Prop 306 a NO brainer

Voting No on Proposition 306 is a No Vote Brainer

By David Gordon, LD18 Democrat

Do you want the tentacles of Dark Money special interests regulating our Clean Elections Campaigns in Arizona? That is what could happen if Proposition 306 passes this November.

Currently, the administration of Clean Election Campaigns is governed by the politically neutral Citizens Clean Election Commission (CCEC). This commission was implemented when Arizona Prop 200 was overwhelmingly passed by Arizona voters in 1998, and allows for two Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent on the Board. Currently operating outside of the Governor’s or State Legislature’s sphere, this body sets the rules for publicly funded campaigns.

Governor Ducey and the Republican Legislators want to change the current composition in two ways. First, they want the CCEC to report to the Governors Regulatory Review Council (GRRC) and abide by its recommendations. Second, they seek to restrict how candidates can distribute their Clean Election Funds. With passage, seven members would staff this Regulatory Review Council and the Governor chooses six of them. It is more than a rumor that special interest lobbyists representing conservative interests would populate this governing body.

Clean Elections should be free of the influence of political manipulations. The system is currently organized to accomplish that mission. Clean Elections mean clean and free of influence. To have the CCEC regulated by Dark Money special interest political hacks would undermine that goal.

Voters should vote NO on Proposition 306 to let Clean Elections run successfully as it has for the last 20 years.


Header photo: Getty Images

Private prisons and corporate profit

By Gitelle Seer

The controversial and unconscionable treatment of immigrant families and children at our borders shines a much-needed light on the for-profit prison industry. The largest private prison contractors house thousands of detainees across the country including in Arizona, which like many states is also housing out of state detainees.  It comes as no surprise that private prison companies engage in extensive and expensive lobbying to guarantee that the government’s immigration laws and policies continue to align with their corporate self-interest and help drive their profits.

The use of private prisons subverts the purpose of incarceration, which is to provide rehabilitation for the imprisoned and safety for the community and was never intended to drive profit or be a commodity on a corporate balance sheet. But that is indeed the situation with private prisons, most of which are owned by two large public companies (GEO and CoreCivic) who are accountable only to their shareholders.

Since I prefer my outrage fueled by facts, I started to delve into the details (you know, where the devil is). Let’s start with some very sobering facts to put the situation in context.

Arizona currently has the 4th highest incarceration rate in the country, with Latinos and African Americans representing a disproportionate percent of the prison population.  About 25% of our prison population has been convicted of low level, mostly drug-related, crimes. Harsh sentencing laws, including a law which requires prisoners to serve 85% of their sentence, are partly to blame.  We spend over $588,000 a day to incarcerate prisoners; the state corrections budget for incarceration is roughly $1 billion a year. And despite claims that private prisons save the state money, we pay $24,000 a year per inmate in a private prison, which is $5.00 more per day per prisoner than in public facilities. Approximately 20% of prisoners in Arizona are housed in for-profit prisons.

Bear in mind that these private prison contracts with the state are long-term, some run for as many as 20 years, during which time our taxpayer money is going to publicly-held corporations, whose profits are going to their shareholders, rather than to fund drug treatment for prisoners, or programs that benefit the broader population, like education and social services. And the business model is built on paying for full occupancy even if there are empty beds. Private prisons can cherry-pick which inmates they take, screening out those with chronic illness and intractable mental health and behavioral issues – in other words, the most financially burdensome.

Between the lack of drug and mental health treatment in prison, and the incentive to keep all beds occupied, it is no wonder that recidivism is at the shockingly high rate of over 50% in Arizona.

And if the waste of taxpayer dollars while filling the corporate coffers in not outrageous enough, what about the conditions under which inmates live, and the safety threats to the community? There are many documented instances of safety violations, unchecked personal assaults and violence, escapes, riots, poorly trained and inadequate staff, and other scandals. And whose feet are held to the fire? Corporations are shielded from both full disclosure and the consequences of these conditions. Private prisons self-report and are not adequately monitored by the Arizona Department of Corrections. Imagine if you let your children “self-report” on their actions!

To add insult to injury (and deepen the financial hold of private prison contractors), the Arizona State Retirement System has investments in one of the largest private prison companies. Quite the irony, given the lack of funding for education and the fact that Arizona spends more than twice as much to house a prisoner than to educate a child.

Until we take control of the rise in the prison population, we must find ways in which to hold these companies accountable for their poor oversight and break their financial stranglehold on our corrections system. There are steps that the Department of Corrections can take, such as demanding transparency of records, requiring accessibility by outside monitors and members of the press, and tying continuation of contracts to objective measures of success, including declining recidivism and successful drug treatment programs.

In addition, we as citizens must pressure our lawmakers to make good faith efforts to address the complexity of factors that contribute to mass incarceration. But that is a conversation for another time.

Gitelle Seer, retired NYC law librarian and a seasonal resident in Tempe.
Gitelle Seer photo


Header image from www.usprisonculture.com in http://wondergressive.com/private-prison-sues-state-wins-more-prisoners/

Freedom Schools, Part II

The Best Education Money Can Buy: The Kochs and ASU, Part II


A few weeks ago, I wrote a
blog post about the Arizona legislature’s decision, in the midst of the RedForEd uprising over education funding, to once again provide special funding for “freedom schools” at both ASU and UA. These schools grew out of earlier programs funded by the Koch network and are closely aligned with the Kochs’ conservative politics, supposedly serving as a balance to the Marxist indoctrination camps being run by other ASU faculty like myself.

But apparently, the Arizona legislature has once again proven even too embarrassing for its ostensible allies like the Kochs to publicly defend. On May 21, John Hardin, director of university relations at the Charles Koch Foundation, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times criticizing the legislature’s attempts to regulate student speech on campus and to silo ASU’s freedom school, the Center for Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) from the rest of the university. In true New York Times editorial page fashion, Hardin presents himself as the last sane man, positioned between Stalinist students on one side and know-nothing politicians on the other, calling for a return to civil academic discourse.

At first it might seem strange for a Koch representative to be criticizing SCETL, a Koch invention, but it makes sense if you understand the Kochs’ long game in higher education, which many of the useful idiots the Kochs sponsor in the Arizona legislature are too dense to grasp. They don’t want SCETL to be a separate safe space for conservatives who feel oppressed by being forced to think about the experiences of people unlike themselves, as many in the legislature envision it. Instead, they want it to be a model for the future of all higher education across the country, in which wealthy donors like the Kochs control what gets taught on campus and who does the teaching.

The freedom schools are only one part of a decades-long push by the Kochs to control America’s colleges by using the power of their purse strings. As recently revealed by a team of student activists, they have been most successful at this at George Mason University in Virginia, where donations by the Kochs and other conservative groups have turned the university into a bastion of conservative thought and even founded a law school named for conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia* dedicated to turning out future generations of lawyers and judges dedicated to Scalia’s radically right-wing interpretations of the law.

*Fun fact: the name of the school was changed from Antonin Scalia School of Law to the Scalia Law School after people realized that the original acronym (ASSOL) was perhaps a little too indicative of the infamously bigoted and confrontational late Justice.

As revealed after the student activists after months of fighting for transparency, wealthy conservative donors were given a large amount of input on hiring decisions and even admissions and this influence was largely hidden from public view. And George Mason accepted the money with these strings attached because, like many other public universities around the country, they have been hit hard by more than a decade of disinvestment in higher education by their state legislature.

Sound familiar? Yep, as with K-12 education, most states cut higher education funding after the 2008 crash. States with Republican legislatures cut more. And, you guessed it, just like with K-12, Arizona cut the most and had refused to replace that money even as the economy improved. According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Arizona cut per-student funding for higher education by 53.8% from 2008-2017. And who was responsible for those cuts? Republican politicians, frequently backed by the Kochs. And into that breach has stepped donors like the Kochs, offering funds not only for radical experiments like SCETL but for hiring in traditional academic departments as well. They are making us sick and then selling us the cure.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with wealthy philanthropists, even unsavory ones, supporting education and culture. We wouldn’t have Carnegie Hall without it. But that money should not come with strings attached, whether for separate explicitly conservative programs like SCETL or ASSOL, sorry I mean Scalia Law School, or for traditional programs. And the radical cutting of public funding for higher education, perpetrated by Koch-backed Republican politicians, puts universities into difficult positions in which they feel they cannot turn down the money even with the strings.

As I was writing this, it was announced that David Koch, who is 78 and in poor health, will retire from Koch industries. His brother Charles is 82. The Kochs themselves won’t be around forever and, if we judge from this viral video of Wyatt Koch, the idiot son of forgotten Koch brother Bill who is a character from Step Brothers come to life, the next generation of the family is in some questionable hands. But the Koch network, the vast apparatus of foundations, think tanks, and political action committees the brothers have funded, will live on, as will their long-term goal of radically altering education in the United States at all levels. Those of us who value true public education have to keep fighting back.

David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.

 

Supporting DACA Students

Supporting Undocumented and DACAmented Students
by David Boyles

The recent Arizona Supreme Court decision rescinding in-state tuition for students at Arizona universities and community colleges who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is just the latest blow for DACA recipients here in Arizona. Much like Donald Trump at the national level, Arizona Republicans like Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who brought the tuition lawsuit, have used attacks on DACA recipients to appeal to nativisit and anti-immigrant resentment. But while these politicians score political points, the lives of hard-working young people have been thrown into disarray.

As a teacher at ASU, I have worked with DACA recipients and other undocumented students. To pursue higher education as an undocumented young person, even one with DACA protections, takes an incredible amount of discipline and sacrifice. Barred from any type of government financial aid, many students pay for their degree in cash, often taking one or two classes at a time because it is all they can afford.

And while I could point to specific students I have worked with, I also recognize that I don’t even know how many DACA and undocumented students I have worked with. Many are not “out” about their immigration status, especially at school, so they deal with the financial difficulties and other instabilities often in isolation. Imagine trying to focus on an English 101 paper last September, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program, and then imagine that your professor doesn’t realize the reason you turned in your assignment late is because you are worried about your ability to stay in the country. These are the types of challenges these students face everyday.

But despite these obstacles, DACA and undocumented students have thrived and, in many cases, become leaders in our local community. Norma Jimenez, a Grand Canyon University graduate, is director of Latino outreach for Planned Parenthood of Arizona and has made advocacy for undocumented patients part of that organization’s agenda, as described in a story last year by BuzzFeed News.  ASU student Belén Sisa, a member of Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU, and ASU graduate Erika Andiola were among the eight people arrested for occupying Congressional offices in December in protest of the Congress’ failure to pass the DREAM Act.

It is a cruel irony that these remarkable women, and many more like them, have become political leaders in Arizona despite not having the right to vote. It is a reminder that voting is a precious thing, not to be taken for granted, and those who have the right need to use it. And while a permanent solution in the form of a DREAM Act is in the hands of Congress and the president, at the local level we need to vote for candidates who will support these young people, not use them as political props like Mark Brnovich.

For more information on the situation of DACA and undocumented students at ASU, check out ASU’s excellent DREAMZone. If you work at ASU or in K-12 education, DREAMZone offers Ally Training programs which are eligible for professional development credit.

For more general information on advocacy for the DREAM Act and other DACA issues, check out United We Dream, the largest national organization for undocumented youth.


David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.

Request to Speak – Make Your Voice Heard!

The 2018 AZ Legislature’s opening day is January 8th . It’s time to get active on the RTS system.  RTS is the Request to Speak System of the Arizona State Legislature.  According to the Arizona Legislature’s website, “the Request To Speak program (RTS) is designed to allow the public to register an opinion on bills listed on agendas and to request to speak on a bill in a committee”.

The Request to Speak system is an online tool that lets you give legislators your feedback on specific bills before they are voted on. You can use the system to show that you support or oppose a bill and provide the reason why. You do not have to physically speak as the name implies. It is one of the easiest ways to share your opinions directly with legislators. Both the Arizona Senate and the House of Representatives have standing committees where bills are evaluated before moving forward. These committees meet regularly and bills are added to upcoming agendas each week for discussion. Once a bill has been added to an agenda, the general public is able to provide comments through the Request to Speak system.  The legislators read these comments and they become part of the public record.

For those who are new to RTS, LD18 Democrats provides lots of help with getting signed up and training in how to use RTS. Look for info on our website at https://ld18democrats.org/portfolio/speak/

You are required to come to the capitol the first time you use the RTS system. When you come to the Capitol, you can create an account and sign in on one of the Kiosks in either the House or Senate (there is also a Kiosk available in the Tucson office).  If you can’t make it to the capitol, we do have some LD18 Democrats volunteers who will be happy to help you.

Once the legislature is in session, it can be daunting to keep up with every new bill but there are some wonderful resources that can assist you.

Cathy Sigmond, LD18’s Waggoner Precinct Captain and new Tempe Neighborhood Team Captain, works with the group Civic Engagement Beyond Voting. This group trains citizens on RTS and will go to the capitol and log new people in.  They also provide resources to follow legislation, including the Legislature Weekly (Iyer Report).

For those of you who are familiar with RTS, we need your participation.  RTS is a great tool to use our voice in helping to share Arizona’s public policy.  Official Instructions for the RTS system can be found at: https://www.azleg.gov/alisPDFs/RTS_Manual_public.pdf

Surviving cancer

Contributed by Fred Barlam, LD18 Democrat
June 20, 2017

June 4th was National Cancer Survivor Day. I am a survivor, and I have been cancer free for six and one-half years now.

In mid-June 2010, after being diagnosed with lymphoma in Phoenix, I headed to my first appointment with my oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. After parking in the underground garage, my wife Sheryl, my son Seth, and my daughter-in-law Jennie walked out onto the street above. As we turned the corner, I saw the large letters with the words Sloan-Kettering at the top of the building glaring out over everyone and everything below. A surreal feeling came over me. It was difficult for my mind to truly accept the fact that I was there for cancer treatment. It was all too frightening.

As a kid growing up in New York City I knew that Sloan-Kettering was one of the best cancer hospitals in the world, and that it was where you went for treatment if you got cancer. On one hand, I was glad that my treatment, was going to be there. On the other hand, I felt extreme sadness for other cancer patients who were not going to be able to access Sloan-Kettering, or a facility like it. Not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t have the right health insurance, or possibly had no health insurance at all.

When I called Sloan-Kettering two weeks earlier from my home in Phoenix to make an appointment, the first thing they asked me was what type of health insurance I had. Due to my retirement from a school district in New York State in 2004, Sheryl and I are guaranteed top notch health insurance for the rest of our lives, so there was no problem with me meeting Sloan-Kettering’s criteria. The strong teacher unions in New York had made it possible for me to be treated at a world-renowned facility and receive the finest medical treatment available.

My total cancer treatment, including tests, CT scans, chemo, etc. cost over $700,000. My out of pocket costs were only a nominal $7,000, an affordable figure for almost every middle-class family. 99% of the cost of my treatment was covered by my insurance. How sad that so many others in this country do not have the same option that I had, and might even die because they could not access the care and treatment they needed.

To this day, I am secure in knowing that if my cancer returns I will again be able to access and afford the best cancer care available. That is a very reassuring feeling. Having a cancer relapse is certainly scary enough without having to worry about affording the care you need. Too many others are not so fortunate. The passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) made it possible for many of them (over 20 million more Americans) to be able to access quality, affordable medical care, and to have some peace of mind because of it.

But now, with Paul Ryan scheming to end it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA, which I call caca!) and Trump seeming to support it, many, if not most of those 20 million Americans who now have insurance from the ACA would lose it. A fellow active Arizona Democrat, Ian Danley, is one of them. Ian, current Executive Director of One Arizona (an organization dedicated to full voter participation by the Latino Community), and the Campaign Manager for David Garcia’s run for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2016, is a lymphoma survivor like me. His treatment was more intense than mine, with him receiving a transplant to save his life. If AHCA replaces the ACA, and Ian relapses and needs further cancer treatment or another transplant, he will die. It is that simple. With his pre-existing condition of lymphoma, no insurance company will give him health insurance, or health insurance at an affordable middle-class rate if they did offer it, and he cannot afford to pay for treatment on his own.

The inequity of this is astounding. With the repeal of ACA and the passage of AHCA, I, a 68-year-old retiree with guaranteed health insurance for the rest of my life would still receive whatever treatment was necessary if my lymphoma returned. Ian, a 36-year-old hard working family man with a young child and a pre-existing condition, would not be able to access health insurance, would not receive the treatment he needed, and would more than likely die if his lymphoma returned. Am I any better or more deserving than Ian? How is this fair? How is this humane?

Now, in my mind, this is really a very solid argument for the need for universal health care like all the westernized nations in the world, except the United States, currently offer. But I am willing to skip that argument for now, and concentrate on fighting the repeal of ACA and the passage of AHCA. If you haven’t done so yet, please call Senator Flake’s office at (602) 840-1891, and Senator McCain’s office at (602) 952-2410, and tell them to vote NO on AHCA. There are a hell of a lot of Ians out there with a variety of pre-existing conditions and it is the least we can do for them!

Fred Barlam, LD18 Democrat

The Blue Print, June 2017

A message from the Chair of LD18 Democrats, Janie Hydrick

I began teaching in 1966.  By the 1990s, when technology emerged as the latest wedge that could drive high-income and low-income kids apart, I was purchasing as much technology as I could for my classroom to try to mitigate the negative effects of that wedge.  I had already spent almost three decades purchasing books, paper, tissue, and many other supplies that the district budget could not provide for.  Thankfully, I was not the sole breadwinner in our family.  Thankfully, I was respected and valued by my district, Mesa Public Schools, and they worked collaboratively with my union, Mesa Education Association, to make the best offers during bargaining.

Today, thanks to a GOP-dominated legislature, public education as the rest of the free world envisions it and supports it has been attacked, its funding reduced by almost half in favor of increased tax breaks for corporations, its educators forced to find second or other jobs to subsist, and the primary mission of public education – an educated and capable citizenry – has been abandoned.

If you want your future doctors and researchers to be well-educated, your fellow voters to have a sense of logic and ethics, and the general economy to profit, please join Save Our Schools.  Our phoning, writing, emailing, and protesting all fell on deaf, uncaring ears.  This GOP-dominated legislature took their bribes and their hate of any children who are not high income, and destroyed the single means of leveling an increasingly unfair playing field.  They destroyed the viability of a quality public education.  They are taking your tax dollars and giving away $5800 per student with absolutely no accountability.  None.  Your money will subsidize private and religious schools and home schooling with no accountability in terms of spending or academic outcome.

The only recourse we have now is to Save Our Schools.  Sign the petition!  Circulate a petition to your family and friends!  Make a contribution!  Placing SB1431 voucher expansion on the ballot and voicing your support of public schools will be the first step toward restoring the Arizona educational system. Click on the website to find out how and where you can sign and help.

Save Our Schools!   Today!

In solidarity,
Dr. Janie Hydrick
Chair, LD18 Democrats
Educational Coordinator, Arizona Democratic Party

The risk of an Article V convention and the balanced budget amendment

Arizona GOP legislators are pushing several bills to add a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution using an Article V (“Article 5”) convention[1]. What is an Article V convention, and why is it risky?

Article V of the US Constitution describes two methods for adding amendments[2].

In the first method an amendment is proposed in Congress, and must be approved by both houses of Congress with a two-thirds majority. It then has to be ratified by three-quarters of the states’ legislatures (38 states) or conventions in three-quarters of the states. This is the way all amendments have been created since the Constitution was ratified in 1788.

The second method is the “Article V convention”. It starts with two-thirds of the states’ legislatures (34 states) petitioning Congress for a constitutional convention. A convention is held and three-quarters of the state legislatures (38 states) or conventions in three-quarters of the states have to ratify the amendments.

Notice the difference. In the first method, the amendments are proposed first. They are debated in Congress and people have input through their representatives. The amendments are finite and specific.

In the second method, there is no limit to what can be changed. Even though a balanced budget amendment is the original intent, there is no language in Article V that will limit the scope of a convention to the original intent. Anything can be amended. (One exception is that states have to maintain “equal suffrage in the Senate”.)

Currently twenty-eight states have passed a resolution calling for the convention[3]. Only six more are needed, and Arizona is likely to reduce that number to five. The likelihood of an Article V convention is increasing.

Even if a convention is called, won’t it be difficult to get three-quarters of the state legislatures to ratify extreme amendments? Maybe not. With brilliant gerrymandering[4], the GOP now has control of thirty-two state legislatures with three more being split[5,6]. The republicans are close to controlling the thirty-eight states needed to ratify. These thirty-eight states will likely ratify the results of an Article V convention, especially when the amendments are disguised as patriotism, national security, voting integrity, states’ rights, or religious freedom.

Still think it’s a long shot? A few years ago we thought it highly unlikely that a certain “bloviating ignoramus”[7] would get elected president. Think again.

Contributed by Craig Falasco, March 14, 2017

__________________________

[1] Arizona Legislature bills calling for an Article V convention: HCR2013, HB2226, HCR2022, and HB2449.  HB2449 is an attempt to limit the convention to its original intent. http://www.azleg.gov/bills/

[2] National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript#page-header

[3] “Corporate America Is Just 6 States Short of a Constitutional Convention“, In These Times, Rachel K. Dooley, March 14, 2016. http://inthesetimes.com/article/18940/alec-balanced-budget-corporate-constitutional-convention

[4] “The power that gerrymandering has brought to Republicans”, The Washington Post,  June 17, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-that-gerrymandering-has-brought-to-republicans/2016/06/17/045264ae-2903-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html?utm_term=.ccf9070e6870

[5] “Political party control of United States state legislatures and governors”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_party_control_of_United_States_state_legislatures_and_governors

[6] “State Partisan Composition”, National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/partisan-composition.aspx#2017

[7] “George Will Calls Donald Trump a “Bloviating Ignoramus””, Jake Tapper, May 27, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/george-will-calls-donald-trump-a-bloviating-ignoramus-on-this-week/

Note: For an opposing view, read this: “Debunking The Myths Surrounding An Article V Convention To Propose Constitutional Amendments”, Tom Linsay, February 23, 2016.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomlindsay/2016/02/23/debunking-the-myths-surrounding-an-article-v-convention-to-propose-constitutional-amendments/#1b5222b6384d