Stephanie Grisham, the silent spokeswoman

Having been with the administration from the beginning and a significant portion of the campaign, one would expect that Arizonan Stephanie Grisham would have understood what she was getting her self into with Donald Trump and Company. But since relieving Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the post, the new White House Spokeswoman has been unusually quiet.

In a recent Politico article, Grisham is said to be mulling over changes to the White House communications team and, catching up on the huge array of policy positions and affixing her nameplate to her office door.

Why Grisham has chosen a strategic silence is political journalistic speculation. Since her arrival, the President has escalated his unconventional hands-on messaging to a new and offensive level. Grisham is wise enough to know its not in her best interest to try and control the messaging of someone who thrives on having their ego front and center.

Rep Bob Thorpe Deserves Better

The Republican Primary in Arizona’s LD-6 Senate race has taken some unconventional twists and turns. Turns, because State Senator Sylvia Allen, drawn to spend more time with her children and family in Snowflake, decided not to seek re-election earlier this year but then suddenly changed her mind, some say not by choice and under a lot of pressure by operatives. Twists, because GOP “leaders” and self-appointed kingmakers in the district are rumored to have issued primary support and endorsements to keep Allen in the race.

In the House, Representative Bob Thorpe is term-limited and planning to seek the Senate nomination and seat in 2020. The primary was already set between Thorpe and Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers until Allen did an about-face.

State Representative Bob Thorpe

According to reliable sources, Republican donors and activists met in Payson on June 15th behind closed doors where they decided to intervene in the primary against all Republican standards and practices. During the meeting led by Sedona Republicans Dwight and Andrea Kadar, Thorpe was asked to leave the room while Allen remained. Under tremendous pressure, Allen was told to get back in the race as she fought back tears.

What emerged was an endorsement of Sylvia Allen; a dictate not to support Thorpe through money and manpower; and likely, State Senate and House leadership support to help Allen win the primary (probably through a rare employed primary PAC committee). Thorpe’s political consultant even bailed on him and is probably expected to run (and benefit) from the leadership PAC against Thorpe.

Apparently, party leaders are trying to clear the field for Sylvia Allen in order to make it easier for her to keep the seat.

State Senator Sylvia Allen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

What is ironic in all this is Sylvia Allen (who this blog is actually a fan of) and her promoters should remember how party leadership treated her back in 2010 when a handful of Eastern Arizona “kingmakers” tried to run her out of the Republican Primary in LD-5. At the time, Allen who had replaced the late Jake Flake and won the seat in 2008, was challenged by Bill Konopnicki. Party leadership wanted Allen out and Konopnicki in but the voters saw things differently. After her two-year term, Allen returned to local government as a county supervisor while rancher Chester Crandell ran and won the seat in 2012.

In August, 2014, State Senator Chester Crandell died suddenly in a horseback riding incident. Allen was chosen to replace Crandell on the ballot where she was once again elected to the Arizona State Senate.

But this post is not about Sylvia. It’s about Bob Thorpe and how he has every right to run for the seat without party leadership’s heavy-handedness. And while this blog has been critical of Thorpe’s legislation, the self-appointed LD-6 political kingmakers should back off, stop pressuring Sylvia to stick around and to let the race play out. Bob Thorpe deserves better and a shot at the nomination. We hope he stays in the race.

Kelli Ward’s First Quarter to Forget

By Calamity June

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

It has been nearly 3 months since Kelli Ward took the helm of the Arizona Republican Party. While she’s changed the letterhead and, apparently, spent tens of thousands of dollars on a costly and unneeded renovation, her list of accomplishments sadly end there.

Instead, the robust fundraising that the party has enjoyed since 2013 has ground to a halt. According to the Arizona Republic, the party has seen the lowest 1stquarter fundraising total in 18 years, while spending has gone on unabated.

When Kelli Ward assumed the chairmanship in late January, she inherited a cash balance of approximately $500,000, and was poised to use that money to build bridges across  the various factions of the GOP.

Instead, she did what many feared she would. She chased out the staff that had led the AZGOP’s historic fundraising and organizational successes, replacing them with at least one staffer who had a history virulently racist statements; she squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars on vanity projects like a refurbished office; and has used her platform to take stances completely at odds with what thee party should be doing.

Her first public statement at chairman was a gratuitous attack on Governor Ducey. And tomorrow, she plans to hold a press conference to favor placing a tax hike on the ballot. In doing so, she is putting herself at odds with hundreds of loyal, grassroots Republicans, as well as many legislators and Republican elected officials. This is simply not the role of the Arizona Republican Party chairman.

Instead of attacking the governor or supporting an increase in taxes, perhaps Kelli Ward should spend more time improving the party’s dismal fundraising. She’ll have an opportunity to do just that at tomorrow evening’s legislative salute. Last year the Salute raised over $500,000. I’m sure Republican candidates across the state are anxiously watching whether Kelli Ward can match or exceed this number. (Spoiler Alert: She’ll do neither)

Grover Norquist, the stalwart President of Americans for Tax Reform, perhaps put it best when discussing Republicans who favor tax hikes of any kind.

“Republicans who vote for tax increases are rat heads in a Coke bottle. They damage the brand. They don’t just hurt themselves,” Norquist said.

Norquist then laid out a scenario in which “you get two thirds of the way through your bottle of Coke and there’s a rat head in what’s left of your Coke bottle.” If this happens, Norquist explained, you’re definitely not going to finish the bottle, you may never buy Coca-Cola again, and the company brand is “damaged.”

This sounds a lot like what Kelli Ward is doing to the Arizona Republican Party. On second thought, that might now be fair. To the rat. 

Vote NO Against Bob Thorpe’s Amendment to HB2269

Rep Bob Thorpe
Rep Bob Thorpe

Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe has snuck in a bill that would limit who could serve in the Arizona Legislature. The Flagstaff Republican used a strike everything maneuver to scrap a bill that would have provided funding for DPS officers who live in remote areas.

Now the strike everything amendment, HB2269, will impose serious limitations on who can serve in the Arizona Legislature based on “physical domicile residency.”

Thorpe’s “striker” bill states that anyone seeking to serve in the Arizona Legislature must physically be domiciled in the jurisdiction for 75% of the year preceding the filing date to seek the office. In other words, 274 days before a candidate files for the legislature, he/she must be physically living in their address within the district.

This is bad public policy and anyone who holds a decent understanding of constitutional law knows physical domicile requirements are absurd and won’t hold up in court.

Imagine a teacher from Prescott who returns home to Legislative District 1 from an overseas mission trip where she taught English for a year and was able to vote as an overseas registered Prescott voter. Although she has been registered to vote for three plus years and meets the residency requirements to serve, Thorpe’s law would automatically disqualified her to serve in the Legislature.

This bad public policy would disqualify many good and qualified individuals. Here is a brief list of who could be affected:

  • Missionaries
  • Members of the military
  • International NGO Aid workers
  • Airline workers
  • Maritime workers
  • Long haul truckers
  • Border Patrol employees
  • Overseas contractors
  • Wildland Firefighters
  • Exchange students
  • Business travelers
  • Individuals who take extended vacations

The list goes on…

Several years ago, my friend Jonathan Paton ran for the legislature in southern Arizona’s LD-30. Jonathan had also volunteered for the Army Reserves in 1999. In 2006, Uncle Sam finally came calling activating 2nd Lt. Paton for duty to Iraq. He left in August for six months but still won re-election and returned to the Legislature in February, 2007. Leading up to his activation, Jonathan had to prepare and train and that took him outside of his district. The same is the case for many military reservists who balance serving in the military against serving in the legislature.

Last week, Thorpe’s amendment to HB2269 received a do pass recommendation from the Senate Appropriations Committee with a 6-3 vote. Unfortunately, the bill advanced and is scheduled for further action and more votes in the House and Senate.

There is still time to contact your state senator and representatives and tell them to vote against Thorpe’s amendment to HB2269. The legislation is bad policy and it disenfranchises and disqualifies highly qualified people from seeking a seat in the Arizona Legislature.

Call your legislators today and tell them vote NO on Thorpe’s striker amendment to HB2269.

Babies deserve every chance at life!

Stop the shameful repeal of their protection!

The time to stop the latest move by pro-abortion advocates is today. Last week, 17 members of the Arizona House introduced HB 2696. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday morning.  HB 2696 would repeal lifesaving measures for babies born alive during an abortion attempt, a law that has been on the books for 44 years.

Pro-life lawmakers learned two years ago of real life situations where babies born alive during attempted abortions were left to suffer and die. Legislators took action to strengthen the 1975 law, requiring updated reporting and equipment standards.

Now, some Arizona lawmakers want to do away with the entire law dating back 44 years. This would free abortion providers from their obligation to use all available means and medical skill to save the life of a baby born alive during an abortion attempt.

Please stand with us in protecting babies who survive abortions.

We’ve made it easy for you to contact your legislator and affirm that every baby born alive deserves every chance at life.

Your Representatives will soon have to make a decision on HB 2696!

We need your help! Click here to contact your lawmaker today to voice your opposition to this shameful repeal.

Action Needed:

  1. Click here to contact your two state representatives today. Ask them to oppose the HB 2696 in order to protect women and their babies.
  2. Forward this email to a friend and invite them to also contact their lawmakers.
  3. Pray! Pray that state legislators stop the ratification of the ERA.

Arizona Conservatives bash FDA for regulatory assault on e-cigarettes

Arizona’s own Goldwater institute has joined a number of center-right leaders in urging Trump’s FDA to stop government overreach into personal health decisions. The coalition is calling a proposed crackdown on e-cigarettes a regulatory assault. Conservative groups nationwide are calling on President Trump to halt FDA commissioner Gottlieb’s panic driven regulatory action.

“FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s effort to curb the $6.6 billion electronic cigarette industry and an even larger reduced risk tobacco alternatives market is inconsistent with your clearly articulated deregulatory objectives and will destroy jobs, limit consumer freedoms, and harm public health.  

This week, a Washington Post op-ed bashed the FDA over its recent crackdown on vaping and e cigarettes

As the column noted, “Last week, a large trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine and led by British researchers showed people trying to quit cigarettes were almost twice as likely to succeed if they used e-cigarettes instead of conventional nicotine-replacement therapies such as patches and gum.”

Nevertheless, FDA commissioner Gottlieb shows no sign of backing down. In an interview Sunday, he said that while the FDA supports the role of e-cigarettes in helping adults quit smoking, “it’s now clear that widespread and sometimes reckless marketing of these products has come at the expense of addicting a new generation of kids on tobacco.”

This is irresponsible at best, and completely inaccurate. Vaping technology is not marketed to kids, and is a great resource for adults who wish to quit smoking.

The letter to President Trump was signed by more than a dozen conservative groups, including Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, ALEC action, Americans for Tax Reform among others. A copy of the letter can be read here.

Phoenix taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the Suns’ arena

By Boaz Witbeck 

The Phoenix City Council is considering whether to spend $150 million in taxpayer money on a plan to renovate the Phoenix Suns’ Talking Stick Resort arena.

At a recent public meeting, supporters of the plan argued that it’s worth $150 million to keep the team downtown.

Wanting to keep our beloved Suns in Phoenix is understandable, especially with the owner at one point threatening to move the team out of the city. But a taxpayer handout isn’t the way to do it. We would all do well to listen to Phoenix resident Greta Rogers, who told the City Council last December, “We [Phoenix residents] are not in the business of paying taxes to support private enterprise.”

Ms. Rogers is right. Government should not be picking and choosing winners in the private sector. In her words, “They can support themselves or fail on their own lack of diligence.” In that spirit, we urge the City Council to reject the plan when they vote Jan. 23.

Since 2006, politicians across North America have spent $11 billion in taxpayer funds on 54 ballparks, arenas, and stadiums.

Taxpayers forked over $430 million for the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center. They paid $305 million for the Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center. And they’re on the hook for $250 million for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena. The list goes on.

Most of this spending – $9.3 billion worth – occurred without any taxpayer approval.  The people footing the bill had the opportunity to vote on funding for just 15 facilities. Only eight won voter approval.

Politicians like to claim that using taxpayer funds to build or renovate arenas will stimulate the local economy. The facts, however, say otherwise. 

One study unambiguously concluded, “there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development.”

On the contrary, economics professors from the College of Holy Cross note that teams and stadiums propped up by taxpayer funding can actually choke off local economic activity. People spending money to go to games might have less money to spend at the local theater or might be deterred to go to eat out because of all the traffic from a sporting event.

Funding for stadiums can also crowd out expenditures for important public services and bust municipal budgets. Sometimes that money is wasted on arenas that sit empty. Houston’s Astrodome, which was built with $31 million in public funds and left the county millions of dollars in debt after being condemned for code violations. Despite all of this, last year Harris County approved another $105 million in taxpayer funds for renovations. The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis sits empty, leaving the taxpayers of Missouri paying $144 million in debt and upkeep costs until 2021 – in part because Los Angeles is subsidizing a new stadium for the NFL’s Rams, the team that left St. Louis.

In an ideal world, owners wouldn’t threaten to leave cities unless they get a taxpayer handout and politicians wouldn’t cave to their demands. Local officials need to always remember they’re supposed to look out for our interests.

Spending our hard-earned money on bad investments is not in our interest.

We Americans love our sports teams. But we shouldn’t allow politicians to use those attachments to benefit the well-connected at our expense.    

Boaz Witbeck is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-Arizona

Removal of Pancho Villa Statue Denied

A conservative watchdog group’s attempt to have a downtown Tucson statue removed was denied after a unanimous vote last week by the Public Art and Community Design Committee.

The 14-foot bronze statue of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa on a horse stands in Veinte de Agosto Park. The statue was a gift to the state of Arizona from the Mexican government and a Mexico press group.

The removal request was submitted by Washington, D.C. based Judicial Watch as the group received complaints from multiple residents. City records do not indicate that a public hearing was held to hear complaints prior to the statue having been unveiled in 1981.

Mark Spencer, the Phoenix-based coordinator of Judicial Watch’s Southwest Projects, said the statue “needs to go” because “Pancho Villa did great harm to people.”

After the vote concluded, Spender said he would consult with his legal team to ensure that the panel adhered to city policies.

In charge of managing the city’s public art collection, the committee said the request did not meet any of the 10 criteria used to consider removing public art, such as damage or a request from the artist.

During the meeting, a dozen residents gave statements defending the statue, pointing to its aesthetic value and role in celebrating local Mexican-American culture.

“We don’t want to forget that history, that history that is grounded in Mexican-ness,” said Lydia Otero, a professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona. “Each person that walks up to the statue has to ask questions about why this statue is here, right downtown. And they have to come up with their own answers. You know why? Because we are Tucson and it is complicated.”

Reposted from All About Arizona News.

Voters Deserve Opportunity to Decide if More Light Rail is Right for Phoenix

Building A Better Phoenix

It has been almost a month since our grassroots group—Building a Better Phoenix—turned in 40,000 signatures to give voters an opportunity to stop the disastrous $7 Billion dollar expansion of light rail in the city of Phoenix. 

Gathering twice the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot in under 8 weeks was an extremely difficult task and would not have been accomplished without the hard work of concerned residents and small business owners throughout the city. The overwhelming support from the public has humbled us and shows how people from all different backgrounds can come together to help save a community.

We have also learned that our battle against the endless amounts of misleading information being published about our group and the alleged benefits of light rail has only begun.

Contrary to lies being told by politicians and rich special interests, we are not being led by the Koch Brothers or any other group. Building a Better Phoenix decided early on that we would not accept funding from any outside group to pay for the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. This is a promise that we have kept. Unlike the opponents to our ballot measure that won’t disclose who is funding their misinformation campaign, we have been transparent throughout our signature gathering efforts.

It is also evident that the backers of light rail are now trying to sell the project on its fabricated economic benefits. If light rail is as good as they claim, then why were we kept in the dark about the South Phoenix extension reducing Central Avenue from four lanes to two? Why weren’t we told about the increase levels of crime light rail would bring? Why weren’t we notified that the traffic restrictions along the light rail line would cripple small businesses and make it extremely difficult for emergency vehicles to access our neighborhoods?

All we are trying to do is save our community from a stagnant permanent fixture that will increase crime, traffic congestion and bankrupt countless small businesses, many of which have been around for decades. It’s not that we are afraid of change. Change is great as long as it is a positive change. 

Seeing that most residents agree with our concerns, it appears that Valley Metro and Phoenix politicians are now preparing to ignore the will of the voters and move forward with the construction of the South Phoenix light rail line early next year. The message is clear: they don’t care what the public thinks or if the project is rejected at the ballot box, they intend to build it anyways. 

Their position is unbelievably arrogant and would put our transportation tax dollars at risk. It only makes sense that all planned light rail projects are postponed until after the vote. We hope that Phoenix and Valley Metro reconsider their reckless position and listen to the voters.

Our goal from the beginning was to give the residents of Phoenix an opportunity to cast an informative vote on either spending billions more on light rail or instead use those funds on other much needed transportation projects. We are proud that we have made it this far, and look forward to engaging in an honest, factual debate on the issue.   

Susan Gudino is treasurer for Building a Better Phoenix and is a South Phoenix resident. For more information on Building a Better Phoenix, please visit www.buildingabetterphx.com

Scottsdale Parent Chides Columnist, Scottsdale School District

To: Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic Columnist

I read the article you wrote in the AZCentral regarding HB 2002 and wanted to reach out to you to inform you that Mark Finchem’s bill and bills other legislators are working on to protect our children in the K-12 schools are absolutely needed. Activism is permitted in the classroom and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

I am a parent with a son in the Scottsdale Unified School District who, for the past 15 months, has been providing credible evidence of activist curriculum and teaching instruction that is allowed to continue because of Arizona’s weak education laws and the state’s lax education accountability system.  All levels of district leadership, including Governing Board members, have been provided ample opportunities to remedy these issues, but they simply refuse to compel district leaders to comply. In fact, certain individuals in leadership positions who should be the gatekeepers are the very ones ushering more of the activist curriculum in. District leaders permit teachers to pollute the academic environment by pushing various social, economic, or political adult-themed political narratives with “curriculum” of their choosing. This is beyond inappropriate.  Districts are not in compliance with, nor have they been for years, basic state statutes like A.R.S. 15-721 and statutes that  relate to Arizona’s unique decentralized “local control” structure codified in A.R.S. 15-351.

My sister has been a teacher for 25 years, and clearly there are many teachers who are doing their job well. Those teachers should be singled out, the exceptional ones given bonuses and elevated to leadership positions, while the activist teachers and district leaders should be shown the door. Parents are leaving the public schools in droves, particularly in Scottsdale, and it is precisely because of the low quality curriculum, and lack of leadership and oversight.  

The issues’ I’ve identified sadly extend to the Arizona Department of Education and our state teaching colleges like ASU. I’ve been communicating for months with various legislators, State Board of Education members, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and even Dawn Wallace, Governor Ducey’s Office of Education Director and providing them with specific evidence of issues that need to be investigated and addressed. The State Board of Education is looking into what investigatory powers and oversight authority they have with respect to districts not in compliance with state statutes and situations of activism that go unaddressed at the local level, in addition to issues within the ADE. 

The Superintendent and Governing Board have the duty to ensure that all activities and all personnel are in accordance with the laws of the state of Arizona, the rules of the Arizona Administrative Code, and the adopted policies of the Governing Board, among other critical responsibilities. This is not happening.

The type of curriculum at the Scottsdale Unified School District is night and day different from what my daughter encountered at her charter school just a few miles away. Hers was deep reading with complex themes that dealt with virtue and vice, but pointing children toward uplifting sentiments so that they developed a strong moral compass. The charter school also had a very strong History program (not Social Studies) and read many rich primary source documents that the students discussed via Socratic seminars. My daughter and her classmates were all writing 10 – 15 page papers in their junior and senior years, which is in stark contrast to my son drawing his name in block letters and never writing one proper literary analysis paper in his entire time at SUSD. I was completely comfortable with the curriculum and the professionalism with the teachers and leadership at my daughter’s charter school, while I feel distrustful and extremely disturbed by what I see occurring at the public school my son attends. 

Something is seriously wrong.

I’ve provided a local reporter with the Scottsdale Independent significant documentation and copied her on many, many emails to district leaders and Governing Board members. You can read the article to get a feel for some of the issues, but I have significant documentation to support the allegations. My work experience as a CPA with a fraud and litigation background has trained me to build a documentation trail and that’s what I’ve done. Other parents have formed a separate parent group as state mandated Site Councils that should serve as the parent oversight are not functioning as designed by district leadership. The entire system was so poorly designed from the beginning and is broken. Parents are to have “local control”, but that’s a false narrative. Rather, problems continue to get brushed under the rug by district leaders who don’t want to be held to account.

There are parents across this state who are, in fact, communicating serious issues within our K-12 system, and we’re just now getting legislators to take parents’ concerns seriously. These legislators are being courageous and working to safeguard the children and attempting to reinstate academic scholarship in the classroom. Parents need the State Board of Education members to also work to better understand what parents face at the local school district level, and institute a whistle blower policy, a Parental Bill of Rights framework, and a much stronger accountability system. 

Parents are going to continue to push their legislators and other state agencies to take the issue of K-12 education seriously. The kids deserve better.

I spoke with another investigative reporter this evening who has asked me to provide him evidence of examples of some of the problematic curriculum and other issues within the ADE. If you would like further details, I can be reached at (480) 250-3355. 

~ Kristen Williamson