This is a simple diary: there's a Tucson Ward 6 forum tonight! If you live in Ward 6, you might want to hightail it down to the Loft for a community forum with a bunch of our elected officials, starting at 7 PM today -- one hour from now, as I write this. Here's the invited (not necessarily attending) guest list:
- Congressman Raul Grijalva
- Congressman Ron Barber
- State Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford
- State Senator David Bradley
- State Senator Steve Farley
- State Representative Sally Ann Gonzales
- State Representative Macario Saldate
- State Representative Stephanie Mach
- State Representative Bruce Wheeler
- State Representative Ethan Orr
- State Representative Victoria Steele
- County Supervisor Richard Elias
- County Supervisor Sharon Bronson
- City Mayor Jonathan Rothschild
I know they won't all be here, but I'm glad they were asked. I guess the organizers didn't even bother to invite Senators McCain or Flake. (To that, the cynical part of my brain replies, "Why would they?" Oh hush, you.)
The panelists are coming to field questions, and there's a lot I'd like to ask. I've lived in Arizona for a few years now, and the more I pay attention, the more I notice the daunting policy challenges surrounding us on all sides. This evening's moderators have asked Tucsonans to email in their questions in advance, and I felt like sharing my list here (below the fold). If time permits, I'll update the diary afterwards with whatever answers I get, if any.
So, quoting my own email, this is the list of questions I sent in. If one or two actually get asked, I'll be delighted. It's sort of my phrased-as-a-question wish list of policy concerns.
Hello! I'm a Ward 6 resident, and voter, and I am looking forward to the community forum tonight at the Loft. I have a lot of questions, but most are short. Moderators, take your pick! Thanks!Hmm, that formatting is a bit off, but I'm in a hurry. Anyway, it's obvious the above list omits many important topics (like climate change), but hopefully my fellow Tucsonans will remember what I've forgotten. What would you add? What else should be on our radar for the next community forum?
- What can we do locally and nationally to impose some sane limitations on guns? I would love to see a ban on high-capacity magazines and high-caliber semiautomatic weapons. By the way, can we ditch our own terrible Stand-Your-Ground Law before someone in Arizona is senselessly shot like Trayvon Martin was?
- We need more infrastructure investment! What can we do to make that happen?
- State funding for education was gutted in the past few years. That's a dumb way to save money -- what can we do about it?
- I'm still bothered by the Medicaid fiasco of a few years ago, when poor Arizonans approved for lifesaving transplants were kicked to the curb. Has that been fixed? What's the current status of the AHCCCS (i.e., Arizona Medicaid) expansion?
- Voting in Pima and Maricopa counties was a mess last year. How can we fix it?
- Mexican-American Studies really helps TUSD students stay in school and graduate. That seems to be an empirical fact. So, how are we working to get it back?
- The mushrooming private prison industry in Arizona has been a financial boondoggle, and also I feel it's a disgrace to the state. How can we reverse course?
- Lately the "pennywise, pound-foolish" cliche seems really apt: policymakers are advocating for austerity that will screw us in the long run. Where do you stand on the Keynesian-vs.-Austerity policy spectrum?
- What structural changes would you like to see that would make government more effective? Just like the US Senate needs filibuster reform, what other sorts of comparable changes do you think we need at the local, state, or national levels?
- Armchair-quarterback/citizen-democracy question: what are your reactions to Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Tucson? What was done right? What were the missteps? What are the lessons learned?
- I think "entitlement reform" is code for shredding the social safety net, but what do my representatives think? There's a ton of lies afoot concerning Social Security, Medicaid, WICS, etc. I think those programs are vital and relatively efficient. What say you?
- I would like to see meaningful reform regarding privacy, especially electronic privacy. For one example, email users currently have virtually zero legal privacy protections, whereas I think email should be as legally private as first-class stamped mail. What do you say?
- Here in Ward 6, what sort of policy changes do we need regarding responsible water use?
Notes from the meeting
Just got back. That went well. Most of the guests were there (all the above, minus Wheeler, Mach, and Bronson), plus Vice Mayor Steve Kozachik. I'd estimate the crowd was 300-400 people, mostly over 40; I recognized a few faces from Occupy Tucson. We were definitely a bipartisan bunch, with the vocal guardians of gun rights and low taxes seated literally to the right, progressives sort of on the left. The moderator, cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons, did a good job keeping the discussion moving and also clowning around just enough to keep the event from becoming ponderous. Plenty of media were there filming, so if you want to watch the whooole thing, I bet you can find it online, and watch it yourself while eating your Cheetos in the comfort of your own basement, just as I am doing right now, of course. Thus, what follows is the Landrubek Digest version.
(I'll denote the speakers by their initials, so you might need to refer to the list above. I'm unapologetically skipping over blather, and giving space to the thoughts and words that I found notable. Quotation marks are meant to be real quotations, but they're based on hasty notes and fallible memory. Non-quoted stuff is often substantially my own editorial gloss.)
Obviously an important issue to everyone there: almost all spoke, and even the Republicans mostly said fairly sensible things. Maricopa County madness seemed miles away.
RG: Immigration reform is "an issue burning in our hearts" and it must be addressed, like a "moral cliff" worthy of as much attention as the recent fiscal cliff-thingy. We need to give a "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants already here, pass the DREAM act, and reform the current antiquated laws.
After this, RB expressed his concern for border security and said we need a guest worker program (hmm). RE pointed out the horror and tragedy of the far-too-many deaths in the desert, SG mentioned how, as a member of the Pascua Yaqui nation, "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us," i.e., the international boundary cut their traditional territory in two, which is still a problem. SK and EO pointed out the economic harm of dysfunctional border policies.
This was the elephant in the room, in more ways than one. None of us have forgotten Newtown, and it was the eve of the second anniversary of the catastrophic Congress On Your Corner event that became a nightmare. Ron Barber was among the wounded that day, but to me it felt like many were feeling the ache of an old injury. Among the progressives, I think we all felt an urgency to get some sensible policy reform passed quickly, before the nation drifts into forgetfulness again.
Many vocal gun advocates were present too; they heckled Rep. Barber at one point. As I entered, someone handed me a flyer of idiotic pro-gun blather (the sort of writing that makes you embarrassed for the writer). Another stood outside the venue and, astonishingly, protested gun buybacks.
Oh yeah, remember I just said some grudgingly nice things about Republicans on the panel? Doesn't apply here. (Correction: Steve Farley is a Democrat. I guess the NRA kool-aid is sipped on both sides of the aisle.) SF said that the problem with guns is about how American community has completely "unraveled" in the last fifty years, how we all have automatic garage doors (wtf?), and how adolescent boys are too scary. EO seemed to agree and said what we really need are more guns in school -- resource officers, or whatever. Ugh.
The non-pwned said mostly what you'd expect: second amendment rights, like first or fourth or eighth amendment rights, have to have some appropriate limitations, like banning gigantic ammo magazines. Also, we need to do better by those of us who need mental healthcare. SK discussed why an upcoming local gun buyback would be good for safely disposing of unwanted guns, a point that was not blindingly obvious to everyone present. Kudos to RB, who went out of his way to underline how people with poor mental health are almost never a criminal threat, but in fact disproportionately the victims of crime. VS and RB will be working on supporting something called Mental Health First Aid (new to me) at the state and federal level, respectively.
There were a few topics I'll barely mention in this Landrubek Digest Version, since they were of limited interest. We had a discussion about the F-35, which could potentially be based in Tucson (a more-money-vs.-more-noise debate), then a discussion about U. of Arizona growth. On that, RE said what residents need from their representatives is "butt-ass honesty," which made me lol. May I never grow so mature as to think otherwise. We talked about local roads, police services, city planning, and also about opening AHCCCS (Arizona Medicaid) to be more widely available, now that the state budget isn't bleeding red. Surprisingly, even the republicans acknowledged that this was a good idea.
One important topic of local interest was the Rosemont Copper Mine, which is something like the Tar-Sands Pipeline, in the sense that a foreign corporation is saying, Don't worry about the environmental impact, nothing bad could happen to your fragile and irreplaceable aquifer. And just think, your local economy will boom with literally
dozens hundreds thousands of jobs! RB is appropriately skeptical, and RG is opposed, pointing out how the mining company has made huge changes to their proposal, yet wants their original environmental impact statement to suffice -- a tactic he called "moving the ball," which is more polite than how I'd describe it.
The economy was almost the last topic of the night. I'm sad to say, RB responded with a long discourse about how controlling federal spending is essential to fixing the economy. He's kind of a Blue Dog in spirit, if not in name, and I wish Matt Heinz had won the primary. RG basically said austerity is not the answer, and we need to generate more revenue. Someone the right half of the house predictably growled, "It's not your money." RE stated that Arizona is 50th the nation on education spending (gee, is it that bad?) and said we must invest in education if we want the economy to improve.
Surprisingly, republican Democrat SF not only agreed, he nearly gave me a heart attack by proposing we cancel some not-quite-implemented tax giveaways (i.e., standard Club For Growth trophies) until our state pupils score in the top 20% nationally. Wow, could I have misheard him? That was an out-and-out progressive idea! (Late edit: aha, now I get it.)
It was an interesting evening, and I want especially to thank Councilman Steve Kozachik for his leadership in planning this forum, since apparently he was a prime mover. I hope we do this again soon. And I hope the quieter members of the panel get to speak up more, and the garrulous Poloniuses hush a bit.
(Thanks to Azazello for the correction about Steve Farley. I'm sorry for the error.)