This is the transcript of my opening remarks at the Arizona Public Health Association Conference on Oct. 3, 2018. A video of the speech is below.
It is an honor for me to address the Arizona Public Health Association, since I have a Masters in Public Health from the University of Arizona. I worked in health communication, medicine, public health and behavioral research for many years before deciding to run for the Arizona House in 2015.
In fact, it was my background in public health that prompted me to run for office. Many times since I moved to Arizona in 1981, I have found myself shouting at the radio or the TV or the newspaper or a social post about bad policy decisions made by the Arizona Legislature. Anybody else have that experience?
In the public health arena, the Legislature far too often makes short-term decisions to save a buck or make an ideological point, but in the long-term, these decisions cost money and lives. Do you remember Governor Jan Brewer’s Death Panels? Brewer knocked more than 250,000 adults off of Medicaid—including people on transplant waiting lists. That decision made national news as transplant patients began dying.
Another example of a short-term savings that caused long-term problems is the $80 million cut in childcare subsidies and preventive services for families in need. That recession-era funding sweep played a major role in Arizona’s foster care crisis. At its peak, nearly 19,000 Arizona children were in foster care. Most of those children were removed from their homes for “neglect”. Unfortunately, in Arizona, neglect is a catch-all term which could encompass anything from lack of reliable child care to drug abuse to domestic violence.
None of that $80 million in state funding for childcare has been restored. Why not? Because, of course, we have to cut taxes every year—regardless of the needs of the people.
March was packed with events– most notably multiple Red For Ed protests at the Capitol and the March for Our Lives. There are more scheduled for April.
In the News
We have had many lively debates on the Floor of the House this year. In March and April, we debated water, tax cuts, the deregulation sandbox, marijuana, and much more. Archived video of all Floor, Caucus, and Committee meetings are online here. March was a big news month. To keep everyone up-to-date with the issues, I have been recording daily videos from my office in the Capitol and posting them on social media. There is a collection on my Facebook page here.
I added several news stories to my In the News tab on this website recently. The Capitol Times did a cover story highlighting the feisty freshman women in the Legislature: Dem House Freshmen Break Tradition, Turn Up the Volume. Many of you have heard me talk about how the women changed the game in the Arizona House.; that story finally made the news. Paulina Pineda did a great job of capturing our spirit and our resolve.
April Canvassing & Events
While the Legislature is still in session, we will be canvassing on Saturday mornings. I have scheduled canvasses for April 14 and April 21 from 9:30 – 12:30, meeting on the Beyond Bread patio. Details are on the events tab of my Facebook page. Between now and the August primary, expect weekly group canvassing opportunities. Please volunteer. I am still collecting signatures and seed money. You can sign my petition here online and donate seed money here.
Both the Nucleus Club and the Tanque Verde Democrats will be having meet-the-candidate events in April. The Nucleus Club will be having an all-candidate forum for Southern Arizona House candidates on Thursday, April 12 at the Viscount It’s on my calendar, and I hope the incumbents can attend. We may be sitting in our chairs on the floor of the House at 5:30 p.m., but let’s hope not. The Legislature is still in session, and we have many big decisions yet to make– like the gun violence prevention legislation and the budget (which obviously includes the teacher pay discussion). Facebook event here.
The Tanque Verde Dems are hosting a wine tasting fundraiser and meet-the-candidates event on Saturday, April 14 at the Wine Collective. (You can canvass with me in the morning and relax later at the wine tasting.) The wine tasting replaces the TV Dems’ regular Saturday breakfast meeting. Facebook event here.
This is the text of the talk that I gave at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson (UUCT) on July 30, 2017. (Watch the video here.)
Our lives are made up of the choices we make. Although they range from the mundane to the profound, all of our choices bundled together determine balance or imbalance in our lives. Taoist philosophers believed that to lead a happy and tranquil life, one must live in balance with the forces of nature—the yin and the yang, the female and male, the good and evil.
In her book, Envisioning a New World, UU Rev. Rosemarie Carnarius applies the concept of balancing yin and yang to public policy. She suggests that we should try to consciously balance social responsibility—the yin—with individual liberty—the yang. It sounds so simple yet so profound. Like the Tao.
Carnarius goes on to point out that with the our country’s Declaration of Independence, “… for the first time in history, an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was proclaimed as divinely ordained, unassailable, and constitutionally guaranteed.” A huge step for the common man.
Also, lest our new country devolve into the lawlessness of unbridled individualism, the framers of the Constitution balanced “the ascendency of the individual” with a “trust in humanity’s capacity for self-governance.”
Democracy—the voice of the people—would balance the rights of the individual.
The Supreme Court is in the midst of its 2016 decision season, when legal cases that have been winding their way through the system for years have their big day. Since the Republicans in Congress refuse to do their job and confirm a new SCOTUS justice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly, many recent decisions have been deadlocked 4-4, allowing the lower court’s decision to stand.
Today’s decisions were wins for women because both decisions will save lives.
Abortion Clinic Restrictions Shot Down
In a 5-4 decision, Supreme Court justices struct down Texas abortion clinic restrictions that would have closed all of the clinics in Texas, except a handful in the five major urban areas. This was the Texas law that catapulted Texas Legislator Wendy Davis to national prominence when she filibustered it in 2013. That year, Republican-controlled Legislatures across the country debated 300 bills to limit women’s rights and abortion access. Thanks to copycat laws pedaled by anti-abortion groups like the Center for Arizona Policy, today’s SCOTUS decision means similar restrictions in other states (like Arizona) are likely unconstitutional. (Check out the New York Timesmaps here.)
Today is Fathers’ Day. It’s been almost 20 years since my Dad, James L. Powers, Sr., passed away… far too young.
Many of you have heard my speeches about my Dad’s unwavering support for the United Steelworkers. He was a long-time member and an officer in his local in Lorain County. That is… until the last strike when Thew Shovel closed the plant in Ohio and moved to the south for cheaper, non-union labor. As a vice president, grievance man and a contract negotiator, Dad was a strong fighter for working men and women, and he argued politics and unions with everyone, particularly his father (my grandpa).
Dad, the Working Man
Dad was one of those boisterous, in-your-face union guys that you see in the movies. He was a third-generation electrician, a Navy vet, an NRA member, an avid outdoorsman, a hunter, a John Wayne aficionado, a great dancer, a quirky style icon, a ham radio nut, and a Republican, until Nixon broke his heart and he changed his registration to Democrat after Watergate. He drank to much, fought in bars, won and lost rings and watches playing craps, and carried a switchblade and sometimes brass knuckles. (Truth be told: he may have won those two prizes shooting dice. Jimmy and I were always fascinated to see his winnings in the morning.)
Thew Shovel was in South Lorain, a grungy, hard-scrabble place with economic immigrants from all over the US and the world. “Hillbillies” from Kentucky and West Virginia worked alongside Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Hungarians, Poles, Italians, and workers from the earlier immigration waves like the Germans, English, and Irish. Lorain is called the “International City” because so many nationalities lived there and worked in the factories of Northern Ohio– US Steel, the shipyards, the Ford plant, the GM plant, BF Goodrich, Moen, Nordson, and many others– all gone or, at least, greatly diminished now. Unionized factory jobs made Northern Ohio a true melting pot of ethnicities in the 20th century.
I remember going to Thew once or twice with Mom to pick Dad up when his car didn’t start. (Since both of my parents worked, they always had two vehicles. Mom drove the “good car”, and Dad always drove some rusty rattletrap that was held together with shade tree mechanics and cooled with a Thermos of iced tea on a hot summer day. I remember driving to Lorain once with Dad and my younger brother Jim, who was a toddler at the time. The floor boards on the passenger side of his car were completely rusted out, and I could see the road whizzing by beneath us. Being maybe five years old or so, I remember expressing concern to Dad that Jim and I may fall out onto the pavement and be run down by the cars behind us. There were no seat belts or car seat back then. Dad said, “You’re OK. Don’t look down” and kept driving. There was an “emergency” at radio station, where he was a part-time engineer, and he had to take us along. He left us in the car for what seemed like forever while he went inside to get the station back on the air. It’s a wonder some of us survived our childhoods.)
I have vivid mental picture of the Thew Shovel factory– smelly, noisy, dark, dirty, and stifling hot, and I remember thinking, “Wow. This is where Dad goes everyday.” Life for a working man in the industrialized north was hard. Lorain and Lake Erie were extremely polluted in the 1960s, before the EPA. The air was thick and dirty. The beaches were strewn with dead Lake Erie perch. The sky and the houses were pink with dust from the steel mills. With a job like that, it’s no wonder Dad loved camping, hunting and fishing. (And it’s no wonder he fought so hard for benefits and better working conditions for USW workers.)
My Dad, the Gun Owner
I have been thinking a lot about my Dad during this past week– not so much because of Fathers’ Day– but because of the mass shooting a week ago in Orlando, Florida and the gun control debate that has followed.