Staff: Wildlife refuge cuts crippling conservation

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in Brown Canyon AZ. Buenos Aires and other border region refuges are suffering from cuts and stress related to failed US border policy.

TUCSON -- Important news is released today by PEER in DC: Wildlife Refuge Cuts Crippling Conservation, Managers Say.

US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuges, including Buenos Aires, Cabeza Prieta in Arizona, Bosque del Apache in New Mexico and others are already in trouble, and more cuts from the White House will make it much worse.

"I have never seen the refuge system budget situation this bad... in my 32 years of government service," said Roger DiRosa, Manager of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, one of the largest in the nation. "This could leave the refuge system in a state of peril." (Ajo Copper News, 12/20/06).

Far too much money is being blown in Bush & Cheney's failed Iraq war, stressing the entire federal budget and shortchanging funding for public-interest programs.