Wednesday, April 30, 2008
TUCSON -- The failure of police to protect bicyclists has cost our region the 'platinum bike friendly' rating. Given the stepped-up police harassment of cyclists, Tucson is lucky to stay at 'gold' for at least the next four years.
The police and platinum promoters didn't listen to the many people who encouraged changes in enforcement to better protect cyclists.
Unless there are major changes in local police attitudes toward cyclists, Tucson will likely lose its gold rating in 2012.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
TUCSON -- The Tucson Unified School District board decided tonight to not close any of the four elementary schools -- Ochoa, Rogers, Corbett and Wrightstown -- that had been proposed for closure by the superintendent.
I just returned from the standing room only meeting, and as a community activist and TUSD parent I am proud to have helped keep these schools open, especially Ochoa in my neighborhood.
Two board members, Bruce Burke and Alex Rodriguez, voted to close Wrightstown, a highly performing but low enrollment school, but they were outvoted by the three other board members.
This is an important victory for neighborhood schools, but TUSD parents and supporters will have to work hard to increase enrollment.
The struggle TUSD is having relates directly to bad decisions by the Arizona Legislature to underfund and undercut public schools.
When I'm in the Legislature, I will work hard to restore maximum state support for public schools.
TUCSON -- Recently some Maricopa County developers, corporations and other big money men are saying Arizona should raise our already high sales taxes to pay for more roads.
I say no, and so should you. The road tax would push sales taxes close to 10% in Pima County, and over 10% in at least one metro Phoenix city. That's too high. High sales taxes hurt lower income people the most.
I'd have more confidence we'd see a more balanced approach to transportation if road-fanatic Victor Mendez was replaced at ADoT. The sales tax plan Mendez and the money men want would give over 600% more funding to roads over mass transit.
I strongly support improving transportation, but sales tax is not a fair way to pay for it. With fuel prices and global warming air pollution going up, Arizona needs much more investment in transit alternatives.
YUMA -- The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been making misleading statements about the role pumas play in bighorn population levels and has had to issue one public correction. Other uncorrected misstatements raise doubts about whether the state game agency will honor a one-year moratorium against killing more panthers that it had agreed to just last week, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In a press release of April 18, 2008 announcing a year-long halt to further "lethal removal" of pumas (a.k.a. mountain lions, cougars or panthers), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) wrongly claimed that the bighorn population on Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) continued to drop and that "lions were likely a significant cause of bighorn mortality." In fact, the agency's own surveys showed the bighorn population had grown by nearly 18% in 2007.
On April 24th, AGFD issued a corrected press release blaming false statements on a "typographical error." The corrected release still did not admit that the bighorn population had increased and it left unchanged questionable assertions about the significance of cougars in bighorn population fluctuations.
One more panther death may doom the last three cougars thought to remain on the Kofa NWR, according to Ron Kearns, a former longtime wildlife biologist at the refuge who has been critical of agency wildlife management practices. The puma removal campaign by AGFD is rooted in questionable assumptions -
- The gain of nearly 70 bighorn sheep in 2007 occurred before AGFD had killed even the second lion from Kofa, meaning that the population rebound was not threatened by pumas;
- An earlier loss of more than 400 bighorn over the previous two-year period could not be ascribed to mountain lions unless AGFD assumed that the estimated five remaining lions were eating 40 bighorn apiece, an absurdly high quota; and
- AGFD's own studies pointed to drought and drought-related diseases as the main culprits in prior sharp bighorn losses.
In the Yuma Sun of April 21st, just days after it announced a one-year moratorium, Gary Hovatter, the Yuma Game and Fish Office information manager, is credited with the following statement:
"Game and Fish said it will still continue to kill offending lions off the refuge if necessary."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (which operates Kofa NWR) has announced that it is preparing a mountain lion management plan that will be open for public comment during a one-month period ending May 24, 2008. PEER asked the Fish & Wildlife Service to prepare the overdue plan, to avoid a lawsuit for violating federal law in conducting any further panther removals before the environmental assessment of its plan is completed.
Monday, April 28, 2008
UPDATE: Gov. Napolitano vetoes bad immigration bill HB2807. Thanks for listening, Janet! Wise decision.
PHOENIX -- Hit the links below for reports from the Arizona state Democratic convention this weekend, where Yuma County again showed its growing influence as Charlene Fernandez was elected first vice-chair.
There was some controversy focused on House lawmakers and immigration policy.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
TUCSON -- As part of a family party and pro-schools rally Saturday by 'Save Ochoa School', I spoke about support for education to a big crowd of people outside Ochoa School.
Tuesday evening, the TUSD board plans to decide the future of Ochoa and 3 other Tucson elementary schools. I favor keeping neighborhood schools open and improving them.
The Tucson school closure proposal controversy is a local example of a big statewide problem. The Arizona Legislature must do a better job funding education.
A personal family note. Today is my wife's birthday, so everyone wish Jeneiene a good birthday and many more. We are celebrating. I love her.
I also thank my Dad and Mom for visiting us this week. Ruby's class did a great play, 'Out in the desert', on Friday.
Friday, April 25, 2008
TUCSON -- More coverage on the type of public-interest work I do with PEER to try to protect scientists from political interference.
I also have a letter today in the Arizona Daily Star about how Bush/Cheney energy failures threaten Arizona.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
UPDATE, 5/12: The Arizona House of Reps today passed HB2017. Time for the Gov to get out her big red VETO stamp.
TUCSON -- Recently we've been breathing some pretty bad air.
In my daily view from the downtown area, the Rincon Mountains/Saguaro National Park and Santa Rita Mountains at times have been barely visible through the pollution haze, and you can smell the pollution in the air all over town.
The million-plus Tucson area has suffered many days recently of high ground-level ozone pollution, which is harmful to our health -- especially children and older folks -- and hurts our economy due to higher health care costs and lost productivity. Watch a time-lapse map of the formation of harmful air pollution in eastern Pima County on Monday, April 21.
As Tucson's air pollution continues to worsen, due in large part to urban sprawl, lack of good public transit, and dominant 'one person, one car' driving habits, Tim Bee and too many in the Legislature unethically fight even modest efforts to cut pollution. Dirty utility corporations such as APS and Unisource Energy's Tucson Electric Power have been busy shamefully lobbying against pollution limits.
We all need clean air. No one can breathe money. Governor Napolitano should hold firm and keep Arizona in the Western Climate Initiative by vetoing HB2017 if it passes the House.
When I'm in the State House, I will help build a majority to support public health and clean air, and fight against the greedy pollution lobbyists who threaten our future.
In the face of such corruption at the capitol in Phoenix, there is a solution. Please drive less, and walk or bike more to help our quality of life and health. With fuel at record prices, driving less will also help you save a lot of money, and reduce global warming and related harmful climate change.
As a daily cyclist, ecologist and father of a young child, I think about and try to minimize my air pollution, and so should you.
I love Tucson, but if you want clean air don't move here, and metro Phoenix is even worse.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
SANTA FE -- New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is boldly moving to protect over 5300 miles of southwestern streams and rivers as 'outstanding waters' under the US Clean Water Act.
Rivers gaining extra protection include the Gila, Pecos and Santa Fe.
Thank you, Governor Richardson, for walking the talk on the environment.
PHOENIX -- Two bad bills should be vetoed by the Governor.
On Monday, the Arizona Senate gave the final stamp of approval to unwise HB2807. The bill is now on its way to Governor Janet Napolitano’s desk where she has the choice: require all Arizona police and sheriffs departments to enforce failed federal immigration policies, or veto it. She should veto HB2807.
Another bill, HB2359, would allow Sheriffs to enter in to enforcement agreements with the US Dept. of Homeland Security without County Boards of Supervisors approval will likely be approved by the legislature this week and be sent to her desk as well. Pima County has objected to this, and Gov. Napolitano should also veto HB2359.
When I'm in the State House of Reps, I will not support anti-immigrant legislation, continuing my long record of compassion and humane fair solutions.
It's unwise and inappropriate to have thinly-stretched local police officers and deputies trying to enforce failed federal immigration policy, and it would badly damage already weak relationships between police and many communities in Arizona.
Time is limited. the Gov. needs to hear from you this week asking her to veto HB2807 and HB2359.
- adapted from Border Action Network
WASHINGTON -- Yesterday, on the 38th anniversary of Earth Day, US Rep. Raul M. Grijalva joined with other members from the Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct a field hearing on the legislation, H.R. 3036, the No Child Left Inside Act. Rep. Grijalva is an original co-sponsor of the bill.
The hearing, “Environmental Education: Teaching Our Children to Preserve Our Future.” Focused on how integrating environmental education throughout a curriculum, particularly when such education includes direct experience with nature, improves student achievement and public health and is critical to economic development.
Rep. Grijalva released the following statement:
“Earth Day gives the country an opportunity to focus on the key challenges facing us in preserving our planet. We have witnessed a trend of the environment being treated with neglect and disdain. We must change this trend and encourage our youth to embrace public parks public lands and national forests. We must build on their environment literacy making the future stewards of the environment and constituents of public lands.
“Our environmental legacy will depend on our children, and we must begin now to prepare children for the stewardship and leadership of our environment. No Child Left Behind is rightly criticized for singularly focusing on testing. A quality education requires more; environmental education is one of the areas that is needed in our schools.
“Now, more than ever, we need to address the issues of climate change, public lands, protections, ecosystem conservation, clean air, clean water, renewable energy and the overall public health.
“H.R. 3036 addresses the essential question of what legacy we leave for our children. Do we continue to deny the reality of our fragile environment or do we begin a national commitment to educate and empower a new generation of students who will be aware of the issues we face and ready to provide leadership and stewardship for our environment? I am proud to co-sponsor HR 3036 as a tool for the future and an educational opportunity for all children.”
H.R. 3036, the No Child Left Inside Act, which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill would integrate environmental education into our public schools through a 100 million grant program over 5 years. ESEA currently does not include an environmental education component.
Earth Day was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) in 1970 to focus attention on the environment and how individuals and communities can work to protect it.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
ALBUQUERQUE -- Good news today on Earth Day that a new Latino conservation organization has formed in New Mexico.
This effort should be good for conservation efforts in the southwest, which mostly have been too white for too long.
I'm glad to see my friend Jim Baca on the founding board of the Latino Sustainability Institute. I hope they will eventually expand in to Arizona.
Monday, April 21, 2008
PHOENIX -- Some greens are making a push to get a new smaller Arizona State Trust Land reform measure on the November ballot.
The proposal to protect up-front only 575,000 acres out of the 9.2 million total is too small, but at least a move in the right direction.
As a pro-education ecologist, I support this proposal as a first step on State Land reform.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation, along with hunters and private citizens, successfully captured and relocated 50 Gould’s wild turkeys from the Huachuca Mountains in early March. The captured birds were relocated to the Santa Rita and Catalina Mountains to help supplement existing populations and continue to expand the range of this unique but once eradicated wild turkey subspecies. The Gould’s turkey is common in Mexico, but only Arizona and New Mexico support populations in the United States.
Six mountain ranges throughout southeastern Arizona now support populations of the Gould’s turkey: the Chiricahua, Pinaleno, Galiuro, Santa Rita, Catalina, and Huachuca Mountains. All of these mountain ranges are part of the Sky Islands. This 70,000-square-mile region extends from southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and the northwestern part of Mexico. This region encompasses one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America.
The Gould’s reintroduction project began as a joint international effort with Mexico, where the first populations of Gould’s subspecies came from to restore Arizona’s historic populations during the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.
Today, Gould’s populations in the Huachucas are significant and capable of sustaining further range expansion from our own populations. This translocation marks the fourth time that in-state populations have been used to continue the repopulation effort, indicating that the reintroduced Gould’s turkeys to southern Arizona are healthy and adapting well.
Translocation programs are designed to increase diversity of wildlife populations throughout the state and beyond. Turkeys nationwide have expanded from a historic low of less than 100,000 to over 7.4 million birds today. Programs are possible by funding from license sales, concerned sportsmen groups, special auction tags and other concerned conservationists.
- adapted from AZGFD
Friday, April 18, 2008
PEER news release, 4/21; Yuma Sun article; Invisible Voices
UPDATE, 4/19: AP story in the San Diego Union-Tribune; also New York Times.
YUMA AZ -- Some good environmental news breaking this afternoon.
Responding to concerns of conservationists, including me on behalf of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Arizona Game & Fish Dept. today announced a moratorium on killing rare pumas (aka mountain lion or cougar) in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge region of the Sonoran Desert in southwestern Arizona.
FWS will soon start an overdue public process on a mountain lion plan for the Kofa NWR. Contact Mitch Ellis at mitch_ellis(at)fws(dot)gov to get on the mailing list and comment.
This is good break for the pumas, and a smart move by the agencies.
But the bureaucrats continue to mislead by pushing 2006 bighorn population numbers, preferring not to call attention to their own more recent 2007 data which shows bighorn populations increasing significantly on the Kofa from 392 to 460 animals.
We should all be glad bighorn populations are going up on the Kofa, and the government should be honest about it.
PHOENIX -- After months of doing little to nothing, GOP legislative leadership finally sat down with Governor Napolitano and worked out a deal to address the $1.2 billion shortfall in the FY2008 budget, which ends at the end of June.
From the AZ Republic: 'Some legislators complained about the process for the budget agreement, which was conceived almost entirely in closed-door talks.
'Rather than being run through the typical committee vetting process, the budget deal was attached as an amendment to an existing bill and was subject to only cursory discussion by rank-and-file members in the House and Senate.
"There's no transparency," said Rep. Theresa Ulmer, a Yuma Democrat who argued that legislators had no opportunity to digest details of the budget plan before they were called to vote.'
As expected, some of the cuts are pretty deep. Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality got hit pretty hard.
Unwisely, ineffective abstinence-only sex education programs were protected, while dollars for clean air programs were swept away. A sure sign of wrong priorities.
There were no direct hits to the Heritage Fund, but there was a significant cut in the lottery, so it could be affected indirectly.
There is still no resolution on bonding for schools and it was not addressed in this budget. Now the Legislature and Governor have to figure out the very tough FY2009 budget.
- adapted from Sierra Club
TUCSON -- Taking on a critical moral issue of our time, US Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) has announced a Congressional field hearing on border walls as Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“Walls and Waivers: Expedited Construction of the Southern Border Wall and the Collateral Impacts on Communities and the Environment.” is a field hearing that will focus on the construction of the border wall and the impacts it will pose to border communities and the environment.
The hearing will be held on Monday, April 28, 2008 at 10:00 AM, in the Lecture Hall of the Science, Engineering and Technology Building (SET-B) at the University of Texas-Brownsville.
Recently, Bush/Cheney Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced his decision to waive 36 laws and regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act, to begin construction of 267 miles of fence along the border.
“The decision to invoke a waiver for fence construction will devastate the region and is an insult to those of us who live near the border,” Grijalva said. “This Administration believes that it is above the laws that protect the environment, health and human safety of border communities. We have a fundamental responsibility to consult with local communities on the best approach to border protection for each specific region.”
The hearing will also address Grijalva’s legislation, the Borderlands Conservation and Security Act, HR 2593. HR 2593 repeals the waiver authority granted to Secretary Chertoff under REAL ID and provides a proposal to 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 hearing is a joint effort of Rep. Grijalva’s Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans, chaired by Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (Guam-at large).
Thursday, April 17, 2008
MEDIA COVERAGE, 4/21: ENS, Washington DC; 4/22: Billings Gazette, Montana
RELATED: Rocky Mountain News, Denver
TUCSON -- This summer, federal agencies must figure out how to implement a 2007 Executive Order by President Bush directing federal land management agencies to do everything in their power to "expand and enhance hunting opportunities." The biggest conflict limiting hunting and fishing on federal lands is expanding off-road vehicle traffic on federal wild lands, according to a petition filed today by Rangers for Responsible Recreation, a network of retired law enforcement officers and land managers.
Under Executive Order 13443, national park, forest, public land and refuge systems are to develop "a comprehensive Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan" by August 17, 2008, the one-year anniversary of Bush's directive. That plan, in turn, would commit these agencies to "a 10-year agenda for fulfilling the actions" that promote hunting and fishing over all other uses, including off-road vehicles (ORVs).
"Off-road abuse is unquestionably a top threat to hunting and fishing in America," stated Mike Penfold of Rangers for Responsible Recreation, a network organized by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). "Good hunting and fishing requires relative quiet, while ORVs are usually about speed, dust & mud, and the roar of an engine. Currently, the two do not fit well together." Mr. Penfold is an avid hunter and angler who owns a hunting lodge in Montana, and worked 37 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and White House Council on Environmental Quality.
The Rangers petition was filed today with the President's Council on Environmental Quality, which is charged with overseeing the order's implementation, as well as the directors of the National Park, National Forest and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, and the Bureau of Land Management. The petition points out that the EO 13443 unavoidably entails much more stringent restrictions to keep ORVs from driving in fishing streams and confined to designated trails that do not harm hunting or fishing opportunities.
The petition cites a recent survey of state game and fish officials by the Isaak Walton League which found broad agreement that "ORVs negatively impacted hunting, fishing and habitat in their states." The Rangers also point to an array of studies, testimony and other evidence from both state and federal wild land agencies showing worsening conflict between hunters & anglers and off-roaders.
"If the President's order is more than lame-duck posturing then ending reckless off-roading must be the meat of any plan that meaningfully benefits hunting and fishing," added Daniel Patterson, an Arizona hunter and Southwest PEER Director who organized the Rangers coalition. "America desperately needs a strong coordinated federal approach to protect hunting and fishing from on-going off-road abuse of our wild lands."
Last month, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), held groundbreaking oversight hearings on "The Impacts of Unmanaged Off-Road Vehicles on Federal Land." Senate hearings are also likely to be scheduled as the Bush administration struggles to define its own wildlife legacy.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Unsupportable HB2017 (Konopnicki-R) would undercut clean car and clean air programs and significantly restrict the Governor’s ability to act to limit global warming pollution as well as other harmful pollutants.
The striker, Greenhouse emissions; regulations; fuel economy, would restrict implementation of programs to reduce global warming pollution unless they are expressly authorized by federal law, consistent with federal law, and no more stringent than federal law.
This is unnecessary and unwise. It will bring the clean car rule, which is on its way for final approval, to a screeching halt and also make it impossible for the Governor to effectively participate in the Western Climate Initiative, a critical effort to limit global warming pollution regionally.
People in the Phoenix area have suffered from poor air quality for several decades. The Tucson and Yuma areas and other parts of the state have air quality problems as well. Poor air quality harms our health and economy. Most of our pollution comes from cars and trucks and, on top of that, about 40% of Arizona’s global warming pollution also comes from vehicles.
With Arizona's rapid growth and an increase in the vehicle miles traveled that outpaces our growth, our pollution could grow by as much as 200 percent from 1990 to 2020. We cannot afford that, or to wait for more clean air and global warming failures from the feds.
The Arizona Senate should reject HB2017 and support moving forward with programs to clean up the air, limit global warming pollution, and to begin to address global climate change which is dangerously making Arizona and the southwest hotter and drier.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
PHOENIX -- Governor Janet Napolitano (D) is right to resist a greedy push by Republicans in the State Legislature, primarily to aid big corporations, to cancel an agreement for property taxes to return to 2005 levels.
During this starved time for state and education budgets, Arizona needs to go back to the property tax system we recently had, at least until the economy improves.
I'm a family man and homeowner, and appreciate the need to keep taxes down. I can especially relate to this today, tax day, as I see how my modest income is taxed too much, especially by the feds, as many big corporations pay comparatively little. It just isn't fair. I'm sure many of you reading this agree.
I'm not a big taxer, and I'm not fooled by this thinly-veiled attempted give away mostly to fat cats at society's expense, and you shouldn't be fooled either.
TUCSON -- The Neighborhood Infill Coalition warns that your water future is being decided in the coming months, and important water planning meetings are currently taking place.
The City/County Water and Wastewater Study Oversight Committee has been formed and met for the first time last week. They have been charged with finding a way to include everyone in the process.
But their meetings are scheduled at a time when many of you work.
At the last 'call to the audience', developers, as well as the town of Marana, were able to provide input aimed at continuing more unsustainable urban sprawl. Only a few neighborhood representatives were present.
If you are interested in attending these meetings, the next one is scheduled for Friday, April 18, 8-10am, Manning House, 450 W. Paseo Redondo, downtown.
If you are concerned about your water future and the ability to have a say, neighborhood activists urge you to attend this meeting. If you are concerned about the time this meeting is scheduled or feel you should also have a say in how this process will be planned, please contact your Mayor and Council members at email@example.com.
- adapted from Neighborhood Infill Coalition
Monday, April 14, 2008
We ask for your support and vote for our positive clean campaign to solve problems and help people in Arizona.
by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
TUCSON -- In early December, a Mexican family is pulled over by a Tucson police officer who promptly calls immigration officers to the scene. In the meantime, a passenger, Miriam Aviles-Reyes, goes into early labor on the street. While her husband is deported, she is taken to a hospital. There, an immigration agent prods her to "push." Outraged, she demands that he leave the hospital room. After he leaves, she gives birth, and is subsequently ordered to leave the country by the end of the month. Appeals to allow her and her newborn to keep their doctor appointments are denied.
Not coincidentally, her departure was set to coincide one day before a new draconian anti-immigrant law (HB 2779) in Arizona went into effect.
As abhorrent as this traumatically induced birth was, she is actually one of the "lucky" ones. This is a part of the country in which since the mid-1990s, some 5,000 migrants from Mexico, Central and South America have died attempting to cross inhospitable deserts and mountains for a chance to work in this country. Many others die in horrific crashes as smugglers increasingly attempt to evade "the migra." Some are killed by rogue agents, whereas many women are sexually assaulted. Few perpetrators are ever convicted. This is also minutemen vigilante country. It is where migrants get blamed for the failure of politicians to pass humane immigration agreements. As a result, migrants continue to die and millions of dollars continue to be wasted to erect walls of fear and hate along the southern border.
Similar to the more than 1,000 laws that have recently passed nationwide, the Arizona law panders to those that scapegoat Mexicans for the nation's problems. They also conflate immigration enforcement with the "war on terror" and the need to "protect the homeland." This state law severely punishes employers for hiring undocumented immigrants. Not unexpectedly, along with hate crimes, reports of employment harassment and discrimination are on the rise.
Down the highway, under the guise of crime suppression, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has gone wild, initiating massive dragnet raids that target Mexicans, resembling a modern version of "Indian Removal." Similar raids are taking place around the country, though not against Canadians or Europeans, etc (nor should they). Nowadays, there are special holding facilities for immigrant children and families (T.D. Hutto Res. Ctr, Taylor, TX) - run by the for-profit Correction Corporation of America (CCA). There are also expedited immigration courts on military bases (Davis Monthan Air Force Base) with the objective of criminalizing en masse as many migrants as possible. Also profiting from such kangaroo courts is CCA.
The entire country is going through a convulsion, fueled by fears over who belongs and who doesn't. Mexicans have gone from being "others" to enemies. Extremists want them all deported - regardless of their legal status. Yet even some "progressives" see them as but part of a subservient class. Yet, there is hope.
At the recent annual banquet in Tucson held by the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos organization, I approach a woman with a cane. Sometimes I see her walking with the aid of two canes. I ask Raquel Rubio Goldsmith, an immigration rights veteran and the director of the University of Arizona's Binational Migration Institute, how she maintains her sanity in this environment.
She says few words. It's her eyes that tell the story. Her eyes do not well up nor is there a sign of anger. Instead they reflect exasperation, not with right-wingers, but with the complacent middle. Thousands of migrants die and people just go on with their lives, unmoved to action.
At this banquet, Gerald Lenoir, head of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, delivers the keynote address and along with it hope as he links the historic struggle of the African American community with the struggle for the dignity of migrants - peoples who are nowadays viewed as less than human. By his very presence, both he and Derechos Humanos show a different way.
After a subsequent conference (No Vale Nada la Vida? - Is life not worth anything?) in which death on the border is the focus, I again ask Rubio-Goldsmith how she maintains her sanity amid the indifference. The exasperation she feels also extends to the media, she confides: "me dan tanta rabia" (the media infuriate me), she says.
What I really want to ask her is: What indeed is the price of a Mexican? A few years back, a Texas court determined it was $6,000. In today's climate, I think we all know the answer.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
LAS VEGAS -- Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8), Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup (R) and others recently went to Nellis Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada to inspect its 140 acre, 17 megawatt solar power system.
I applaud them for investigating solar solutions.
Hopefully officials at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson will wise up and finally start embracing a solar power system for D-M.
Solar power for D-M is a wise solution I proposed a while back as a much cleaner and more intelligent energy option than the polluting trash incinerator the Air Force is considering, and seems to still be pushing over solar.
Let's all hope the dirty trash incinerator idea is killed soon, and help D-M go solar. D-M is fully within legislative district 29, and I will continue to support base sustainability when elected to the State House of Reps.
Producing clean renewable energy from the sun protects our natural and national security, especially with smartly located PVs on rooftops or on already significantly disturbed land.
Friday, April 11, 2008
TUCSON -- I endorse Democrat Howard Shanker for Congress.
I've been planning to do this for a while. I've worked with Shanker before and he has a solid record of service in CD1, and a good understanding of the issues facing Arizona, and ideas for solving them.
I encourage people and voters to support Howard Shanker in CD1, which is a huge district that includes Pinal County just north of metro Tucson, Casa Grande, Prescott, the Mogollon Rim, Safford, Kingman and Flagstaff.
TUCSON -- In a front page article this week on the growing political influence of Arizona bloggers, The Arizona Daily Star mentioned Daniel's News & Views as one of the most influential political blogs in the state.
Thank you, loyal smart readers!
TUCSON -- I am proud to serve south side Ward 5 and the entire city on the Planning Commission, as appointed by Mayor and Council. We are working on the Commission to try to protect and improve quality of life as our city grows.
Related to that work for the common good, I helped lead an effort at our meeting last week where we took some important actions with unanimous support of all Commissioners.
First, we sent to Mayor and Council a plan to replace the city's ineffective and little used Historic Preservation ordinance, which badly needed updating.
Second, we sent back to Mayor and Council our original Neighborhood Preservation Zone proposal that would help neighborhoods citywide, if they opted to use it.
This NPZ plan has been well vetted, and makes sense. The Planning Commission believes the Mayor and Council should move to adopt it.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
TUCSON -- Our city does not have enough parks, so the pilot project to open 12 TUSD school playgrounds to the public when schools are closed will allow more access to park-like places.
I understand the need and goal here, and appreciate the effort to solve a problem.
But opening school playgrounds to the public could also open them to all the problems some of our parks have, especially crime, vandalism, trash and graffiti. Nevertheless, these threats should not stop us from carefully exploring this option.
Citizens have major concerns with crime at Santa Rita Park in south downtown, where I serve as Neighborhood President, and don't want to see the same problems happening on school grounds. The neighbors, police and the city try, but never seem to be able to keep up with the damage.
Part of city's effort should also be more investment in improving and creating more city parks, especially on vacant land in existing neighborhoods.
It'll be interesting to see how this pilot project works. I hope it goes well. It makes sense to carefully try this on a small scale first to see if it really works well for the schools and the public.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
PHOENIX -- An update from the Capitol on important public-interest legislation I've been working on to help solve a growing problem across Arizona -- reckless and unsafe off-road vehicle use.
With broad support, the Arizona House of Representatives recently passed Senate Bill 1167 (also known as the funeral escort vehicle bill, changed by strike-everything amendment to become the OHV user fee bill), by a vote of 42 to 13.
For nearly a year, I've been working in a cooperative bi-partisan manner on SB1167 to provide resources to better manage Arizona’s growing off-road vehicle (ORV/OHV) use while protecting wildlife habitat. According to Arizona Game & Fish, ORVs have seen a 347% increase in usage in Arizona in recent times, but law enforcement and trail management have lagged far behind.
Through this compromise legislation, dollars would be provided by a nominal ORV user fee to create new law enforcement positions, new land and habitat mitigation for damaged use areas, and better trail management.
The bill now heads to the Arizona Senate for consideration, where hopefully Tim Bee will this time help it pass. If approved it would then be forwarded to Governor Janet Napolitano for her signature.
Monday, April 07, 2008
YUMA AZ -- As part of my job with PEER, I'll be out in the desert some this week working on wildlife management issues on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and SW Arizona.
OTHER COVERAGE, 4/9: Concerns of the San Diego-based Desert Protective Council.
UPDATE, 4/9: Bill passes the US House, fate of CDCA now up to the Senate.
TUCSON -- The full US House is set to vote this week on a good bill to make permanent about 20 million acres of the BLM's 27 million acre National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS).
But, Congress still needs to fix a 'technicality' and ensure the 1976 congressionally-designated California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) stays in the conservation system.
Unless congress moves to protect CDCA, the Bush/Cheney administration will drop from the conservation system 6 million acres of fragile and scenic Sonoran, Mojave and Great Basin desert landscapes from the Mexican border to Mono County.
When NLCS was created by the Clinton/Gore Interior Dept in 2000, the CDCA was one of the model units that inspired the system. As congress wisely moves to make NLCS permanent, they should keep it whole be ensuring CDCA stays in the system.
If the House cannot cover the CDCA now, the Senate should, and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) has said she will, working with Sen. Bingaman (D-NM). Thank you, Sen. Feinstein!
As an ecologist who formerly worked with BLM, and still works extensively with BLM employees and on BLM issues, this bill has my support. Republican efforts against NLCS are misguided and blatantly anti-conservation.
I respect and appreciate my congressman and bill sponsor US Rep. Grijalva's (D-AZ) important efforts to boost conservation of scenic and fragile BLM lands and national monuments. Thank you, Rep. Grijalva!
Sunday, April 06, 2008
PHOENIX -- Arizona ranked last in the US last year for growth of the average person's income.
The Grand Canyon State is suffering from an addiction to development, urban sprawl and real estate sales, as well worsening problems due to an undereducated population.
Over-reliance on too high sales taxes also hurts Arizona when the economy takes a dive, like now.
We must diversify our economy and support stronger education. Leaders should start with cutting expensive and damaging subsidies to developers, and investing more in schools.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
TUCSON -- The Daniel Patterson for State House campaign website has been updated, including information on a fun house party April 19 for LD29 voters hosted by Pima County Constable Colette Philip and former Gov. Napolitano cabinet member and AZ Senator Elaine Richardson.
We'll be out campaigning all weekend, including today at the Cesar Chavez march and rally in LD29.
Friday, April 04, 2008
TUCSON -- Robert Hooker, Pima County Public Defender, was killed this week by morons racing on public streets.
Hooker was a true champion for the persecuted in our society and the most at-risk. He was committed to fighting against government abuses of civil and personal rights. I was proud to know him.
There will be a public memorial service for Robert Hooker on Monday, 11:30am at the TCC Music Hall downtown.
May Mr. Hooker rest in peace, and continue to inspire us all to fight for real justice.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
TUCSON -- As a pro-education family man with a daughter in TUSD, I appreciate Dan Eckstrom and other leaders fighting to keep neighborhood schools like Ochoa elementary open.
Ochoa is an important school for kids in my south side neighborhood, and it should be kept open. Instead of closing neighborhood schools and increasing class size, TUSD should cut waste from administrative bureaucracy and non-educational programs.
Our future depends on the Arizona Legislature acting more responsibly to better fund public schools.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
YUMA AZ -- A multi-state legal fight has broken out over the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona expanding artificial water impoundments inside wilderness areas for desert bighorn sheep. The refuge's own long-time biologist, however, says this entire fracas is needless because the refuge relied on inaccurate data to make a flawed wildlife management decision, according to a legal brief filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
After the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) used damaging heavy equipment to construct and expand two tanks inside congressionally-designated wilderness, where new structures are forbidden, Wilderness Watch filed suit in June 2007, arguing that the action violated the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Joining the suit are the Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, the Western Watersheds Project, and the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council.
On the other side of the suit, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which runs the refuge, is joined by Safari Club International, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, and the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club. The defendants and their allies contend, among other things, that bulldozing wilderness for artificial water tanks is needed to save bighorn sheep, the iconic desert-adapted game species in the 665,000-acre refuge, from dying of thirst. The trophy hunting groups are involved because trophy hunters sometimes wait near tanks to kill bighorn rams and mule deer when they come to drink.
Ron Kearns is a wildlife biologist specializing in desert bighorn sheep management and fragile Sonoran desert ecology and flora. He worked for 25 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge as a biologist and law enforcement officer for 18 of those years. In an amicus brief filed today through PEER, Kearns argues his former agency used faulty data and acted irrationally:
- Refuge management "completely ignored data indicating that a lack of freestanding water is not the reason for the decline in the bighorn population";
- "Arizona Game and Fish Department's (AGFD) John Hervert incorrectly filled out a water development worksheet by indicating that there was NOT a perennial water source available to big game within four miles of the new [tank]. However, there are three established water tanks well within four miles of the project area…" and
- "Management's justification for keeping the new tank developments secret was truly vexing and borderline absurd. Last summer during a conference call…then-Refuge Manager Paul Cornes stated that they could not involve the public – apparently except for the hunting groups that helped construct the tanks – or even reveal the locations of the new tanks because of some unnamed, dangerous person…"
"This is a case where refuge management set up a bogus conflict in yielding to pressure to run a federal wildlife preserve like a bighorn game farm," stated PEER Staff Attorney Adam Draper, who drafted the brief, noting that the refuge belatedly set up a camera which would have provided definitive evidence whether bighorn were even using the new McPherson Tank. "The refuge manager who created this snafu is gone; the new manager, Mitch Ellis, should try to work with everyone to resolve this mess."
Another brewing controversy on the Kofa stems from allowing the state to trap and collar an imperiled population of cougars, using the GPS collars to then unethically track and kill cougars that may naturally prey on bighorn.
Just this past Saturday, March 29th, Arizona Game & Fish killed another cougar as soon as its GPS collar indicated it had left the Kofa NWR boundary.
"The GPS collars are death sentences for these cougars, and Refuge Manager Ellis should stop allowing cougars to be trapped and collared while on the refuge," stated Draper.
Meanwhile, despite spending significant funds to kill cougars in the name of bighorn protection, refuge management still allows the annual trophy hunting kill of over 10 bighorn rams on Kofa NWR.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
TUCSON -- The power-abusing Bush/Cheney/Chertoff Department of Homeland Security announced outrageous plans today to issue two waivers that would bypass over 30 laws and regulations so 470 miles of more US-Mexico border walls can be built this year in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
In addition to the failed Iraq war, Bush's legacy will be America's new Berlin Wall along our southern border with our friendly neighbors in Mexico.
US Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ7) said: "Secretary Chertoff is abusing the authority granted him by the Congress with this ham-handed waiver.
“With the stroke of his pen, he overturns 36 laws – some of which have been protecting our resources and our health for more than a century -- in an area stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.
“It is a ridiculous claim that he cannot protect the border without overturning the National Park Service Organic Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Antiquities Act, the Native American Graves Protection Act and 31 other laws.
“These waivers are an attempt to wreck more than a century of protections for our resources and the health of our communities by an Administration on its way out of town.
“A waiver this broad and poorly conceived is not leadership; it is laziness.
“My legislation, the Borderlands Conservation Security Act, HR 2593, will set a precedent that communities must be consulted. HR 2593 upholds that there must be a public process and transparency with border security initiatives. HR 2593 does not impede or deny border security but it restores confidence in this government to uphold laws as it pursues security.
“This waiver undermines our communities and denounces our resources for a wall that will not make the border stronger.”
US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8) said: "The secretary’s waiver announcement is outrageous. My office was not consulted prior to the issuance of this waiver. It also appears that no state or local elected officials in my district were consulted. Community groups were kept in the dark as well. This is unacceptable.
"A federal government construction project of this magnitude will impact significantly on local residents, communities and the environment. Those of us who live on the border and represent border communities deserve a seat at the table.
"Congress passed a law last year which contained a requirement that would ensure consultation with local officials and land owners before the waiver would be used. The spirit of this law was violated by today’s announcement.
"Strengthening border security is a national priority. Few know that better than my constituents in Southeastern Arizona, where the failure of the federal government to enforce our immigration laws is apparent every day.
"We must balance the need for strong border security with the rights of private land owners and the potential environmental impacts that can result from the construction of a border fence. Our desert lands are fragile and we must be vigilant in protecting them. Our residents are key partners in enforcing immigration laws. Alienating them is counter-productive and irresponsible."
The Real-ID act waiver must be repealed.
UPDATE, 4/2: Baseball biz group wants to raise already high local sales taxes to further subsidize pro baseball. I like baseball, but cannot support this approach.
TUCSON -- As our schools, city and county struggle with huge budget problems, the Colorado Rockies baseball team wants us to pay for an entirely new urban sprawl stadium north of Tangerine Road in Marana.
If the Rockies don't like Hi Corbett Field any more, they should help pay to improve it or move to TEPark, a newer good facility also home to the Arizona Diamondbacks that county taxpayers already paid a lot of money for. There should be space there for the Rockies with the White Sox gone.
We have a lot of pressing needs in Pima County, and shoveling more scarce public funds to never-satisfied rich baseball corporations is not wise or in our best interest.
WASHINGTON -- The Bush/Cheney Forest Service has purchased pilot-less aircraft to provide day and night photo reconnaissance, according to agency records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The two "unmanned aerial vehicles," or drones, may represent the beginnings of wider conversion of military robotic technology for civilian uses.
The two "Sky Seers" were obtained by the Forest Service on December 10, 2007 at a cost of $100,000 from Chang Industries, Inc. of La Verne, California. The package includes one "day version" and one "night version" of the drone, together with a "Pan/tilt thermal camera" to record heat signatures at night.
A March 12, 2007 purchase request from the Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations (LE&I) program states it "has been monitoring and evaluating UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] intermittently since 1997, when their use was considered in support of Operation Linebacker, a border enforcement initiative." While this "Sole Source Request" details desired equipment specifications, the Forest Service could produce no documents spelling out what they want to use drones for or why pilot-less craft are preferred, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from PEER.
The drones purchase took place shortly after Forest Service LE&I spent $600,000 buying tasers for its entire enforcement staff, without any guidelines or training program. The tasers are still sitting in storage cartons. After PEER revealed the taser fiasco, LE&I staff told PEER about the drones and suggested a records request in order to validate staff concerns that the purchase -
- Has little practical law enforcement application in the national forests and reflects a "boys with toys" mentality among LE&I leadership;
- May also sit in storage because LE&I lacks qualified personnel to operate the drones. Although the purchase package includes training, LE&I notes that new Federal Aviation Administration rules "could make it more difficult to obtain Certificates of Authorization to fly the UAVs"; and
- Is a low priority when the Forest Service is cutting back on the number of Special Agents and law enforcement officers. Forest Service law enforcement force levels have shrunk by more than one-third over the past 15 years. LE&I is holding more than 200 positions vacant, even as President Bush is proposing further cuts in the next fiscal year.
"As with tasers, a cash-starved Forest Service is buying glitzy hardware with zero justification as to why this is a good use of tax dollars," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Why stop at drones? Are they going to buy Robo-Rangers next?"
In contrast to LE&I, Forest Service Fire Management is making a relatively modest investment in drones as a possible tool to aid fighting wildland fires. In 2005, the agency's fire program spent $10,560 on a Cyber Bug drone to begin developing greater command and control capacity in fast-moving fires.
Unlike fire uses, law enforcement application of aerial monitoring raises privacy issues for forest visitors who may not realize that they are being watched, photographed and cybercast from an elevation of 7,000 feet by a drone. The Sky Seers can hover for more than one hour and have quiet electric motors.
"The use of spy technology in the domestic U.S. should not be undertaken lightly," Ruch added. "Before the Forest Service deploys eyes in the sky, the agency should write some basic rules to prevent abuse."
Today, the Chief of the Forest Service appears before two U.S. Senate committees to justify its budget request for the coming fiscal year.