Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brewer at AZ Regents meeting today in Tucson

Will Brewer stand up and demand a fair budget that protects education and our economy?

TUCSON -- Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is at UA this morning to attend a meeting of the Arizona Board of Regents. The meeting is at the UA Student Union Building, 2nd Floor, with the Governor planned to speak at 9:30am.

Brewer will address the Regents about her ideas and higher education funding in Arizona.

The recently released budget proposal from GOP legislative leadership would cut over $47M more from UA, with ASU and NAU also taking more big cuts in FY2010. So far Brewer has not said much about this, and has refused to submit a detailed budget plan of her own to the legislature.

The House Democratic budget plan would protect education for a stronger Arizona.

Contact Brewer's office to let her know what you think: 602.542.4331 or 800.253.0883

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Next Patterson-Heinz-Lopez LD29 town hall May 16

Your district 29 team brings the capitol to you.

TUCSON -- Team 29, which includes me and fellow legislators Rep. Matt Heinz and Sen. Linda Lopez, has already convened two popular town hall meetings this year, and we'll host our third May 16.

We invite constituents to please join us to discuss the budget, education, economy or anything having to do with state government.

District 29 town hall: Sat. May 16, 10am-noon, Eckstrom-Columbus Library, 4350 E. 22nd St.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dems urge Brewer to oppose harsh GOP budget

GOP leaders Adams and Burns.

PHOENIX -- Republican lawmakers’ “budget proposal” offers no real solutions to the state’s looming budget crisis and fails to address Arizonans’ priorities to protect jobs and education, House Democrats said Tuesday.

House Democrats are asking Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to also speak out against the document Republican lawmakers produced late Monday that could cut over $800 million more from education.

"The GOP leadership is not listening, and their unacceptable 2010 budget proposal is radically out-of-touch with what Arizonans need or want," said Rep. Daniel Patterson (D-Tucson). "At 107 days into the legislative session, it's past time for Republicans to 'walk the talk' and begin working in an open bipartisan manner toward a fair budget."

Read today's full news release.

While Republicans hide secretly behind closed doors, legislative Democrats continue to listen to people and will hold our 18th public budget hearing of 2009 this eve in south Phoenix.

- adapted from House Dems PIO

Senators want to end unfair US public lands fees

Sens. Tester and Baucus of Montana want to end unfair public lands recreation fees.

WASHINGTON -- As a steadfast advocate of America’s outdoor heritage, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced legislation that would block the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies from charging Americans higher fees to access their public lands.

Forest and BLM fees have been very controversial and abused by bureaucrats in places such as Mt. Lemmon AZ, on the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, and on other lands across the west and nation.

Baucus introduced the Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act of 2009. Joining him as the lead cosponsor is Sen. Mike Crapo (R) of Idaho.

The bill would revoke authority given to the Forest Service in 2004 to institute new fees and increase existing fees at campgrounds, trailheads, and other public areas.

Specifically, the bill repeals the 2004-passed Federal Lands Recreational Enhancement Act, sometimes called the recreational access tax, and reinstates legislation dating back to 1965 that limits the use of fees on public lands.

Baucus, a long-time critic of the fees, said the current system amounts to double taxation.

"Every tax day we pay to use our public lands, we shouldn’t be taxed twice to go fishing, hiking, or camping on OUR public lands,” Baucus said. “Paying twice just doesn’t make any sense.”

Montana Senator Jon Tester (D) also cosponsored the legislation.

“Raising fees on hardworking families who want to enjoy their public land isn’t a card we should be playing,” said Tester, who serves as vice chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “Americans already pay their share for our national forests every April 15. This bill is just common sense.”

Kitty Benzar, president of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, hailed the bill.

"This is an exciting step toward restoring access to public lands for all Americans, and not just access for those who can afford to pay extra,” Benzar said. “I’m pleased and grateful for Senator Baucus’s support and we will work hard to get this bill passed and signed into law.”

Baucus’ bill would:

• Repeal the FLREA
• Reinstate the fee authorities established by the 1965 Land and Water Conservation Act
• Reinstate the National Parks Pass system
• Cap the amount that can be charged for entrance to national parks.

Baucus and Crapo introduced similar legislation in 2007.

"As a state leader from the west, I urge congress and the Obama administration to support economic justice by passing this bipartisan bill, to give people a break when they visit and respect their public lands," said Arizona State Rep. Daniel Patterson (D-Tucson), an ecologist and hunter who formerly worked with BLM.

- adapted from Sen. Baucus

Sunday, April 26, 2009

'Budget beard' for fairness 100+ days at legislature

Time to get a fair budget done for AZ.

TUCSON -- The 49th Arizona Legislature has been in session for well over 100 days now, with still no real budget proposal or debate from GOP leadership.

As part of a bigger call for a fair budget and open process, I am growing a respectable 'budget beard' to show it is time for debate and action.

Other legislators wear blue jeans, etc. after 100 days. For me it is the beard, at least for now.

Check out the House Dems' budget plan at StrongerArizona.com

Thursday, April 23, 2009

House Dems win bipartisan support for jobless aid

AZ House Democrats lead the way toward economic recovery.

PHOENIX -- House Democrats congratulated each other and their Republican colleagues today after passing an emergency bipartisan bill to use federal stimulus dollars to boost unemployment insurance to middle-class families.

Since February, House Democrats have advocated using the federal stimulus money for jobless aid to middle-class families who have been laid off during tough economic times.

“Thousands of Arizonans are losing their jobs and are unable to provide for their families and children,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Utilizing federal stimulus dollars specifically set aside for unemployment insurance will help lessen the burden as Arizonans search for new jobs.”

The bill brings $97 million in federal stimulus money to Arizona to add 13 weeks to workers’ unemployment benefits for a total of 72 weeks.

“This is absolutely essential for families and children in Arizona who are struggling through no fault of their own as they tirelessly search for new jobs after being laid off,” said Rep. Phil Lopes, D-Tucson-LD27. “As the nation’s and Arizona’s unemployment rate rapidly climbs, this simple change needed to be enacted now.”

Arizona recently reported the largest over-the-year percentage decreases in employment with 6.7 percent, followed by Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate climbed to 8.5 percent in March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor figures.

“The bill we passed today is a big step in the right direction and it’s essential to keep moving forward,”
said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “Next, we need to modernize our unemployment insurance system to help the rest of Arizona’s middle-class families hit by the recession.”

About $150 million in competitive federal stimulus dollars are still available to modernize Arizona’s unemployment insurance system.

In order to receive the additional money and assist middle-class families who lost their jobs during the recession, the legislature needs to do two more simple things:

-- Implement an alternative base period by allowing people who haven't worked a full year to qualify by giving more weight to their recent earnings. Workers now are eligible only if they had been in their jobs for a year. This would rein in $50 million in stimulus money.

-- Provide unemployment benefits to those in job-training programs. Adding this will net $100 million of stimulus money.

"I am thankful other members and the governor listened to us on securing our fair share of the stimulus to help people who've lost their jobs," said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson-LD29. "The legislature did the right thing today, and we should keep cooperating to help middle-class families, jobs and the economy."

- adapted from House Dems PIO

Kofa refuge pumas get short stay of execution

Collared Kofa puma unethically killed by AZ Game & Fish.

UPDATE, 5/2: Arizona Republic editorial agrees with me and other conservationists.

TUCSON -- Update from PEER and CBD on the on-going controversy involving the State of Arizona collaring and killing mountain lions on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

OTHER COVERAGE: Arizona Republic, Yuma Sun

Rep. Patterson in news on energy, immigration

Image from Wall Street Journal.

PHOENIX -- I'm fortunate to have long had opportunities as a progressive voice in the media.

Some recent coverage:

KTAR on solar power in Arizona.

And with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists of the Arizona Guardian, on politics and immigration. Since the Guardian is subscription only, I include some of my comments here about anti-immigrant zealot Republican Chris Simcox running for US Senate.

"Simcox is out of touch with the values of most Arizonans who don't believe we should scapegoat migrants for trying to help run our farms, clean our houses, mow our lawns and do labor here that needs to be done."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

AZ legislature should vote Thurs to help benefits

Arizona Territorial Capitol in 1908.

PHOENIX -- For months I and other legislative Democrats have been pushing to help people out of this economic recession by ensuring Arizona makes full and wise use of all our federal stimulus funding.

Finally, the legislature is set to act.

HB2631 and 2632 would fix eligibility problems with AHCCCS healthcare, and extend unemployment benefits to those who've lost their jobs.

I plan to vote 'yes' on the House floor Thursday, and I urge other members to join me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

AZ House crushes Senate in annual ball game


Rep. Patterson of the Ducks hits against the Senate. David Lujan photo

TEMPE -- This evening the Arizona House Ducks beat the Senate Eagles something like 14-4 in 5 innings.

I played 3rd base, got some big hits and scored several runs. Rep. Stevens probably had the best game for the House, with solid hitting.

We all had fun and it was a good bipartisan diversion away from some of the daily stress of the legislature. Reps. Sinema and Biggs did a good job managing the House Ducks.

Next week the legislators play the lobbyists.

Dems push secret group to release budget plan

We've been here 100 days. Let's see and debate that plan, Mr. Speaker.

PHOENIX -- House Democrats today are calling on Republican leaders to release details of a budget proposal Republicans now say is completed but refuse to reveal to the public. Republican leaders have kept their budget plans hidden for months in meetings behind closed doors, shutting out Democrats and other Republicans alike.

The clandestine group has delayed the budget process and legislative session almost to May and leaves the state with only 40 legislative days left to solve the fiscal crisis. While legislators waited, taxpayers shelled out more than $10,000 a day in the first 100 days to pay lawmakers’ salaries and per diem, not counting staff and operating costs.

“We’re costing taxpayers $10,000 a day and they deserve to see some results for this major expense,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “The public deserves to know the details of a budget that likely will negatively affect middle-class families and their children and be a part of this process. Now this group says they have a completed plan, but won’t share it with the public?”

The state faces a $3 billion budget deficit in the coming year and the only budget document the public has seen from Republican leaders or the governor was a Republican Appropriations’ Committee Chairmen’s budget leaked to members of the media.

"It's time for majority leadership to 'walk the talk' on open government," said Rep. Daniel Patterson (D-Tucson-LD29) "Arizonans are in an economic crisis and it's 100 degrees in Phoenix on the 100th day of the session, with unacceptably still no real budget details or debate from leadership."

That document threatened nearly $1.2 billion in cuts and fund sweeps to health care, critical services for children and seniors and the heaviest cuts to K-12 and university education. Schools were forced to lay off thousands of teachers earlier this month based on the leaked document — it was the only figure available by the majority leadership or the governor.

“We and our Republican colleagues had great expectations for transparency and openness to the public for the budget process this session,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “But the budget process has been even more secretive than years past and unfortunately middle-class families will bear the brunt of it.”

House Democrats released the state’s only detailed comprehensive budget solution in March. The plan utilizes every federal stimulus dollar available to Arizona, makes strategic cuts, reduces government waste, closes tax loopholes and restores funding necessary for middle-class families.

Now that Republican leaders have made it clear that they have reached a complete budget proposal nearly a month later, House Democrats are asking that they give the details.

“Arizona has braced itself for months to hear how this budget is going to affect middle-class families, jobs and education,”
said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Let’s see it.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring fun at Pima County Fair; Ajo hearing Monday

Pima County Fair, southern Arizona.

TUCSON -- My family and I will be out enjoying the Pima County Fair on the southeast side today, in the warming April weather.

Maybe we'll see you there?

A quick political note: Arizona legislative Democrats' will be holding our 17th public state budget hearing Monday eve in Ajo AZ, western Pima County.

Please join us Monday, 7-9pm, Ajo Parks and Recreation Center, 290 W. 5th St., Ajo AZ 85321.

At the same time, in an impressive feat of coordination, listening and dedication, legislative Dems' will also hold a public state budget hearing in Window Rock, if you are in northeast AZ.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

First 100 days at AZ capitol all about budget

President Obama and Rep. Patterson in AZ, February 2009.

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Capitol Times this week covers the first 100 days of the 49th legislature, which as the Times' says, is all about the budget.

From the article: '...Rep. Daniel Patterson, a Tucson Democrat (LD29), said he is disappointed at what he has seen so far, charging the GOP leadership of not “walking the talk” about “transparency or bipartisanship.”

“The Republican leadership’s closed-door budget process is leaving most members, who represent millions of Arizonans, out of the process,”
he said.

Learn more about the fair, common sense House Democratic plan for a stronger Arizona.

Welcome Tucson Toros pro baseball team

Go Toros!

TUCSON -- May 21 will be the first game in the return of the Tucson Toros baseball team.

My family and I support baseball by going to games, the best and most effective way. We miss the Tucson Sidewinders of PCL since they left town last year.

I'm glad to see the Toros taking the field at Hi Corbett in Reid Park, and will be interested to see the level and quality of play.

Downtown hater Antenori has 'gone Maricopa'

Frank Antenori is out-of-bounds with his personal jihad against Tucson.

PHOENIX -- The bombastic negativity of Rep. Frank Antenori (R-LD30) toward downtown Tucson is too much, and I and many southern Arizonans have had enough.

Just like many members of congress who 'go Washington' once elected, Frank, who I believe has lived on the far northeast side for only five years, seems to have already 'gone Maricopa County' in his first few months in the legislature. Antenori seems adrift in anger, not listening to business or community leaders who want to preserve our economic development funding, and local control of it.

I actually represent downtown and have lived there with my family for a long time. I served many years on the Tucson Planning Commission, where we dealt in detail with trying to help improve and streamline conditions for business and downtown revitalization. I also served many years as an active President of a historic downtown neighborhood. Not once has my friend Antenori asked me about about anything having to do with downtown.

Frank wasn't even in Tucson when voters approved Rio Nuevo and its specific projects, but yet now he is a self-proclaimed expert and seems to be serving his Maricopa County Republican legislative leaders in stealing Tucson's money and local control, which is foolishly reckless against the economic interests of southern Arizona. Frank lives so far from downtown he doesn't even want to be considered from Tucson, but yet he's using his position as a State Rep to push his own jihad against jobs, economic development and local control in our central city. Frank's attacks against Tucson could end up harming our regional economy.

Sweeping our Rio Nuevo funds to Maricopa County or ending local control makes no sense, and why should anyone trust Antenori and the out-of-touch Republicans in the legislature with Rio Nuevo when they cannot even produce a state budget?

City management has certainly made some mistakes with Rio Nuevo, many under past city councils, but our current city leaders have learned from these mistakes and have put this essential southern Arizona economic development project back on-track. There is a lot of good happening downtown and in the Rio Nuevo area, just ask Republican Mayor Bob Walkup.

Antenori, if you don't like downtown then stay away as it starts to thrive. If you want to work on downtown issues, fine, let me know and we can make it a team effort focused on accountability and the best results for all. But if you have nothing positive to offer for downtown, stop messing with essential economic development projects outside of your district.

Frank, when you mess with downtown, you mess with me, my family, my district, my constituents and a whole lot of other people. You'd be wise to back off and focus on helping people in LD30 and prioritizing the many issues there.

Finally, Antenori's hatred toward downtown seems to really be about his extreme and partisan views, using downtown as his excuse to attack Democrats, who much to his chagrin are more popular than Republicans in Tucson and southern Arizona.

If you don't want to help Tucson, Frank, you can get a radio talk show after voters kick you out in 2010, if you help Maricopa County take our money, jobs and local control.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Read and share roadmap for Arizona's future

AZ House Dems and I offering solutions.

TUCSON -- If you haven't read it yet, please click here and view the House Democrats' roadmap for Arizona's future.

See much more at StrongerArizona.com

Happy 20th to Center for Biological Diversity

Dr. Robin Silver, CBD co-founder, speaks at Fossil Creek AZ.

TUCSON -- I wish a great 20th anniversary to the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group based here.

As many readers of this blog and others know, I worked hard for many years as a main part of the Center's desert protection efforts. I first started doing work with the group in 1996, when the org was still called the Southwest Center. I'm proud to have served to help grow the Center and its conservation efforts as an ecologist and deserts program director until fall 2006.

I am still allied with the Center, and many of my friends still work there. I wish them all well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

AZ, other states improving whistleblower laws

PEER releases nationwide whistleblower update.

PHOENIX -- Arizona ranks 12th on PEER's state whistleblower protection list, an improvement since 2006, which is good news. Nevada ranks 22, Utah 41 and New Mexico ranks last. Nevertheless, my bipartisan AZ anti-fraud false claims act bill, HB2595, which would improve whistleblower protections when employees expose fraud against the state, is currently stalled in the AZ House due to opposition from some big corporations who may be committing most of the fraud.

WASHINGTON -- Many states are adopting new laws to protect their civil servants who report waste, fraud and abuse, according to a legal analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). While the level of whistleblower protection varies widely across the country, several states are enacting safeguards that surpass those afforded to federal employees.

"Whistleblower laws are a telling measure of transparency and accountability," stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson, who compiled recent state legislation. "These laws open secure channels for public servants to communicate with their true employers - the citizens who pay their salaries."

Since 2006, when PEER first rated state disclosure laws, more than 20 states have significantly broadened their whistleblower laws. Some notable changes include:
  • Two states (Minnesota and Washington) now provide protection to government scientists confronting suppression or manipulation of technical findings. This March, President Obama announced the beginning of an effort to craft similar safeguards in federal agencies;
  • Two states (South Dakota and New Hampshire) have new laws protecting free speech rights of state employees, in reaction to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision stripping all government workers of First Amendment protection on the job. Today, 12 states have "anti-gag" provisions forbidding blanket non-disclosure orders. Similar legislation has been pending in Congress for a decade; and
  • Twelve states have new laws sanctioning state employee reports of health and safety violations. Several of these provisions have procedural protections that are stronger than the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) whistleblower provisions.

PEER has completed a detailed analysis of every state's laws, ranking each on 32 factors affecting the scope of coverage, usefulness and remedies. By these measures, California, the District of Columbia and Tennessee have the strongest whistleblower laws while Virginia, Vermont and New Mexico have the weakest. There is no apparent "red state" versus "blue state" pattern: Oklahoma, for example, has stronger laws than New York. Nor is there a clear geographic pattern: the laws of North Dakota and Louisiana, for example, are substantially stronger than those of South Dakota and Georgia.

"Significantly, no state is weakening whistleblower protection," added Erickson. "Nor is there any evidence that states with broad whistleblower protections are less able to maintain discipline or conduct public business in an orderly fashion."

Click here for more info and scroll down for other important links on state-by-state comparisons of whistleblower protections.

- adapted from PEER

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On tax day, AZ families brace for 'college tax'

State budget cuts have tuition going way up at UA and other colleges.

UPDATE, 4/16: Tucson Citizen editorial.

TUCSON -- Middle-class families whose children attend Arizona universities will file their taxes today, but they’ll have to save up for a new “college tax” they’ll likely face at the end of the month.

Students and their families may have to pick up the tab — $190 million — for Republicans’ deep cuts in the 2009 budget to the state’s university system.

Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University are all proposing extra surcharges tacked onto students’ tuition, the largest to the tune of $1,200 at ASU, which could be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents on April 30.

“Our state’s three universities had no other choice after the legislature made the biggest cuts to public universities in U.S. history,” said House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28). “In reality, these ‘surcharges’ are a college tax for students.”

The extra charges come after the regents have already increased tuition by 5 percent for current students at ASU and by 10 percent for new students. Without the surcharges, ASU will risk losing thousands of employees and merit scholarships.

"The out-of-touch GOP majority who voted for the big cuts to higher education has forgotten that the Arizona constitution requires us to keep tuition as low absolutely possible," said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson (District 29). "There are other budget options, such as the House Democrats', that would honor the state constitution we are all sworn to uphold, but they have not yet received the full consideration deserved."

“This is another way of balancing the budget on the backs of the students,” said Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe (District 17). “This time, the legislature is forcing the universities to do it.”

The new fees will put tuition at ASU and UA above the national average for the first time.

“Our state’s constitution requires us to make public higher education as free as possible,” said Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe (District 17). “Our university students are the key to our state’s future economic vitality and taxing them is not the way to get our economy back on track.”

- adapted from House Dems PIO.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HB2331 bad for AZ local control, law enforcement

GOP Reps. Crump and Boone favoring state mandates, not local control.

PHOENIX -- With economic, job and budget troubles hurting Arizona, the House of Representatives failed to consider relief today. Instead we wasted time debating another unneeded bill, this time an anti-local control, anti-immigrant measure which seems aimed at southern Arizona.

HB2331 would ban cities, towns, counties and law enforcement agencies from passing ordinances or resolutions or adopting policies which supposedly limit enforcement of US immigration laws.

Reps. Tom Boone (R-Peoria) and Sam Crump (R-Anthem) are pushing this bill, and I think I understand their main reason. They are trying to drag local police and sheriffs in to required enforcement of immigration laws, which for good reasons most AZ police chiefs and sheriffs do not want, except Sherrif Joe Arpaio (R-Maricopa County).

State law is not blocking Arpaio from enforcing immigration law because he chooses to, so why should state law block other elected officials, sherrifs and local police from making a choice they think best for public safety in their communities?

Immigration law enforcement is a federal matter and responsibility, and failures in Washington to pass badly overdue and needed holistic immigration reform are not helping. Nevertheless, a state mandate forcing local law enforcement to get involved, by making it illegal for local governments or agencies to have policies on checking immigration status or calling Border Patrol, is unwise and would harm efforts to fight threatening crimes.

I represent a district in a big border county, unlike my friends Boone and Crump, and local law enforcement leaders I've worked with oppose doing immigration enforcement. One big issue is public trust, which is already a problem for some police and sheriff departments. If people are scared to talk with officers due to required immigration dragnets, it will be harder to get information to catch violent criminals and prevent and solve dangerous crimes.

Arizonans want economic justice, jobs and education, not more divisive anti-local control, anti-immigrant unfunded state mandates. A better approach would be for the legislature to urge congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform soon.

I urge my colleagues in the legislature to join me in voting no on HB2331.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Urban solar creates more jobs than remote plants

Rooftop solar in Tucson's south downtown.

PHOENIX -- Danny Thompson has an important op-ed in today's Las Vegas Sun about distributed generation of solar power in cities and towns, and how it provides more jobs than the monopoly-model of big solar plants in remote areas.

"...distributive solar generation creates more jobs per megawatt than any other type of energy source," explains Thompson.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter in the Sonoran Desert springtime

Hand painted eggs in AZ.

TUCSON -- Another Easter Sunday is here.

It is a day for family and thanks in the wonderful spring of SoAZ.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Last spring for the wild in scenic desert valley?

US needs more focus on rooftop solar in cities and better siting of big projects. Chris Clarke image.

IVANPAH VALLEY CA -- From friends in the northeastern Mojave Desert. View photos and more from Basin and Range Watch.

'Last week we took a long walk in the proposed Bright Source 5,000 acre solar project in Ivanpah Valley. It is pretty hard to fathom how big of an area will be destroyed until you walk around it. We found many species of plants along with an active desert tortoise burrow.

'It is not the biggest bloom year, but there is enough there to show just how much of an impact there will be. These may be the last photos of a spring bloom in this area.

'We are calling it old growth Mojave Desert. Very old cactus, creosote rings and yuccas. Rich biodiversity. If you need to use any of these photos to try to show people just how environmentally unfriendly and wasteful big renewable projects are, please do so. I don't think I can go back there. Makes me kind of sick to know what they are going to do to the place. To call this kind of development green is a major step backwards.'

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mountain air, snow could cure pavement allergy

Snow on high Santa Catalinas.

TUCSON -- I'm glad to be home after a so-so week at the AZ capitol.

The weather may snow Saturday in SoAZ mountains. Should be a big moon too. We may just have to go high and camp out this weekend around the campfire.

Too much time on the pavement in Phoenix lately.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

GOP cuts force AZ schools to lay off thousands

Teachers and education backers rally in Tucson for better support for schools.

PHOENIX -- Thousands of Arizona teachers are losing their jobs this week as a direct result of Republican lawmakers’ threat of a nearly $1 billion cut to K-12 education for 2010.

So far, schools in Tucson plan on laying off more than 700 teachers, in Mesa, 500, in Gilbert, 400, in Peoria, 300 and in Deer Valley, 200.

Schools had no choice but to assume a “worst case scenario” of absorbing the nearly $1 billion in budget cuts proposed for 2010 in the Republican Appropriations Committee Chairmen's options. Republican lawmakers have refused to tell schools or the public about any other, realistic budget options they are considering.

Such deep cuts to education are unnecessary because Arizona will receive $1 billion in federal stimulus money that can be used for education. Therefore, thousands of teachers are being laid off for no reason, House Democrats say.

“A lot of us are left shaking our heads because we warned our Republican colleagues from the beginning that threatening such deep and unnecessary cuts to education would end like this,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “The legislature forced schools to make these types of unnecessary cuts and now children and the future economic vitality of our state are in jeopardy.”

The layoffs will increase class size, inhibit children from receiving a quality education and leave more of Arizona’s middle-class families without jobs.

"With a daughter in TUSD public schools, and thousands of teachers, school employees and students in my district, I am very concerned and working for a solution," said Rep. Daniel Patterson (Tucson-LD29). "I voted no in January on the big Republican cuts to education, and I'm helping lead the way with a fair 2010 budget proposal that avoids further cuts to schools."

Republican lawmakers voted in favor of gutting education in the 2009 budget, and they plan to do it again in 2010. A cut that size is unnecessary and also would cause Arizona to lose federal dollars pumped into our schools.

Even worse, on March 19, Republicans attempted to pass an emergency bill that would have hurt teachers and given Republicans cover from public scrutiny over deep cuts they intend to make to K-12 education. House and Senate Democrats successfully blocked HB 2630, which would have denied teachers time to find new jobs and receive adequate notice of layoffs, which are generated by deep budget cuts Republicans intend to make.

Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers have not been open and transparent with the public about their budget options for 2010.

“At the beginning of the year, Republican lawmakers promised openness and transparency,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “We could sure use some of that around the legislature right now.”

Legislative Democrats voted against the deep cuts to education in the 2009 budget process and will continue to vote to protect education in Arizona.

“House Democrats recognize the need for quality education in Arizona and we will continue to protect it so we can have a stronger Arizona as we move forward on the road to recovery,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “It is key to our economic recovery and stability that we invest in education so that our children are competitive in the global economy.”

- adapted from House Dems PIO.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Brief first views on sacking of Tucson manager Hein

Councilman Steve Leal and three others voted to change the city manager.

UPDATE, 4/10: Another important sacking today as Rio Nuevo director Greg Shelko was fired by interim City Manager Mike Letcher. This is an overdue good move, as Shelko seemed to drop the ball too many times. City insiders say one of the main reasons Hein was fired was because he refused to pull Shelko off Rio Nuevo. Albert Elias, the top city planner, may be the right person to oversee Rio Nuevo, at least for a while.

TUCSON -- I'll offer a few quick thoughts on this evening's firing of City Manager Mike Hein by majority vote of the city council.

Mike is not a bad guy, and he had a tough job. He made some mistakes, as most people do. What counts most today though is a majority of the city council decided he'd made one mistake too big or too many to continue.

Hein was responsible for day-to-day handling of Rio Nuevo and other city business. The council's big move today demonstrates in a way the majority is serious about new management and accountability on Rio Nuevo, which city critics may recognize and welcome. At the capitol, this change could help business leaders, Pima County legislators and others supporting keeping the Rio Nuevo TIF money in Tucson.

The city council is elected to make these tough decisions, that's our democracy. I will not second guess the majority vote at this time. They did what they thought was best, and that is their job. I also respect the views of the mayor and two council members who voted to keep Hein. I'm sure this was a tough decision for all councilmembers, and I wish Mike Hein and his family well in Oro Valley.

Mike Letcher, a capable and experienced manager, should do a decent job as interim city manager until the mayor and council appoint someone new. I encourage them to 'think big' and look at all options near and far for the best new city manager we can get.

Economy pinches lives of some Arizona lawmakers

Linda Lopez (D-LD29) in the legislature.

TUCSON -- The Star ran an interesting story Sunday on how Arizona's down economy is affecting some SoAZ legislators, including me, my family and my seatmates.

Many legislators are independently wealthy, but I am not. I think it helps the public interest to have legislators who are feeling the reality of some the same economic pains as their constituents.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Go Michigan State, win Final Four in Detroit


Detroiter Durrell Summers of State with 'in your face' dunk v. UConn. LSJ photo

UPDATE, 4/6, 10pm: UNC was the better team tonight, and I congratulate them, and MSU, for great seasons. 4/7: Andy Katz of ESPN has a good story on this, Sparty helped save the party.

Friday, April 03, 2009

AZ political Friday before MSU in Motown Final 4

Ray Morgan: Go State! Beat UConn!

TUCSON -- I had a very productive day in district 29. I got a lot done for the common good, but I kept thinking about Saturday's Final Four games in Detroit and how my alma mater Michigan State is going to beat UConn. Go Green!

It started with a visit to a TUSD elementary school. Then I was off to Solon's solar factory near the airport for a meeting and tour with other members and staff of the AZ House Water and Energy Committee. From there I went to a state budget event put on by southern AZ chambers of commerce. Lastly was a meeting with Mayor Bob Walkup (R) and others to discuss downtown revitalization.

I'm upset Arizona school districts are laying off thousands of teachers and employees today, due to Republican budget cuts in January I and all other legislative Democrats voted against.

I also join my fellow AZ House Democrats in calling on Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to immediately use federal stimulus dollars that would boost unemployment insurance for middle-class families.

I love Tucson, but I'd rather be in Detroit this weekend. Go State!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

LD29 meeting tonight on Tucson's south side

Dr. Laura Elias de la Torre is Chairwoman of AZ LD29 Dems.

TUCSON -- Join me (if I can get out of the Capitol in time) and others at the monthly meeting of district 29 Democrats today 6:30-8pm, Columbus/Eckstrom library, 4350 E. 22nd St.

Agenda items include: Richard Fimbres, candidate for Tucson City Council, Ward 5; Charlie Salaz, newly elected councilman for South Tucson; Finalize plans for our Cinco de Mayo fundraiser.

Dem Diva Katie Hobbs gets out in front in LD15

Katie Hobbs is strongly considering a run for State House in central Phoenix's district 15.

PHOENIX -- I joined friends, Terry Goddard, Kyrsten Sinema, David Lujan, Nancy Young Wright and many others downtown last night at exploratory State Rep. candidate Katie Hobbs' successful fundraiser.

Katie is a social worker, progressive leader, mom and blogger at Democratic Diva.

Both Lujan and Sinema will be out of the House in 2011, and Katie is wise to be getting out front to win as a Democrat in the fall 2010 elections. Hobbs' exploratory website is up, but not much on it yet.

Good luck, Katie Hobbs.