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Political Buzz – January 2012


The Arizona Republic reports that President Obama will visit Phoenix next week as part of a five-state trip following his State of the Union speech. Read the Republic story here.

Obama's visit should be taken as a sign that he considers Arizona a swing state, despite having lost to favorite son John McCain in 2008.

As noted in the Republic story, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Democratic National Committee chairwoman, says "all the ingredients are here for Arizona to be in play," including a growing Hispanic population that should favor Democrats.

Arizona politics Obama Wasserman Schultz,


Tucson’s new mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, has done the politically improbable only six weeks in office: He got a significant issue off his desk, calming for now a growing herd of angry Tucsonans.

The mayor announced a deal to move both of Reid Park Zoo’s elephants to San Diego, keeping them together as many Tucson residents had demanded.

As a native, Rothschild must know the perils of pachyderm politics in the Old Pueblo. The admonition that you can’t fight City Hall gets flipped around when it comes to Tucson and its elephants. City leaders have gotten their trunks caught in the ringer more than once over these giants.

Our latest elephantine episode was on the cusp of controversy when the deal with San Diego was struck.

For you newcomers, here’s an abbreviated history of Tucson’s elephant issues.

Our first zoo elephant was Sabu, an Asian male bought from a petting zoo when he was two years old in 1966. By 1970, he was a big brute, and his nasty disposition included knocking a zookeeper around.

That led the zoo commission to sign his death warrant. But a cacophony of trumpeting arose from the populace, and the City Council voted unanimously to spare him and instead put the zoo commission to death by abolishing it.

Sabu died in 1981, and his passing merited a top-of-page-one obituary in one local newspaper.

And did you know that in the 1970s, a circus elephant died in Tucson? Its carcass was claimed by scientists who wanted to watch it decompose. So it was unceremoniously deposited on the slope of Tumamoc Hill as a science experiment. There, it drew more curiosity than controversy.

Yes, we love our elephants in Tucson. Keep that in mind if you have your eye on local elective office.

Just ask Mayor Rothschild, who now has in his brief political career already successfully dealt with the elephant in the room.

Jonathan Rothschild Reid Park zoo Sabu the elephant Tumamoc Hill elephants,


According to the Rocky Mountain Poll, 41% of Arizona Republicans are voting for Mitt Romney. The next most popular GOP candidate is undecided with 25%. Rick Santorum gets 14% of the GOP vote.

The Rocky Mountain Poll also shows Romney beating President Obama in a head to head match up. According to the survey, 37% of voters favor President Obama while 43% like Romney in a head to head match up. President Obama beats all other Republican candidates according to the poll.

Arizona’s primary is February 28th.


Pay off your debt.

That is the singular message coming from the experts in the wake of the nation's fiscal woes of the last few years. It's an admonition for businesses, individuals and governmental entities.

So with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer saying she wants to use some of the state's improved tax revenue money to pay off state debt, why are Democrats complaining?

Because they want the money used in other ways. For example, restore some of the $1 billion or so cut from public education funding in the last few years, or the half-billion cut from AHCCCS/Medicaid funding.

Here's the scenario:

The state mortgaged several properties, including the Capitol and the Executive Office Tower next to the Capitol, for $81 million at 3 percent annual interest for 20 years and leased them back.

Because the investors wanted a guaranteed return on the money, the state agreed to a penalty of 10 years' interest if it were paid off before 10 years had lapsed.

Now the state is bringing in much more revenue than it projected, $500 million or more just this fiscal year. Brewer says she wants to pay off the debt and "burn the mortgage" for the state's centennial on Feb. 14.

Doing so means paying the lenders $105 million. the borrowing came two years ago, so that works out effectively to a 15 percent annual interest rate.

Doesn't matter, Brewer and Republican legislative leaders say. It's better to have it paid off. The state would pay the money now or over 10 years, and it has the money now, so why not? they argue.

Democrats say why not pay it off over 10 years and use the $105 million now to restore some spending in needed areas?

Brewer and the Republican super majority in the Legislature almost assuredly will get their way on this one. Look for the smoke from that burning mortgage in a month or so.

Arizona Capitol Arizona Legislature Debt Gov Jan Brewer,


Former State Representative David Lujan is moving to the Senate. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors selected Lujan to take over for Kyrsten Sinema who resigned last week to run for Congress.

Lujan served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010 when he made an unsuccessful bid for Attorney General.

Lujan will serve the remaining year of Sinema’s term. He is not expected to run for re-election. He will take his seat in the coming days.


After hearing the public’s reaction last night to a proposed new law that would make it illegal to send text messages while driving in Tucson, the City Council says it will take a formal vote on the idea within a month.

Council members seemed supportive of such a ban but decided to make changes to the proposal, including who would be exempt and how steep the fine could be, and then reconsider it later.

The Tucson city attorney drafted the proposal using the Phoenix city ordinance that bans texting while driving there. During the public comment portion of the meeting, county resident Mark Spear said it could be hard to enforce, and suggested the council slow down its timeline.

“I think there should be a pilot program with a review of the effectiveness and public input prior to continuing after the pilot program," Spear said.

Others spoke in support of the ban, including the chairman of the city and county bicycle advisory committee, and a local trauma doctor.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, who supports a ban, said she thinks it would serve as a deterrent.

“Having traveled in cities where these kinds of bans are in effect, one of the first things that gets communicated when you get behind the wheel is a cab driver or a friend or somebody saying, ‘don’t text around here,’” Uhlich said.

Similar proposals have been made to ban texting while driving statewide, but those have never made it into law, which is one of the reasons city councilmembers say want to take action locally. The council plans to take a final vote on a Tucson texting while driving ban within the next 30 days.

About Political Buzz

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