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Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle http://politicsuncuffed.com Thu, 19 Jan 2017 01:09:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 http://politicsuncuffed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/cropped-Politics-Uncuffed-by-Julie-Erfle--32x32.jpeg Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle http://politicsuncuffed.com 32 32 Settling for scraps http://politicsuncuffed.com/education/settling-for-scraps/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/education/settling-for-scraps/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 23:41:52 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1222 Continue reading ]]>

desk & chairEveryone’s in a flutter over Governor Ducey’s plan to increase education funding without raising taxes. How marvelous that the Governor, after working tirelessly to defund schools and defeat ballot initiatives for additional funding, now sees the need to pull Arizona schools up from the very bottom of the funding pile.

What a coincidence (wink, wink) that this news comes on the heels of a Census Bureau report that claims Arizona is #1…in lowest per pupil funding for K-12 schools and #1 in lowest per pupil teacher pay.

But hey, not to worry, we get lots of money from the federal government. In fact, because our economy is so bad and because we have some of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the nation, the federal government gives Arizona more money to help its students than almost any other state.

So much for taking care of our own. Our legislators should be thanking the feds because they seem to be the only ones that care about Arizona’s kids.

But wait, the Governor is going to take care of this. He’s going to ask the legislature – the ones who have slashed funding for schools and families – to put a measure on the ballot that will increase funding a whooping $300 per pupil. But only if they can resist the temptation to make the ballot measure about education and education only. And only if voters approve it. And only for 10 years.

So if everything goes juuuust right, we’ll be closer to #47 than #50.

Wow. Way to raise expectations, Governor.

At what point will our leaders – both legislative and business leaders – have the courage (and smarts) to realize that if all you do is take from your most precious resource, they won’t have anything to give in return? At what point will they focus on long-term strategies to strengthen our state instead of focusing on band-aid approaches to the crises that have been years in the making?

I’m not giving the Governor or his supporters a hand for one more sad attempt at snowing voters into believing they’re serious about putting Arizona kids first. If they truly care about Arizona’s kids… let me say that again… ARIZONA’S KIDS… then they’ll do more than throw a few scraps their way.

At the very least, our kids are deserving of average. That means we’ll need to prioritize education over additional tax cuts. It might even mean we roll back some of our tax cuts. (Gasp!)

We’re almost a third below the nation’s average for education funding. More than $3,000 behind. We can’t afford to mess around with these little small-brained, low-bar gimmicks that are nothing more than feel-good measures. Our kids deserve better. Our state deserves better.

I challenge our leaders to explain why they think Arizona deserves less.

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Wolves in sheep’s clothing http://politicsuncuffed.com/state-budget/wolves-in-sheeps-clothing/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/state-budget/wolves-in-sheeps-clothing/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:55:32 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1214 Continue reading ]]>

CrossRemember those WWJD – What Would Jesus Do — bracelets from the 90’s? They were a popular way for young adults to wear their beliefs on their sleeve (or wrist), and remember that one’s choices should reflect the teachings of Jesus.

Our Republican legislators and Governor Ducey are quick to wear their religion on their lips, but do they wear it in their hearts? Do the bills they’ve passed and the budget they crammed through in the middle of the night follow the WWJD motto?

Please.

I generally don’t quote the Bible when explaining my political philosophies, but for those that do, they should be called out when their talk doesn’t match their walk.

Growing up in a very strict Catholic household, I spent a huge portion of my life in church listening to sermons and taking religious education classes. I don’t ever recall hearing Jesus described as a champion of the rich who sought to drive out those lazy, poor slobs mooching off the government. Instead, what stuck with me was Jesus’ devotion to the poor, the outcasts and the children.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24

Tell me, Arizona legislators, would Jesus approve of cutting funding for the working poor, funding that affords them “luxuries” like toilet paper and toothpaste all so you can pass yet another corporate tax cut?

Tell me, Governor Ducey, would Jesus be in favor of limiting access for basic healthcare needs for the most vulnerable among us? Would He be in favor of giving wealthy kids a free education at private schools while continuing to underfund and neglect the schools that serve the rest of our students?

Of course we know that Jesus would definitely be in favor of those gun rights bills. As Rep. Barton said, carrying a concealed weapon is a “God-given right.” It ranks right up there with “thou shall not steal.” Unless, of course, you’re stealing from the poor. Or students.

As I watch Republicans congratulate themselves for balancing the budget on the backs of children and the poor, of choosing prisons over education, of representing the “moral majority” at the Capitol and doing more of what got us into our fiscal crisis in the first place – namely, decades of tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals – I can’t help but remember the Biblical teaching of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

One doesn’t need to look far for the false prophets among us. They can be found in abundance at 1700 West Washington.

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#ClassroomsFirst is #TotalBS http://politicsuncuffed.com/education/classroomsfirst-is-totalbs/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/education/classroomsfirst-is-totalbs/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 19:44:15 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1209 Continue reading ]]>

I’d love to have a frank discussion with Arizona voters about education funding. I’d like to know if they really believe more of the same is going to change things or if they just don’t care that we’re in a battle for last place with states like Mississippi.

For decades, Republicans have told us that school choice, not school funding, is the only way out of our race to the bottom. We need more choice, end of story. And every year, we expand choice with more vouchers for private schools, more tuition tax credits, and more charter schools.

The result of all this school choice? Nada.

We have the friendliest school choice policies in the country, but that hasn’t moved the needle. Not even a little. Our test scores, when compared nationally over the course of the last three decades, are stagnant. Our achievement gap is still painfully, pathetically wide.

And yet, here we are in another legislative session debating… more school choice. Seriously folks, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Is it too much to ask to try something new?

I’m not advocating anything radical. I’m not suggesting we dismantle choice programs. All I’m asking is that instead of focusing on choice, why not try funding our schools at a rate close to the national average?

I know some conservatives will be quick to point out that spending doesn’t equal academic achievement. And they’re right, to some extent. Some students aren’t as expensive to educate as others because they have been blessed with richer educational environments. They do not have learning or attention disabilities, have access to quality preschool programs and have economic and parental stability.

Unfortunately, that’s not the typical Arizona child.

It bears repeating that we have some of the highest childhood poverty rates in the country, which is why we NEED extra funding if we wish to compete nationally. To say that we can educate our kids, many of whom start out with the deck stacked against them, at a lower rate than kids in say, Iowa, is pretty incredulous. We can’t. Let’s stop pretending otherwise.

Let’s also let go of the other oft-repeated myth about Arizona’s bloated administration costs. Governor Ducey is playing into that fable with claims that we must put “Classrooms First” by siphoning money away from administration. While that may sound like a smart plan, it’s really just a cutesy slogan used to disguise more cuts to Arizona schools.

Our schools have some of the lowest administration costs in the nation, especially our district schools, which spend significantly less on admin than charter schools. But you won’t hear about that little tidbit from Governor Ducey or his friends pushing for more cuts. Instead, they want schools to settle the lawsuit with the legislature by giving up on the hundreds of millions of dollars owed to them from a voter-approved initiative to fund inflationary costs.

I find all of this curious considering the Governor sends his own children to a private school that spends considerably more on education than what the state pays for kids at district schools. Surely the Governor’s kids, who have a world of advantages, aren’t more expensive to educate than those facing household insecurity. Is it fair to say he believes his kids are worth the extra cost but ours are not?

Too many of Arizona’s politicians have been quick to ask others to sacrifice, content in knowing their own will be just fine. They don’t worry about “other people’s kids.” This is politics at its worst, and it’s what’s ruling the roost down at the Capitol.

It appears our district superintendents have had just about all they can handle of budget cuts and disingenuous sound bites. They’re asking parents and teachers to protest Ducey’s budget, and they’re taking a beating from Ducey’s big-money supporters (read more about that story here).

I hope Arizonans will show their support for our superintendents and our schools, realizing that “those kids” are “our future.”

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The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools http://politicsuncuffed.com/education/the-secret-behind-those-highly-performing-charter-schools/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/education/the-secret-behind-those-highly-performing-charter-schools/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 21:56:46 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1200 Continue reading ]]>

school crossing signLet me start by making a confession. My oldest son attends a BASIS school. BASIS schools are some of those “highly performing charters” that reformers love to use an example of everything that’s right with charter schools, while traditional school advocates use as an example of everything that’s wrong. I suspect the majority of folks who pan or extol the virtues of BASIS schools have never had a child attend one, so let me give you an insider’s look.

I pulled my oldest son from a traditional public school and enrolled him in BASIS when he was in sixth grade. His former school wasn’t a bad school. I liked his teachers. I spent a lot of time getting to know the administration.

But my son wasn’t thriving at his school. He received A’s in his honors classes but C’s and D’s in his regular classes. He was distracted in class and became increasingly disruptive (which is how I came to know the school’s administration).

He needed a change. He needed to be challenged.

I went to Parent Night at BASIS and was blown away by what I heard. An Arizona school ranked as one of the top high schools in the nation? In Arizona?? Teachers with degrees from Harvard and Yale and Stanford, with PhD’s and real-world experience. A curriculum that entails AP coursework as early as 7th grade, and the ability to finish high school with every AP class completed by 11th grade. Wow. What’s not to love?

My oldest son wasn’t happy with my decision to move him. He promised me he’d never, ever, ever like the school. But within a couple months, he was back to his old self, thriving both academically and socially.

It was the right decision, and I don’t regret it. But, like all good stories, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Governor Ducey wants to “fund the wait lists” at schools such as BASIS. He’s fond of using the school as the poster child for reform. But those wait lists are a mirage.

It’s true that hundreds of students are turned away from BASIS and other top-rated charter schools in 5th and 6th grade. But it’s also true that the turnover rate at these charter schools is astronomical, with hundreds of students opting out of the schools after a short period of time, and schools graduating as few as 20-30 students.

Many of the critics will say it’s because BASIS filters out undesirable students, such as those with learning or attention differences, while keeping the “cream of the crop.” And they’re correct.

The curriculum at BASIS isn’t advanced. It’s highly advanced, as in 2 or 3 years ahead of most schools, similar to the curriculum for highly gifted students. Remember when I said AP classes start in 7th grade? That’s not normal. And it’s not something that just any student can handle.

Starting in 6th grade, students take midterms and finals, and the final is a significant portion of the student’s overall class grade. It’s high-stakes testing at its highest. If a student fails even one class (with a small exception for some math classes), that student must retake the entire grade.

The vast majority of students, when faced with retaking an entire grade or moving on to a different school, will move on. So will the vast majority of students who struggle with such an advanced load and who find themselves spending 4-5 hours on homework every night. And the same with many students who are involved in extracurricular activities such as club sports, which requires time for evening practices and weekend tournaments.

This is why BASIS schools start out with hundreds of students and long waiting lists in 5th and 6th grade but end up graduating only a handful of students. And when a school graduates 25 students who have made it through every advanced, AP course available, one would hope these students would have sky-high test scores.

It’s easy to understand why BASIS makes the list as one of the top high schools in the nation. But to compare a class of 25 students to one with hundreds of students from every background and with every learning challenge imaginable at a school in an economically challenged neighborhood doesn’t really seem like a fair comparison, does it?

Of course not. And yet that is what our politicians routinely do.

A better comparison would be comparing the students at BASIS with the top performers at a school such as Chaparral in Scottsdale. Students at Chaparral have a similar profile to students at BASIS – higher income families with highly educated parents. When you make this type of apples to apples comparison, you find little difference, and the “magic” of charters doesn’t seem so magical after all.

The teachers at BASIS, while highly educated, can’t really be described as the secret sauce, either. Some are phenomenal and can relate their knowledge back to their students, but others struggle when faced with a class that has an unruly student or two. Even Ivy League educated teachers need classroom management skills, and this skill is often overlooked.

One other myth I’d like to debunk is the idea that charters such as BASIS and Great Hearts are somehow doing better with less money. We honestly have no idea if this is true.

Because Arizona requires little financial transparency from its charters, taxpayers do not have an accurate idea of how much money charters take in each year. For instance, at most charter schools (particularly the high performing charters in affluent neighborhoods) parents donate thousands of dollars per student each year. At BASIS, it’s an annual fundraising drive they advertise as a way to reward exceptional teachers, and it brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars that district schools do not have access to.

Charters will tell you they need this money because they cannot collect bond money like district schools, though lawmakers acknowledged that fact by giving charters more per pupil dollars than district schools. And in reality, my child’s charter school SHOULD be able to educate my child with less money than a child in say, the Roosevelt district. Why?

Stability. A student with economic stability doesn’t have to worry about when he is getting his next meal or if he will have to move, again. A student with emotional stability in the home doesn’t need to worry about whether mom will get back-handed by her new boyfriend or if CPS will be making another visit.

The first-generation college student is paving a new path and has to rely on the support – sometimes available, sometimes not – of guidance counselors or administrators to help her figure out the how to afford and apply for colleges that seem well beyond her grasp, while students with college educated parents are choosing not if they will attend, but where to attend.

The vast, vast majority of students at high performing charters have far fewer hurdles than most, especially here in Arizona where almost 1 in 4 children live below the poverty level. That’s an incredible hurdle not just for the kids but for their schools, as well.

These students need more than just a supportive and caring teacher. They need the type of wraparound services that support learning outside of the classroom, which is where a huge portion of learning happens. Services such as free and reduced lunches and breakfasts, after school programs and one-on-one tutoring are crucial to a student’s long-term success. Often, these services are the most important factor, and yet, are the first to be scaled back when a school suffers massive funding cuts or is mandated to move more dollars into the classroom.

BASIS schools and many of the other highly performing charters across the state are good choices, and I’m certainly not advocating we take these choices away. But let’s be real here. These are elite prep schools, and their model is successful because the students they serve have more advantages than the vast majority of Arizona students. Their secret to success isn’t much of a secret at all, and they are not the cure for what ails our schools.

If we really want to give EVERY child a chance to succeed, then we need to get serious about how we address the children most in need of our help. And yes, Arizona, that means money. Money that’s earmarked to help failing schools, not punish them for lack-luster test scores. Money that’s targeted for “extras” that are, in fact, necessities for many.

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I’m baaack! http://politicsuncuffed.com/elections/im-baaack/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/elections/im-baaack/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 21:04:26 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1183 Continue reading ]]>

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog, though my absence wasn’t because of a lack of political interest. I spent more than a year working full-time on David Garcia’s campaign for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Working on a statewide campaign gave me a whole new insight into the political process and sadly, I can’t say it was pretty.

You all know what happened in the state superintendent’s race… David, who was arguably the most qualified person to ever run for state superintendent, was defeated by a woman who quite literally went into hiding during the general election.

Voter turnout was historically, pathetically low with the majority of twentysomethings, minorities and single women abandoning their voice and their power in the political process.

And that, my friends, was the saddest part of the 2014 election. The very people who have the most to lose are the ones who have tuned out and given up.

I understand their frustration. I relate to the idea that politicians seem untrustworthy and the whole process is just, well, icky.

But it’s time to connect the dots, folks. Your elected officials make decisions that determine if your child will end up in a small classroom of 20 students or an overstuffed and difficult-to-mange class of 40, if working-class moms will have access to quality childcare or if they’ll be forced to choose between their child’s safety or a job, if you’ll be able to afford college or be left with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and few job prospects.

When you live in a democracy that is quickly turning into a plutocracy, things won’t change for the working class – the great majority of Americans – until they start electing people to represent them.

And don’t give me the excuse that no one represents you because I spent a great deal of time with our candidates. They may not be perfect, but many of them were intelligent, caring and open-minded individuals who were willing to put their lives on hold for a year or longer to try and win your vote.

It’s true that the campaigns for Arizona’s state legislature aren’t nearly as exciting as the race for President of the United States. But when it comes to who has more influence over your everyday life, I’d argue the state legislature wins every time.

So good luck to our Millennials and even our Gen X’ers. You (and me) will need every ounce of it to get through the next four years.

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Will the elections referendum make the ballot? http://politicsuncuffed.com/pensions/will-the-elections-referendum-make-the-ballot/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/pensions/will-the-elections-referendum-make-the-ballot/#respond Tue, 10 Sep 2013 16:55:17 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1175

On this week’s Sunday Square Off, I discuss the Protect Your Right to Vote coalition’s efforts to put HB2305 on the ballot, pension spiking in the city of Phoenix and the possibility of U.S. intervention in Syria.



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Stacking the deck to save incumbents http://politicsuncuffed.com/elections/stacking-the-deck-to-save-incumbents/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/elections/stacking-the-deck-to-save-incumbents/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 01:38:06 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1165 Continue reading ]]>

I’ve long railed that citizens need to be more than merely spectators in American politics. We must be active and informed participants if we want our country to thrive.

And so I’ve decided to heed my own advice and join a coalition that has banded together to overturn legislation that will negatively impact the vast majority of voters in Arizona.

HB2305, an elections overhaul bill passed on a party-line vote during the waning hours of the last legislative session will drastically change elections in Arizona. Some of the more damning parts of this bill include:

  • Criminalizing volunteers who collect early ballots – ballots that have already been completed, signed and sealed – to drop them off at the polls.
  • Increasing the number of signatures required for Libertarians by 4000%, while decreasing the number required for Republicans.
  • Changing the Permanent Early Voting List to a “sort of permanent” list by requiring voters to reconfirm their intent to be on a permanent list if they haven’t voted in the last two election cycles.
  • Requiring “strict compliance” instead of the current “substantial compliance” on citizen initiatives and recall campaign laws, making a successful recall or initiative almost impossible.

Why, you may ask, did incumbent Republicans feel the need to make the most sweeping changes to our election laws in decades WITHOUT first receiving voter approval? The answer is simple: our demographics are changing, and they do not favor the brand of politics espoused by extremist politicians. Instead of appealing to voters, these incumbents would rather forgo a “big tent” and change the laws to benefit their pup tent.

Here’s the how and why:

Criminalizing those who collect ballots is a direct result of a growing Latino movement that has learned how to successfully get out the vote. There was nothing criminal about what volunteers did in the last election — ensuring first-time voters, those with mobility issues and those who often forget to turn in their ballots had their votes counted. Since this isn’t criminal behavior, incumbent Republicans moved to change the law to make it criminal, which just so happens to benefit them as well.

Increasing the number of signatures required for third party candidates and Democrats was a direct result of Republicans losing competitive Congressional districts in the last election. Republicans erroneously believe Libertarians will automatically vote for a Republican if no Libertarian is on the ballot. But as Robert Robb points out in the Arizona Republic, it’s unlikely Libertarians are the spoilers Republicans think they are.

Changing the PEVL to a not-so-permanent early voting list was pitched as a way to help ease the strain on overburdened elections officials who spent an inordinate amount of time verifying early ballots turned in at the polls. While I can sympathize with county recorders on this part of the bill, I have to wonder if there isn’t a better way to fix this issue without kicking people off the PEVL. I also wonder if county recorders still want this part of the bill, knowing that it’s now tied to several voter suppression measures.

Changing initiative and recall petitions to strict compliance is an easy way to ensure initiatives and recalls never happen. Incumbent Republicans would like nothing better than to rid our state constitution of this because it is incumbent Republicans who have been on the losing end of a recall (Russell Pearce) and many initiatives, including medical marijuana.

Strict compliance, something the courts do not currently use, will invalidate thousands of valid signatures in any petition challenge. This is great news for elections lawyers, and bad news for citizen groups or anyone wanting to put a check on Arizona’s elected officials.

All in all this is one big win for incumbent Republicans and one huge loss for the rest of Arizona’s electorate.

I don’t think this elections overhaul should become law without the say of those affected by it… the voters. This is why I agreed to chair the Protect Your Right to Vote Arizona Coalition with the goal of letting voters decide the fate of HB2305.

Based upon the overwhelming response I’ve received from my readers over the last week, I think many Arizonans are ready to toss out this law. If you would like to help with the referendum by volunteering your time, signing the petition or donating to the cause, please contact us by email at ProtectYourRightToVote@gmail.com or by calling 480-382-1102.

Don’t let incumbents stack the deck in their favor. Sign the petition, and protect your right to vote.

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DiCiccio’s Distortions http://politicsuncuffed.com/public-safety/diciccios-distortions/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/public-safety/diciccios-distortions/#comments Tue, 21 May 2013 19:51:43 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1157 Continue reading ]]>

Sal DiCiccio is a masterful politician. In the time he has been in office, he has managed to convince many middle class workers and retirees that other middle class workers and retirees are the reason our city’s economy has tanked, our budget has been squeezed, and our groceries are now taxed.

It’s genius, really. When times are tough, instead of searching for the actual reason we ended up in a crisis, find a scapegoat and pin the tail on him. And who could have imagined that DiCiccio could successfully scapegoat the very individuals most residents used to trust and respect – our public safety workers.

DiCiccio has a history of distorting the truth, and since this is an election year, he’s working harder than ever to ensure that his “stories” are the prominent fables getting attention.

He recently posted on his Facebook page that Phoenix could hire more than 350 police officers if they hadn’t given out $52 million in pay raises. Wow! Who wouldn’t be outraged if this was true? Of course, it isn’t true, but Sal never lets the facts get in the way of sensationalism.

Phoenix did not hand out $52 million in pay raises and bonuses. Almost half of that money went to pay restoration, which is quite different from a pay raise.

Three years ago the unions agreed to a 3.2% pay cut as well as furlough days and hiring freezes. The unions made this historical bargain because they understood the city was in a financial bind and needed to cut wages in order to save officers’ jobs while still protecting the public safety needs of its citizens.

As part of the agreement, the city was asked to restore these wage cuts when financial stability (as measured by revenues) was back on track. Based on this year’s financial projections, the city is set to restore HALF of the pay cuts taken three years ago.

Sal DiCiccio would like the city to break its promise and violate the terms of its contract. Apparently, keeping one’s word means nothing to Mr. DiCiccio.

He would also like the voters to believe that our officers are not deserving of pay restoration — that they have not sacrificed or suffered as much as private employees have.

DiCiccio speaks about the private sector having lost more in wages and in retirement income through losses in 401(k)’s. I know I saw my retirement savings plummet during the Great Recession, though lately that same 401(k) is growing exponentially. Unlike officers, however, even if my 401(k) takes a hit, I still have the ability to draw Social Security when I retire. That’s my safety net.

Officers do not pay in to Social Security and therefore have no safety net should their pensions suddenly go away. Sal DiCiccio understands this but disregards it. He also disregards the fact that the state legislature recently enacted changes to public safety pensions that require officers to contribute more to their pensions and will keep upping those contributions for the next several years.

And when it comes to comparing private sector work to public sector work, let’s be realistic about what we’re comparing. I don’t spend my days with a gun strapped to my belt or 60 pounds of fire equipment on my body running into dangerous situations. There is a difference between what I do in the private sector and what public safety workers do in the public sector, and once upon a time, we used to respect that difference.

DiCiccio knows that our current economic crisis has hit the middle class especially hard. Police officers and firefighters are a part of that middle class, too. They are suffering just as you are. They have taken pay cuts, lost benefits, seen the values in their homes collapse, been asked to do more with less… just as you have.

But unlike all of our other middle class workers, they have also been set up by certain politicians as the subject of resentment and blame. Politicians like Sal DiCiccio who would like you to believe that they have not suffered but rather have benefited from your suffering.

DiCiccio wants you to believe that public safety workers take your hard-working tax dollars without giving in return. He’d like you to forget that these workers are also taxpayers. Forget that they are neither overpaid nor overstaffed in comparison to other cities of similar size. Forget that these workers serve us, and our city, exceptionally well. And forget that as they do their jobs, some end up paying with their lives.

The anger we feel toward our current financial situation is understandable. When our livelihoods are threatened, we want someone to pay. But don’t let the distortions of a crafty politician fool you into believing that “someone” is a group of middle class Arizonans. Don’t let Sal DiCiccio continue his war on the men and women who serve and protect our city.

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Killing solar, all in the name of principle http://politicsuncuffed.com/main-article/killing-solar-all-in-the-name-of-principle/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/main-article/killing-solar-all-in-the-name-of-principle/#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 16:04:06 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1143 Continue reading ]]>

Governor Jan Brewer likes to call herself the “Solar Queen.” She often talks about her own personal use of solar power and the fact that under her administration, solar industries have been booming in Arizona.

But just as they are doing with Medicaid expansion, Tea Party Republicans, in the name of principle, are set to deal a major blow to our economy and crush one of this state’s thriving industries.

In January the Arizona Corporation Commission ended tax credits for businesses that install rooftop solar panels, which has effectively ended the incentive for businesses to go green.

Though some may believe solar subsidies are government hand outs, I’m wondering how it differs from the other energy subsidies we give away. What makes fossil fuel and nuclear power subsides okay but clean energy subsidies bad? If we’re going to offer energy subsidies, doesn’t it make sense to subside an energy that’s renewable?

Ending corporate tax breaks may be just the beginning of solar’s demise in Arizona. The biggest and most contentious fight, the possible end of “net metering,” is just around the corner.

Net metering deals exclusively with Arizona’s residential customers, specifically those 25,000 Arizonans that have installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. Many of these solar roofs exist in the very conservative suburb of Sun City and make Arizona second only to California in numbers of rooftop solar installations.

Residents with rooftop solar are allowed to “bank” the excess power they produce and use it during those times when the panels are not producing or under-producing the energy needed by that household.

Of course, the power isn’t actually banked but rather put back on the grid for other customers to use. Often times, the excess power coming back onto the grid is used during peak hours (noon-7pm), when electricity is most expensive. If a customer has put enough power back on the grid that he/she has an abundance of banked electricity, APS will rebate the customer at the end of the year.

APS, like most energy monopolies around the country, isn’t a fan of net metering because it cuts into their profits. They are encouraging the Corporation Commission to end net metering and effectively end Arizona’s rise as the solar capitol.

The newly elected, all Republican Commission has been very complacent when dealing with APS, which is somewhat surprising considering it was a Republican commission that first implemented Arizona’s renewable energy standards. But the party has changed, and many politicos believe they will now grant the utility’s wishes and put an end to net metering.

The impact of that stretches beyond the many thousands of residents who currently benefit from rooftop solar. Without net metering the incentive to install a costly technology goes away. It also harms a growing Arizona industry, not to mention the damage done to our environment by an overreliance on fossil fuels.

It is widely expected that if net metering ends, many of our solar installation companies will leave business-friendly Arizona and move to California, taking with them thousands of jobs, and Arizona’s growing dominance in solar will come to a screeching halt.

But it’s all in the name of principle. Principles that put fossil fuels over solar and monopolies over customers.

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Does “pro-life” extend beyond the womb? http://politicsuncuffed.com/state-budget/does-pro-life-extend-beyond-the-womb/ http://politicsuncuffed.com/state-budget/does-pro-life-extend-beyond-the-womb/#comments Thu, 25 Apr 2013 17:18:34 +0000 http://politicsuncuffed.com/?p=1135 Continue reading ]]>

The word “pro-life” has come to define a movement of individuals who believe life begins at conception and that abortion should be neither condoned nor legal.

But what about life after birth? Does concern for a living, breathing individual end when that individual is no longer attached to his or her mother by an umbilical cord?

If we look at how we treat children post-delivery, one has to question whether or not our lawmakers and many who advocate for “pro-life” legislation consider life valuable beyond the womb.

Consider the Governor’s proposal to expand Medicaid. She made the statement that she has always been a “pro-life” governor and that expanding Medicaid is also pro-life. Kudos to Governor Brewer for making that connection, but sadly, those most opposed to the expansion are active members of the pro-life community.

Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), a pro-life advocacy group, has been curiously absent from the debate at the Capitol. She wanted the Governor to include an amendment that would exempt Planned Parenthood from any Medicaid funding, a move the Governor already tried in previous legislation only to have it struck down by the courts. Federal law already prohibits Medicaid funding for abortion.

Still, Herrod is using abortion scare tactics to try and justify her unwillingness to back the Governor and give cover to other CAP legislators who have no desire to extend funding to the very babies and children and mothers they supposedly support.

And it isn’t just Medicaid expansion they oppose. How about basic child safety?

We’ve long known that CPS and Arizona’s Department of Economic Security, the state agency charged with protecting children and providing basic safety nets, is understaffed and woefully financed. So what have our pro-life legislators done to help this agency? They’ve made massive cuts in funding for programs that serve our most at-risk children.

Child care subsidies for the working poor are critical for families who need to work but also need a safe place for their children and babies. According to Michael Wisehart, Deputy Assistant Director at DES, approximately 50,000 Arizona children are in need of this service, yet the legislature has only appropriated enough funds for half that amount.

Not surprisingly, calls to CPS have skyrocketed in the last few years with the majority of calls related to neglect.

What do working parents do when they cannot afford safe, quality childcare? The answer is that they take risks and often place them in the care of friends or family who are neither qualified nor equipped to care for small children, or they leave them at home alone.

Surely Cathi Herrod, a woman who claims to care so deeply about children, would be knocking down legislators’ doors, demanding funds for at-risk kids and bringing attention to the needless deaths of children that could have been prevented if only CPS was properly funded.

One would think so, but one would be wrong.

Instead, Herrod is working to ensure transgender people are denied access to bathrooms because exposure to a transgender adult could harm a child, though probably not near as much as exposure to a drug-addicted caretaker who uses the child as a prostitute for drug money.

Pro-life activists also work to ensure that absolutely no funding is given to women to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. Though preventing unwanted pregnancies would go a long way in preventing abortion, these activists are intent on denying the relationship between the two. Better to demonize the woman seeking contraception as a slut than praise her for making a wise and responsible choice that will prevent a more difficult choice in the future.

Most of the lawmakers and activists who insist women abstain from sex and carry to term are the same individuals who turn around and condemn these women for making the “choice” to have a baby without having adequate financial or emotional support.

It’s a no-win situation for these women. They’re either murderers or government leaches.

If one really believes in the value of life, he/she would not turn a blind eye to the preventable and needless suffering of living, breathing children. As a former minister of mine used to say, “Budgets are moral documents. They appropriate money to those items we consider most important and most valuable in life.”

Arizona’s budget is a stark example of the lack of consideration for our most vulnerable kids. It is not a “pro-life” budget, unless one believes life ends at birth.

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