Monday, January 30, 2006

There Are No Private Schools for Almost All ELL Kids in Arizona. But That Doesn't Matter to the GOP Legislature.

My rushing-out-the-door-to-a-meeting headline suggestion this week was "Flailing Flores, or Karl Rove as Napolitano's Campaign Manager," but the editor went with something simpler and less obscure, but blander. He also deleted my closing paragraph. I suppose it's OK to delete such cracks if those guys stop with the holier-than-thou crap, but somehow I doubt that will happen. The also took out in the 7th graf the last two clauses ("so in Napolitano's case, the accusation has the additional benefit of being true.") Lack to space to fit in all the anti-Bush and pro-Napolitano stuff in the Tribune, but do anti-Napolitano and pro-Bush items face similar space limitations? It's conspiracy theory time, people. I've revised the column to include the deleted material. You can see the Tribune version, at least for 12 more days.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 29, 2006

Here’s part of a speech state Democratic Party chair Harry Mitchell could give on the Legislature’s failure to deal competently and adequately with the state’s need to educate non-English-speaking students. The key passages go something like this:

“We face an absolute legal duty and a deadline, and we need a chief executive and a legislature who understand the nature of that duty and the gravity of the moment Arizona finds itself in.

“Governor Napolitano and the Democratic Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Republicans.

“Democrats have a 21st century worldview on education, and many Republicans have a pre-2000 worldview. That doesn’t make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong.”

Does that sound a bit harsh? Maybe it sounded better in Karl Rove’s speech to the Republican National Committee (I’ve reversed the party labels around and swapped education for security). But that’s the formula for November here.

First, note that many Republicans don’t understand education -- thereby encouraging some Republicans to explain that they aren’t like those other Republicans. Then use those “rising above partisanship” Republicans to beat the others like a drum.

Second, remember how the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security worked. Just as Bush accused Democrats of putting national security behind their support for union protections for DHS employees, Napolitano can accuse Republicans of putting education behind funneling tax money to their private schools and other pet causes. Of course, the GOP legislature is making it easy, because nobody with any understanding of the problems of educating non-English speakers can see how the GOP plan does anything to help, so in Napolitano’s case, the accusation has the additional benefit of being true.

The DHS model has another cue for Napolitano. Watch her handling the immigration issue just as Bush suddenly pivoted on the DHS bill, which he opposed and opposed until one day, he supported it and jumped to the front of the parade, pretending that was where he had been all along, and all the media played along. It worked for Bush, so just watch it work for Napolitano, too.

Third, the Flores order won’t go away until the Legislature gets serious about a solution, and the case has all of the elements that will keep it on the front page for as long as the GOP legislative leadership wants to dodge the issue. Republicans prefer talking about tax cuts or changing laws to benefit their key supporters, but none of that can compete for attention with a federal judge fining the state $500,000 a day. That’s one way to deal with the budget surplus, I guess. It’s not one I would have chosen, but then I’m not a GOP legislator.

The root cause is that most if not all Republican incumbents don’t know any of the 150,000 students who need help because those kids don’t speak enough English to learn adequately. Those Republicans also assume, probably correctly, that none of those kids’ parents vote in the GOP primaries that determine the incumbents’ political fates. And when it comes to doing the right and legal thing versus keeping their own incumbent selves safely in office, guess what wins?

GOP unwillingness to deal with the court order and the state’s need to educate a good slice of its future workforce properly probably plays well in those legislative district primary elections, but it looks awful among the statewide electorate. The flimsiness of the legislative responses so far also fits a pre-existing storyline, that Republicans just don’t care about public schools and educating all kids, which makes GOP efforts to explain their positions (to the extent they have any explanation) an uphill climb.

You might think that’s unfair, but hey, given the national situation, what’s a little state-level political unfairness? And given the recent involvements with the criminal justice system of GOP House Speaker Jim Weiers and Senate President Ken Bennett, who are happy to claim leadership on so-called "family values" issues, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving group.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mass Outrage over Municipal Government? How Convenient!

My proposed headline was "An Unexplained Sudden Frenzy Riles the Right Wing -- But It Makes Sense When You Recognize Who Runs the Federal Government." But the editor's choice works just as well. In the newspaper version, there's a big picture of Bailey's Brake Service atop the column, which is the business that was the subject of the Arizona Court of Appeals opinion in 2003 mentioned in the column. The opinion, Bailey v. Myers, 76 P.3d 898 (Ariz. App. 2003), is available here (as course material for the Real Property class at ASU College of Law) as well as at the link in the column.

Republican lawmakers have to rail at something, so cities are the next target

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 22, 2006

If you’re a city or town in Arizona (or anyplace in America reachable by talk radio), you’re probably wondering why it seems everybody’s so worked up about condemnation. Pinch a state legislator, and a bill to restrict municipalities pops out.

There are many examples of bad municipal actions, part of the larger universe of bad government decisions. Cities aren’t the only governments benefiting the well-connected or wealthy, or ignoring those who don’t make big campaign contributions. Maybe you’ve heard about this Abramoff guy, but apparently he had nothing to do with that Mesa brake shop deal.

The federal government makes bad decisions too, as anyone trying to decipher the new Medicare prescription drug benefit can attest. The Bush administration even started a war to prevent Middle Eastern Islamic radicals from getting nuclear weapons, but it turns out that Iraq had nothing and it’s actually Iran that’s developing the bomb. Iraq, Iran -- that’s the kind of mistake that spell check just won’t catch.


The difference is that when a city wrongly decides to condemn property, a number of checks and balances already exist. First, property owners must get paid just compensation for the land, and if unhappy with the city’s offer, can go to court and get a trial on valuation. Second, property owners can sue to stop the condemnation entirely. I’ve previously written here (Aug. 3, 2003) about a federal court stopping a Missouri municipality from condemning a shopping center for a new Target superstore. And in case anybody forgot, in 2003, the Arizona Court of Appeals stopped Mesa from condemning Randy Bailey's brake shop because the taking didn’t qualify as for a “public use” as required by the state constitution.

But that hasn’t stopped several state legislators, who have made economic development condemnation their near-obsession. Numerous bills are floating around to restrict, both substantively and procedurally, how cities can condemn property. State Sen. Linda Gray withdrew one such bill when, at a committee hearing, the cities and towns didn’t complain enough about it; she figured that if they weren’t upset, the bill didn’t go nearly far enough.

Why all the fuss over condemnation, when courts and existing laws seem well-suited to curbing abuses, and where, if a majority doesn’t like how their city council exercises this power, voters always can throw the bums out? My pet theory is that it’s psychological displacement by ‘wingers.

All the energy they used to spend attacking the federal government, complaining about law enforcement overreach (those “jack-booted thugs”), or invasions of privacy, or deficit spending, or failure to follow regular legislative rules, or unseemly with coziness with campaign contributors and lobbyists, needs a new outlet. They can’t raise any of those complaints now, because it’s the Republicans committing the abuses -- so ‘wingers need to find a different bogeyman, and unfortunately for cities, they’re it.


But it’s nice to know, with the Bush administration asserting the right to ignore laws and expand executive power without any visible limits, and with the GOP Congress making its legacy an explosion of earmarks, ignoring regular order, and exhibiting unprecedented intimacy with lobbyists, that none of those conservative complaints during the last decade had anything to do with principle. Instead, it was all about party, just like term limits (remember those?)

Finally, a correction to last week’s column. Julie Myers, Bush’s recess appointment to head the Border Patrol, actually did have hearings before a Senate committee, but Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) reportedly put a hold on the confirmation vote. That strikes me as putting the country ahead of politics, unless he wanted to delay the vote until 2006. Anyway, I’m delighted to correct myself, because it turns out that Republicans were perfectly prepared to confirm as head of the Border Patrol someone whose required “law enforcement experience” consisted of working for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and the Commerce Department. That’s how seriously the GOP takes border control. I’m delighted to write about Julie Myers, every single chance I get.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Sam 'n Ben Rock 'n Roll

These links won't last forever, but you can see low-res photos of Ben and me finishing the half marathon and marathon on Sunday. Woo hoo!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sierra Club Chronicles

Sierra Club Chronicles is a monthly TV series capturing seven David vs. Goliath stories: the dramatic efforts of committed individuals across the country working to protect the health of their environment and communities. The series is hosted by Daryl Hannah.

The seven episode Sierra Club Chronicles series is broadcast the second Thursday of each month at 8:30 PM Eastern and Pacific January through July 2006 on Link TV (DIRECTV channel 375 and Dish Network channel 9410). Further information (including how to download the program to your computer) is here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

When People Ask if I'll Ever Run Again, This Isn't What They Meant

The Coppersmith household had a big day Sunday at the Rock-n-Roll Arizona Marathon and Half-Marathon--as a family, we ran 39.3 miles, even with three members opting to take the day off. Both my son and I managed to achieve a personal record in our respective events. I couldn't quite break the 4 hour barrier, but I was very happy with my new best-ever time, and hey, if I was a woman I'd have qualified for Boston, but I think having the operation and running another marathon is more than I want to tackle this spring. Theoretically, if I keep up this rate of improvement in my time since 2004, in about 16 years I would finish before I start. You know the drill, go to this link, enter "Coppersmith" in the last name field, and see how we both did. Photos aren't available yet, maybe by next week's post.
Immigration Gives the GOP a "Wedgie"

I forgot that Julie Myers had a hearing before the relevant Senate committee but that Carl Levin (D-MI) put a hold on the appointment, which strikes me as putting the country ahead of politics, unless he wanted to delay the confirmation until 2006. Anyway, I got an angry email about that sentence at the end, so I said I'd be delighted to make a correction this week. You bet I'm delighted to talk about Julie Myers every single chance I get. I've changed the sentence to correct it, but if you want to read my mistake as it appeared in the newspaper, the link is here.

Not only did my editor go for a somewhat less, well, discomforting headline, he also deleted the "GOP House Speaker Jim Weiers" paragraph, which makes absolutely no sense to me, so I've put it back in and started wondering about my new editor.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 15, 2006

It’s “Immigration Week” in state and national politics, but before considering what it means in Arizona and in D.C., here’s your bonus question: Who is Julie L. Myers? (No fair peeking; answer below.)

Gov. Napolitano led her State of the State address with putting National Guard troops at the border and penalizing employers who intentionally hire undocumented workers. But it was noisier outside the Capitol, where an estimated 4,000 protesters demonstrated against Napolitano as being too anti-immigrant.

The day-long protest, organized by Inmigrantes Sin Fronteras (Immigrants Without Borders) and conducted largely in Spanish, targeted Napolitano. Not Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, or the GOP legislative leadership, and certainly not any of the nonentities currently seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination. For the Napolitano campaign, having 4,000 people demonstrate, in Spanish no less, against your candidate as being too tough on immigration isn’t exactly a bad thing. You might try arranging such an event yourself, but it would have been too hard to verify the attendees’ Social Security numbers.

The National Guard proposal probably can’t go anywhere, because it requires approval by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who knows that letting Arizona use Guard troops on the border means other states will ask, and as Rumsfeld needs those troops ready for Iraq, he can’t agree. Hey, maybe that’s the point!

But the real wedge issue here -- yes, Democrats can do wedgies, too -- is the employer sanctions proposal, because that’s where the business Republicans can’t agree with the cultural Republicans. The cultural Republicans recognize that only an online federal verification system can stop illegal immigration; we can expand the Border Patrol forever and never control the border as long as businesses have plausible deniability in hiring illegal aliens.

Businesses, however, are very, very opposed to online verification and employer sanctions (but are very, very nervous about letting cultural Republicans know it). You see that with the squishy responses the Home Builders Association and state Chamber of Commerce representatives gave to Napolitano’s proposal. The homebuilders have a real problem with labor shortages now; an effective, secure verification system could make roofers rarer than emergency room physicians, and block developers from taking full advantage of what’s left of the housing boom-or-bubble.

GOP House Speaker Jim Weiers tried to straddle, saying he supports employer sanctions as long as there are “safeguards” for employers who “sincerely” tried to screen out illegals, because “overly punitive” measures could "cramp" the economy. Can you hear them wishing and hoping that this issue would just go away? Can’t we just focus on banning gay marriages and flag burning by illegal aliens instead?

This division also is playing out in the U.S. Capitol, where Reps. Roy Blunt and John Boehner are competing to replace Tom DeLay as GOP Majority Leader. Boehner is somewhat less tainted by lobbyist connections, but was one of only 17 Republicans to vote against the doomed House immigration bill. Blunt is part of the DeLay cash-and-carry crowd, but he may best Boehner by bashing illegals.

Boehner justifies his vote by claiming that the online verification system is a federal “Big Brother” snooping into personal information, which seems kind of quaint, knowing that Bush claims the right to listen to your personal conversations without a warrant. Honestly, if you’re already willing to give away your rights to fight terrorism, what’s the problem with giving away your rights to fight illegal immigration? In for a dime, in for a dollar.

Finally, the answer to our bonus question: Ms. Myers is 36 years old. She’s the niece of the former chair of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Richard Myers, and is married to John Wood, chief of staff to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, now her boss. But to win our quiz, you needed to know that President Bush chose her to head the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- making her responsible for securing our borders.

Yes, immigration is so crucial that Bush picked someone who has to stretch like a contortionist to pretend she's had the required 5 years of law enforcement experience. It’s so embarrassing to Republicans that they’ll keep pretending that immigration is somehow the Arizona governor’s responsibility. Apparently, that’s the best the GOP can do.

Monday, January 09, 2006

"A Chicago Priest with a Tucson Patina"

It was a sad couple of days here. Thursday was the wake and funeral mass for Ed Ryle in Tucson and Sunday was the memorial service for Lorraine Weiss Frank at ASU. I sat next to former Congressman Jim McNulty at the Ryle wake--if I'm at a wake, you bet I want to sit next to Jim McNulty--and he reminded me that while it's sad to go to these things, if you stop going it means it's your turn, so it's probably all for the best. Both Ed and Lorraine will be missed, but I figure the best way to miss them is to emulate them.

If you want to see the newspaper version of this column, it's here. Social justice? Who knew? (especially when today's news is that the Phoenix bishop is campaigning against all forms of birth control.) I had a comment, but in Ed' s memory I'll withhold it.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 8, 2006

Instead of obsessing about convicted former GOP über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, let’s remember Monsignor Edward Ryle, who died Dec. 28 and whose life was celebrated with a wake and Mass in Tucson this past Thursday. There are many different ways to participate in politics not involving either crime or celibacy. But while Abramoff talked a lot about his religion, Ed Ryle lived his -- and convinced others to live theirs as well.

Monsignor Ryle was a man of boundless optimism and goodwill. For 20 years, he served as executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the umbrella organization representing the Church at the Arizona Legislature. We didn’t agree on several issues, but Ed Ryle had a talent for convincing you that your agreements mattered far, far more than any disagreements. Maybe differences on “minor” issues like abortion, school vouchers, and stem cell research would trouble less open-hearted people, but not Ryle.

At our office, we kept a bottle of his favorite scotch, hoping to tempt him to drop by for a chat at the end of a long week. It was a budget scotch, one that he learned to appreciate (tolerate?) while in seminary, but he never saw any reason to change brands, in either whiskey or social justice.

I’m not the only one whom you might be surprised to learn idolized Ed Ryle. Mary K. Reinhart’s article in last Friday's Tribune featured testimonials from Paul Martodam, CEO of Catholic Social Service of Central and Northern Arizona, Carol Kamin of Children’s Action Alliance, and Gov. Janet Napolitano -- three people whom I hope get quoted in my obituary. The Arizona Republic’s article also quoted Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas (Ryle’s home diocese) and Martodam, then only members of my side: Kamin; Cathy Eden, former director of the state Department of Health Services; Napolitano; Joe Anderson, a former cabinet official with Gov. Bruce Babbitt; state Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix; and Eddie Basha. Ryle was known as “the conscience of the legislature,” so maybe during the holidays it was too difficult to track down a Republican with a conscience.

Ryle truly believed in life as a “seamless garment.” Yes, he fought to restrict abortion, but also against the death penalty in the same quiet, friendly, and incredibly persistent manner. Without being preachy, he softly urged society to do more to aid those in need. He saw government as a tool; one that would never replace faith, but one that could help create a better world, with healing for the sick, care for the troubled, education for the young, and security for the old. It sounded a lot like what Jesus preached in the Gospels, so of course it was a political loser, but Ryle never lost his humor, purpose, or faith.

Ed Ryle never seemed to get much of his agenda through the legislature, unlike Jack Abramoff, who could get his GOP buddies to give his clients government contracts, statements in the Congressional Record, letters of support, earmarks, or even block widely-supported bills. Of course, business clients are willing to pay far more for government largesse than Ed Ryle could bring to the statehouse, and to many the “seamless garment” was never more than rhetoric, while the GOP’s “K Street Project” was a real and serious operation backed by real and serious clout, money, and greed.

But while being in politics doesn’t require either being a crook or staying celibate, politicians do need to make a choice whether they want to stand with guys like Jack Abramoff or guys like Ed Ryle. It’s a choice worth examining. Googling “Hayworth + Abramoff” yields over 29,000 hits, while “Hayworth + Ryle” gets about 600, and a lot are about actress Rita Hayworth.

You can make that same choice, too. There’s a fund in Ed Ryle’s memory, administered by the Catholic Community Foundation of Phoenix, supporting social justice projects and an annual speakers series. To contribute, call (602) 354-2400 or go to, and indicate that your donation is for the Monsignor Ed Ryle Fund.

Maybe that would be a good place for all those Abramoff-tainted donations.

Monday, January 02, 2006

On My Watch List for 2006

Happy New Year. I was caught flat-footed at our New Year's Eve party with a wish for 2006, and the first thing I thought of that would do the most good for Arizona would be if the Bidwill family sold the Cardinals. But then that might make the new stadium a good idea, and certainly take away an easy metaphor for continuous mediocrity in future columns, so either way, I win.

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 1, 2006

Here are two things I’m curious about in politics for 2006:

The first mystery is why the same people who claim that Gov. Janet Napolitano is beatable because her numbers, in one poll, are only slightly higher than 50 percent, are so certain that Sen. Jon Kyl is a shoo-in despite numbers 10 points lower? Somehow, Napolitano is vulnerable, despite not having an actual opponent yet, who ultimately will be a politician unknown to most of the state and without money. Meanwhile, Kyl is opposed by a politician unknown to most of the state who actually has money, but Kyl’s a sure thing. Doesn’t add up.

Jim Pederson's campaign was happy to take my financial contribution; let’s see if they’re as willing to take my advice. First, Pederson needs to hire some of those (hopefully Arizona-based) reality-denying Napolitano-in-trouble-but-Kyl-safe political spinners currently “working the refs” for the Republicans. Pay a modest retainer, and they’re yours. Next, Pederson needs to stop worrying so much about being portrayed as a wealthy developer. (Apparently, wealthy GOP developers have no problem with this particular attack; must be a self-hatred thing.)

There’s an easy response, though: “Yes, Jim Pederson is a successful developer. He’s the guy who brought In-N-Out Burger and Krispy Kreme to Arizona. What’s Jon Kyl ever done?”

Third, Pederson should take a page from the John McCain playbook: Find some bogus “cultural” issue and flog the heck out of it, so you can spend time talking about the issues you want to talk about. It’s the patented McCain “sell just a bit of your soul” approach. McCain has endorsed teaching “intelligent design” in science classes, most recently claiming that “young people have a right to be told” about intelligent design. (He says it’s because he wants to teach “all points of view” but that’s just code for adding watered-down creationism to the school curriculum.)

So Pederson should pick one issue -- a constitutional amendment banning flag burning, or making public school prayer mandatory, or having the government buy everybody who wants one a new gun. And don’t worry about the merits here; pretending that one of these issues actually matters can’t be any more embarrassing than John McCain pretending that intelligent design is science.

The other thing I just can’t figure out in advance is any effect of pending ballot initiatives on 2006 candidate races. Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that neither group that promised to get a gay marriage constitutional amendment ban on the ballot in California has enough signatures gathered to make that happen. One group admitted that it will miss the June 2006 primary election, but hasn’t ruled out the November 2006 general election -- but lackluster fundraising, ideological squabbling, and a shift in voter attention to other issues makes that increasingly unlikely.

Here in Arizona, the organizers of a loudly-announced state constitutional gay marriage ban withdrew their original proposal (the grab-bag of hot-button right-wing issues violated the Arizona constitution’s “single subject” rule for legislation), and must start gathering signatures from scratch. So far, the proponents have shown far more interest in suing petition gatherers than in qualifying for the 2006 ballot. If this lack of progress continues, the right-wing issue menu to drive religious conservative voters to the polls will need a different entrée.

Meanwhile, there likely will be a state minimum wage initiative, which will encourage hopes that the minimum wage can do for progressives what gay marriage did in 2004 for conservatives. Of course, that’s what they thought in Florida, where a 2004 state minimum wage initiative won 72 percent of the vote, while Jeb Bush -- who feared and fought the initiative for just that reason -- also won reelection handily.

So, will ballot initiatives influence results in candidate races? What makes an initiative a hot-button issue, and can wedge issues, like gay marriage, get too “hot” that they eventually fade, like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? We eventually got enough of that, too. I just don’t know, so I’m looking forward to answers in 2006.