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Political Buzz – June 2011


The complete text of Gov. Jan Brewer's statement Friday on the Legislature's inaction during the first day of the special session on extending unemployment benefits:

PHOENIX - “I didn’t act lightly this week when I called the Legislature into an emergency Special Session. The minor statutory change that I’ve proposed would extend federally-funded unemployment aid for as many as 45,000 Arizona families in need, while keeping nearly $3.5 million a week flowing into the local economy. There is no state cost, and no future state obligation.

“Legislation drafted by my staff, in coordination with lawmakers, was prepared for consideration by the Legislature. I remain hopeful that will still happen. This Legislature owes an ‘up or down’ vote to the people of Arizona on this critical issue.

“I understand that some legislators have concerns about the extension of unemployment aid. They worry about the federal deficit. So do I. But you don’t balance the federal budget by turning your back on Arizonans in their time of need. That’s not principled fiscal conservatism. It’s just cruel. And we are better than this.

“The jobless rate in Arizona remains an unacceptable 9.3 percent, and is significantly higher in many rural areas. Legislation drafted by my team would provide temporary assistance to the unemployed, while requiring that they demonstrate and document their efforts to find work. Long-term, I’m happy to consider additional actions to boost our state economy. But thousands of Arizonans will lose their federal unemployment assistance if we don’t take action immediately. Throwing them a lifeline is the priority.

“So, here is my message to legislators that will return to the Capitol on Monday: Get to work. The people of Arizona, your constituents, are counting on it.”


Gov. Jan Brewer took a considerable political risk in calling this week’s special legislative session on unemployment benefits.

That’s because it continues Brewer’s recent departure from the lock-step conservative agenda that she and the Republican legislative leadership have carried out in the last couple of years.

She first broke that spell in April, vetoing more than two dozen bills, some of them the pet projects of her fellow conservatives. One GOP senator said in reaction that the governor wasn’t even conservative any more.

Now comes the governor’s call for extending benefits to thousands of Arizonans who have been unemployed for more than a year and a half.

Brewer argues that while she isn’t happy doing it, changing the law to allow the state’s unemployed another 20 weeks of benefits at federal expense is needed.

Legislators argue that it adds to the federal debt and discourages people from finding work.

Brewer’s approach could be labeled pragmatic, while the legislators are sticking to ideology.

In this era of political intransigence, wandering from the ideological base on either end of the political spectrum can be considered heresy. That’s the risk Brewer is taking with her long-time political allies in the Legislature.

The governor may consider it a risk worth taking, for a couple of reasons.

First, it can define her independence from the stranglehold that Senate President Russell Pearce has on the state’s political agenda, to the point that some have called him the de facto governor telling Brewer what to do.

Second, her stand on this and other important issues could define Brewer’s tenure as governor.

It’s political theater to most of us, but perhaps not to those 15,000 out of work Arizonans.


Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has rolled out a bill designed to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used by the Department of Defense. The proposal is of note because Senator Udall is calling it the Udall-Giffords DOD Energy Security Act. A similar proposal was sponsored by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords last year. Udall also sponsored similar legislation last year. When the proposals were floated in 2010 neither received much support in Washington. Udall’s bill had just four cosponsors and was referred to a committee where it was never heard. The House version sponsored by Giffords found support only from the Congresswoman and also never received a hearing.


Arizona faces a "dire situation" in education, economics and -- purported to be the root cause -- its ideologically driven public policy-making.

That's the starting point for a new state research organization, the Grand Canyon Institute.

It's a collection of former legislators and others involved in public policy and research, assembled with the intention of bringing "a pragmatic approach to addressing economic, fiscal, budgetary and taxation challenges confronting Americans with a special emphasis on Arizona issues," according to its statement of purpose on the institute's Website.

The institute, which will function as a policy research organization, describes itself on the Website as a "nonpartisan think tank ... led by a bipartisan group of former state lawmakers, economists, community leaders, and academicians."

Leading its board are two former legislators, Democrat George Cunningham and Republican Susan Gerard. Cunningham served as former Gov. Rose Mofford's chief of staff and former Gov. Janet Napolitano's budget director. Gerard is "a former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services and was health policy adviser to Napolitano in Napolitano's first term as governor.

The institute weighed in for the first time on a policy issue today, with a Cunningham op-ed in the Arizona Republic calling for extension of unemployment benefits that are about to expire for an estimated 15,000 Arizonans.

Here's how the institute describes what it will do to try moving Arizona's political discussions and subsequent policy-making to the center of the spectrum:

"This Centrist Research Center will serve as an independent think tank that reflects mainstream American values and a pragmatic approach to economic, fiscal, budgetary, and taxation issues that confront all Americans but with a special emphasis on Arizona’s current and future challenges."


Oro Valley is about to transition to a new town manager, after Jerene Watson gave her notice last month. She's leaving the town to take a deputy city manager position in Flagstaff. Oro Valley's town council named Greg Caton, now the town's assistant manager, to replace Watson on an interim basis.

Caton has worked in local government administration for about 14 years, including several communities in Colorado before moving to Oro Valley late last year, he said. He'll be interim town manager for an undetermined amount of time, as the council hasn't set a schedule for hiring someone permanently, he said.

Watson makes $155,647 a year as Oro Valley's manager. Caton makes $124,639 a year as assistant town manager. His salary will go up 10 percent, to $137,103, starting June 13. His title will be acting town manager starting then, and will change to interim town manager July 1.

In her resignation letter, Watson said it was not an easy decision for her to leave Oro Valley.

"This has been a highlight of my career to serve in the role of town manager and a special honor guiding public services alongside a highly dedicated organization of employees who work well as a team in a family-like atmosphere with a passion for customer service and strong desire to help make government work for the people we serve," she wrote.

Caton said he's excited about the new position.

"One of my primary objectives will be continuing to keep the organization and the community advancing, making forward progress and not go into kind of a status quo mentality. We've got a lot of challenges ahead of us and we've got a lot of great opportunities and it's my role to assist council in achieving their established goals," Caton said in an interview.



There's no shortage of decisions on this year's Tucson ballot. The open mayor's seat and three city council members are up for election. For the first time, the city elections will be conducted entirely by mail.

First off, there are three - yes, three - primaries in the race for the open mayor's seat. Marshall Home and Jonathan Rothschild will face off for the Democratic nomination. In the Green party, both Dave Croteau and Mary DeCamp are competing for the nomination. Republicans will choose between Ron Asta and Shaun McClusky. After the primary, independent candidate Pat Darcy will join the nominees from each party for the general election.

In the city council seats, each incumbent has a challenger:

West side ward one: Democrat Joe Flores is challenging incumbent Democrat Regina Romero

Northeast side ward two: incumbent Democrat Paul Cunningham faces Republican Jennifer Rawson

Southeast side ward four: incumbent Democrat Shirley Scott faces Republican Tyler Vogt

The city primary election is Aug. 30.

Tucson election Politics,

About Political Buzz

News, commentary, analysis from the AZPM political team: Christopher Conover, Andrea Kelly, Michael Chihak.