Defund the Police? Balancing ‘Social Control’ & ‘Social Investment’ (video)

Robert Reich

What does “defund the police” mean to you?

Following the tragic and unnecessary deaths of George Floyd, Dion Johnson, Rayshard Brooks, Carlos Ingram Lopez and others at the hands of law enforcement officers, there have been calls to “defund the police.”

Often the same people who say “defund the police” also add “that doesn’t mean take away all of the funding.” When I ask what it does mean, the explanations often get mushy. Recently, I read “What Defund Police Really Means: Replacing Social Control with Investment” by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

In this Guardian article, Reich talks about increased spending in social investment beginning in the mid 1960s through President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Beginning in 1964, the War on Poverty efforts rolled out Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Food Stamps, cash assistance to the poor, equal opportunity programs, the voting rights act and more. By the early 1970s, these programs were working to reduce poverty, particularly among African Americans.

In 1971, future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote the now infamous “Powell Memo,” which author and historian Bill Moyers labels a “Call to Arms for Corporations, “ excerpted …

Continue reading Defund the Police? Balancing ‘Social Control’ & ‘Social Investment’ (video)

How Many Ways Can Arizona Flub Its COVID19 Response Simultaneously? (video)

eviction in Arizona

How many ways can Arizona flub its COVID19 response simultaneously?

Not only did the Washington Post report that “Arizona has lost control of the pandemic,” Governor Doug Ducey also has been slow and intentionally minimalist in his distribution of relief to Arizonans who are suffering financial hardship.

His government has distributed only a tiny fraction of the funds available for unemployment, pandemic unemployment, and eviction relief. Only 6% of the 16,000 people who have applied for eviction relief have actually received it. Thousands of Arizonans could be evicted in July because Ducey is being tight-fisted and slow with the money, and deadlines are fast approaching. The Arizona Republic estimates that at the rate Ducey is currently distributing rental relief, it will take him a year to release paltry $5 million set aside to help renters.

Ducey temporarily delayed eviction enforcement through July 22. Congress banned evictions on property with federally backed mortgages until July 25 and funded pandemic unemployment through that date. These cutoff dates are less than a month away, and Arizona is seeing record number of cases of COVID19 every day — because Arizona and so many other red states opened up economies too quickly. Ducey is also being slow giving earmarked money to local governments and tribes. What is the point of forcing suffering on the people of Arizona?

Continue reading How Many Ways Can Arizona Flub Its COVID19 Response Simultaneously? (video)

#COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

Phoenix with no traffic

Inhabitants of Earth are nearly six months into the most disruptive year of our lives, thanks to the novel Coronavirus. The United States was slow to react to the pandemic that had already spread across Asia and Europe and killed thousands. Early denial by leaders in multiple countries– like the US, Brazil, Russia, India, and the UK– has proven deadly for the general population.

As of today, June 14, 2020, there  have been 7,767,336 cases and 429,555 deaths worldwide. Although the US has 4.25% of the world’s population, we have close to 30% of the cases (2,074,526) and 30% of the deaths (115,436).

Those of us who are not essential workers, sheltered in place for roughly two months as states declared public health emergencies to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the virus. We stopped driving and flying. Traffic disappeared — even in Phoenix. Air pollution cleared. We could hear the birds sing. We started walking our dogs regularly. We rediscovered or learned new skills like cooking and sewing and took on home projects that had waited for months or years due to lack of time in our previously harried schedules. Gardeners sprouted all over Tucson, as evidenced by the almost continuous activity on the Tucson Backyard Gardeners Facebook Group. We started making COVID19 masks and giving them away to friends and strangers, alike.  We went to more online meetings than we had ever imagined… and even went to church online… and in most cases it worked just fine. With a dearth of COVID19 information from the government and loads of misinformation on the Internet, we turned to moderated groups like Fear > Facts Tucson Coronavirus Facebook Group for trusted updates. We were separate, but we built community in different ways to stay connected. Did we really need all of the meetings … the events … the driving … the flying … the stress … the missed evenings with family?

Continue reading #COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

#AZLeg, Inquiring Minds What to Know: Are We Done Yet? (video)

Arizona House

Many of you have recently asked me what the Legislature is up to. After all, we haven’t been at the capital since March 23.

Today’s video is meant to answer the question: Are you done or what?

OK. We’re not done for the year. On March 23, the Legislature passed a “skinny budget” with the Senate bipartisan plan that included $50 million to fight the Coronavirus. After that, we voted to adjourn until April 13 (or until needed or it’s safe). Legislators and their assistants are all working remotely.

There is a lot of speculation about the Legislature, now that President has given up on his prediction that everything will be back to normal by  Easter and is promoting staying at home through the month of April. The Legislature could vote remotely or come back with a skeleton crew and sine die (end for the year) or extend the adjournment.

The Capital Times is reporting that if we did indeed sine die now, only about 60 bills will have passed and been signed into law this year. Traditionally, the Legislature passes more than 300 bills a year. (More than 95 percent of these bills are Republican bills, even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Legislature.) As a long-time Arizona voter, I remember asking myself how in the world can they could pass so many bills every year, particularly when the Republicans promote themselves as party of small government, and they’ve been in charge for decades.

Now, as a two-term Democratic representative, I know that the vast majority of the new laws passed by Arizona Republicans are totally unnecessary and often harmful to segments of Arizona’s  population. They are NOT the party of small government, obviously,

I relish the idea of passing ~60 bills in 2020, rather than 300. Legislation to enable pet projects, pet vendettas and sweetheart tax deals for utilities and multinational corporations seem completely irrelevant and wrong-headed during a mismanaged public health crisis. 

It would be a great thing for the citizens of Arizona if the Legislature passed fewer bills. In 2020, Legislators proposed a record number of bills, more than 1700. If we end the session now, hundreds of bad bills that would have passed in a normal year will be dead! This includes ~20 voter suppression bills; >18 tax giveaways that could total a $1 billion per year of lost future revenue; a bill that allows pawn brokers to become payday lenders; a bill that criminalizes people from standing on the median; a bill that forces us to buy license plates more often just so 3M can sell the state of Arizona more reflective coating, the reefer madness ballot initiative, more vanity license plates; several one-off Republican pet projects related to education (other than public education, of course); multiple attacks on Clean Elections, the Citizens Initiative, representative government, local control, and professional credentials, and whatever else is on the Republican to-do list from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona Tax Research Association, the Chamber of Commerce or President Trump. 

It is completely unrealistic that April 13 would be a safe return date to the capital. I think we should sine die by remote vote. We could come up with a bipartisan, mutually agreed upon short list of bills that deserve to pass. Let’s identify 10 bipartisan bills (other than Coronavirus response bills) that deserve to pass– including earned release credits, the grandparent stipend, more money for caregivers in the ALTCS system, and increased district direct assistance for schools. All the bad bills would die. We would leave a few hundred million dollars sitting on the table (because the tax giveaways wouldn’t pass).

With so little commerce going on right now because of the Coronavirus, there is little sales tax being collected. Our state runs on sales tax. We’re going to need those extra funds in the coming months, along with the billion dollars that we have in our rainy day fund.

The Legislature can always come back for a special session.

#AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Trailers in Midtown Tucson

There are multiple reasons why Arizona has an affordable housing crisis. Chronically low wages; years of under-funding social safety net programs; high student loan, credit card or medical debt; and aggressive evictions have forced far too many Arizonans to live with housing insecurity.

Wages in Arizona are 85% of the national average. Only 6% of Arizonans who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) actually get it. In Pima County, the eviction rate is 30 per day– that’s roughly 1000 per month. 

To use a medical analogy, HB2732 (affordable house tax credits) treats the symptoms of the affordable housing crisis– not the disease. The disease is poverty. 

Continue reading #AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)

child's stove

Arizona is dead last — #50– for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Arizona is not only shortchanging school children, our stingy policies hurt little children before they ever enter the classroom. ACEs include food insecurity; domestic violence; DCS removal; addiction, incarceration, or death of a parent;  or housing insecurity at any level– homelessness, eviction, foster care, etc.

Rep. John Filmore’s bill HB2013 would force teachers to hold back children if they are not performing at grade level– thus eliminating “social promotion” for students who are technically not at grade level. Rep. Jennifer Pawlik– herself a soft-spoken and kind special ed teacher– said that teachers have tools to help children who are progressing but may not be at grade level. Filmore’s bill ignores the expertise of teachers and ignores the fact that some children may need extra help because of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Far too many Arizona children have the chips stacked against them before they are born and due to significant ACEs during their early years, they enter kindergarten with emotional trauma. At a meeting with Amphi School District educators and parents, I learned that 40-50% of Amphi elementary school children who enroll in school in the fall, don’t end the year in the same school. Why? Housing insecurity, eviction, domestic violence, death, poverty, foster care. With low wages and bad policies, we are forcing far too many families to live with hardship.

Holding a student back a grade is second only to death of a parent in childhood trauma. HB2013 just increases the likelihood that Arizona children will be continue to be worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Continue reading Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)