Biggest Challenge Facing Our District and How to Address It

The question is:

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING LD18 RESIDENTS AND WHAT SPECIFIC MEASURES WILL YOU TAKE TO ADDRESS IT?

Answer from Mitzi Epstein, Democratic Candidate for Arizona House of Representatives

9/26/2016

Our greatest challenge is fostering a better future for ourselves and for our children. The path that our legislature is taking is doing very little to assure that.

Our K-12 schools have been cut year after year. Some may tell you that education funding has increased, but not funding per pupil. The $3.5 billion that they claim to have added is mostly just a matter of taking money for schools from our future to help students today. That’s not planning. That’s copping out. That was Prop 123, and that’s the only help for schools they would do. Yet, our legislature added money for private prisons. From 1980 to 2013, money for prisons grew twice as fast as population. Sadly, money for schools has not even kept up with growth in population. Priorities matter.

Too many people are still reeling from the recession. You have a job, and you’re getting by, but you want to get ahead! Higher education is either out of reach or the cost is burdening graduates so much it’s forcing them to delay plans to buy a house, get married, and start a family.

Finally, the growing influence of money in politics is poisoning democracy and opening the door to corruption. How can the next generation get ahead when they are facing such mounting challenges?

I grew up in Chicago and my family always valued education. Like many parents, my parents told my sisters and brother and me that the keys to success were education and hard work.

I’m ready, willing, and able to put that hard work in motion for you.

As your representative, I will use my skills in business and experience building statewide coalitions to get the work done with positive collaboration.

I will work every day for strong public education– not the status quo, but the best our schools can be -- by listening to teachers, parents, retirees, people working in local businesses, and the whole school community. The current legislators had the chance, but did not reverse their cuts to education. I will work to restore education funding, without creating new taxes and by making no new tax loopholes for special interests. Arizona has the resources for a thriving future. 

Arizona Universities are shining examples of innovation! We need to invest in them to make tuition more affordable, and to continue the research that grows our bioscience, aerospace, and technology sectors. Arizona’s high-tech jobs can continue to grow by using the Bioscience Roadmap, a collaboration of academics, industry and government.

I have a track record of transparency as your school board member in the Kyrene Schools. In the State House, I will work collaboratively, and with determination to restore transparency and accountability. We must repeal the destructive “Dark Money Corruption” law (SB1516) that the incumbents passed this year. Legislators decide whether you compete on a level playing field, and whether you have access to a good education. Keeping elections fair matters for your life and freedom.

I will work hard to make the changes we need to make a better life for us, and for our children. I ask for your vote Nov 8th.

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Kicking the Can down to ... You? Millennials? To whom?

Yet another article in the AZ Republic spotlights that the AZ Legislature is Kicking the Can Down The Road.   Our schools need kick-the-can.jpgmore funding,  and Gov. Ducey and Republican big shots'  "current plans do not make the state whole."  

I was once asked by my good friend, John,  "When do you STOP asking for more money for schools?"  I keep that question prominently on my mind always.

 

I've never been a big spender for myself,  and most certainly not with other people's money.  

I've always looked for the more cost-effective way to get the job done.  

  • It was true as a systems analyst where it was my job to cut costs and improve accuracy in departments and work flows.  
  • Kyrene_Gov_Board_notME_2011_0927.png
  •  It was true on community youth sports boards where I frequently spoke up for, "Let's NOT raise the membership dues."   
  •  It was true when I spoke up with the school board to
    Not raise taxes, but instead find a better way to keep buildings repaired.  

The key to being fiscally frugal is to prudently maintain the stuff you have. 

We change the oil in our cars regularly.   If we do not, it costs a lot more for the repairs later.  Or it destroys the car.

In Arizona,  we have not been changing the car oil.    And who will pay the bigger price later?  Or will it destroy ...

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Why is AZ paying Lawyers instead of Schools?

In November 2000,  Arizona voters passed Prop. 301 which mandated that one piece of education funding will get an increase for inflation each year.  It has a limit of no more than a 2% increase,  so even if inflation rises steeply,  taxpayers will be protected. Ed_budget-cut-protest_2015.jpg
 

In 2009, lawmakers said,  "Nah,  we don't wanna do that any more."    They passed a budget that had no increase for inflation to the Base Support Level for schools.   

Keep 2 things in mind:  

  1. It is NOT an increase in what schools can do.   It is just enough money to buy the same number of pencils per student as the previous year.   If  one book costs $1 this year,  then next year we need $1.02  for one book to allow for inflation.    
  2. Voters approved it in a state-wide election.   That means lawmakers are not allowed to change what the voters approved.

Then the lawsuit was filed.  School districts and advocates including school children's families who were harmed by this cut to school funding filed the suit.    

In September, 2013,  the Arizona Supreme Court told the legislature, "Ya gotta pay the schools.  
 Schools are right.  Legislators who refuse to pay the inflation increase are wrong."  
(Well,  that's the gist of the ruling.  Actual Legal-ese  can be found here.  )  

All of this led up to the Education Funding Protests at the Capitol and all over the state, this year. Voters want adequate funding for our schools.  That's  the only way to fix desks,  replace books, and pay teachers enough for a middle-class living. -- Currently, we are not doing even that!  Voters are angry.  We're standing up against it!   

Now, elected Republican extremists in the legislature are still appealing the lawsuit and haggling  ... 

 

 

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Bandaid and a Cookie Won't Fix AZ Prisons

We are spending a lot of money on prisons in Arizona.  It's time to stand up and demand, "Is it working?! Are we safer?"  

Inmates "mistreated en masse,"   wasting taxpayers' dollars,  half of inmates are repeat offenders,    murderers escaping,  private Ducey_prison_bandaid_Fb_banner_2015_0827.pngprison contracts that guarantee full beds for for-profit corporations,  are just some of the problems of our Arizona prisons. The riots at the private prison in Kingman were just the tip of the iceberg.  Are our lawmakers directing DOC administrators to take actions that make us safer?  Or are lawmakers pandering to a notion that putting more people in prison is a magic wand? 

Governor Ducey responded to the report about the riots by firing the current private-prison management company, and turning it over to another private-prison management company.   He also had some sugary words to say at a press conference.  

Governor,  your bandaid and a cookie response will not fix our AZ prison problems.

“I would describe this report as scathing,” Governor Ducey said.  Then he added Let's "assign the contract to a new operator,..."  That is far, far from enough.  

We need Real Solutions Now.  Not a hand-off of the problem from one flawed provider to another. 

We need legislators and a governor who make it a priority to emphasize the "CORRECTIONS" part of the Department of Corrections.  In the last legislative session,  a good step forward would have been SB1390.  It would have put more ...  

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Rocking the Boat: Dangerous with Mr. Ducey

Is Governor Ducey forming a pattern of lashing out with propaganda against those who critique his ideas?   
Is it dangerous to try to engage in constructive public debate with him?   boat_aground_2015_0807.jpg

When I was 16 years old,  I worked in a shoe store with a dress code  something like "skirts may be solids only, no prints."  One day I had the audacity to wear a dress with a small print of flowers,  so my boss' boss at the shoe store chastised me and said, "Don't rock the boat."  

He was really talking to the wrong person with that message.  If the boat is headed to crash, I will most certainly rock it!  

I recognized that Governor Doug Ducey's Land Trust money for schools proposal was taking our state's boat heading for a crash over a waterfall,  and I expressed respectful doubts.  Even while my own favorite organizations,  like ASBA ( AZ School Boards Association)  were literally lined up to support the governor's plan,  I published my concerns that it was "Robbing Peter to pay Paul, when Paul is in school today, and Peter is his baby brother."    

DeWit_Ducey_Roberts_2015_0807.pngApparently,  Treasurer Jeff DeWit recognized that looming waterfall, too.   He rocked the boat.  He sent a careful analysis to legislators.  ANALYSIS.  As a result of his audacity to oppose the governor,  he is being trashed in extremist-conservative blogs.  PROPAGANDA.   Follow the money to ...  well, it's a little dark but Laurie Roberts shined a light. 

  In her column, "Jeff DeWit Finds it's not nice to cross Doug Ducey",   Columnist Laurie Roberts points out that Governor Doug Ducey appears to be making a pattern of lashing out against his opponents using propaganda funded by dark money.  Ok,  that seemed to happen a lot during the election.  What's the news?  -- It's not an election.  This time, it's about policies that affect our lives. 

Treasurer DeWit wrote, "I have attempted to work with the Governor’s office on alternatives that are financially and legally sound and provide more money to our schools, but those efforts have been unsuccessful."  

The governor seems to be using propaganda -- instead of constructive debate -- even with folks in his own party.  The propaganda is trashing DeWit's character, ignoring his math and his careful explanations.  The Governor's plan is not completely bad.  We do need more money for our schools, and that is why groups like ASBA and others have supported the initial idea.  The idea needs more debate in public,  and those who critique it should not be quelled. 

If people don't publish their opposition to our governor's proposals, how ... 

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Charleston Leaders, the Real Leaders

charleston-leaders_2015_june_deCNN_.jpg"Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.    ---  and fortunately, millions of Americans heartily agree.  Yet, race problems continue. 

The fuel that feeds racism is hate.  We might never be rid of it, but we must always strive to end it.  Not by hating back.  But by learning to understand each other. 

The families of those who were killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston exemplified the most admirable ability to forgive.  They and we honor their loved ones with our thoughts and prayers,  with vigils, remembrances, and songs. 

    

charleston_churchgoers_lead_2015june_deBET.jpg    And these beautiful families forgave. 

      

  They led the way for all of us to respond to hate with love and to work harder ...

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Dancing in the Streets for Crowd-Funding

EQUITY CROWD-FUNDING is here in Arizona!

Let the entrepreneurs and investors begin their dancing in the streets! Hurray!

Entrepreneurs in places like Tech Shop, Gangplank, and Seed Spot are cheering, for good reason. HB2591 has been signed into law. 

meme_crowdfunding_dancers_2015_0419.png

For everybody else who's saying, "What-quity Fundwha??" here's
WHY IT IS COOL:

-- Old economy: Big companies got very rich investors to buy stocks and they all got richer together. A company needed to be big to sell stocks for many reasons, especially to pay lawyers to do it according to SEC rules.

-- New economy: Even very small businesses can go to crowd-funding websites and ask people to invest in them. (Ex: Kickstarter)

Before this bill, a business could only offer "gifts," not a share in the company. Ex: Give me $75 toward producing my movie, and I'll give you a hat and a free download of the movie when it's done.

After this bill is law, a business could sell shares in the company in exchange for that money from an investor. Ex: Buy a share in my company, "Movies by Micky" for $100. When the first Micky Movie makes a profit, so do you. .... hopefully enough to buy several hats and copies of the movie. 

There are some limitations, thankfully.  Limitations help to keep markets fair and open for newcomers and innovators.   For example, a single investor cannot ...

 

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Is Supt. Douglas Listening?

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has announced that she is listening.   

Hmmmm.  meme_Douglas_listens_2015_0417.png

I recall a very full hotel ballroom of PTA parents hopeful to interact with her as a candidate in 2014.  She ditched them.  

Candidate David Garcia came to the forum hosted by the state-wide Arizona PTA, Parent Teacher Association.  He took questions from the audience and he Listened to their concerns.     Diane Douglas did not attend.  She said she would, but backed out later.    The Capitol Times  called the race for SPI,  " one guy stumping for himself. Democrat David Garcia’s Republican opponent, Diane Douglas, has yet to engage him in a debate. She hasn’t updated her website from her primary run nor has she done any media interviews. "  Read More

I also recall that,  "She's a good listener," was Not the phrase that came to mind when parents described her style as a school board member.   

But now she's  listening.  Yay!    We should ...

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The Speed of Business is Dangerous Nonsense -- Robert Robb

Thank you, Robert Robb,  for agreeing with me.  Every time I've heard Gov. Ducey say,  "Government needs to work at the speed of business,"  I've thought, "What speed is that?  What a nonsense-phrase."  

So nice to read that notoriously-not-a-Liberal columnist Robert Robb agrees with me as he wrote, "Ducey says that the [legislative] session fulfilled his vow to make government 'operate at the speed of business.'  THAT'S A NONSENSE CLAIM. In fact, it's a nonsense phrase."

It's also highly dangerous for Arizona.  Gov. Ducey is now "making excuses for the cram-down decision-making,"  wrote Robb, "... ASU_Trustees_Ad_2015_0408_A_top.jpgindeed, he's touting it as a virtue."    Governor, you're wrong.   The Cram-down budget is full of holes, and those holes could have been fixed if you and the Legislative Leaders had allowed deliberation. 

How perfect that in the same newspaper, ASU Trustees wrote,

"We must respond with a clear message of disapproval"  (ie:  Vote the bums out! )

and

"We need to ...attract people to public office who favor investment in education at all levels."  

Click here to sign up to receive my newsletter and help to improve transparency and public education in Arizona.

The ASU Trustees who signed the full-page ad (p.8)  are ... 

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#TiredTalk - Top 10 crAZy things

"Top 10 crAZy things Arizona legislators said and did while

debating the state budget from midnight to 9am" - Let's make that list.  The absurdities are still being shared,  so I've left room for you to add your preferred examples of crAZy.   meme_Sheldon_budget_2015_0312.png

This list may amuse you.  It amuses me, because it has to.  If I did not find the humor in this situation, it would bring me to the brink of despair. 

Debating the most important bills of the year under the cloak of darkness is wrong.  It disrespects the principles of governance by and for the people.  

 It's a Slap to Transparency!  Or maybe more like a kick in the ...head. 

The Republican legislators who controlled the scheduling violated principles of transparency.   You can hold them accountable for this violation of trust.  You can vote them out.   Vote out all those who follow their untrustworthy ways in the legislature. 

In addition to being a slap to transparency,  midnight deliberating causes plenty of examples of humans breaking down as fatigue takes its toll.    

Here are some examples. 

  

#10 - The Willy Wonka Award for  "Back that up,  and reverse it"   goes to...

Sen. John Kavanagh for his comment about tax cuts instead of tax hikes.   He said that people want no more "tax cuts."  His colleagues alerted him to his word-choice, and then he adjusted it to "tax hikes."  
(I think he was more correct the first time.  Poll after poll shows that the people of Arizona want to invest in public education.  I Know that people are tired of the tax cuts to special interest groups in the 1%.)  

#9 -  The Accidental Tourist award for "Oops!"  goes to ... 

"Two House Democrats voted for a pair of the budget bills, but both later said they were too tired to think straight and the votes were accidental.  "   (source: Capitol Times


#8 - The Woody Allen Award for "Low Anxiety"  goes to ...

AZBudget_knitter_2015_0307.jpg
Rep. Kelly Townsend for knitting her cares away.   The budget process was very stressful. She found a healthy outlet for stress.    And That is the point!   Making important decisions while under the kind of stress that pushes a person to Knit. On. The. State. House. Floor  is probably not a good process. 

#7 -    Leave a comment for your suggestion.

Keep reading for more pictures and awards,   including the Sheldon Cooper award ... 

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