Arizona, This Needs Our Attention
Fire, Water, Grim Reaper Governor, And No Speed Limits...
Hope you all enjoyed a tremendous holiday season and thanks for starting your New Year with Takes From State 48. This first post of 2022 looks at five things that need our attention and energy.
#1 Time To Face Hard Truths About Water
We saw a hard truth of Forever Drought this week. 20 years of deep drought burned subdivisions near Denver. No question this can happen in Arizona and throughout the West. Don’t be fooled by past few days of beautiful rain in the desert. 2021 was a year of massive wildfires and now, a drought emergency on the Colorado River. Expect more of the same in 2022.
Yes, Arizona and the states who share the Colorado finally answered the wake-up call and pledged to cut water use and recharge Lake Mead. A nice first step. We’ll need much more.
Big change in managing our most precious natural resource must come now.
This hard truth requires hard decisions. Like, why don’t we stop irrigating golf courses? Why do we allow massive water parks? Why do homeowners with swimming pools, me included, not pay a lot more for that privilege? Why do developers build subdivisions without water sources? Why don’t we help farmers fund smart irrigation techniques?
Because we’re Arizona. We paper over our problems with “Valley of the Sun” B.S. There must be some marketing campaign to distract us, right?
Wrong. Really wrong. Glass half full of nothing wrong. Parched throat empty pool wrong. Smoldering homes wrong. This is different.
We’re going to need conservation at the household level, smart solutions in new construction, and in mandating grey water systems. We’ll need to move past water parks and golf courses and our resort culture.
Plus we’ll need - GASP - Big Government solutions. Another engineering feat like the Central Arizona Project and the mega dams of the last century. If Ma Nature won’t make enough water, we’ll need federal government scale and TAXES just to sustain what we’ve already built. Desalinization plants won’t suddenly appear.
What can we all do besides stop water waste in our households? Learn more about this crisis. The Arizona Republic’s Joanna Allhands makes water policy understandable. The Republic has also done some very good work on our state’s stressed waterways. High Country News is another dependable source as is the New York Times, whose October piece on water tensions on Native lands captures the difficulty ahead.
Study up, fix your landscape sprinkler systems, fix that leaky faucet, then start pushing our leaders to get moving.
#2 Share the Truth About Doug Ducey
His handling of the pandemic - 24,000+ deaths in Arizona, more than any state of similar population - has been criminal. Criminal acts should have consequences. So, what to do about Doug Ducey?
Zero chance he’ll face something like a war crimes tribunal. I only wish we had that level of outrage. Instead, we need to educate the U.S. about Ducey before he lands on a national ticket with Mike Pence in 2024.
America, our Governor is not a leader. He’s a brand promise.
He’ll deliver all the usual Republicans demands - tax cuts, deregulation, court packing, etc. - without the Mad King chaos. That’s straight from the Ducey propaganda machine. The Governor’s Toady Trio - Communications Director C.J Karmargin, former Chief of Staff Daniel Scarpinato, and current Chief Daniel Ruiz II - are feeding that stuff to mainstream Republican circles.
Listen to them and you’ll hear it was Doug Ducey who hatched the school board culture wars, that made Glenn Youngkin governor of Virginia. It was Doug Ducey who scored public money for private education and gave parents real choice. It was Doug Ducey’s relentless tax and regulation cutting that has the Wall Street Journal gushing. It was Doug Ducey’s “courage” in certifying Joe Biden’s Arizona win that saved the Republic (I’ll give them that one).
Well, where to begin…..
Doug Ducey is no governing genius.
He follows the Koch Brothers playbook: tax starve state agencies into failure, pronounce that government doesn’t work, then abolish it. Looks great in campaign ads. Not so much when you really do need a functioning professional government class, like when Arizona’s gutted Department of Employment Services fell apart under pandemic pressures. Thousands were denied their rightful relief money and spiraled into poverty.
Ducey’s public education record is abysmal. Arizona public schools remain bottom feeders, while he funnels public money with almost no oversight to charter, religious, and private schools. Ducey would be very happy if public education just turned to dust, so his charter school buddies can cash in on the state treasury.
Ducey as courageous defender of democracy? Yes, he did certify the Biden win. Thanks for doing you job Dougie. But, no, he’s been MIA as White Supremacists and QAnon conspirators turned Arizona into “election audit” central.
And please, do not sell the “he was a successful CEO leading Cold Stone Creamery” illusion. In fact, the sale of Cold Stone was dogged by Ducey’s alleged exaggeration of its value to the buyer and its franchisees. He settled that dispute out of court. Feel like a swashbuckling CEO to you?
Win nationally? Hell no. Ducey couldn’t get re-elected in Arizona.
The white supremacists in the state GOP want to hang him. Moderate and Progressive Democrats know his run-government-like-a-business pitch is B.S. And, of course, there are 24,000 dead COVID victims on his watch.
Still, the Ducey myth gets oxygen from his echo chamber of enablers and ass kissers ready to unleash Ice Cream Frankenstein on Republicans wanting someone less scary than the “hang Mike Pence” people.
Arizona don’t let Ducey dodge his past. Speak up before his political ads kick in and he gets the Teddy White treatment from drive-by national reporters.
There’s a record here. Share it anytime someone starts talking about bigger things for the man behind 24,000 deaths.
# 3 Arizona Owns The Coming Civil War
Tune in to right wing media, go to a school board meeting, check out the folks in pick-ups flying Trump flags, and you’ll get the sense we’re very close to 60’s-style political violence. I mean the 1860’s.
Democrats in Congress and the White House won’t focus on the real and present danger of authoritarianism. The leaders of the January 6th insurrection remain free and defiant. The Trump wing is dialing up the anger, gutting voting rights, and getting closer in 2022 to winning in 2024. Without a very rapid Democrat reset, we’ll live in a country governed by a QAnon Congress and a Mad King president. The reckoning for the Left will be swift and awful. It would bring open Civil War.
Our Civil War Arizona.
We’re the state electing Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Kari Lake, Karen Fann, Ron Watkins, Mark Finchem, Sonny Borelli, Wendy Rogers, Anthony Kern, and on and on. We’re the state that birthed Turning Point USA who with FOX, NewsMax, and talk radio, give these fringe Arizonans a sophisticated propaganda machine.
Every breathing moment, they unleash wackiness. The “election integrity” baloney and its conspiracy cousins get energy from Arizona’s extreme Republican political class, along with an extra teaspoon of White Supremacy. Like so many of our state’s bizarre ideas, they go national (remember Sheriff Joe and immigration enforcement?). We’re the Copper Dome HQ for fascist authoritarianism wrapped in red, white, and blue.
Let’s be clear about what they want: A restoration of 1950’s White society. Unchecked law enforcement authority. The end to non-White immigration. Democrats - they brand them Communists, socialists, etc. - neutered at best, jailed and murdered at the extreme. War with China. Hair on fire McCarthyism. Banned books. Banned teaching. Ending LGBTQ rights and protection. Rolling back women’s rights. Christianity as a state religion. Drill, drill, drill. Guns, guns, guns. God, God, God.
They control the national narrative because we haven’t pushed back loudly and directly enough. Because some Arizona media outlets are pandering to the crazies instead of holding this gang accountable. Because there’s not enough pushback from the Middle and the Left and the people we used to call Country Club Republicans. Because we haven’t held Senators Sinema and Kelly accountable. Both are embarrassing failures.
This outcome: Governor Kari Lake as chief executive and U.S. Representative Paul Gosar chairing committees and Secretary of State Mark Finchem blowing up elections and Turning Point USA fingering “enemies” for their fascists militias to arrest ….that is catastrophe. There won’t be an Arizona and United States where many of us can live safely.
Civil War. Bleak. Scary. But it’s not like this hasn’t happened before.
# 4 Police Reform Is HARD. Don’t Give Up.
Ground Zero for police reform is the Minneapolis area. Juries convicted former officers Derek Chauvin and Kim Potter in 2021 for murdering Black men. Chauvin’s act was clearly intentional and Potter’s likely an accident. Based on those outcomes, it would appear facts can win over predominately White juries in predominately White locales. That’s an oversimplification.
The Twin Cities region is in a months-long violent crime wave. Car jackings and shootouts have harmed people in the burbs and the inner city. Cop unions are letting the bad guys win to make their point that reform is a bad idea. Actually, reform is long overdue, and the process in getting there is difficult. Here’s what needs to happen:
The first step to recovery is facing facts. We must acknowledge the racism around policing. There’s plenty of evidence. Stop writing off reform as pandering to culture war wokeness. Cop racism is real and must be eliminated.
Neighborhoods with crime problems, and society as a whole, need cops. They don’t need Derek Chauvin and the street gang with badges in Phoenix that brought in the DOJ. Law enforcement training must evolve to make use of force an option, not the only option, to keep communities safe.
“Defund police” must rightfully transition to “Rethink Police.” Police shouldn’t be tasked with every mental health, addiction, or poverty-driven crisis. Every 911 call shouldn’t bring a person with a badge and a gun. Public safety response should be comprehensive. Get social workers, nurses, and behavioral specialists involved at the first call. Yes, it’ll be expensive. So are multi-million dollar brutality case settlements.
Be patient. As reform advocates reset, there should be compromises, trade-offs, and tests. This is a process of launch and change, relaunch and change again, relaunch and change even more. Rethinking anything is not for the weak and the blameless. Beware anyone who pronounces this “solved” in the next few years.
Beware the fear mongers. Yes, this is political. A foundation of Republican policy is to scare the bejesus out of White people with “Wars” on Crime, Drugs and Everything tropes that involve building walls and locking up people of color. The Democrats (see Bill Clinton and Joe Biden) go along with this idea when it gets votes. We need to call this out. Real reform doesn’t sanction anarchy by criminals or cops. It gets communities working across all lines to improve everyone’s health and safety.
Speaking of which….
# 5 Slow the F**k Down Arizona
Apparently, 60 miles per hour on Shea Boulevard between 40th street and Scottsdale Road is way too slow. Ditto for 75 mph on SR51 and 85 mph on The 202 and the 10. Despite all those “Zero Tolerance Safety Corridor” signs there’s not a DPS trooper in sight. Want to see some anarchy, just get in your car and drive somewhere, anywhere. It’s not safe.
So, what’s the plan? There isn’t one.
The state got rid of speed cameras in the early 2000’s. Arizona’s traffic laws consistently rank low for effectiveness. Our ranking for pedestrian accidents is always near the top of the list. Local cops don’t do speed enforcement, unless you’re caught on a camera in uber wealthy Paradise Valley, which loves the revenue from $300 tickets.
DPS is MIA due to its own Fast and Furious culture. When he was pulled over doing 90 on I-17 by a Yavapai County Deputy in 2019, former DPS Director Frank Milstead and his girlfriend laughed it off. They got off with a warning. Current DPS Director Heston Silbert is infamous for his high speed chases that killed a man in 2017.
Speeding is a selfish act, as is texting while driving, eating while driving, and not going hands free while speaking on a phone. The consequences are horrific. People die. People with “non-life-threatening injuries,” as the reports say, are never the same physically or mentally.
We need to knock this off.
New Year’s resolution, Arizona, slow the F**k down.