Saturday, February 28, 2009
TUCSON -- I generally agree with a recent op-ed from Pima County Public Defender Robert Hirsh, recommending the Arizona legislature take a hard look at the wisdom and costs of mandating jail time for low-level drug offenders.
There are better, smarter alternatives than incarceration for non-violent offenses. This area of the law needs reform, for fiscal and common sense.
TUCSON -- Our first town hall meeting of the 49th Arizona legislature was a big success, so your district 29 team at the Capitol, Sen. Linda Lopez, Rep. Matt Heinz and I invite constituents to the next LD29 town hall on Sat. Mar 21, 2-4pm at the Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library, 4350 E. 22nd St.
For more info, call 520.398.6000
Friday, February 27, 2009
TUCSON -- The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing a 38-mile long off-road vehicle course on your public lands in the Glade Run area near Farmington, New Mexico, in the four corners region.
BLM has mis-managed and off-roaders have abused this area in recent years. Expanding often reckless off-roading there does not make sense, especially since BLM will not fully manage, monitor or enforce the rules.
This bad idea from New Mexico BLM is a sign that needed changes away from 'wreck'reation have not yet come to BLM in the Obama administration. Hopefully they will, and soon.
To help bring the change we voted for, Obama and his Interior Sec. Ken Salazar should name Martha Hahn soon as the next BLM Director.
Martha Hahn has more than 25 years of experience in both the BLM and Park Service. In 2002, at the behest of Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), she was removed as the BLM Idaho State Director by corrupted Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles in connection with reforms she had instituted. Today, she is Division Chief for Science and Resource Management at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
BLM controls natural resources on 258M acres, as well as 700M acres of subsurface mineral estate, totaling more than any other US land agency. BLM public lands make up about 13% of the total land surface of the US and more than 40% of all land managed by the feds.
UPDATE, 2/28: Tell BLM no more destructive desert off-road racing.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
PHOENIX -- The House Water and Energy Committee today unanimously passed HB2336, a bipartisan bill I sponsored along with several others.
This bill adds renewable energy infrastructure to the list of public infrastructure improvements in community facilities districts. It is a step in the right direction for clean, renewable energy and related economic development in Arizona.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
TUCSON -- CSM covers the important story of the overused Colorado River, the Cienega de Santa Clara in northern Mexico and the concern surrounding the Yuma desalting plant.
Improved water efficiency and conservation is the best and lowest cost option.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
PHOENIX -- Another busy day at the Capitol as a Representative from Tucson's district 29.
In the morning before caucus, I met in support with advocates for senior citizens, as covered in the Arizona Republic and Casa Grande Dispatch.
Later I met with Chamber of Commerce members from Tucson, Pima County and across Arizona, discussing the economy and need for revenue reform. I also met with nurses and healthcare advocates from my district, and others.
Tomorrow will again be very full with the peoples' business, and especially meaningful as Tribal Day at the Arizona Capitol.
On Wednesday at 12:15pm in the Capitol Rose Garden, my northern AZ friends Rep. Chris Deschene, D-St. Michaels (District 2) and Sen. Albert Hale, D-Klagetoh (District 2), along with tribal leaders and members will discuss how the deep cuts to the state budget are hurting Native American populations in Arizona.
"These cuts, which specifically have impacted education, health care and other programs, have severely cut off Native Americans in Arizona from their economic lifeline, future and well-being,” Deschene said. “Legislators and the public need to know the impacts of these deep cuts so the same mistake isn’t made in the 2010 budget.”
"There are other options available," Hale said. "Additional funding cuts set back programs by a number of years and more importantly deny funding of programs critical to our youth, disabled and seniors. We are in this situation together. We have to find solutions together."
Monday, February 23, 2009
PHOENIX -- This morning at the Capitol I hosted and talked with kids, teachers and parents from Miles Elementary School, located in my Tucson district. This afternoon, five members of the AZ House Ways and Means Committee, all Republicans, voted today to take $258M a year away from schools and children and instead put it in the pockets of corporations.
The three Democrats on the committee all spoke out against this and voted wisely to restore the much needed education funding.
If the legislature simply does nothing this year, the education equalization assesment will help boost funding for our poor schools, as was always the plan.
In 2008, Arizona was already near the bottom for education funding in the US, and this year it is getting worse. The destructive reality is the GOP majority further gutted education in the FY09 budget 'fix', now wants to cut way more in FY10, and at the same time is moving to make AZ's fiscal situation worse with more tax giveaways to corporations. This irresponsibility is outrageous, totally unacceptable and jeopardizes our future.
You can do something about it. Join the Rally for Public Education this Thurs. Feb 26 at the Capitol, organized by Sunnyside Education Association in my Tucson south side district 29. Save money and skip the traffic with a free bus ride. Buses leave at 7:30 a.m. from Desert View High School, 4101 E. Valencia Road, and Sunnyside High School, 1725 E. Bilby Road., Tucson. Contact rally4publiced(at)email.com for more info.
Tonight at ASU, I and 13 other legislative Democrats listened to Arizonans tell their stories about how they are being hurt by these unprecedented budget cuts. It was the fourth public budget hearing I've participated in statewide.
At all the hearings I've been at, from Tucson to Phoenix to Flagstaff, not one legislator who voted for these cuts has had the guts to show up to explain their positions and listen to people, even though they have been invited.
Friday, February 20, 2009
by Jeneiene Schaffer
TUCSON -- The smoothness of the antique, dumpstered off the curb, velvet sofa held us with a youthful cockiness as we giggled over too many glasses of chardonnay. Shouts of "Oh, so true!" were intertwined with hasty page turning. After what seemed to be an hour, the chapter was finished, the over-turned bottle was releasing, only reluctantly, a few drops, so we sat back and allowed a comforting fog of satisfaction settle on our young and rebellious heads.
We surveyed our graduate student apartment as only one could if one's job was real estate agent to the New York hipster on a budget. On two by fours and cinder blocks nestled the women's studies books that could make our poor mothers swoon. Check. With an eye toward selective chaos, were displayed avant-garde paintings and sculptures found discarded in the back alleys of art schools. Check. The absence of carpeting. Check. Oh please, only hard wood floors will do. Looking closer to the source, we checked out our costumes of New York regulation black, combined in no particular fashion with torn tee shirts, 'ethnic' jewelry, and our faces the way nature intended. Check and double check.
Back in 1988 when my best friend and I read the seminal 1983 book Class by Paul Fussell, we were at a crossroads. Both she and I were poor and trying hard to fit in with the upper class 'Ivy types'. I was a hip-hop street kid from New Jersey, and she a Bob Dylan wanna bee from some nowhere town in North Carolina. A bond over rejection with anything to do with 'class' gave us license to yuk it up with fellow travelers on the "category X" express. And if fellow grad students didn't hear your stomach growl during seminars, no one would be the wiser.
Twenty years later, I find myself still at that crossroads. In the cutting edge women's studies department those long years ago, I absorbed the mantra of race, class, and gender. These were the categories that defined a woman's world. It may be more possible to accept now that issues of race and gender have come far. But, class? How are we doing on that front as a community, a state, and a nation?
I would argue that class is our nation's psychological last frontier. What do you hear from naysayers when universal health care and quality equitable education are encouraged? Do you hear, for example, as if from the grave of Eugene McCarthy, that we risk becoming socialist, Marxist, or (what?) communist?
No longer willing to hide behind the façade of any trappings that display or hide a hue of class, I feel a certain connection with those folks who struggle hard for a better life. I will work hard on campaigns here in my community of Tucson to make sure quality public education is protected. My moral and democratic sense of 'class' compels me to do this. May it compel you as well.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
PHOENIX -- House Democrats and Attorney General Terry Goddard, leaders in foreclosure prevention and prosecution of mortgage fraud in Arizona, released at the Capitol on Thursday our plan for Foreclosure Relief for a Stronger Arizona, a series of bills that would keep people who are playing by the rules in their homes.
“Foreclosure Relief for a Stronger Arizona will bring much-needed relief for families, homeowners, renters and the state as we work hard to make sure we protect children and middle-class families, the backbone of our state’s economy,” Rep. David Lujan said.
Foreclosure Relief for a Stronger Arizona keeps our state’s economic engine, middle-class families, running by:
· Granting a 60-day relief period to homeowners who are in foreclosure and in danger of losing their home
· Protecting homeowners who are facing foreclosure from scams and fraud
· Requiring a landlord to allow a tenant at least 30 days to vacate a foreclosed property
· Requiring “equity purchasers” or “foreclosure consultants” to be licensed
· Encouraging parties involved in foreclosure proceedings to restructure loans in order to prevent foreclosure and delaying a sale for up to one year if the lender fails to negotiate in good faith with the borrower
· Encouraging U.S. Congress to consider and enact legislation enhancing the ability of self-employed individuals to refinance their loans and consider developing alternative lending standards for small businesses
"Yesterday, President Obama set out a bold plan to restore stability to the housing market and provide relief to families and lenders who play by the rules,” said Attorney General Terry Goddard. “This could not happen at a more critical time for our state. But federal action alone is not enough. We must enact legislation here at home that strengthens our housing market and the financial well-being of our communities. Those steps include ensuring that the Housing Trust Fund is funded for the next fiscal year.”
Over just the last year, a record 40,000 metro-Phoenix, and 10,000 Tucson/Pima County homes were foreclosed upon. Now 150,000 of Arizona's homeowners are in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure. This puts Arizona in the bad top spot in the ranks of the highest foreclosure rate in the US.
House Democrats recognize the difficult times middle-class families and children face, especially after being hit with the recent deep budget cuts.
“It’s time to do something about this foreclosure crisis so we can get our state’s economy back on track and move Arizona forward toward economic justice and a brighter future,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson, from Tucson's downtown and south side district 29. "Our bill, HB2601, is an important part of a fair and ethical solution to the worst foreclosure crisis in Arizona since the great depression. Arizonans want the legislature to hold fair hearings on this plan and find a way to agree on relief for our suffering people and economy."
“The tidal wave of foreclosures that has swept Arizona is the source of great economic turmoil for families and businesses across the state,” Goddard said. “Every one of us has a financial interest in restoring property values, repairing neighborhoods and putting our economy back on track."
- adapted from House Dems PIO
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
TUCSON -- Tim Vanderpool has an important story in the Tucson Weekly about Healthcare Group of Arizona.
'...its record in Arizona remains clear, says state Rep. Daniel Patterson, a Tucson Democrat.'
"For over 20 years, Healthcare Group has helped insure the uninsured small-business community," he writes in an email to the Weekly. "... We need to keep and expand it for the common good. I and the House Democrats continue to lead the way with fair and reasonable budget option proposals, and the governor and Republicans would be wise to open the door and work closely with us."
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
UPDATE, 2/18, 2:15pm: I was lucky and got to sit in the second row right in front. At the end, I met the President and shook hands. I thanked him and told him we'd love to have him visit Tucson. Obama looked at me and said, "I'd love to visit Tucson." We'll see.
OTHER COVERAGE including me and HB2601: Huffington Post; ASU WebDevil
PHOENIX -- I welcome President Barack Obama to Arizona, and I appreciate his focus on foreclosure relief to our families and economy. I'll be there to help greet the President, and invite him to Tucson if I get a chance.
I am proud to be helping lead the way in AZ for foreclosure relief with HB2601, along with other state leaders and bills. House Dems will discuss our foreclosure relief package with Arizonans this Thurs. 11am at the Capitol rose garden.
I thank UA scientist Dr. Jonathan Overpeck for testifying today in the House about global warming pollution and related climate change, which threatens to make Arizona and the southwest hotter and drier, straining our water, energy and quality of life.
For the facts, visit southwestclimatechange.org
PHOENIX -- A proposed false claims act for Arizona, HB2595, has strong bipartisan support, with 17 diverse sponsors from me to Rep. Sam Crump, and Sens. Linda Lopez to Ron Gould.
The anti-fraud false claims act is the single most important tool taxpayers have to recover the billions of dollars stolen through fraud by government contractors every year.
For fiscal responsibility and open government accountability, Arizona should join the US and 22 other states with false claims acts.
This timely bill has strong merit, and I urge my colleagues in the Arizona legislature to support it.
Monday, February 16, 2009
UPDATE, 2/27: HB2479 gets hearing Wed. Mar 4.
PHOENIX -- Arizona public safety and quality of life advocates are cheering Rep. Doug Quelland's (R-Phoenix) introduction of a fair, common sense bill that would require cyclists to safely yield at stop signs.
Idaho has had such a law for a long time, and bike safety there is better than most of the rest of the nation.
I am proud to be working with Q and other lawmakers from Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott, Yuma and across Arizona to help try to pass this needed bill, HB2479.
The Bikes Safe Yield Act will help cyclists safely ride more efficiently, and improve conditions for riding on smaller streets, meaning many cyclists would ride less on busy roads, therefore reducing conflicts with motorists.
The benefits to society from more people riding bikes more often are clear and significant: better health, cleaner air and less traffic.
TUCSON -- With over 59,400 documented safety problems at over 9,900 polluted Arizona mines, new focus on clean up of toxic mining sites is needed and wise.
The US stimulus could help with this, but mining corporations should also pay their fair share, which they haven't and usually don't.
I appreciate the feds' attention to mine clean up, but the US Dept. of Interior and agencies such as BLM and the Forest Service should also stop letting big multinational mining corporations pollute America.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
TUCSON -- I am supposed to be partying in downtown Phoenix at an exclusive club tonight with NBA All Stars and many other VIP high rollers in AZ for the All Star game.
Instead, life happened and I had to pull us off the guest list. I'm staying home on Valentine's Day to care for my wife, who is sick today. As a family man, I keep my priorities straight, but I'm still bummed to be missing the parties tonight and game tomorrow.
Oh well, life goes on.
PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer and some legislative Republicans are reportedly considering trying to push for a special election this spring to raise some taxes and limit voter authority through the initiative process.
Arizonans know we need to raise more revenue to pay for essential services such as public schools, healthcare and the environment, but it must be done fairly.
I will not support a special election if the governor and Republicans favor another increase to the volatile and regressive sales tax. Sales taxes are already over 10% in some Arizona communities, and this heavy tax hurts our economy and lower-income people. Arizona is already much too dependent on sales taxes, which are not reliable, and I would actively campaign against any plan that favors raising the unfair sales tax even higher.
I cannot support a special election if they continue to push for more of their favorite lobbyists' tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, or if they move to permanently end the education equalization assessment, which if the legislature just does nothing will bring back $250M a year we need for education, as was always the plan. During this bad economy and budget crisis, it's unfair and irresponsible to further cut taxes for the rich and instead keep raising the sales tax on everyone else.
I generally favor protecting the initiative process and would have a hard time backing a plan to let the legislature undo voter intent, especially if it is aimed only at voter-mandated funding protections.
If the governor wants to make a fair revenue improvement proposal that has a decent chance of being approved by voters, I suggest she open the door and work closely with me and other legislative Democrats.
Friday, February 13, 2009
OTHER COVERAGE: UA Daily Wildcat, Northwest Explorer
TUCSON -- All Democratic members of the AZ House Education Committee were there, including host Nancy Young Wright of district 26, but 4 of 6 Republican committee members skipped the official hearing today at Flowing Wells High School.
GOP Rep. Vic Williams missed the meeting, which was in his district. Williams also missed an official hearing earlier this week. Not good.
Also absent today were Republican Reps. Barto, Goodale and Hendrix. Perhaps the missing Rs just don't want to hear from real Arizonans after voting for the biggest cuts to education in Arizona history?
Local pro-education Reps. Phil Lopes and I were there to advocate and hear from people, although we are not on this committee. It was my third big Tucson public hearing in 8 days on legislative affairs.
Several education professionals testified against budget cuts, including Dr. Liz Fagen of TUSD, Dr. Robert Shelton of UA, Dr. Roy Flores of Pima CC, and Dr. Alan Storm and students from Pima JTED.
Over 300 parents and other education adovates were there and many testified, calling for revenue enhancements, full consideration of all budget options, and no more cuts to education. The people understood and made it clear they know it is legislative Republicans cutting education, and they don't like it and plan to do something about it in the next election.
I was on CBS 13 news at 6 commenting on House Dems' plans to protect education and the need for a change to a fair, open budget process at the Capitol.
I also participated today in a fundraising event at my daughter's public school, and an opening ceremony for new affordable green housing southeast of downtown in my district 29. I didn't know it before I arrived, but some good friends are moving in to one of the houses, which was great to see.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
PHOENIX -- I'm glad to just be home in Tucson with my family after a busy week at the legislature. On Fridays I do legislative work in district 29, with meetings and other work in Tucson with constituents and local officials. As a State Representative, I go in early everyday with a positive attitude, and usually leave late each day, sometimes feeling frustrated. It helps to keep the long haul view.
Today featured Arizona African American leaders in faith and activism at the Capitol, and I and many members joined people from the community and participated in support. There was a big press conference with Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor and others where foreclosure, environment, faith and other issues were discussed. Rep. Cloves Campbell (D-Phoenix) gave a speech on the House floor about the State of the State for black Arizonans.
On energy and the economy, in the Water and Energy Committee this morning I helped pass a bill on biodiesel.
I also helped celebrate Arizona's 97th birthday, which is actually this Saturday, and supported long-time AZ legislator Jack Brown (D-St. Johns) winning a big award.
Today on the House floor it was more interesting as we debated new rules proposed by GOP leadership, which would reduce open government and harm transparency, and give the speaker unprecedented universal powers that reduce legislative oversight.
House Dems and I lead the charge, and too many members thought some of the suggested changes were excessive, so the speaker had to pull part of the proposed rule changes, for now.
One unneeded measure to cut public notice on important legislative conference committee meetings, a significant change to House rule 17 (C), was forced through and passed on a straight party line vote, with no Dems in support.
At the House next week on Tues. Feb 17, a Nobel Prize winning scientist from UA that I know, Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, will address the House Environment Committee about the facts on global warming pollution and related climate change, which threatens to make Arizona hotter and drier. This will be worth seeing, so come to the hearing or watch on AZ Capitol TV or the internet.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
PHOENIX -- As part of my on-going support for children and education in Arizona, I listened and advocated at the Capitol today with a new Tucson-based education support group called CARE.
I also met separately in my office with Tucson teachers to discuss education issues.
See details from AEA on Republican proposals for more proposed education cuts in the FY2010 budget.
If you want to speak up and have input on what's happening with education and funding, and I think you should, the House Education Committee will hold a Tucson hearing at 10am this Fri. Feb 13 at Flowing Wells High School's auditorium, 3725 N. Flowing Wells Road (just north of Prince). I plan to be there.
Committee Chairman Rich Crandall (R-Mesa) will run this meeting. He voted Jan 30-31 for the big cuts to education in the 09 budget 'fix', along with all other House Republicans.
Parents are holding a press conference at 9am outside the school, followed by a rally.
On overall budget issues, check out upcoming Arizona budget hearings by the Democratic caucus (UPDATE, details for Prescott and Flagstaff hearings; ASU, Sierra Vista, UA):
Tuesday, February 17 - Prescott
Wednesday, February 18 - Flagstaff/Northern Arizona University (RESCHEDULED - February 9 hearing was canceled due to winter storm)
Monday, February 23 - Arizona State University (Tempe campus)
Thursday, February 26 - Sierra Vista
Thursday, March 5 - University of Arizona (Tucson campus)
Legislative Dems have already held budget hearings in Casa Grande, Phoenix, Yuma and Tucson.
Hope you can make it to an event near you. More details on these events here later, or contact Cynthia Aragon at 602.926.5848
Monday, February 09, 2009
PHOENIX -- It was a windy, rainy and busy day at the Arizona Capitol, especially on the House side with the 5pm bill introduction deadline.
I'm proud to have introduced economic justice bills today for foreclosure relief, property tax fairness, anti-fraud/false claims act and other public interest issues. More news on this later.
UPDATE, 2/10: More info on our fair foreclosure relief bill, HB2601:
This act would grant immediate (60 day) relief to residential homeowners, who are in foreclosure and in danger of losing their home.
· The bill requires the owner to submit a signed, sworn and notarized affidavit to the trustee in order to postpone a sale.
· During the postponement period, the owner is granted the opportunity to negotiate a revised payment of the loan.
· Additionally, it encourages the lender and owner to make efforts to arrive at revised loan terms.
· If the owner makes timely monthly payments under this scenario, the sale may be postponed for up to one year; otherwise the sale can be rescheduled by the trustee.
The act expires June 30, 2012.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
UPDATE, 5:45pm: We had a great turnout; standing room only, with two local TV news crews. Thanks to all the LD29 constituents there. I appreciated hearing from everyone and answering questions. We'll take this back to the Capitol and keep working for the common good. We plan to hold more town halls in the district, with the next one likely this spring.
TUCSON -- State Sen. Linda Lopez, Rep. Daniel Patterson and Rep. Matt Heinz invite constituents to a town hall on today from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library, 4350 E. 22nd Street.
“It is extremely important for me to hear directly from the constituents I serve,” said Sen. Lopez. “It is my duty and that of my colleagues to make certain Arizonans and the residents of District 29 have a voice in the legislative process that creates the laws that affects their lives.”
"I've been busy working at the state Capitol to help people and solve problems, and a critical part of representing people well is continuing to listen to folks in Tucson," Rep. Daniel Patterson said. "I want to hear from constituents about the economy, budget, education, health care, environment and other issues so I can take their concerns back to the state Capitol and seek solutions."
"The most important thing I can do as a legislator is to listen to the people I represent," said Rep. Matt Heinz. "I was elected to speak for them."
Friday, February 06, 2009
TUCSON -- Paul Eckerstrom is done as chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, I have independently confirmed this evening.
Paul says he stepped down for personal and family reasons, which is understandable. I wish Paul and his family well.
AZ Dems will choose a new good chair next month, and our party remains strong, with voter registration numbers nearly even with the GOP, and growing as people here continue to become more progressive.
With Arizona's economy, jobs and budget tanking, Democrats will lead the way toward economic justice and recovery for all, and improving our quality of life.
PHOENIX -- I was proud to be part of a bipartisan effort Thursday to pass a bill in the Arizona House Water and Energy Committee to help people buying homes in rural areas obtain full information about available water supply.
This bill protects home buyers in a common sense and fair way, and I urge other members of the House and Senate to support it.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
TUCSON -- Borton Elementary School in my south side neighborhood is gaining national attention for its innovative approach to education and healthy food, both things kids need.
My family and I are active at Borton. Tomorrow I will be talking with parents there about the state budget situation and education.
Hundreds of Tucsonans turned out tonight at Amphi High School for the Legislative Democrats budget hearings, with much of the focus on concern over education cuts. We'll be in Flagstaff Monday night.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
TUCSON -- More than 74,000 jobs would be created or saved in Arizona if Congress enacts the stimulus plan being pushed by President Obama, according to the White House.
The memo, released Wednesday, also claims that up to 2 million Arizonans will qualify for a tax cut of up to $1,000 if the proposal already approved by the U.S. House becomes law. It also says 75,000 Arizona families will be eligible for a new college tax credit and more than 200,000 people out of work will get an extra $100 a month in jobless benefits.
And it says Arizona will get enough money to modernize 193 schools "so our children have the labs, classrooms and libraries they need to compete in the 21st century economy.
The White House memo, sent to reporters around the country, is designed to persuade readers in Congress that a vote against the package is a vote against local help.
For example, it says that those 74,300 new jobs in Arizona would be in areas like health care and clean energy, with more than 90 percent of those in private industry. And the administration said that the tax cut would be "a down payment" on Obama's pledge during the campaign to cut the burden on 95 percent of families and is "designed to pay out immediately into workers' paychecks."
Another provision is designed to give more money to more than 204,000 workers who the White House says have lost their jobs in the recession. That extra $100 a month is on top of the maximum $240 a week Arizona law provides in jobless benefits.
It also would extend the jobless benefits to about 42,000 Arizonans who have exhausted the 26 weeks of payments normally allowed under state law.
- adapted from Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services in East Valley Tribune
PALM SPRINGS CA -- The vast majority of the California Desert Conservation Area will stay included within the National Landscape Conservation System if an Omnibus Public Lands Bill which passed the Senate last month is finally enacted. An amendment by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) prior to the January 15, 2009 Senate approval addressed the status of the CDCA, but there is bureaucratic resistance within the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which manages the vast area, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), where I serve as ecologist and southwest director.
The CDCA covers over 10 million acres of the Sonoran, Mojave and Great Basin deserts, approximately one-tenth of the entire California surface area. Legislation to codify the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), a network of national monuments, historic trails and conservation areas within the BLM, had been silent about how much of the CDCA would be included. The Feinstein amendment declares that all CDCA lands administered "for conservation purposes" will be included within the NLCS.
Current BLM classifications for CDCA indicate that approximately 8 million acres (80% of the CDCA) are now managed for conservation (either as closed or limited access areas to protect wildlife and habitat). Another 1.5 millions acres could be managed for conservation once other uses have ceased - meaning that up to 95% of the CDCA could ultimately be included, leaving out only the 500,000 acres now used for "intensive" off-road vehicle traffic.
"Senator Feinstein pledged to protect the California desert and she came through," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that BLM staff in California had fought for its inclusion within the NLCS but had been overruled by the agency's Washington headquarters. "We hope that the new BLM leadership will embrace this opportunity that the departing leadership appeared to dread."
According to documents received by PEER through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against BLM, "disadvantages" perceived by agency leadership to including CDCA within the NLCS are that it -
- "Increases public expectations that CDCA will be managed to emphasize conservation, protection, and restoration";
- "Increases scrutiny of some existing resource uses" and
- "Changes the management of the CDCA…" and increases "the complexity" of its budget.
"BLM headquarters still does not seem to understand that the reason the California Desert Conservation Area was created actually had something to do with conservation," Ruch added. "BLM regarding public expectations that public land should be protected as a 'disadvantage' is just plain perverse."
- adapted from PEER
Monday, February 02, 2009
UPDATE, 2/3: Tucson hearing details: Thurs. Feb 5, 7-9pm, Amphitheater High School, Murphy Auditorium, 125 W. Yavapai. Located just south of Prince off of Stone.
Tonight legislative Dems will host a public hearing on the budget in Yuma, starting at 7 pm at Arizona Western College in the Community Center, 2020 S. Avenue 8E.
Thursday evening Dems will have a public hearing in Tucson, location and time details should be released later today and I will post the info here.
Saturday afternoon, the LD29 team of me, Sen. Linda Lopez and Rep. Matt Heinz will host a town hall, 2-4pm at the Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library, 4350 E. 22nd Street in Tucson.
"I've been busy working at the state Capitol to help people and solve problems, and a critical part of representing people well is continuing to listen to folks in Tucson and statewide," Rep. Daniel Patterson said. "I want to hear from Arizonans about the budget, education, healthcare and other issues so I can take their concerns back to the state Capitol and seek solutions."
Sunday, February 01, 2009
TUCSON -- At the end of a rough week where Arizonans need something to cheer about, my family and I will be rooting loudly for the Arizona Cardinals to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers today at the Super Bowl in Tampa.
The Cardinals need few mistakes, a strong pass rush and a good rushing game to win.