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

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

Two-Time Loser Seeks to Make it 3 for 3

By Calamity June

On Monday, as Arizonans returned to work from the Thanksgiving holiday, many must have thought that they were experiencing a tryptophan-induced flashback, as for the 3rd time in 3 election cycles, Kelli Ward announced that she was once again running for office.

Yes, the same Kelli Ward who was badly embarrassed by octogenarian John McCain in 2016. And the same Kelli Ward who failed to attract 30% of the vote in her bumbling and incompetent 2018 campaign against Sheriff Joe and Martha McSally. And yes, the same Kelli Ward who has shown herself to be nothing more than a pathetic, self-promoting politician who couldn’t campaign herself out of a wet paper bag.

And now Kelli Ward wants to lead the Arizona Republican Party?

Let’s review the role of the AZGOP chairman. First and foremost, the chairman must be a leader who brings together all factions of the Arizona GOP. Kelli Ward has never even garnered 40% of the Republican vote in Arizona, let alone anywhere near a majority. And her failed campaigns have been studies in division, personal insults and attacks on any Republican who doesn’t support her. In 2018, she refused to sign an AZGOP unity pledge, and famously would not even endorse our Republican nominee until over a month after the primary. In a race decided by less than 2%, how many votes did her immature pouting and dithering cost Martha McSally?

Next, the party chairman must be able to raise money, and lots of it. In the most recent campaign cycle, the party raised and spent over $10 million in support of Republican candidates. This is accomplished by reaching out to local, state and national leaders, garnering confidence from the donor community, and putting together a plan of action that donors can invest in. In contrast, Ward barely raised enough money in both of her failed campaigns to cover her overhead, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on out of state consultants and seeing her entire campaign team quit in protest. Her disastrous stewardship left her campaign in tatters, with over $100,000 in debt. It’s hard to see many donors investing in that sort of chaos.

Finally, the party chairman should be a winner. That certainly doesn’t describe Kelli Ward. She was such a a weak statewide candidate that a George Soros-funded SuperPAC actually tried to help her become the GOP nominee last summer. She squandered her opportunity to unify the GOP after Senator Flake announced that he wouldn’t be running for re-election, and despite being the only announcned candidate for montnh, failed to bring the party together. There’s a reason that the Arizona House Democrats reacted with glee to today’s announcement. After two failed statewide races, it’s hard to imagine anyone thinking of Kelli Ward as a winner.

Sadly, the one talent Kelli Ward seems to possess is not really in the AZGOP job description.

To those who have a hard time turning away from a train wreck, the next two months should be riveting.

Kelli Ward or someone from her campaign is welcome to provide a guest opinion of their own for posting on Sonoran Alliance.

The Ugly Truth About Proposition 126

Proposition 126 is not a tax cut. It is not pro-business. It is not good for Arizona.

Arizonans will have the choice Nov. 6 on whether to pass Prop 126, a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to permanently exempt the service industry from sales taxes. What may sound like a generous proposal to cut taxes is, in reality, an unfair handout to privilege some businesses over others.

  • Prop 126 benefits the service industry while narrowing the tax base, making it more likely that, when push comes to shove, marginal income-tax rates will be raised on everyday Arizonans. Indeed, if the state ever needed to raise revenue, it would be cut off from a significant sector of the economy, forcing it to turn to raising much higher taxes on everyone else.

After all, Prop 126 is not a tax cut. It is a roadblock to keeping tax rates low across the board. It would hamstring our state’s lawmakers, making it much more difficult for them to craft flexible, uniform and fair tax policy.

  • What’s more, Prop 126 is not “pro-business” — it is pro-some businesses, and not others. There are several other ways Arizona could make it easier for businesses to thrive. Doling out special benefits to some while sticking others with the bill is unfair. It’s also bad policy.

While Prop 126 would affect all 7 million-plus Arizonans, it would help only some. During a time when our state’s economy is dynamic and rapidly growing, we need a tax policy flexible enough to keep our taxes low and treat Arizonans fairly.

We won’t get that with Prop 126. On Nov. 6, Arizonans should send this amendment packing.

Torkelson: Voters asked to retain Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick

On his first day at the Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Clint Bolick posted a sign in his office. It had two simple rules he expected staff to follow.

Rule One: Call me Clint; Rule Two: There are no other rules.  Although the first rule was never followed, I can think of no better example of the humility with which Justice Bolick has approached his job as the 44th justice of the Arizona Supreme Court—always taking his work, but never himself, seriously.

I had the honor and privilege of serving as Justice Bolick’s law clerk for almost two years. From the moment he took the bench, he demonstrated a passion to execute his civic duty and fiercely protect both the federal and state constitutions. He did this every day with a smile, a venti Starbucks hot chocolate, and respect for his colleagues and attorneys who argued before him.

Of the attorneys who argued before him, those surveyed gave him a 100 percent score on legal ability, integrity, and administrative performance.  The high marks extended to those that worked behind the scenes, as well.  Court staff joked he needed a Supreme Court greeter vest because he always stopped to say hello to everyone.

In November, voters will be faced with a survey of their own.  On the back of the ballot Arizonans will determine whether to retain Justice Bolick on the high court.  This vote is based upon whether he has the judicial temperament, ability, and skill to remain on the bench.  I know Justice Bolick exhibits these characteristics because I saw it every day without waiver.

Since his time on the court, Justice Bolick has written 32 opinions. Of the 15 times he wrote for the majority, 14 of them were unanimous opinions. This amounts to hundreds, if not thousands, of pages where Justice Bolick outlines exactly how he came to his decision.  Importantly, in not one of those decisions will you find “the party’s identity” a deciding factor.

And there is no reason you would.  Justice Bolick is the only Independent to ever serve on the Arizona Supreme Court.  Indeed, independence is the cornerstone of his jurisprudence. The only common denominator throughout his writings is the plain language of the law.  What it says is what it means.  If you don’t like what it says, look to the Legislature.

Some say true bravery comes in dissent.  Justice Bolick has never shied from writing in opposition.  In fact, he began his first dissent praising our freedom-loving state, while noting the very words on the Supreme Court building, “Where law ends, tyranny begins,” informing readers of a “draconian” Arizona law affecting a homeless man.

Beyond judicial temperament, ability, and skill, Justice Bolick also has an unparalleled dedication to our great state.  I remember two times where Justice Bolick was overcome with excitement. The first was when the Pokémon Go craze was at its height and some of the clerks found a Pokémon on his desk.  The second was when he found out he would once again be teaching, this time Constitutional Law at ASU.  Teaching, in any form, has always been a source of pride for Justice Bolick.  It is why he insists on hiring an intern to work alongside his clerks every semester in chambers. There are countless mentees, just like me, who are forever grateful to learn from him.

Before November, I hope you read his opinions (azjustice44.com) and watch the oral arguments (azcourts.gov). There you will see a justice whose impartiality and independence allows him to look beyond party and political favor to address each case anew.  When you reach the back of your ballot consider what Arizona needs in the black robe.  Then, grab a hot chocolate and join me in voting to retain Justice Bolick.

Ashley Torkelson is currently an attorney serving in the United States Air Force. The views expressed are those of Ms. Torkelson only and not those of the United States Air Force or Department of Defense.

Clean Election System Abuse Continues as Candidates Funnel More Taxpayer Money to the Democrat Party

By Free Enterprise Club

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission claims they care about keeping special interests out of the political process by providing candidates with taxpayer funds to run for office.

But as was discovered in 2016 election cycle, politicians and political operatives know how to cheat the system and the unaccountable Clean Elections Commission just doesn’t seem to care.

An examination of campaign finance reports filed by publicly funded Clean Election Candidates in 2018 show over $100,000 being funneled to the state, county and local political parties, as well as to other political operations such as the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC).

As was the case in prior elections, the democratic candidates running in the least competitive legislative districts are the biggest contributors to these electioneering efforts.

One of the worst offenders is candidate Lynsey Robinson from conservative legislative district 12 in the East Valley.  She gave a staggering $22,590 to the Democratic Party Operations, which is over 50 percent of the total amount she receives from Clean Elections!  If her intention was to win her race, sending over half her money to the Party seems like a poor strategy to do so.

Other giveaways to political groups include:

$21,442 from Jo Craycraft, candidate for Senate in LD 1
$18,980 from Hazel Chandler, candidate for House in LD 20
$18,500 from Chris Gilfillan, candidate for House in LD 20
$14,170 from Mark Manoil, candidate for State Treasurer
$12,400 from Kiana Sears, candidate for the Corporation Commission
$9,520 from Kathy Hoffman, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Interestingly enough, the largest benefactor of these public funds was the ADLCC, a Political Action Committee chaired by legislative democrats to elect democrats around the state of Arizona.  Traditionally, victory PACs such as this provide money and support tocandidates—they don’t receive money from them. This is because committees such as this fundraise for the express purpose of playing in election races.  However, they do so independently of any candidate because it is against the law for organizations and PACs to coordinate with candidates on their election activities.

That makes the expenditure to the ADLCC even more suspicious.  Either a candidate is giving them money to use in other more competitive races (which is wrong and must be stopped), or they are giving them money to provide services to their campaign (which is likely illegal.)  Either way, the ADLCC’s taxpayer gravy train is an offensive abuse of the system and should be stopped immediately.

The unaccountable Clean Elections Commission has made it clear that they don’t care how our money is wasted, which is why voters must vote YES on Proposition 306.  Prop 306 would prohibit candidates from funneling taxpayer funds to political parties and political special interest groups.   If there was any question that the exploitation of the system would continue and proliferate – this year’s election season proves otherwise.

Voters should put an end to it by Voting Yes on Prop 306.

Frank Schmuck Will Protect Your Right To Protect Yourself

Not even Pepper Spray? That’s right! Sean Bowie voted to deny campus women their right to carry pepper spray or even a taser to defend themselves against sexual predators. What kind of person does that?

As a deputized law enforcement officer and a parent of a daughter in college this is both professional and personal for me.

Students, teachers and all employees of our universities in Arizona should feel safe, and not made to feel like they are breaking the law by protecting themselves with something as simple as pepper spray.

With thousands of sexual assaults and even worse dozens of rapes reported to Police over the last few years, Sean Bowie and his extreme ideology left women defenseless when he voted against House Bill 2172 three times.

See and hear what these women have to say…

To see all our videos visit www.FrankSchmuck.com/videos

Guest Opinion: McSally Will Continue The Fight For Your Personal Freedoms

Last month the U.S Food and Drug Administration launched a crackdown on the sale of e-cigarette vaping devices and is ratcheting up pressure on e-cigarette makers. The industry is now facing new challenges as the federal, state, and local governments take new measures to put it under control.

According to the CDC, smoking causes more than 500,000 deaths annually and leads to a plethora of preventable diseases. Since e-cigarettes provide users the ability to control their nicotine consumption, it helps traditional cigarette smokers to gradually kick their nicotine addiction. E-liquids come in varying levels of nicotine, including zero. This can be particularly helpful for long-time smokers who wish to use vapor products to reduce their dependence and transition away from nicotine entirely. These products are specifically designed for adult smokers who wish to live a healthier lifestyle by quitting cigarettes.

Vapor products do not burn tobacco and do not produce smoke, tar, or ash. They only emit vapor. As most e-liquids contain nicotine, they are considered ‘tobacco products’ and regulated as such but these products do not contain any tobacco. E-liquids are only regulated by the FDA because they contain nicotine, which is itself derived from the tobacco plant. These regulations include company registration, product registration, detailed ingredient listings, labeling restrictions, marketing restrictions, and listings of harmful and potentially harmful constituents.

Federal bureaucrats and critics of e-cigarettes are using the myth of a youth vaping “epidemic” to suggest that flavors need to be banned. The truth is, the vaping industry is already working to make sure there are penalties in place for selling vapor products to minors – just like there are for cigarettes, alcohol, and lottery tickets.

As Americans, it is imperative we have the freedom to choose what is best for us and our family. Too often Washington, DC tells us what we can and can’t do. When Congresswoman McSally is elected to the U.S. Senate, she should continue to fight for Arizonans’ personal freedoms, especially for the thousands of adults across our state who need this innovative new technology to live a healthier lifestyle by quitting smoking.