Saturday, June 30, 2007

Army gives desert land to GM for corporate use

Gas-guzzling GM gets corporate welfare from Army

YUMA AZ -- In the latest US government handout to big corporations, the US Army is giving a lot of free Sonoran Desert land on the Yuma Proving Ground to General Motors for private development.

GM and the Army recently signed a deal to create a joint-use facility on 2,400 acres north of Yuma next to US 95. GM also will get an unspecified amount of land adjacent to this site for its own exclusive use.

Undeveloped Army land to be paved by GM
GM WILL develop the $100 million test complex within 2,400 acres at YPG, north of the Martinez Lake Road.

The facilities will be developed for testing GM's mostly gas-guzzling global warming vehicles. Because it will be on military protected land and under restricted air space, GM is assured of privacy as it develops new Hummers.

The Army recently claimed it needed to expand the Yuma Proving Ground, but apparently the Army still has plenty of land to give to big corporations for development and profit.

GM sold its longtime Desert Proving Ground in Mesa in December, netting $265 million for 3,200 desert acres, which will now likely be fully paved and developed.

So if GM spends about $100 million to build a new test track facility on YPG's free land, it will keep about $165 million in it's pocket. Sweet deal for GM.

Mesa gets more sprawl, GM profits and gets free land, and military training lands in the sensitive Sonoran Desert will be paved for corporate use.

I was born and raised in a GM town (Lansing MI), and I sympathize with the US auto industry, but this bad Bush/Cheney corporate welfare deal is a rip-off for the public-interest.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Western Dem news: Gov Richardson, Rep Giffords

Gov. Richardson and Rep. Giffords in Tucson last fall. DRP photo

TUCSON -- Two quick news briefs today on Western Democrats.

My favorite Dem candidate for President, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, has entered the top tier of Dem Presidential candidates.

The Washington Post also speculates that Gov. Richardson could be a choice for VP.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) today joined more than 130 members of Congress in a call to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

In a letter to President Bush, Giffords and her colleagues wrote that the prison "has undermined America's image as the model of justice and protector of human rights around the world."

Approximately 370 prisoners are being detained and interrogated as "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay. Most of the prisoners have never been charged with crimes, and none have gone on trial.

"The global war on terror cannot be won through military might alone," the lawmakers wrote. "It is a war of ideas and philosophies. A liability of our own creation, the existence of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay is defeating our effort to ensure that the principles of freedom, justice and human rights are spread throughout the world."

Giffords, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committee, is a co-sponsor of legislation to restore habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo Bay detainees. The denial of those rights is among the reasons former Secretary of State Colin Powell also recently called for closing the facility.

"Secretary of State Powell reminded us that the American judicial system knows how to handle 'bad people,'" Giffords said. "He reminded us that we cannot afford to have the world doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. That is why I am urging the president to move quickly and close Guantanamo Bay."

Thank you, Congresswoman Giffords.

- GG section adapted from CJK

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rangers say off-roading biggest threat to US lands

BLM Ranger dealing with off-roader

TUCSON -- Reckless off-roading has become an acute law enforcement problem and is now the single greatest threat to American landscapes, according to a new coalition of rangers and public land managers assembled by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Rangers say tough new policies, such as suspending hunting and fishing licenses and, in extreme cases, confiscating vehicles, are needed to stem irresponsible off-road vehicle use.

The coalition, called Rangers for Responsible Recreation, consists of more than a dozen of America’s most seasoned law enforcement and natural resource management specialists from every major public lands agency covering several different administrations. The coalition contends off-road abuse is creating chaos on our public lands and ruining the outdoors for everyone while overburdening an already strapped ranger force.

As Don Hoffman, a retired Forest Service wilderness ranger in Arizona states:

“Rapid population growth, accelerating off-road vehicle sales and ineffectual regulation have combined to make the indiscriminate use of off-road vehicles the greatest threat to Arizona's quiet, wild places.”

Ron Kearns, a retired biologist and law enforcement officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, adds:

“I have observed a dramatic increase in the use and misuse of off-road vehicles on the Kofa since I began my law enforcement duties there in 1982. The abuse involves driving off the 300 miles of designated roads on Kofa resulting in irreparable damage to desert pavement and pristine lands. The Fish and Wildlife Service must increase law enforcement efforts.”

From a national perspective, Jim Baca, former Director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management now serving as New Mexico's Natural Resource Trustee, contends:

“There is no greater threat to our country's public land treasure than off-road vehicles. Additionally, they are killing and injuring too many young people because of improper training, operation and inherent safety deficiencies.”

The Rangers for Responsible Recreation are also urging a congressional inquiry that accounts for the real costs to taxpayers from off-road abuses on our public lands, as well as augmented law enforcement funding dedicated to coping with the avalanche of problems occasioned by reckless off-roading.

“Off-roading is becoming the most widely destructive, problematic and demanding use of public lands,” states Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who formerly worked with the Bureau of Land Management, noting that off-road abuse has morphed motorized access into destructive 'wreckreation.' “America needs a new national approach to what has become a plague on our legacy of conservation. No one has a right to abuse our public lands.”

- from PEER


Other coverage, 6/29: Los Angeles Times, Salt Lake Tribune, Oregonian (AP); 6/30, Salt Lake Tribune editorial; 7/1, Victorville Daily Press; 7/2, CSM, REP America; 7/4, Seattle P-I, MidCurrent Fishing News; 7/10, Idaho Falls Post Register

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gov. Napolitano says keep AZ Bald Eagles safe

Desert Bald Eagle on the Verde River

PHOENIX -- It is widely expected that tomorrow the US Fish & Wildlife Service will move to end Endangered Species Act protections nationwide for the Bald Eagle.

America's national symbol is doing much better these days in much of the country as a result of the Act's protections, but unfortunately Bald Eagles are still threatened in Arizona and the southwest.

Only 43 pairs of Bald Eagles live in Arizona today.

Desert Nesting Bald Eagles are still imperiled largely due to the 90%+ losses of desert streams and riparian areas in the southwest. While eagles in the Great Lakes or other places may no longer need the Act's shield, Arizona's eagles still need it.

Arizona's Tribal leadership has been strongly in favor of keeping Desert Eagles protected by the ESA, but the Bush/Cheney Interior Department has not consulted with the Tribes in a respectful and meaningful government-to-government manner.

Listening to Arizonans and caring for the eagles, Governor Napolitano sent letter yesterday to Interior Secretary Kempthorne, saying "Arizona's Tribal leaders are uniformly in favor of maintaining the protections that stem from inclusion on the Endangered Species List for the Sonoran Desert Nesting Bald Eagle... I believe it is important to keep this population on the Endangered Species List..."

Arizona Democratic Congressmen Grijalva and Mitchell have also supported keeping ESA protections in place for Desert Nesting Bald Eagles.

As America celebrates the return of the beautiful Bald Eagle, let's not forget the Eagles still endangered in the southwest. We can and should restore Desert Eagles too.


UPDATE, 6/28: Today the Bush/Cheney administration removed Bald Eagles from the ESA list, including in Arizona and the southwest.

Blue Dog Dems unleash weak energy principles

Lump of coal to Blue Dog energy view

WASHINGTON -- The conservative Blue Dog Democrats today released their energy principles.

These weak energy principles are a major disappointment.

As Arizona and the southwest get hotter and drier due to global warming, the Blue Dogs point largely to more coal, nukes, oil & gas, and slow going on global warming solutions.

Blue Dog Rep. Matheson (D-UT) said the first principle is that of "energy PAYGO"-- the insistence that U.S. energy policy should not result in a net loss of domestic energy.

So much for conservation and reducing energy demand.

"We have diverse energy resources in American today and we can't discard any of them... a reliable supply of conventional fuels are essential for our economy," says Matheson.

The Blue Dogs say U.S. energy policy should not reduce existing access to domestic energy resources, like dirty coal or expensive and dangerous nukes.

These conservative Dems weakly advocate 'more research and development' to help achieve meaningful carbon dioxide reductions in a viable manner.

"You have to be realistic about how far you need to go and how fast you can get there," said Matheson. "It would be wrong to produce an energy policy that doesn't live up to its billing and creates disruption and chaos."

Several Republican and Democratic Governors are saying do more now to cut global warming pollution.

Democrats can do better. I hope many in Congress will favor more and faster progress on energy and global warming than the Blue Dogs.

If you want the full 6 pages of Blue Dog energy views, please e-mail me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rep. Flake targets Ironwood National Monument

Flake scheming with DC lobbyist

WASHINGTON -- Not satisfied with his recent failed attack on the Endangered Species Act, US Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will likely push an unwise proposal for the off-road vehicle and gun lobbies to block BLM from protecting natural resources and public safety from reckless off-roading and wildcat shooting on the Ironwood Forest National Monument, west of Tucson.

Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) is leading the charge to beat back Flake's extremism here. The Ironwood Forest National Monument is in Mr. Grijalva's district.

Warning to Flake: keep your anti-conservation Mesa politics out of Southern Arizona.

UPDATE, 2:45pm: Quick and effective work by greens killed Flake's amendment today. He pulled it, but may try to attach it later to another bill.

Monday, June 25, 2007

GOP Rep. Pearce wants southwest wolves dead

El lobo targeted by wildlife hating Republicans

WASHINGTON -- Congress is expected to vote on the future of southwest wolves tomorrow.

In one of the great conservation accomplishments of the 20th century, the “lobo” was reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico in 1998 after being driven to extinction in the wild during the early part of the last century.

These captive-bred wolves and their wild offspring have done well -- forming packs, hunting elk, pairing up and having pups. Left alone, these wolves thrive. Unfortunately, they’ve struggled against welfare ranchers, illegal killing and mismanagement.

Just 59 southwest wolves now remain, and some Republicans in Congress want to end federal efforts to save them. An amendment expected to be offered tomorrow by US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) would eliminate funding for the southwest wolf reintroduction program -- completely ending the program and dooming the wolves to extinction.

In preparation for the vote, Pearce and his anti-wolf gang have even stooped to spreading lies about the southwest wolf recovery program, circulating factually inaccurate reports of wolf attacks. At a recent hearing on the Endangered Species Act, Pearce even made the outrageous statement that “Nothing is more attractive to a wolf than the sound of a crying baby.”

The truth is there is not one documented case of a healthy, wild wolf killing a human in the United States. In fact, you are more likely to be killed by a meteorite than a wild wolf.

- adapted from NMWA

UPDATE, 6/26: Pearce's amendment failed. Rep. Giffords, Grijalva and other AZ Dems voted no, along with 38 R's from other states. All AZ GOP Reps. voted against wildlife.

Supreme Court rules for Bush in environment case

Alito serves Bush/Cheney and industry

WASHINGTON -- The statement below was issued today by Defenders of Wildlife in response to a bad ruling by the Supreme Court in an anti-environment, anti-public interest case pushed by Arizona developers and the Bush/Cheney administration, and supported by Gov. Napolitano's ADEQ.

The Supreme Court today issued a 5-4 decision in EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife, limiting the obligation of federal agencies under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize imperiled species. The majority held that the Endangered Species Act’s duty to consult applies only to discretionary actions. Today’s decision, while unfortunate, should apply only to a very narrow category of actions by federal agencies—actions compelled by the terms of another federal law—and should not be read as a broad abrogation of the authority of the Endangered Species Act.

We are very disappointed with the majority’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, which we think ignores the clear intention of Congress when they enacted the Endangered Species Act. The Act was intended by Congress as a clear, independent mandate for all federal agencies to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize endangered species or destroy their critical habitat.

As explained in Justice Stevens’ dissent, the Endangered Species Act works in harmony with other federal mandates and should not be trumped by other federal laws without the express direction of Congress. We are concerned that the Court’s decision, combined with the Bush administration’s clear history of undermining the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act, could lead to additional extinctions of American wildlife—extinctions which the Act is intended to prevent. Today’s decision will also likely create unnecessary confusion in the lower courts regarding the scope of the Act, which historically has been applied to all federal actions that might harm endangered or threatened species.

“We are very disappointed in this narrow decision by the Supreme Court... on its impacts to... communities around the state,” US Rep. Grijavla (D-AZ) said in a statement.

KOLD 13 coverage

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Right-wing columnist Ducote joins mining industry

PHOENIX -- Richard Ducote, a right-wing former business editor and columnist for the Arizona Daily Star since 1986, this spring joined giant mining corporation Freeport McMorRan / Phelps Dodge as a press flak.

Ducote was recently seen on Tucson TV news at the explosion of an old PD stack in Ajo. He also was talking last month about expanding mining in and around Bisbee.

Ducote is an example of the revolving door between industry and the conservative media.

At least now Ducote's being paid directly by the mining industry to spout their reckless excesses.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rep. Giffords picked for conservative Blue Dogs

WASHINGTON -- US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona has been elected to the Blue Dog Democrats.

The conservative and moderate Blue Dogs can be helpful when they stick to fiscal responsibility issues. They can be harmful when they veer off on some social, defense and environmental issues.

Good luck, Congresswoman Giffords, as a part of the Blue Dogs. Please try to keep them more on the moderate track, not too conservative.

US Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) was also trying to join the Blue Dogs, but was not elected.

New appointment to Pima Board of Adjustment

TUCSON -- The County Board of Adjustment's job is to rule on variances and interpretations of the Pima County Zoning Code and to approve issuance of temporary use permits.

I've recently been appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to BOA for District 2.

I'm proud to serve and protect the public-interest.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Border militarization raises migrant deaths again

Failed US border policy kills people

TUCSON -- Since the start of the fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2006, through the end of May, 2007, at least 114 bodies have been recovered on the Arizona/Sonora border, an increase from 99 at the same time last year. These numbers do not reflect the discovery of six bodies in early June, the seven bodies found this past weekend, nor those reported by recent crossers/survivors.

This news comes as Congress is embroiled in a one-sided discussion of “immigration reform” guaranteeing a multibillion dollar appropriation for “security” measures, despite the brutal reality at the border. Since 2000, Derechos Humanos has documented more than 1,335 bodies recovered just on the Arizona/Sonora border, while all studies indicate that the actual numbers of individuals entering the country have remained relatively the same.

“It is a sad reality that the majority in this country have come to mistakenly link “national security” to migration on our Southern border,” states Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos. “The complete absence of any real dialogue on the impact of the over $30 billion already spent on enforcement along the U.S.-México border is simply indefensible, particularly given the long history of our economic dependence on migrant workers. Even more egregious is Congress’ refusal to address the root causes of this migration, other than to pursue trade agreements that they know will increase migration and death.”

Militarization strategies and enforcement policies have failed to reduce migration, yet politicians and officials continue to push for increases of expenditures for enforcement, lining the pockets of defense and private prison corporations while the numbers of human rights abuses and deaths continue to rise. The current political climate, which fails to create a space for vital discussion, has resulted in a xenophobic atmosphere, and has pulled focus from the human rights crisis that is seen daily on the southern border.

Continued Rodriguez, “It is time for our country to halt the knee-jerk anti-immigrant hysteria and engage in a real national dialogue on immigration, otherwise we will continue to see deaths and destruction of our way of life along the border.”

The complete list of recovered bodies is available on the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: This information is available to anyone who requests it from us and is used by our organization to further raise awareness of the human rights crisis we are facing on our borders.

- from CDH

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pulte Homes firehoses protesting workers in AZ

Dick Dugas, Pulte Homes CEO

FLORENCE AZ -- Phoenix’s largest home builder firehosed picketers at a worksite recently in this Pinal County town. A video of it shows Pulte Homes representatives out of control -- frustrated at workers demonstrating at construction sites within their developments. Pulte Homes then assaults them with high-pressure water from Pulte water trucks.

As the housing market continues to sink in Florence and the rest of the metropolitan area, Michigan-based Pulte Homes dropped its good guy image when it came to the workers who build their homes.

Workers demanding justice from Pulte Homes’ construction subcontractors were shocked when the well-know homebuilder began directing its water truck drivers to repeatedly douse workers with high-pressure water.

Workers, with dripping clothes and soggy shoes, maintained their calm and continued their peaceful demonstration even as they counted up to 16 separate water assaults in one day.

Israel Hernandez, a painter who worked on hundreds of Pulte/Del Webb homes in the Phoenix area, paused while wiping water from the video camera lens, remarking, “This wasn’t what we meant when we ask for drinking water on the job site.”

Bill Pulte, Board Chairman

The footage from the Florence attack shows the Pulte water truck beginning to spray water as it approaches workers and proceeds to soak them. Then, as soon as the truck passes, it goes into reverse to soak workers again with water, as they try to avoid the painful spray. Witnesses say Pulte staff and other construction supervisors stood by, laughing and pointing.

Workers plan to publicly release and discuss the video at 10am Friday at the State Senate in Phoenix.

- adpated from AZ AFL-CIO

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TON elders want respect for border burial grounds

Tohono O'odham elder and activist Ofelia Rivas on the border

ALI JEGK, TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION -- Traditional tribal elders report the remains of at least three people were disturbed in May during border barrier construction in this area southwest of Tucson.

Read the report, and sign their petition in support of proper respect and return of the remains.

UPDATE, 6/24: International media coverage from Reuters and Australia's Herald Sun, but no sign of this story yet in US corporate media.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Detroit, big coal and polluters stall energy reforms

Coal mine moonscape near Gillette, Wyoming

WASHINGTON -- Debate in Congress on several important energy reforms has unwisely been put off until fall at the earliest.

Earth, our only home, is heating up and our national leaders must get serious about making tough decisions now to curb global warming pollution. The people are way ahead of the politicians on this.

Our future depends on it. We cannot eat, drink or breathe money.


House Delays Thorny Energy Issues
June 19, 2007; Page A4

WASHINGTON -- Facing a tight deadline imposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee postponed until the fall House debates on several controversial energy issues, including tougher standards for automobile fuel efficiency.

It wasn't immediately clear what impact the House move toward a simplified, less-controversial energy measure will have on the Senate version of the bill. The Senate is scheduled to debate auto-efficiency standards and a mandate for coal-based liquid fuels on the floor this week.

Rep. John D. Dingell (D., Mich.), chairman of the House committee, and Rick Boucher (D., Va.) chairman of the subcommittee that is preparing its energy legislation, jointly announced they will focus on less-divisive issues, including energy-efficiency standards for appliances, improvements to the nation's electricity grid and incentives for use of wind power.

"This procedure...was discussed with the speaker, and she understands the rationale for proceeding this way," the two Democrat leaders said, "so we can rapidly work on a bipartisan bill that can be signed into law."

The turnaround by Rep. Dingell, who has defended Detroit automakers against fuel-saving standards for years, comes as automakers have launched a nationwide lobbying campaign to water down proposed tougher auto-efficiency standards. Rep. Dingell promised to return to the issue in the fall, when the committee is also planning legislation that would regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions that scientists say are accelerating global warming.

While the Senate appears to be pressing ahead, it could face filibuster threats on the auto-efficiency standards and several other items, requiring 60 votes to overcome, a margin that may not be attainable. "One of the questions being discussed is which body goes first with some of these things," a House aide said.

"We have decided to proceed with provisions that represent consensus," Messrs. Dingell and Boucher wrote. The energy subcommittee is scheduled to assemble its new version of the energy bill this week, and the House could debate the completed bill after the July 4 recess. Earlier, Speaker Pelosi (D., Calif.) had asked for an "Energy Independence" bill by July 4.

The House committee also deferred discussion of a low-carbon-fuel standard, similar to California's, which would mandate increasing use of ethanol and other fuels that result in lower CO2 emissions. Another postponed issue is a change in federal law that would block California from establishing its own CO2 emissions standards for vehicles.

The two committee leaders said they were postponing debate because the issues "are complex and difficult."

Democrats are deeply split, with representatives from auto-producing states fighting tougher emissions standards, and the California delegation and liberal factions pushing for them. Coal-state Democrats and environmentally inclined Democrats are on opposite sides over coal-to-liquid fuels, which would emphasize diesel and jet fuels made from coal, a fuel the U.S. has in abundance.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Cereus are getting serious about flowering

Queen of the night.
John Richter photo.

TUCSON -- The Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii) looks like a dead stick most of the year, but between May and August it puts out beautiful, waxy, white blossoms that bloom for only one night.

Tohono Chul Park has one of the largest collections in the world of these plants, and when there are enough of them blooming at one time, the Park calls a "bloom night."

Bloom night visitors have the rare opportunity to see these mystical flowers, and smell their wonderful aroma that attracts the Sphinx moths that pollinate them.

- from

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bush FWS adds nail to San Pedro River's coffin

The San Pedro is drying up due to political corruption and defense greed

SIERRA VISTA AZ -- The Bush/Cheney controlled US Fish and Wildlife (dis)Service (FWS) says Ft. Huachuca can add 3000 new people without harming the San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area, or endangered species that depend on the river for survival.

What a crock of BS!

The Army has cut water use on post, which is a good thing. But it doesn't matter that much.

The obvious big problem, but one the Bush/Cheney administration won't look at, is most of the people that work on post live and use water outside its gates in Sierra Vista and elsewhere near the river. At home they use way too much water, which is drying up the last free-flowing river in the southwest.

Also, adding more Army staff will bring in more defense corporation workers to grab federal defense money flowing nearby. Those Ft. Huachuca related workers will also live off post and suck water from the San Pedro. Developers will continue to pave Cochise County and pump groundwater for more Ft. Huachuca-related suburban sprawl.

The incompetent 'head in the sand' Bush administration refuses to consider the real world harm of Ft. Huachuca expansion reality. They point to a 2004 rider by corrupt US Rep. Renzi (R-AZ) that says don't look at the big picture on water use. Remember, Renzi pushed this scam rider to help his business partner make millions on a piece of land near Sierra Vista. Renzi's rider must be repealed.

The Ft. Huachuca/San Pedro River situation stinks terribly of political corruption, war money and sprawl development. The new Fort expansion permit is an immoral low point for FWS, which also is responsible for ending protections for the nearly extinct Cactus Pygmy Owl in Arizona.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who represents the area and campaigned on saving the San Pedro, should try to step in to require FWS to fully consider and mitigate all Ft. Huachuca related environmental harms. The mostly ineffective and weak Upper San Pedro Partnership isn't doing it.

It's a dangerous myth that we can have continued expansion of Ft. Huachuca and Sierra Vista and also save the San Pedro.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bee serves gun lobby, not safety or environment

PHOENIX -- Senate President Tim Bee (R-Tucson) recently dissed public safety and environmental concerns by pushing a resolution for the gun lobby supporting wildcat shooting on the Ironwood Forest National Monument, just west of Tucson.

Shooting endangers visitors and trashes Ironwood National Monument. Star photo

I'm a proud gun owner, shooter and hunter, and I see Bee's move here as absurdly callous.

The gun industry and Bee are taking an extreme position against common sense, as they fight BLM Tucson's wise and needed proposal to restrict irresponsible shooting on the fragile and scenic Ironwood Forest National Monument.

The so-called 'moderate' Bee shows reckless right-wing views with his political service to the DC-based gun lobby on this issue. Mr. Bee seems to care more about pleasing slob shooters instead of protecting public safety and the environment on a National Monument in Southern Arizona.

This unwise position is one more reason Bee will get beat down by Congresswoman Giffords next year if he decides to challenge her.

'Protected' giant saguaro cactus shot on IFNM by unethical shooters. Star photo

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

AZ Legislature session drags due to Jim Weiers

GOP's Weiers blocks budget progress

PHOENIX -- This legislative session now stands at 157 days and counting, and still no sign of a budget, largely due to poor management by House Speaker Jim Weiers (R-Phoenix).

The scoop is that negotiation meetings continue, but are often short and not very productive. As long as the Speaker continues to waste time pushing for his budget that no one else wants, the meetings will continue in that vein.

Many Republican House members are upset with the lack of progress, and the lack of leadership shown by Mr Weiers.

While Minority Leader Phil Lopes (D-Tucson), is keeping the House Dems well briefed on the status of budget negotiations, House Republican leadership has not communicated with their own members, several of whom have been pretty vocal in their disgust at the poor management.

The Senate adjourned Monday until Thursday because they had nothing else to do. As a way of speeding things up, Senator Bob Burns (R-Peoria) has set up a meeting of the Appropriations Committee when they return to hear the House budget bills and amend them to look like the Senate budget.

Whether that will help or hinder the House in a quest to get a good budget is anyone's guess, but it should be an interesting show.

- adapted from Rep. Steve Farley's report from Phx #24

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bush walls Mx. border 20 years after Reagan's call

Berliners smashing the wall in 89

TUCSON -- On June 12, 1987, when I was 16, President Ronald Reagan made his now famous speech in Germany calling for the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall.

Reagan said, "if you seek peace... and prosperity... Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Now, 20 years later as part of a failed border militarization policy, the US Government directed by Bush & Cheney are building new big 'Berlin' walls everyday on the border with our ally, Mexico.

US Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is marching lockstep with Bush/Cheney, like he sheepishly always does, in support of walling our borders. "I won't consider my work done until we have built all 700 miles..." of border walls, Kyl said in a May 29 letter to me.

The walls are shameful and sad, and they won't work.

The US and Mexico need real, humane and fair immigration reform, not walls.

What would Reagan say?

Tucson gets pro basketball team that needs name

Gila Monster

TUCSON -- Looks like my suggestions to City Manager Mike Hein may have helped, our big Old Pueblo is getting a pro basketball team this fall.

The Tucson ABA team has no name yet.

I suggest the Tucson Gila Monsters, or maybe the Tucson Saguaros.

We could also name them the Sidewinders now that the AZ Diamondbacks affiliated baseball team of the same name may be headed to Reno.

Monday, June 11, 2007

States oppose fed blocks on global warming cuts

Hot, choking and stinky: daily Maricopa County AZ traffic jam

WASHINGTON -- States and Congress jousted with the Bush/Cheney Environmental 'Protection' Agency (EPA) on Friday for an OK to regulate and cut global warming pollution.

EPA is shamefully dragging its feet for industry, so as to block state action and solutions on global warming.

Meanwhile, global warming is helping make the southwest hotter and drier, and the Colorado River's Lake Mead reservoir could be dry in 10 years.

Eight Governors, including Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) and Bill Richardson (D-NM) are also battling a bad bill in Congress by Rep. Boucher (D-VA) that would block states' rights to cut global warming pollution.

Too many feds talk smack about wanting state and local control, but again show they only support when it favors big polluting corporations.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Arivaca AZ fights Bush/Cheney DHS watch towers

Mary Scott is among many locals opposed to a 98-foot-high tower on the outskirts of Arivaca, Ariz., near the Mexican border. Nine such towers are intended to reduce illegal crossings.
Mary Scott of Arivaca under a 100 ft. DHS watch tower by Boeing. Washington Post photo.

ARIVACA AZ -- This nice small Pima County town south of Tucson made the Washington Post today.

"Towers will not lead to a viable solution to the problems of illegal immigration and will negatively impact desert life," said local artist C Hues, who helped organize Arivaca's protest of the towers.

During this time of national leadership failures on immigration and border reform, our Arizona neighbors make good points about freedom, and the down sides of border militarization.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Plater talks on development, wildlife & extinction


SAN FRANCISCO -- Earth's friend Brent Plater has a compelling commentary on development, wildlife and extinction, including in China and the US west, and what it all means.

If you'd planned on a trip to China to see the rare Baiji river dolphin, you're too late. My friend Plater comments on the choices we face in shaping our own biologic future.

Listen now from KQED in the Bay Area.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bush can't lead or move GOP on immigration bill

Failed Bush/Cheney/GOP border militarization experiment continues

WASHINGTON -- Bush/Cheney have failed to move the Senate on immigration reform, leaving the deadly and destructive border situation in Arizona and elsewhere without relief.

The compromise bill failed yesterday when President Bush, Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) failed to get enough Republican Senators to support their bill.

The lame duck President is getting weaker.

Now America's borderlands will continue to suffer more death and destruction, largely because the GOP can't bring some seemingly racist and ignorant members to support humane and fair reform of America's failed immigration and border policy.

I'm a bit surprised the GOP support fell short. Kyl's failed bill was pretty harsh, and big on more border militarization, which Republicans seem to like, and weak on employer sanctions, which big business Republicans also seem to like.

But bucking some of the fringe GOP base is a tough political sell for many Republicans.

Leaders in South Texas are especially enraged about Bush/Cheney plans for border walls along the Rio Grande River there, and they should be.

Meanwhile, while most people and leaders in Arizona oppose a border wall, including Governor Napolitano, and US Reps. Grijalva and Giffords in our border districts, Republican Larry Nelson, Mayor of Yuma, is unwisely pushing border walls. The people of Yuma deserve better and should elect someone smarter next time.

This may be a case where no bill is better than a bad bill, but Washington politicians cannot continue to fail to act on America's wrecked border and immigration situation. Too many people are dying, too much land is being destroyed.

Americans need to listen to voices from the borderlands. We cannot militarize or 'Berlin Wall' our way to a better immigration situation. We need wise and humane reform now.

As Bush/Cheney and the GOP fail, stall and wait, children, women and men die almost everyday trying to be part of the American dream.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rep. Grijalva intros bill to conserve borderlands

Rep. Grijalva in the Sonoran Desert

TUCSON -- Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), my Congressman, introduced legislation that will help secure and conserve public and tribal lands and natural resources along the international land borders of the United States.

The Borderlands Conservation and Security Act of 2007 will help mitigate damage to Federal and tribal lands from illegal border activity and border enforcement efforts by increasing coordination and planning between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal land management agencies and tribes.

The legislation will also correct existing policies and allow the flexibility for a local approach to border security, instead of mandating an unrealistic and harmful wall.

"Current policy has driven crossing activity to remote isolated areas along the border, which in Southern Arizona, represent significant public and tribal lands," said Rep. Grijalva. "Many of these lands have suffered extensive environmental degradation as a result of unauthorized activity and border security efforts. This bill is the first step in preserving our unique natural heritage while we protect our borders."

The Borderlands Conservation and Security Act will:

1. Develop a Border Protection Strategy that supports border security efforts while also protecting federal lands;

2. Provide for flexibility rather than a one size fits all approach to border security by allowing experts at DHS to decide whether fences, virtual fences, border barriers or other options are the best way to address border security;

3. Allow land managers, local officials, and local communities to have a say in border security decisions;

4. Ensure that laws intended to protect air, water, wildlife, culture, and health and safety are fully complied with; and,

5. Fund initiatives that will help mitigate damage to borderland habitat and wildlife.

The Secure Fence Act and REAL ID promote a 'one fence fits all' solution and hamper the ability of local experts to implement security measures that would be more effective and low-impact in the border environment. Constructing a fence along the border would be completely impractical over the rugged terrain of the mountains and deserts and would be disastrous to the fragile border ecosystem.

"This multi-disciplinary approach is the correct path to address the growing crisis in a rapidly changing geopolitical reality," stated Grijalva. "The Borderlands Conservation and Security Act will strengthen border security and protect the environment by allowing all the agencies to work together cooperatively."

- from Rep. Grijalva

Rep. Jeff Flake attacks Endangered Species Act

Jeff Flake: enemy of quality of life, champion of urban sprawl

UPDATE, 6/13: Flake's radical amendments went down in flames today on Capitol Hill.

MESA AZ -- US Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is attacking wildlife and the Endangered Species Act through his two stealth amendments to HR 2337, the Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007.

Flake's amendments, supported by the anti-environmental National Association of Home Builders (aka big corporate developers), opposes a 'national strategy' for wildlife, habitat and endangered species conservation and recovery.

Once again an Arizona Republican ignores quality of life at home to do the bidding of big corporate fat cats in DC. Shame on Flake, and may his bad amendments go down in flames.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

May be a chance to vote no on Wal-Mart this fall

TUCSON -- Wal-Mart is bullying in to town to push a petition for a ballot measure to repeal the big box ordinance.

My advice is don't sign the petitions, and vote no if it gets on the ballot.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Army may want big AZ land area for firing range

Boeing Corp. firing weapons at YPG

UPDATE, 6/28: Los Angeles Times

UPDATE, 6/5: AZ Republic, front page

Army considering huge expansion of firing range

Half million acres of public land may be put off-limits

YUMA AZ -- The U.S. Army is considering a large expansion of Yuma Proving Ground firing range, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The action would remove as many as 500,000 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land from public access.

The Army is considering proposing converting between 100,000 and 500,000 acres of BLM public lands in Yuma, La Paz and Maricopa Counties into an expanded firing range for the Yuma Proving Ground. According to an Army official at YPG:

"We'd like to take everything from I-8 to I-10 all the way to Gila Bend and Highway 85."

The BLM lands in the area west of Phoenix being reviewed by the Army include parts of the New Water Mountains Wilderness, Eagletail Wilderness, Signal Mountain Wilderness and Woolsey Peak Wilderness. In addition, the Army is looking at proposed takeover of buffers on the west, north and east sides of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in the La Posa and Palomas Plains.

The Army says this is still only at a conceptual stage, but it is clear they are looking hard at a massive expansion of weapons testing and firing ranges. If it proceeds, the public will be shut out of a huge area of public lands.

Removal of BLM lands for military use would require an act of Congress. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a high-ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has been supportive of expanding Yuma Proving Ground, which now covers nearly 1,400 square miles and offers opportunity for desert training and testing of medium and long range artillery, armored and wheeled vehicles and a variety of munitions. The area is also within the district of Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, which has jurisdiction over any such transfer.

Although the lands in question are under the jurisdiction of the BLM, that agency has yet to be consulted by the Army about expansion plans, according to a top BLM-Arizona official contacted by PEER.

The Army says it needs more space to shoot bigger weapons that fire farther than ever. An example is the Army's Ft. Irwin in southern California was recently enlarged for tank training activities. The dilemma is how much American soil will have to be sacrificed for refining weapons designed to defend it.

Apart from the recreational and scientific values of the lands, these scenic and fragile stretches of the Sonoran Desert are studded with mountains, springs, saguaro cacti and ironwood trees that harbor rare wildlife such as the Desert Tortoise and Desert Bighorn Sheep.

- from PEER

Sunday, June 03, 2007

AZ activist of the month: Jen Allen, Border Action

TUCSON -- Jennifer Allen, executive director of the Border Action Network, is doing some great work along with her staff, volunteers and other people who care about our failed, deadly and damaging border and immigration situation.

I've known Ms. Allen many years, and she's always had my highest respect. She and others have worked very hard to build BAN in to an effective organization for change.

BAN is co-sponsoring with Rep. Grijalva a public open house today on immigration policy considerations, including the STRIVE act and Senate bill. It is a tough issue to deal with this year, with complex compromise bills pending.

Now is a time for leadership, and Jen Allen is helping provide it. And for that, I honor her as Arizona activist of the month.

All activists of the month could also be activists of the year, decade, century, etc.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Giffords picks group to make Tucson 'Solar City'

Technicians for Sustainability is a leading solar company, but not on Rep. Giffords' select solar group.

TUCSON -- Much as Detroit is considered the Motor City, US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) wisely wants Tucson to be the Solar City.

It is a great idea that is long overdue. I salute her for taking it on by forming a group of 25 to explore how to make Tucson and southeast AZ in to a mecca for solar power and technology.

Giffords has put together an interesting group. A few of the members have a known commitment to clean energy, but several others appear to be political picks, similar to the recent regional 'town hall'.

Government, military, university and big corporations are there, but no conservation or neighborhood groups are represented on her panel. I wonder how many on the group actually have solar power on their own homes, like me and my family?

To maximize chances of legitimate public-interest progress, Giffords should appoint AZ Rep. Steve Farley as chair of the solar group.

A sustainable solar future is one with millions of solar rooftops making local power, not big corporate-owed solar arrays covering huge parts of the desert and relying on the vulnerable and inefficient grid.

One of the biggest obstacles to expanding solar power use is lack of requirements for utilities to pay a fair rate for any extra power people may produce.

Although Giffords group could use more true community and solar voices, I hope they produce some real results to make solar power affordable and available to average people.

Even though the group isn't as broad or representative as it should be, overall it this is a positive move for clean energy by Rep. Giffords.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Nice VW Westfalia camper van for sale; rare find!



TUCSON -- Great 89 Westy is for sale.

Westfalia camper from Arizona.

Good condition. Looks nice. Clean. Garaged.

Runs well. No rust. 4 speed manual -- best for mountains and power. Water and air cooled engine. Highway miles.

Fridge, stove, sink, water, curtains, storage, pop top. Sleeps 4. Roll out shade canopy.

Good clearance and off-road capability.

Fun mobile shelter for families, couples, or one. Drive and/or live in this van. Rare find!

Dave Croteau files as Green for Tucson Mayor

TUCSON -- It looks like the Green Party will run a candidate this year for Mayor against Bob Walkup.

Green Dave Croteau filed his statement to run for Mayor with the City Clerk on May 24. Croteau previously ran as a Green for Pima County Sheriff.

Unknown Dem Joshua Garcia seems to also still be considering a run.

Renzi scam hurt AZ river to make big $ for partner

COCHISE COUNTY AZ -- In 2000, Jim Sandlin purchased 480 acres of undeveloped land in the Fort Huachuca/Sierra Vista area for $960,000. In 2005, he sold the land for $4.5 million.

In 2003, Mr. Sandlin’s land faced serious devaluation as the looming 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round threatened likely downsizing of the area’s economic engine, Fort Huachuca. Fort Huachuca downsizing had become increasingly inevitable as the area’s groundwater pumping deficit was growing and the Base was struggling to comply with legal responsibilities to protect the nearby San Pedro River.

But Mr. Sandlin’s business partner was Congressman Rick Renzi (R-AZ). In May 2003, Mr. Renzi introduced legislation exempting Fort Huachuca from its public-interest environmental responsibilities. The value of Mr. Sandlin’s investment would be preserved.

Neither Fort Huachuca nor the San Pedro River is located in Rep. Renzi’s district. Fort Huachuca is located in southeast Arizona. It is home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. The nearby San Pedro is the last surviving free-flowing desert river in the Southwest. The San Pedro River is threatened by groundwater pumping supporting local Department of Defense-funded activities.

Title company records and Cochise County Recorder’s Office records show that Mr. Sandlin purchased at least 480 acres of undeveloped farm land on February 25, 2000 in the Fort Huachuca/Sierra Vista area near the San Pedro River for $960,000. The records also show that Mr. Sandlin sold the same property on October 6, 2005 for $4.5 million.

Rep. Renzi’s proposed legislation easily passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives but met resistance in the Senate. Key Senators there recognized the legislation would kill the San Pedro. The Senators proposed rejecting Mr. Renzi’s legislation outright. Such a definitive move, however, would prove embarrassing to the politically vulnerable Renzi.

Senator McCain (R-AZ) ultimately orchestrated a compromise that became law. The compromise did not summarily exempt Fort Huachuca from its major legal mandate to protect the San Pedro as Rep. Renzi desired, but still reduced the Base’s short term legal burden enough to prevent its BRAC downsizing. The compromise increased jeopardy to the San Pedro River instead of overtly killing it.

BRAC 2005 ended without Fort Huachuca’s initially inevitable downsizing. Mr. Renzi’s legislative efforts forced removal of the Base’s acute risk. And Mr. Renzi’s business partner, Jim Sandlin, profited handsomely.

- adapted from Robin Silver

Other news: Bush/Cheney 'new climate strategy' same old, same old.