Law of the Land
Amy Silverman and Patti Epler deserve praise for a well-laid out argument ("The Law of the Land," January 7), though the motivations behind the activities of lobbyists are sadly unreported. It is far too easy to stereotype your enemy, thus leaving you with an ill-defined foe.
The whole issue of our Legislature's current residency in the pockets of lobbyists is reminiscent of the big budget deficit and debt battles of the past two decades. The final responsibility should not be laid on the Legislature, the lobbyists or even the system. The finger of blame must be turned on us, the citizens. With a paltry voter turnout and even less civic activism, we continually cede control of our state and our lives to minority extremists and powerful lobbyists.
After two years working in Sarajevo, Bosnia, two things have become frighteningly clear to me. First, civil society cannot be maintained when the average citizens do not take responsibility for their own government. Second, successful lawmaking requires finding common ground between different points on the political spectrum, not political gamesmanship. We grow closer to a corrupt society daily. Health, water quality and urban sprawl can be addressed only by citizens representing many interests, not a lobbitocracy representing only a few.
Since we have been studying and publicizing the Arizona legislature's awful addiction to lobbyist money for the last three years, Arizona Citizen Action would like to congratulate your reporters Amy Silverman and Patti Epler for the January 7 special report "The Law of the Land." It is simply the single best piece ever published demonstrating how corporate money completely dominates the legislative process in Arizona. As a retired research professor from MIT myself, I would like to give special praise to ASU professor Steven Doig who did some of the data analysis.
One minor correction: The supporters of Proposition 200, the Citizens Clean Elections Initiative approved by the voters in November, do not expect a court challenge to stop Proposition 200 "in its tracks." We did design Proposition 200 to cut the connection between lobbyists and state government by allowing serious candidates to qualify for public funding for their campaigns. Therefore, we certainly do expect those corporate lobbyists who now run the show to fund a legal challenge in an attempt to protect their sweet deal. After all, according to reports filed with the secretary of state, it was the usual suspects, the polluters, alcohol and racing interests and former governor Symington, who led the opposition to Proposition 200. However, we carefully crafted the law with the advice of the best constitutional experts in the nation and we will insure that it is defended vigorously. We fully expect citizen funding of elections to become the norm in Arizona.
Professional lobbyists who rely on their ability to educate lawmakers will welcome the change. The lobbyists who depend on raising money to buy their influence will have to find a new trade. Maybe they could join Symington in his French cooking class; otherwise they may join him in jail.
Jim Driscoll, Ph.D.
executive director, Arizona Citizen Action
Your special report "The Law of the Land" was quite informative regarding the power of lobbyists over the state Legislature. However, two comments you made about Proposition 200, the Clean Elections Initiative, were off mark.
Although we expect a court challenge by the opposition, we disagree with your statement that Clean Elections "supporters expect that a court challenge will soon stop it in its tracks." Even if one element of the initiative is successfully attacked--which we don't expect--the remainder of the law will remain intact.
Also, you suggested that lobbyists "will be able to use a loophole in the Proposition 200 law to continue to run independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of their favorite candidates and/or issues." As much as you may want to outlaw such independent expenditures, the Supreme Court has ruled that those expenditures are protected by the First Amendment. Even so, the initiative instituted a procedure whereby those candidates who participate in the Clean Elections system will be protected against such expenditures. Those candidates will receive matching funds equal to the amount spent against them by independent expenditures. In that way, they will be able to fight the big-money lobbyists on equal ground.
The Clean Elections System was passed by vote of the public in order to rein in the unbridled power wielded by the Super Lobbyists and their special interest backers. The public will now have candidates who will serve the common good--instead of serving narrow and powerful interests. Please keep up your in-depth reporting on the real powers behind our state government. We need such information in order to assure continued support for the Clean Elections system, and to build public efforts for other needed reforms.
treasurer, Clean Elections Institute
Law of the Bland
Your sheriff ("The $8 Million Victim," Tony Ortega, January 14) is a running joke, not only in your Maricopa County, but elsewhere as well. I can't believe that anyone would support him, and I hope the voters will be smarter next time. This is the sort of thing that makes me glad I moved from Phoenix. You guys are doing a great job exposing him, and I hope you keep giving him headaches. I can think of no one more deserving!
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Law Out of Hand
It is not often that words bring a person to tears; however, T.G. Sterling's story of December 31 ("Scourge of Youngtown") did just that! There were tears and anger at the thought of a courageous senior standing up to a bureaucracy at the cost of risk to his health.
The "Scourge of Youngtown" was remarkable writing that brought to mind just another case of the erosion of rights and the sad state of small-town, so-called law.
My heart went out to Al and Letha Lindsey. The way Al was treated by the officials of Youngtown was disgraceful. They deemed him a criminal. I say he is a true hero.
Thank you, Terry Sterling for giving us pause to reflect on the many ways the rights of some citizens are being suppressed, causing mental and physical distress.
Sue N. Brown
The story about Letha and Al Lindsey is the second-most ridiculous story I have heard in my life. Don't these municipalities have better things to police than picking on little old retirees? This is absurd, especially as Youngtown is not exactly the prettiest town around and certainly does not have a lot of expensive properties. Someone is on a power trip out there. The people of the town need to get together and throw out the people running things. First should be that attorney, David Ledyard. What a prize he is.
If they do not have the money to pay, call me, and I will give it to them. I hope they found a way out, but if not, I am perfectly willing to help! This is typical government bullying at its best!
Regarding the article about the ludicrous situation the Lindseys are in with the city of Youngtown: Is there any chance that a donation can be offered that can be directly applied toward the amount owed by the Lindseys?
Far too often, I read New Times' stories about the "misfortunates at will" and think nothing more of it. This one, now, I couldn't let this one go by without at least making some sort of offer for assistance.
Editor's note: A concerned reader has already paid Al Lindsey's fine.
I am shocked at the treatment that Mr. Lindsey has received from the Youngtown government. Is Youngtown so crime-free that the police are measuring grass? And turning Mom and Dad into criminals? Police carry guns, not rulers. Would that officer have given his own father that ticket? I think not. I think Judge Anderson also needs to get a better grip on what a judge is all about. He is the example of what is wrong with our court officials today. Grass grows, litter is produced by people.
You should give out Youngtown city officials, Youngtown police and the judge's e-mail addresses so the people can respond directly to these unbelievable people.
Name withheld by request
I am a city councilman in the city of Sierra Vista. I have read with great interest your column on the Udall Center "Legacy or Sham?" (Amy Silverman, December 24). Let me share my observations on the Udall Center's history with my city. At the outset, let me state clearly that these observations are mine and should not necessarily be construed as representing a consensus of the city council.
The Udall Center first came to town as the paid lackeys of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC). As you are no doubt aware, the CEC was set up under the Environmental Side Accord to NAFTA. Sierra Vista was the first U.S. city to experience the CEC. Our experience with the CEC was the primary reason that Congress refused to extend NAFTA under "Fast Track" unless the administration would agree to ensure that any side agreements have a relation to trade. Slick William would not agree; hence, Fast Track died. The CEC studied the growth of our community to determine its impact on migratory songbirds--there was no trade connection. A visit to the CEC Web site at www.cec.org will allow you, or any of your readers, to trace the chain of events from the Southwest Center's petition to the CEC determining that we were causing the decline of global biodiversity.
The Udall Center was in fact touted by some in our congressional delegation as a "conflict resolver" that could handle the CEC public input process. I objected to them from the start because of the meaning of words. You cannot be a conflict resolver if you are not invited to mediate. No stakeholder in this area ever asked them to come. Several elected officials, myself included, specifically asked them not to come. The CEC is considered by most of the people in Cochise County to be an illegitimate international organization that would tell a lie if the truth sounded better. Our city council has a long set of experiences to back up this statement.
The Udall Center has, in my view, made a sham out of its name by being the hirelings of the CEC. Not content to being the water carriers for the CEC, they are now seeking ways to insert themselves further into local issues and affairs through some grants from the Ford Foundation. Again, no legitimate stakeholder, city, county or otherwise, has issued them an invitation. My own analysis is they are primarily New Age feel-gooders seeking to do anything and everything possible to escape meaningful day jobs or socially useful careers.
There are more than a few people these days appropriating the name of Morris K. Udall in the furtherance of their environmental agenda. Few, if any, of them ever knew the man or worked with him.
For 12 years, I was privileged to manage Mo Udall's environmental agenda as his staff assistant on the House Interior Committee. In that capacity, I did his work on the Alaska Lands Act, two Arizona wilderness bills and countless other park, wilderness, land management and environmental bills and initiatives. Like any Udall staffer, I count my years working for Mo as the proudest and most productive of my life.
The creation of an environmental conflict institute bearing his name raises many issues about who Mo Udall was, where the environmental movement is today and is going in the future and what the meaning of environmental conflict resolution is.
Mo's stock is rising in the political market now because his devotion to fairness, principle and reason--not to mention a good joke told at his own expense--stands in such stark and even quaint contrast to the grim, pointless partisanship and dreary gotcha games that have replaced honest governance. It seems there are more rampant hormones and less good humor in politics today than at a high school prom.
Too often, however, Mo's name has been linked with "compromise," as if he didn't care what the outcome of an issue was. Too often, it is forgotten that Mo stood for something. He was a man imbued with what he called "a love for the land" and he wanted his unequaled skills as a legislator to promote a world where people, in his words, "walk more gently on the earth." That's what he was passionately about. Mo did not compromise just to get some lousy bill passed. He compromised when it was reasonable and fair to do so and when it could be done without real violence to what he wanted to achieve.
Mo proved that reason and fairness are not the enemy of principle, but he also knew that reason and fairness without principle are characterless.
The state of environmental politics today reflects the larger disconnect between how Mo worked and how politics now works. I think people on all sides of environmental debate have spent so much time arguing with each other that they have forgotten what the point of the argument is. It is not, or should not be, just to defeat the other guy. It is, or should be, to create sustainable human and natural communities.
I was appalled but not surprised at the comments of environmentalists in Amy Silverman's column. I am no Pollyanna. I know lawsuits are often necessary to force bureaucrats to enforce the law or developers to meet their obligations to the community. A court order trumps bad intentions and clarifies good intentions. But the environmental community cannot possibly achieve its real goal of sustainable communities by filing lawsuits. After all, while they win their lawsuits, wildlife habitat disappears and degrades; natural ecosystems come apart; open space is gobbled up at alarming rates and the West looks more like L.A. every day. If they are blinded or satisfied by their handful of puny successes, they are hopelessly bankrupt. If the limit of their vision is to stop bad things without also doing good things, their cause is doomed.
Many environmentalists today do understand this, and like Mo, they are looking to create partners instead of victims and ways in which enemies can agree. They are the heart of a new environmental politics that does not flinch from confrontation when necessary but is committed to working with communities, ranchers and others to bring environmental common sense and ethics to everyday life.
As for what Mo would have thought of the University of Arizona's new institute, it is impossible to say until it defines itself. I do know that Mo was profoundly proud of and tied to the UofA and would have been pleased to have his name associated with anything that might help it become a greater and more useful institution.
He would not, however, be proud of this institute if it hijacks his memory to reduce environmental conflict resolution to some namby-pamby process of split-the-difference compromise, without principle or purpose. He would not be proud if, like some Internet chat room, it promotes pointless blabfests or "collects" comments that do not actually create change or solve problems. If it is uncommitted to creative outcomes that protect the earth and promote sustainable communities, then it is doomed to being just another flabby mess that provides jobs for academic bureaucrats, excuses for developers and cover for politicians without core beliefs--and it will dishonor the name of Morris K. Udall.
San Anselmo, California
We represent the State of Arizona in connection with the matters involving William Haro and have read the article written by Terry Greene Sterling in the December 17 New Times ("Jailer's Jihad"). The story is obviously slanted and fails to provide all the facts leading to the proposed settlement between Haro and the Department of Corrections. The settlement agreement was not a unilateral document submitted to Haro blindly for his signature. Haro had participated in discussions with Director Terry Stewart, which led to the terms of this document, which was simply intended to elicit a commitment in writing to changed behavior. Because the conditions of vacating Haro's scheduled dismissal were to be set forth in writing, Haro himself requested the opportunity for his attorney to review the document.
The evidence will show that Haro acknowledged to the director that he had made allegations that were not personally known to be factual. However, Haro later decided to not agree with these same acknowledgments in writing, and decided to not sign the very document he had requested for review by his counsel. It should be noted that the reason Director Stewart decided to give Haro a second chance was because of Haro's admissions and verbal commitment to change. With respect to Haro's many years with the department, this was the decent thing for Director Stewart to do. Instead, your writer predictably distorted this gesture to suit your audience.
Stewart does not want, and the Department of Corrections cannot afford to have, an untruthful person within its ranks, who is incapable or unwilling to change; this is precisely why Haro was released from this agency. Your article fails to report that the director attempted to give Mr. Haro the opportunity to stop making false and unsubstantiated allegations against his fellow employees. Through these actions, Director Stewart was seeking a resolution to the problems that were created by Haro conjuring up harmful claims which lacked factual foundation. If officer Haro could have reformed himself, which is what he promised he would do, he might still be employed within ADOC. Instead, he ultimately chose his own fate.
Finally, you should know that the director specifically discussed with Haro that the discipline he was facing was in no way connected to or linked with his pending civil suit. This is expressly why there is no mention of this matter in the settlement agreement. Instead, you have now, along with Haro, taken the director's good faith in this regard, and wholly distorted the gesture to make it seem as if it were Director Stewart's intent to influence Haro's suit. I guess this goes to prove the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished. I am also quite surprised that while you no doubt appear to have garnered considerable comments from both Haro and his attorneys, not once did you see fit to contact me. Further, you only contacted the department's spokesperson late on the day before your story's Friday deadline, stating you needed an immediate response. This is hardly conduct on your part that any reasonable reader could perceive as balanced reporting.
Dennis I. Wilenchick
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This letter is in response to Dewey Webb's article "Tell the Teacher We're Cruisin'" (December 17). The article discusses the content of the human-sexuality class at Glendale Community College. Webb makes it very clear about his views on the optional "field trips" that we took. I found it amusing and angering that I read this article discussing trips to Shangri La nudists resort, a swingers' club, a drag show and an adult book store, because everything printed was negative. Maybe Webb should read his own article and then flip back a few pages and read the advertisements for gay men's clubs, topless entertainment, tattoo and piercing parlors. As Webb interviewed me on the phone his focus was primarily on the younger students and their responses. There were two people, out of approximately 30, who were not open to learning that there are variations in people's lifestyles and sexual preferences. These fellow students were informed the first day of our class of the class' focus. If we do not understand the differences in other people's lifestyles, we students, as future psychologists and psychiatrists, aren't going to be very much help to someone we have no understanding of.
When quoting me in the article, he forgot to mention that I'm an honor student with a 4.0 grade point average, a father of four, I don't do drugs or drink. I enjoyed the class and found it to be rather enlightening.
Instead of going after a college and its courses, why don't you go after drug dealers and gangs? These are real issues that you could make a difference in instead of badgering a young female teacher into tears.
Michael C. McMahan