Inauguration Day for the Arizona Legislature was January 11, 2021 — five days after the insurrection at the US Capitol. Since the occupation of the nation’s Capitol, the Arizona Capitol has been surrounded by chain link fencing to protect us from armed threats from the outside. Unfortunately, inside, the threat of COVID19 is not being taken seriously, in my opinion. Although the Arizona House has a policy that says members, guests and staff must wear face masks, it was not enforced at all for Opening Day. Continue reading Inauguration Day 2021: Face Masks & Chain Link (video)
LD9’s July virtual town hall was July 23, 2020. The format was a bit different for the this town hall because the LD9 team of Senator Victoria Steele and Reps. Randy Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley shared the stage with educators Leila Counta (TUSD School Board member), Taylor Cleland, and Nathan Davis (Amphi School Board Candidate) for the first 30 minutes.
We had a rousing discussion on the safety of opening up Arizona schools during the pandemic, with presentations from the educators and comments and questions from the Legislators and participants. What is TUSD doing? What is Amphi doing? How are teachers preparing for the unknown? The education video is a bit long because it includes the three presentations, plus the Q&A session. (Pop some popcorn and watch it. It’s worth it.)
Three and a half months of sheltering in place — with the novel Coronavirus just one chance encounter away — have given us time to perfect our strategies for survival during the current government-created public health crisis and to make plans for a safe, more equitable, more enlightened future.
COVID19 turned the spotlight on the glaring disparities in our social and economic systems. The virus smashed open those broken systems and refused to let us turn away from the inequities of who gets sick, who lives, who dies, who goes broke, who loses their home, and who is forced to work in unsafe conditions. Blacks in the US have the highest death rates from COVID19 across all age groups, followed by Latinos, and with whites trailing behind. Your ZipCode, your income, and your race should not determine your healthcare access or your health outcomes.
On top of this outrage within the health care delivery system, we witness the unnecessary deaths of George Floyd (Minneapolis), Dion Johnson (Phoenix), Rayshard Brooks (Atlanta), Carlos Ingram Lopez (in Tucson) and others at the hands of law enforcement officers and the out-sized police response to the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests around the country. Also, don’t get me started about my fears for the widening achievement gap between K-12 students whose parents have a reliable Internet connection and adequate computing power for online learning and the students who don’t.
All of these systems were broken before COVID19. The pandemic and related system failures tell us we can no longer ignore and enable the structural racism, sexism, and widespread discrimination in our systems and laws. Excuse my language, but this sh*t’s gotta change. Now is the time to strategize for a better, more equitable, more inclusive future. Where are the wizards to help us re-imagine our country and create the vision?
It took Arizona three months to reach 20,000 cases of COVID19. After Governor Dour Ducey opened up the economy in early May, it took only three weeks to add another 20,000 cases. Arizona now has the WORST outbreak of COVID19 in the nation.
In addition to our state’s disregard for solid public health policies, such as a longer shelter in place directive or wearing masks in public, the state government has been shamefully slow and stingy in distribution of aid. Only 6 percent of the 16,000 Arizonans who applied for eviction relief have received it, and renters face an eviction cliff in mid-July if the Governor doesn’t act. Distribution of unemployment, pandemic unemployment, and federal aid that passes through the Governor’s office has been equally slow and minimalist. What is the point of forcing more strife onto people? Why the slow distribution of funds?
The Legislative District 9 Team — Senator Victoria Steele and Reps. Randy Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley — held a virtual town hall on Thursday, June 18. In order to avoid being hacked again, this event required preregistration and other precautions. The 100 free tickets went fast. Unfortunately, the security measures created a barrier for some of the attendees. Hopefully, we can create a happy medium with our next online event.
The June town hall followed the same format as previous events. Each of us gave a 10 minute presentation on a specific topic, followed buy a question and answer period. There are four parts to the video series from the June 18 Legislative District 9 Virtual Town Hall on COVID19 in Arizona. In part one, Friese discusses the status of the pandemic and the importance of wearing face masks. In part two, Steele discusses housing challenges, evictions, and police reform. In part three, Powers Hannley discusses the Arizona Department of Education’s plans to open up Arizona’s K-12 schools. Part four is 30 minutes of questions and answers on a variety of topics.
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?