Economic Development Across Arizona (video)

Phoenix

Business incentives, also known as tax giveaways, are common up here in the Arizona Legislature. Today’s video is about three different economic development bills. I voted “no” on two of them and “yes” on one.

HB2834 is the ultimate in picking winners and losers. It would allow municipalities to determine projects that would be eligible for lower property taxes in order to reduce their expenses while the project is being developed. (This is similar to GPLET but different.) The upshot is that you could have one building that is getting a dramatically reduced property tax rate right next to another building whose owner is paying their fair share of property taxes. ATRA spoke against this bill and said it could be subject to gift clause legal challenges. This was billed as legislation that would help rural Arizona, but it was a statewide plan to allow municipalities to pick winners and losers. It died in committee with four Republicans and me voting “no,” and three Dems and two Republicans voting “yes”.

HB2282 is a small business assistance grant using federal dollars. It would distribute $5000 grants to truly small business to help them keep afloat or help them re-invent themselves for the post-COVID era. It has limited time frame, it will help Local First businesses, and it uses federal dollars we have. It easily passed on a bipartisan vote. This was also a state wide economic development plan, but the bill sponsor, Rep. Aaron Lieberman, had metrics built into it to make sure that rural Arizona gets their fair share.

HB2649 is the 10-year continuation of tax incentives for data centers. When you store your data and information on the cloud, it’s actually being stored in a giant facility in Phoenix. The Lobbyist said that this 10 year program have been really successful because now Arizona has 25 data centers that qualify for this tax giveaway. I asked where the data centers are located and how many jobs were created. The Lobbyist presentations were very thin considering this is a 10 year multi million dollar program. When I had my public relations business, one of my services was writing and designing annual reports. There should be a 10 year recap on what’s been accomplished by this program, how much it costs and how many jobs were created where — not just nebulous factoids and random data points.

Continue reading Economic Development Across Arizona (video)

RTS Alert HB2391 & HB2255: Transparency in Government. Yes! (video)

World View Enterprises
Let’s talk government transparency.
Lucky for me my committees, so far, have not been totally nuts with radical right wing bills like some of the other committees this year. Yes, we have heard some tax giveaways in both Commerce and Ways and Means but not the extreme ideological social engineering and voter suppression bills that are in other committees.
The Feb.3 Ways and Means Committee agenda included only one bill HB2391, sponsored by Rep. Steve Kaiser, one of the freshmen Republicans. This is a property tax and county government transparency bill from ATRA (Arizona Tax Research Association). Sean McCarthy from ATRA said that all of the counties report their property taxes in different ways. (Not surprising.) HB2391 says that the Department of Revenue (DOR) should design a “worksheet” for the counties to use worksheet and make the data available. I don’t think this goes far enough. I know many Tucsonans who are digging through PDFs and memos on governmental websites to try to determine how their taxes are being spent.
I agree with the push for governmental transparency and standardization in reporting, but I would take this a couple step further. I think these worksheets should be available on the county websites and on the DOR website in an easy-to-find location, and the data should be downloadable in Excel. This allows people — including data nerds, economists, grad students, and interested citizens — to look at the data and analyze it themselves. This is true transparency and accountability, in my opinion.
Many governmental websites are data rich and information poor. There are many numbers but very little context or explanation. For example, my bill HB 2255 is a transparency and accountability bill regarding the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA). I have done a lot of digging around in PDFs on the ACA website to determine the effectiveness of the business incentives that the ACA has been doling out.
When I had my communication and public relations business, writing and designing annual reports was my niche. In fact, most of the little plexiglass statues in my office at the capital are awards that I won for annual reports or other corporate communication documents or programs.
With this background, I am particularly critical of the ACA annual reports that are on their website. First of all, I had to search for “annual report” in order to even find the annual reports. There are lots of cute number graphics, but eventually I found a large PDF which was the actual annual report. Buried in the middle was the number of jobs that are created by the different incentive packages. There was a list of businesses that received big incentive packages (including Caterpillar and Worldview in Tucson) but no indication where these businesses are located. Are most of the business incentives spent in Maricopa County? Probably but it’s hard to tell. What is the long view of these incentives? How many of these businesses are still in business? Many of these businesses got their money years ago, but only one figure is given for job creation. Is that the current number of jobs? Is that the total number of jobs that were created over X number of years? Again you can’t tell from the annual report. Often in a corporate annual report there is historic data like a five-year review or a 10-year review to show growth or change over time. The 10 year review often includes analysis and a continued story from previous annual reports. I never found anything like that on the ACA website.

 

I want transparency in the corporate tax giveaways, how about you?

I am all for more governmental transparency. I think the Arizona Commerce Authority should be included in this push for more transparency and more accountability to the taxpayers of Arizona. If you are on RTS, please give both HB2391 and HB2255 a thumbs up.

[Photo: I took the above photo at a 2017 Chamber of Commerce event at the World View Enterprises headquarters. World View is one of the businesses that received money from the Arizona Commerce Authority and got a new building from Pima County. How much taxpayer money did World View get, and how many jobs did that incentive actually bring to Pima County? This is one of my many questions.]

 

 

5G Forum Reveals Risks, Concerns Regarding Widespread 4-5G Towers (video)

Map of Current & Proposed Towers

Although I had met with all of the presenters before the 5G Forum on Related Health, Privacy, Preemption and Blight Issues and had a good idea what each of them planned to say, I was blown away by the extensive information that these experts shared.

On my YouTube Channel and below, you can watch the presentations.

  • Dr. Russell Witte, Professor of Medical Imaging (primary), Biomedical Engineering, Optical Sciences, and Neurosurgery at the University of Arizona, addressed radiation, microwaves and health concerns related to 4-5G.
  • Elizabeth Kelley, Executive Director: Electromagnetic Safety Alliance, Inc. gave basic background on 4-5G and talked about policy in other states.
  • Domingo DeGrazia, LD10 representative in the Arizona House and a Certified Information Privacy Profession/US Private Sector, addressed privacy issues and steps that can be taken to protect us from corporations or governments collecting our private data through the “Internet of Things” and using it and/or selling it. Midtown resident
  • Lois Pawlak initially called me about her concerns over the proliferation of 4-5G towers in Midtown Tucson. She talked about neighborhood concerns because of the preemption that was built into HB2365. The map at the top is a Midtown screen shot from the tower placement maps on the City of Tucson’s website here.
  • The question and answer video includes cameo appearances by Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Kozachik and Valeri Marsh, who is affiliated with Scientists for Wired Tech.
Continue reading 5G Forum Reveals Risks, Concerns Regarding Widespread 4-5G Towers (video)

Forum on 5G on Sept 30: Health, Privacy, Preemption & Blight (video)

4g-5g towers

Wi-fi towers abound in the urban areas of Arizona, but with the advent of 5G and the “Internet of things,” expect thousands more.

Access to the Internet is a crucial part of modern life. During the COVID19 pandemic, many of us began living, working, partying, and going to school online. The Internet is an essential service, in my opinion.

With the advent of 5G technology, the “Internet of things” and “Smart Cities”, we are being promised faster connections and more connections. We can already connect our smart phones to security systems, home monitoring, and voice command devices. With 5G, the Internet of Things will explode beyond your current devices to include everyday appliances like refrigerators and services like electric usage that can be monitored not only by the user but also by Corporate America … and potentially the government. If you are concerned about your personal privacy and the privacy of your personal data, the Internet of Things may be a bit too connected for you.

Continue reading Forum on 5G on Sept 30: Health, Privacy, Preemption & Blight (video)

Arizona Daily Star Editors Interview LD9 Candidates (video)

LD9 candidates

Each election season, there is an endorsement process. Organizations, groups and causes conduct their endorsement processes differently. Some just hand out endorsements. Some require candidates to answer questions and do interviews.

Last week, the Arizona Daily Star conducted their endorsement interview with the three Legislative District 9 candidates: Democratic incumbent Reps. Randy Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley and Republican challenger Brendan Lyons. In the before times, these interviews were conducted behind closed doors with only Star personnel and candidates at the newspaper’s office. In the COVID19 era, the endorsement interview was an online forum with ~15 constituents and Star staff in the audience. Having even a handful of constituents “in the room, was a worthwhile addition. As you’ll see in the video, the people had good questions about reproductive choice, education funding and other topics.

The interview is an hour long. Pop some popcorn, pour your favorite beverage, and watch the video here. For your convenience, below are the question time stamps. (You can check out my other endorsements, honors and candidate statements here. Watch the whole collection of Star endorsement interviews here.)

Continue reading Arizona Daily Star Editors Interview LD9 Candidates (video)

Labor Day 2020: Protests against Corporate Welfare Replace Labor Picnic (video)

Labor Day Protest in Tucson

Labor Day 2020 in Tucson was … different.

Instead of hosting a giant picnic at Reid Park with games, food, and networking, the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) joined other groups for seven days of protests against corporate tax giveaways, gentrification, and expansion of Tucson’s Central Business District this Labor Day week.

Barrio Neighborhood Coalition activists, PALF members, Mi Familia Vota, Jobs with Justice, college students, neighbors, Catholic workers, and other progressives turned out to protest the upcoming Tucson Mayor and Council decision on Sept. 9 regarding expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) and expansion of GPLET tax giveaways in the CBD.

Tax Giveaway Protest
Ward 3 GPLET protest on Sept. 3.

The first protest was at the Ward 3 office in LD9. This office is located in the Opportunity Zone that conveniently runs along the path of destruction of the Grant Road Widening Project, which has been hanging in limbo for ~30 years just like the Broadway Blvd. Widening Project. In the days of increased online commuting, why are we knocking down all of the businesses on two major arteries, forcing businesses to move or close, and then incentivizing new businesses to go there? This is the ultimate in “picking winners and losers.” How is this friendly to local businesses when government forces many of them to go out of business or forces them to hang in limbo for decades while decisions are made in endless meetings, many of which are behind closed doors?

The Labor Day protest was at the Ward 6 office also in Midtown but in LD10. Approximately, 40 people came to that protest, including former City Councilwoman and former mayoral candidate Molly McKasson.  She lost the mayoral race to Republican and former Raytheon executive Bob Walkup. Years ago in the Arizona Daily Star, Molly said, “It’s too bad Tucson decided to put all of its eggs in the developers’ basket.” Ten years or more later, that statement is prophetic.

Continue reading Labor Day 2020: Protests against Corporate Welfare Replace Labor Picnic (video)