‘School Choice Matters’ Ad Indicates Education To Be Top Issue In 2018

If you’re a Sunday Square Off viewer, you probably saw this political “thank you” ad air several times during the show. There was no “paid for” disclaimer but the ad was produced by the American Federation for Children.

The ad is airing to support and thank Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature for passing and signing Senator Debbie Lesko’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) legislation. The law now expands school choice (although capped) throughout Arizona.

During final debate, opponents (primarily the Arizona Education Association) whipped up cataclysmic hysteria over the bill. Casual observers would have thought Arizona public education was about to be nuked into oblivion.

School choice advocates were probably caught off guard by the rapid rabid response.

Thus, the American Federation for Children realizing the need to recover the narrative and refocus the debate on children and parental choice, injected itself into the debate.

Anyone watching the warmup for Arizona’s 2018 election cycle can see that next year’s top political issue will be education.

And at the center of that debate, stand Arizona teachers.

Get ready. Every political candidate will position himself/herself as an advocate and “friend of teachers.”

The data proves that Arizona teachers deserve to paid more and if that means unclogging the pipes and removing the administrative clogs to get more money into the classroom, then so be it.

As the Arizona Legislature wraps up the budget and 2017 session, Governor Ducey and lawmakers are poised at an advantage in controlling the message heading into 2018. How they address direct delivery of tax dollars into the classroom, handing out teacher raises and elevating respect for the teaching profession will establish the battlefield for next year’s election.

Republicans have the opportunity to own and make 2018 the “Year of the Teacher.” If they seize the day, Arizona taxpayers, parents, teachers and children will win.

 

BOOM! Arizona lawmakers pass broad ESA expansion

by Matthew Ladner

Arizona lawmakers passed legislation tonight that will phase in near universal eligibility for ESA program. This will start with public school students in kindergarten and 1st grade, 6th grade and 9th grade in 2017-18, and then add grades from the on ramps (K,1,2 and 6,7 and 9-10 in year 2 and the next year K,1,2,3 and 6,7,8,9,10,11). The bill will also increase academic transparency and improve administration of the program.

Governor Doug Ducey’s stalwart support of expanding options proved crucial to this victory. Huge kudos to the bill sponsor Senator Lesko and Rep. Allen as well as the members who took a tough vote in the face of determined opposition. Groups including the American Federation for Children, Americans for Prosperity Arizona, the Arizona Catholic Conference, the Arizona Chamber, the Center for Arizona Policy, Ed Choice, Excel in Ed and the Goldwater Institute all made vital contributions. Senator Worsley also deserves recognition as someone who played the role of honest broker in crafting a compromise that a winning coalition in each chamber supported. We’d all like to live in a world where there was no need to compromise, but that world is not the one we find ourselves in.

The Census Bureau recently announced that Maricopa County (Phoenix metro) as the fastest growing county in the nation-nudging out the Houston area. Enrollment growth is firing up again and the expanded ESA will give parents a broadening array of private educational choices to consider in what is already a robust public choice market. ESAs are an unfolding experiment in liberty, and future legislatures will debate further refinements and improvements, but this is the first big private choice victory of 2017, so…

Arizona Republic skips out on Obama-inconvenient story once again

Keeping up a long tradition, The Arizona Republic again is doing what it can to play good-puppy with the national media, this time joining most of them in avoiding the Susan Rice Story as if it had been tongue-washed by Donald Trump.

At least the ideological ringleader New York Times wrote something on Monday. The Arizona newspaper of record (of fun, new drink concoctions at Tempe bars!) has gone full Don Lemon/CNN on the story. It doesn’t exist on the Republic’s pages, thus opening the door for cartoonist Steve Benson to render another howlingly humorless cartoon about a Donald Trump story his publication refuses to cover.

At least the Times gave it something more than the A-16, middle-of-dull-story treatment today. President Trump said some stuff that was sufficiently over the top for Times reporter Maggie Haberman (who reportedly sat on the original Rice story for at least two days) to, yes, turn it into another “Crazy Trump Cites No Evidence” story. She quotes Rice declaring her innocence and, well, that’s that then, isn’t it?

The rigid, determined lack of curiosity on the part of these reporters is the real stunner here. Dare I say it? Sad!

It’s not like there isn’t evidence for Haberman to sift through if she was so inclined. Which she clearly is not.

Two weeks ago, Rice said “I know nothing about this” when asked about Devin Nunes’ allegation that Trump campaign aides and transition-team members may have been swept up in surveillance by U.S. spy agencies.

Yet in her interview Tuesday with Andrea Mitchell (for whom the phrase “follow-up question” put to a sympathetic subject constitutes a gross impertinence), Rice changed that line completely, posturing as an “investigator” who just had to get to the facts behind… President-elect Trump’s foreign-policy plans. And here I thought the media were consumed with liars of late. Only certain ones, apparently.

The Obamas have done everything to advertise their willingness to abuse surveillance powers, short of posting a neon-sign declaring “Get Yer Hot Russia-Trump Tips Here!”

Wait a minute. They were telling people to “Get yer hot Russia-Trump tips here!

For no apparent reason, President Obama loosened the rules on sharing surveillance intel a week before he left office, rendering the profuse leaks we have seen these last five months a given. His administration did almost exactly this same thing as what Rice is accused of doing now when they snooped on members of Congress during the Iran nuke negotiations.

There really is no professional explanation for this lack of curiosity beyond abject Trump-hate. Haberman is the one who is supposed to be digging up evidence, not the one whining that Trump isn’t serving any up to her.

Do you suppose anyone is ever going to ask Susan Rice what the national-security imperative was for focusing a months-long investigation on Trump communications? Or why none of the intel reports on Trump team activities that Nunes saw had anything to do with Russia? What was Inspector Rice inspecting, then?

Don’t hold your breath for it.

(Wild guess: Now that Haberman and the Times have broken ground with a story that turns the Susan Rice-abuse-of-power story into another Mad Hare Trump story, that’s something we may see in tomorrow’s home-town paper.)

 

 

 

Media apologies to Devin Nunes can start now

The Left’s defense of Susan Rice (haven’t we seen that phrase written somewhere before???) in the Trump spying case will follow two lines of argument.

One is that Rice, as President Obama’s national security adviser was “simply doing her job” when she began ordering the “unmasking” of, first, Trump campaign officials, then, post-election, Trump transition-team members. It’s not an outlandish defense, considering the wide latitude given intelligence officials like Rice to conduct surveillance.

The other line of defense is the Left’s remarkable capacity to simply ignore behavior that — were it anyone but St. Obama and  Friends — would prove unavoidably compelling to anyone with even modest curiosity.

Rice reportedly was asking for reports involving Trump associates as early as last summer, even before he was nominated. Before clamming up (as of the evening of April 4, she hadn’t made a statement), she appears to have lied about what she knew, claiming she knew nothing about information being incidentally collected on Trump transition officials.

No telling where this story goes, if anywhere. ABC and NBC news ran nothing Monday evening on the Rice revelations, while CBS national news issued a cloyingly sympathetic report that seemed prepared by Obama spin-meister Ben Rhodes, noting in the first paragraph that Rice simply needed “to understand the context” in which all these Trump people kept turning up (incidentally!) in all these surveillance reports — none of which, by the way, involved Russians.

Whatever comes of it, one thing that should come of it (in my perfect world) is an abject apology to Rep. Devin Nunes from all the media whose knee-jerk instinct was to mock the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee after he announced having seen documents supporting Trump’s claims to have been spied upon by the Obama administration.

The story line was all about Nunes’ trip to the White House, while mostly indifferent to what Nunes claimed to have found.

The Arizona Republic’s editorial on the subject was a classic of media group-think.

In addition to serving up abject hysteria about “the external threat to the sovereignty of our elections” (I swear!!! Go read it! It’s the very first line! Duping John Podesta into giving up his g-mail password is an existential threat to the sovereignty of our elections!), the editorial smears Nunes with a thick coating of liberal condescension.

“Nunes sent up a smoke screen — and we need to get beyond this kind of distracting political posturing. Way beyond it.”

Well, we’re beyond the smokescreen now. The smoke has lifted and — why look here! — guess who’s behind the smoke:

Susan “It was a spontaneous reaction to a video” Rice, conducting vitally important surveillance of Trump officials from July through December, and making certain their names were known to anyone who looked at the documents.

Which, as former Obama aide Evelyn Farkas noted, included as many people as they could round up.

 

Bob Stump: Why is Airbnb funding a group attacking Arizona Republicans?

All you Airbnb fans take heed! The company has decided to inject itself into Arizona politics by funneling dark money against Republicans. In this letter, former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump hits back with an email to Arizona legislators.

Bob StumpDear Honorable Member:

It is rare for me to contact you as a private citizen and former colleague. I believe this issue is important enough to merit it.

An extremist far-left organization, Checks and Balances, is active again in Arizona. Yet again, it is attacking elected Republicans.

I fully expect Republican members of the House and Senate to be next.

Airbnb, which has enjoyed a friendly regulatory environment in Arizona thanks to you, is funding Checks and Balances. According to Penn State’s Daily Collegian, “Airbnb representative Nick Papas said Airbnb supports the work CBP does.”

What exactly is this “work”? Smearing, suing or harassing Arizona Republican officeholders such as Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, members of the Arizona Corporation Commission — including four Commission chairs — and yours truly.

Consider the “work” of the group Airbnb supports financially:

In an act of pure malice, Checks and Balances published my mother’s private mobile number on the Internet.

At a cost of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars and staff time, and with the help of Democratic activist Dan Barr, Checks and Balances sued the Arizona Corporation Commission in an attempt to break the chain of custody of my phone and publish private text messages to my family and friends. Despite Checks and Balances’ conspiratorial fantasies, I was vindicated in court: Two judges determined that nothing retrieved from my phone met the definition of a public document.

Undeterred by losing in court every single time, Checks and Balances has taken to the pages of the Arizona Capitol Times to attack Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Tom Forese and Commission legal counsel Tim LaSota, who defended me in court.

Until recently, SolarCity, the nation’s largest solar rooftop leasing company, sponsored Checks and Balances. SolarCity’s aim was to attack and sue sitting regulators nationwide, in an attempt to alter regulatory outcomes and thereby enhance SolarCity’s bottom line.

SolarCity was shamed into withdrawing their support for Checks and Balances.

It is past time for Airbnb to follow SolarCity’s lead and cease funding a mercenary band of character assassins which exists to intimidate citizens at the behest of its corporate sponsors.

Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, ignored my letter to him, written when I was a sitting member of the Arizona Corporation Commission. Perhaps he will be more responsive to you.

I would suggest you contact Mr. Chesky and his lobbying team and ask why Airbnb is funding an unsavory group that sues and smears Arizona Republicans.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. And thank you for your service to our great state.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Stump

Former member and Health Committee Chair, Arizona House of Representatives (2002-2008)
Former Commissioner and Commission Chair, Arizona Corporation Commission (2008-2017)

Sal DiCiccio: $16 Million Wasted In Just One Day By City Of Phoenix

Sal DiCiccio

Last week, I wrote about the structural deficit our city is facing. Our deficit problems will continue until we make public safety our priority and cut spending in non-essential areas. On Tuesday, city staff gave a presentation regarding the budget deficit forecast. The forecast, which did not come as a surprise to me, shows our deficit continuing to grow out of control, even while we collect increased revenue.

The day after the budget deficit presentation, I voted NO on the following expenses, all of which the Phoenix City Council ultimately approved:

  • $3,668,564 to Downtown Phoenix Inc – a group that already taxes private businesses against their will to spend money on the Downtown area
  • $16,000 to National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials – annual membership fee
  • $60,000 to Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 777 to buy promotional and training material for themselves
  • $108,000 to Ballard Spahr LLP- lobbyists (this is on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they already spent on lobbyists at the last council meeting)
  • $12,170,000 to change just 4 bus routes
  • $750,000 to join the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability

TOTAL: $16,772,564

Just during a single city council meeting, we could have cut $16 million of unnecessary spending. But instead, we continued to add to the structural deficit problems we face.

As long as we continue to spend in this manner, we will continue to see your taxpayer monies wasted. And city officials will continue to have their hand out, telling you they need to increase your taxes because they are short on revenues. They’re not. They just have a spending problem.

You have my commitment to continue to protect you, your family and your hard earned tax dollars.

My best to you,

Sal DiCiccio
Phoenix City Council
District 6

Gilbert and Chandler Place Well In Annual US City Fiscal Health Rankings

Town of GilbertCongratulations to the Town of Gilbert and City of Chandler for placing high in the annual US City Fiscal Health Index.

The index, prepared by The Fiscal Times, looks at five factors to derive the rankings including: ratio of city general fund balance to expenditures, ratio of long term obligations to total government-wide revenues, ratio of actuarially determined pension contributions to total government-wide revenues, change in local unemployment rate and changes in property values. Data is reported by the cities themselves from 2015. Only cities with populations of 200,000 were evaluated. (Tempe, Peoria, Surprise, Yuma, Avondale and Flagstaff have populations less than 200,000.)

City of ChandlerThe Town of Gilbert placed 17th while the City of Chandler placed 20th.

Other Arizona cities placed lower on the list:

Phoenix – 43
Glendale – 77
Tucson – 81
Scottsdale – 84
Mesa – 85

At the bottom of the list were Chicago and New York City.

To view the full index, click here.

Democrat Randall Friese ‘Sour’ Over TANF Sponsorship

JD Mesnard

House Speaker JD Mesnard

There’s a short news item on AZCentral by Mary Jo Pitzl this morning reporting a “sour note” in the harmony sought by Arizona House Speaker, JD Mesnard.

Apparently, State Representative Dr. Randy Friese (D-9) wanted to sponsor the bill restoring funding to TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) but was beat to the hopper by Republican State Representative Jeff Weninger.

Friese called the move an example of “hyper partisanship.”

Jeff Weninger

Rep Jeff Weninger

During his State of the State address on Monday, Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced a round of legislative and budget initiatives including the restoration of TANF funding. Weninger, who represents Chandler, is spearheading the bill.

Dr. Friese and his Democrat colleagues made it obvious that they don’t approve of Republicans stealing their brand of helping the most needy because it takes away an issue they’ve used to craft political dependency. It pains them to lose credit on the issue and by alleging the move as an act of “hyper partisanship,” Friese hurts his credibility should he sign on as a co-sponsor the bill.

Randall Friese

Randall Friese

Speaker Mesnard, perhaps presented a more realistic forecast of legislative action acknowledging the challenges of finding room in the budget to fully restore TANF.

Unfortunately for Rep. Friese, Democrats don’t control either chamber so it’s in their best interest to stop acting petty and become team players on issues they support.

Senator Sylvia Allen on National Popular Vote

Senator Sylvia Allen

Senator Sylvia Allen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

I am getting a lot of email about the National Popular vote asking me to change the way the electoral college works in our state.  How the Electoral votes are appropriated is only one of two of the powers the state Legislators have been given in the US Constitution.  The other is Article V which allows the states to propose amendments to the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote debate is picking up steam since Trump does not have a majority of the total national vote when adding up all votes cast in each state.  Some of the argument is that voters feel their vote does not count and that if your state is not part of the battleground states you are at a disadvantage.  One email said, “I’m tired of hearing that Ohio and Florida are the only states that matter in presidential elections.  What about Arizona?  Our votes should count too…”

I took a very hard look at this issue last session.  I read the National Popular Vote manual and had many discussions with legislators and my constituents.  Here is how I reasoned it out in my mind from the discussions that were held last year, from what I studied and read, and from my understanding of our government.

This national government was created by the states.  Sovereignty is held by the states.  The way to look at the Electoral College is that it is the States electing the president by the majority vote of the people who live in each state.  As in every election cycle, the President is elected by a majority of each state’s electoral votes, which means the majority vote cast by the people in their respective states elected the President by their electoral votes going for that candidate.  When you think about it, this is the way we preserve Federalism.  Looking at the map in any election you will see that the majority of the states, by the majority vote of their citizens, did elect the President.  Arizona did elect the president by the majority vote of our citizens, which means Arizona does count.

A true popular vote will only mean that highly populated states would prevail and the smaller states would not have a voice in the election which would mean that the citizens in those states would be at a disadvantage.

This nation was founded as a Republic using democratic processes to elect our leaders, but we are not a true Democracy.  We are a nation ruled by law the federal and state constitutions. Educating our citizens on the founding principles is so important, as our Founders said, that without it we will not remain free.

Senator Sylvia Tenney Allen serves as President Pro Tempore in the Arizona State Senate. She is a native Arizonan representing Arizona’s 5th Legislative District.

I Was Wrong About The Election Of Donald Trump

Trump Victory

First, I must say I am very relieved that Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. There certainly is a delicious pleasure in that victory.

Now, let me get the mea culpa out of the way.

Like many of my colleagues in the professional political consulting class, I was wrong about the election of Donald Trump.

Nearly every polls showed him losing – the pollsters were wrong.

Every time Donald Trump spoke, he polarized and divided groups of individuals. The public relations professionals were wrong.

Nearly every longtime Republican and conservative leader said he couldn’t win using his strategy. They were wrong.

I repeatedly said he needed to learn from the lessons of 2012 when it comes to millennials, women and minority groups and affirm their libertarian and conservative values. The leader of the Grand Old Party needs to pursue a mathematical strategy of addition and multiplication rather than subtraction and division if they want to grow the party. Apparently, there was some “new math” at work in this election.

During the last days of the election, I believed it came down which demographic groups would turn out for Donald Trump. Would women, Latinos and millennials overcome the intensity of angry, aging, white, blue-collar Americans? Donald Trump obviously heard the voices of the latter and hit a nerve.

Donald Trump managed to pull off one of the biggest political shocks in American electoral history and we, the political consulting class were wrong.

But while we may remain wrong on why Donald Trump got elected as our 45th President, we may very well be right about our earlier concerns.

Donald Trump has “caught the bus” and must now grasp the sobering reality of governance.

He must now surround himself with individuals who will help him with the gargantuan task of running the country. Those individuals will most likely come from the establishment. Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie – all longtime Washington insiders and dare I note, members of the very “Establishment” class Donald Trump publicly excoriated. Will Trump’s die-hard supporters give him a pass over these selections? (Queue up “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.)

There are also the thousands of executive staff Trump will need to replace. Will he pull from the thousands of individuals with Washington experience who work as lobbyists, hill staffers and interest groups to fill those positions? Or will he bring in new blood from the heartland? I believe the former. Do you see where I’m going with this?

If President Trump truly wants to be successful, he needs experienced talent and there’s really only one pool to pull talented individuals – the establishment.

Candidate Donald Trump promised an agenda to make America great again during the campaign. Can President Donald Trump deliver on those promises? I believe he’s going to find it harder than he expected.

Do we really believe President Trump will be able to build an impenetrable wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it? Will President Trump sign an executive order banning all Muslims from entering the country? Can we expect President Trump to tear up NAFTA in one swift move?

His establishment cabinet and advisers are about to tell him just how hard governing really is.

The reality is President Trump has nothing to fear from the political left. He’s survived that battle and won. The real threat to a Trump administration is from those who wanted to burn Washington down. We’re about to find out how assimilated Donald Trump will become to the swamp he wants to drain.

Ted Cruz may prove right about Donald Trump’s northeastern values and mid-westerners may not be happy.

There is much to be hopeful and excited about however.

Republicans now control Washington, DC. Let me say that again. Republicans now control the Executive and Legislative branches of government. This is huge!

President Trump and the Republican Congress have a critical time frame to accomplish as much as possible and that starts with securing as much of the Judicial branch of government as possible.

The first 100 days of a Trump Administration means cleaning up the mess from the last eight and even 16 years. The Republican congress finally has a President who will not veto a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They need to drop that bill on Day 1.

President Trump has other monumental tasks that he can single-handily accomplish: rescinding the hundreds of executive orders of Barack Obama; tearing up the Iran Deal; changing leadership and overhauling the VA; reigning in the powers of the many regulatory agencies, and restoring morale among the men and women of our military branches. It’s a lot to do and he should not meet any resistance from a Republican Congress. In this area, he not only needs to be assertive. President Trump needs to be aggressive.

Getting the “relatively easy” tasks done quickly will allow President Trump to focus on his more long-term and ongoing agenda such as restoring the courts; protecting religious freedom; repealing Dodd-Frank; reorienting energy policy; rebuilding the military; reforming immigration; improving national infrastructure and improving international trade relations.

Finally, President Trump needs to avoid picking fights with Congress over politics. There is no time to waste on grudges or personality conflicts. The American people want major action and no drama. These types of antics will only send the GOP down a box canyon where they will be massacred in the 2018 mid-term elections.

While I was wrong about the election of Donald Trump, I hope I’m not wrong about President Trump. Like many movement conservatives, I will remain steadfast on principles and policy and speak up when I believe his administration is wrong.

Donald Trump deserves our congratulations, prayers and well-wishes. He has been chosen to carry out the single-most powerful job in the world and we must support him as the leader of the free world.

Congratulations President-Elect Donald Trump.