Jan Brewer, Arizona governor by grace of Janet Napalitano going to Washington, said she would not run for a third term. This is actually hilarious, because by our state Constitution she may not serve a third term. This announcement would be roughly equivalent to Obama announcing next year he was not seeking a third term as President. It is simply absurd, and an indicator of the low quality of politicians we get in this state, that she actively entertained the extra-Constitutional notion of a third term for so long.
Archive for the ‘Arizona’ Category.
Former Arizona State Parks director Ken Travous takes to the editorial page of our local paper to criticize current park management and the Arizona legislature for not sending enough money to parks"
Things were looking pretty good, and I guess that’s the problem. In some odd kind of way, employing some type of sideways logic, the Legislature deemed that if State Parks is getting along well, it must be out of our control. So, after 15 years of parks acting like a business, the Legislature decided to act like a government and take their money. A little bit here and there in the beginning, to test the public reaction, and then in breathtaking swaths.
Heritage Fund ... gone. Enhancement fund ... swiped. General fund? No way. A $250,000 bequest? Oops, they caught us; better put it back.
State Parks now has a mountainous backlog of maintenance projects all because the Legislature would rather wholly own a failure than share a success. We need to put people in the halls that care about those things that we want our children to enjoy, and a governor who will stand in the breach when the next onslaught appears.
I agree with Travous that our parks could use some more funds. But what Mr. Travous ignores is that the seeds of this problem were very much sown on his watch.
Travous points out that revenues in the parks expanded to nearly $10 million when he was in charge. But left unsaid is that at the same time agency expenses on his watch ballooned to a preposterous $33 million a year**. At every turn, Travous made decisions that increased the agency's costs. For example, park rangers were all given law enforcement certifications, substantially increasing their pay and putting them all into the much more expensive law enforcement pension fund. There is little evidence this was necessary -- Arizona parks generally are not hotbeds of crime -- but it did infuriate many customers as some rangers focused more on citation-writing than customer service. There is a reason McDonald's doesn't write citations in their own parking lot.
What Mr. Travous fails to mention is that the parks were falling apart on his watch - even with these huge budgets - because he tended to spend money on just about anything other than maintaining current infrastructure. Infrastructure maintenance is not sexy, and sexy projects like the Kartchner Caverns development (it is a gorgeous park) always seem to win out in government budgeting. You can see why in this editorial -- Kartcher is his legacy, whereas bathroom maintenance is next to invisible. I know deferred maintenance was accumulating during his tenure because Arizona State Parks itself used to say so. Way back in 2009 I saw a book Arizona State Parks used with legislators. It showed pictures of deteriorating parks, with notes that many of these locations had not been properly maintained for a decade. The current management inherited this problem from previous leaders like Travous, it did not create it.
So where were those huge budgets going, if not to maintenance? Well, for one, Travous oversaw a crazy expansion of the state parks headquarters staff. When he left, there were about 150 people (possibly more, it is hard to count) on the parks headquarters staff. This is almost the same number of full-time employees that were actually in the field maintaining parks. As a comparison, our company runs public parks and campgrounds very similar to those in Arizona State Parks and we serve about the same number of visitors -- but we have only 1.5 people in headquarters, allowing us to put our resources on the ground in parks serving customers and performing maintenance. None of the 100+ parks we operate have the same deferred maintenance problems that Arizona State Parks have, despite operating with less than a third of the budget that Travous had in his heyday.
I am not much of a political analyst, but my reading is that the legislature cut park funds because it lost confidence in the ability of Arizona State Parks to manage itself. Did they really need to cut, say, $250,000 from parks to close a billion dollar budget hole? Arizona State Parks had its budgets cut because the legislature did not think it was acting fiscally prudent, like cutting off a child's allowance after he has shown bad judgement.
I have met with current Director Bryan Martyn and much of the Arizona State Park staff. Ken Travous is not telling them anything they do not know. Of course they would like more funds to fix up their parks. But they understand that before they can expect any such largess, they need to prove that Arizona State Parks will use its funds in a fiscally sensible manner. And I get the impression that they are succeeding, that the legislature is gaining confidence in this agency. The irony is that Arizona State Parks will be able to grow and get more funds only when it has overcome the problems Travous left for them.
** Footnote: Getting an actual budget number for ASP is an arduous task. I once talked to a very smart local consultant named Grady Gammage who worked with parks and finally despaired of accurately laying out the budget and allocating it to tasks. What this achieves is that it allows insiders to criticize anyone they want as being "misinformed" because almost any number one picks is wrong. The $33 million figure comes from outside consulting reports. The headcount numbers come from numbers the ASP information officer gave me several years ago. Headcount numbers are different today but the ones above are relevant to the agency as it existed when Travous left.
Looking at this map of state licensing regimes (darker is more onerous, with AZ being the worst), it is hard to correlate with states being Republican or Democrat. That doesn't surprise me, because I have always thought the urge to restrict competition and protect incumbents has always been a bipartisan enterprise.
So I sat and thought for a minute about my home state of AZ. Why is it the worst? We have a pretty good libertarian history here, from Goldwater onwards. We have at least one fairly libertarian Senator (Jeff Flake). So what is the deal?
My hypothesis is that it is related to immigration. The same majority Republican legislators who are generally open to free markets simultaneously have an incredible fear and loathing of immigration. Perhaps our onerous business licensing regime is driven by nativists wanting to protect themselves from competition by new immigrants, immigrants who would struggle to compete onerous licensing requirements?
So what does this map look like vs. immigrant population density? Via Wikipedia, here are the states on density of Hispanics
Hmm, we might be getting somewhere, but its not a perfect fit. So instead, let's hypothesize that business licensing is aimed at non-white, non-hispanic groups in general (similar to early justifications for the minimum wage as a way to keep black workers migrating from the south out of traditionally "white" jobs). I cannot get it by state, but the map below by county looks pretty dang similar to the licensing map. Areas in blue have above average percent of non-whites, red is below average.
Not a perfect fit certainly (one would expect Texas to be more onerous), but perhaps close enough to treat the hypothesis seriously. I had always thought that I would be the last one to play the race card in a policy analysis, but business licensing tends to have an inherently base motive (protect one group from competition from another group) that is pretty easy to square with racial and ethnic fear.
I have written here any number of times about the crazy ongoing subsidies by Glendale, Arizona (a 250,000 resident suburb of Phoenix) to an NHL franchise. The city last year was teetering at the edge of bankruptcy from past hockey subsidies, but decided to double down committing to yet more annual payments to the new ownership of the team.
Surprisingly, throwing more money into an entreprise that has run through tens of millions of taxpayer money without any hint of a turnaround turns out to be a bad investment
Revenue from the Phoenix Coyotes is coming up short for Glendale, which approved a $225 million deal to keep the National Hockey League franchise in 2013.
City leaders expected to see at least $6.8 million in revenue annually from the team to help offset the $15 million the city pays each year for team owners to manage Jobing.com Arena. The revenue comes from ticket surcharges, parking fees and a split of naming rights for the arena.
Halfway through the fiscal year, the city has collected $1.9 million from those sources, and nearly $2.3 million when including sales-tax revenue from the arena.
Even including the rent payments on the publicly-funded stadium, Glendale is still losing money each year on the deal.
The source of the error in forecasting is actually pretty funny. Glendale assumed that it could charge very high monopoly parking fees for the arena spaces ($10-$30 a game). In some circumstances, such fees would have stuck. But in this case, two other entities (a mall and another sports stadium) have adjoining lots, and once parking for hockey was no longer free, these other entities started competing parking operations which held down parking rates and volumes (I always find it hilarious when the government attempts to charge exorbitant monopoly prices and the free market undercuts them).
Had the parking rates stuck at the higher level, one can assume they still would have missed their forecast. The Coyotes hockey team already has among the worst attendance numbers in the league, and hockey ticket buyers are particularly price sensitive, such that a $20 increase in the cost of attending a game likely would have driven attendance, and thus parking fees and city ticket surcharges and sales taxes, down. Many private companies who are used to market dynamics still fail to forecast competitive and customer reaction to things like price increases well, and the government never does it well.
I have little tolerance for enforced patriotism of any sort. In fact, having loyalty oaths and singing songs and genuflecting to flags all seem more consistent with totalitarianism than the values of liberty that patriots are nominally trying to promote. If I were rotting in a crappy Phoenix jail for being caught with marijuana or busted for driving while Mexican, I would be even less patriotic
Dozens of Arizona inmates will eat nothing but bread and water for at least seven days in the latest punishment by one of America's toughest sheriffs.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio handed down the sentence after inmates defaced American flags hung in each jail cell. He says the men tore the flags, wrote or stepped on them and threw them in the toilet.
The flags are part of a push for patriotism in county jail cells. Arpaio has ordered thatGod Bless America and the national anthem be played daily in every jail facility.This isn't Arpaio's first controversial move. He made headlines for keeping thousands of inmates outdoors in repurposed military tents in weather that was hotter than 117 degrees. He also made male inmates wear pink underwear.
He banned smoking, coffee and movies in all jails. And he's even put his stamp on mealtime. Inmates are fed only twice a day, and he stopped serving salt and pepper – all to save taxpayers money, he says.
Somehow I screwed this up before. Here is the offer (pdf): Ballet Arizona Nutcracker - Up to 50% off
I had a percent sign in the URL which screwed everything up, I think.
This weekend our family dog, the world's largest Maltese at over 12 pounds but still a small dog, was attacked by a coyote. They redid the golf course nearby into a links course and ever since we have had an enormous pack of coyotes out there -- the other night I saw a dozen hanging out together.
Yesterday the coyote got into a fenced area and grabbed Snuggles (please no name jokes today) in its jaws and was carrying her off when my daughter saw it and screamed and yelled until it dropped our dog and went away. If my daughter had had a gun, that coyote would have been blown away -- my daughter was in total mama bear mode.
We took the dog to the emergency animal hospital, and eventually to their surgery center. Snuggles was put on oxygen and an IV and within a few hours had a surgeon operate on her chest, stitching closed holes in her chest wall on both sides of her body. So that is how we spent our weekend.
Today she is doing OK, but is still sluggish and won't eat. We are hoping for the best, and that she will beat the odds (most dogs this size are DOA from coyote attacks). Here she is with her pink bandages, still in the oxygen tent.
Postscript: It was interesting to go through the process of getting emergency care in the veterinary world. At each step of the process we got a detailed cost estimate in advance of the charges we could expect. We were able to request her medical records at any time, and they were both detailed and impressive. Every step was documented. We saw her x-rays and got pictures and video from the surgery to show us exactly what damage had to be repaired and how they did it. The two locations we have been to (the local hospital and the surgery center) both are part of VCA, It has not been cheap, but the care has been impressive.
One odd conclusion to this is that there is something to be said for the old-style communal hospital ward vs. the private rooms of today. One of the reasons I feel good that they are keeping an eye on Snuggs (as the men of the household call her to avoid embarassment) is that all the critical animals are essentially in cages and enclosures in the same room, where someone always is there to see immediately if they are in distress.
Update: Got the bill today for the surgery. Pretty much exactly what they promised in advance. Not cheap -- I think I am going to rename this dog Steve Austin
Update #2: I don't really blame the coyote - nature red in tooth and claw and all that. Anger at the coyote is just cover for my personal guilt that we did not make things safer for her. We are making changes right now to give her a safer area to run around and do her business.
I may have mentioned in the past that my wife is on the Board of Ballet Arizona. Phoenix has a reputation as a cultural wasteland, but our Ballet is certainly an exception to this. Our artistic director Ib Andersen is fabulous, garnering top reviews even from the fussy New York press. We have several young dancers, including one young lady who recently defected from Cuba, who are astonishing and whom you should frankly come see now before they are lured away to the bright lights of New York or Washington.
Anyway, they have a promotion running for the Nutcracker this holiday season and have allowed me to offer this same promotion to our readers, with discounts up to 50% on tickets. See this pdf for details: Link Fixed to Ballet Arizona Offer.
Today is the anniversary of what is probably the greatest moment in Arizona sports history. But it is also the occasion of the most precient bit of sports commentary I have ever heard. Watch this brief clip. Listen to Tim McCarver's comment just before the second pitch and then see what happens. He called it exactly.
I suppose we Arizonans are biased, but the whole game is one of the best baseball games I have ever watched. Randy Johnson relieving Curt Schilling. Mariano Rivera relieving Roger Clemens. You can watch it all here.
The Arizona Republic says there is not stock market bubble. Can't think of a better reason to sell.
Our concession operations on Federal lands are still mostly open today (we had two US Forest Service local offices ask us to close, but these are both offices that have a tradition of interpreting the rules in odd ways).
By all the rules, being open to the public is the right decision. We are tenants on US Forest Service land and operate entirely outside of the government budget, receiving no money from the government and we employ no government workers. No government employee has a duty station in any of the parks we operate. There is no more reason to close our operations than to, say, ban cars from Federal highways during a shutdown.
However, apparently we have been told by several local folks in the Forest Service that the higher ups (this tends to mean folks up in the Administration) are re-evaluating our status. I do not know what is going on today, but in the past this has often meant that the administration is considering closing us to make the government closure as painful as possible. After all, as I have written here and here, parks closures seem to be one of the few things anyone notices in a government shut down.
Update: Our most recent guidance: "1. The Forest Service is allowing concessionaires to continue to operate as long as no Forest Service personnel is needed to ensure safety." It looks like we may have to close a few sites that are dependent on USFS operated water systems, but otherwise most of our locations will be open. I am hoping to get out a press release and update our web site but things are still fluid this morning.
Update #2: Definitely still open everywhere but in one location (Laguna Mountain, CA) where we depend on a USFS-operated water system that will close. no closure press release 2013
The official report is out, and apparently absolutely no mistakes were made by anyone leading to the deaths of 19 in the Yarnell Hill fires. Despite the fact that -- these 19 men were totally out of communication; and no one knew where they were; and they entered a ridiculously dangerous patch of ground; and they were not pursuing any coherent goal anyone can name -- no one made any mistakes and there is nothing here to learn from. Wow.
Here is my analysis of what is going on with this report: Substantial mistakes were made by both the fire team and by their leaders. Their leaders wrote the report, and certainly were not going to incriminate themselves, particularly given that they likely face years of litigation. They could have perhaps outlined the mistakes the team made, but the families and supporters of the dead men would have raised a howl if the dead firefighters were blamed for mistakes while the leadership let themselves off the hook, and surely would have pushed back on the culpability of the firefighting effort's management.
So this report represents an implicit deal being offered to the families -- we will let your dead rest in peace by not highlighting the mistakes they made if you will lay off of us and the mistakes we made. We will just blame it on God (I kid you not, see Prescott chief's statements here). Most Arizonans I know seem willing to have these folks die as heroes who succumbed to the inherent risks of the profession, rather than stupid errors, so we may never have an honest assessment of what happened. And yet again the opportunity to do a major housecleaning of wildland firefighting is missed.
This is the same institution that is opposing Grand Canyon University's entry into Division I athletics because, as a for-profit university, they are apparently not academically serious enough. For some reasons GCU's accountability to shareholders isn't as pure and wonderful as ASU's accountability to former customers who will never use their product again except perhaps to attend a football game (e.g. alumni).
Recently small town Grantville, Georgia police chief Doug Jordan flew out to meet with our very own Sheriff Joe.
Following their meeting, Jordan expressed his hopes to establish Grantville’s own drug team. He also planned to have some of his officers travel to Arizona for training.
Seriously? A dedicated drug team? Grantville has a population of 3,096 in 2011. Here it is in all its metropolitan glory:
Next, they will be wanting a tank.
"We are going to hallowed ground," says Jim Paxon, spokesman for the Arizona Forestry Division, moments before leading reporters and TV crews to the site where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in a June 30 wildfire.
"They are almost superhuman," Paxon drawls to reporters gathered on the morning of July 23. "As we go up there, there's a Granite Mountain Hotshots shirt on a cactus. We would ask that you touch the shirt . . . in reverence to the loss."
Darrell Willis, the Granite Mountain Hotshots direct supervisor in the Prescott Fire Department said that their deaths were God's will
"The voice of what actually happened, we'll never know," Willis says. "We're not going to have that information from [the dead men]."
Willis continues, "It was just one of those things that happened. You can call it an accident. I just say that God had a different plan for that crew at this time."
I don't know how much this tragedy gets covered nowadays outside of Arizona, but it still dominates the news here. I have no problem sending all the sympathy in the world to the young families of these men. But I am exhausted with the fetishizing as heroic of what looks to be a total screw up. An experienced crew had absolutely no business being where they were, or in this day and age so badly out of communication. They either blundered into, or were incompetently led into (the facts are still coming out) an absurdly dangerous position. At best, they were there to protect a ranch house that had already been evacuated and was likely insured a lot better than the lives of many of the crew members.
From my observations operating for years in the US Forest Service and other wilderness areas, wildland firefighting needs a serious housecleaning. I thought for sure this tragedy would be a stick driven into that particular anthill, almost guaranteeing scrutiny and accountability might follow. Now I am not so sure.
Some libertarians, who would normally be all for open immigration, have expressed concern about -- in the name of liberty -- allowing into the country people who will generally vote against it. I have at times shared this concern but in the end find it wanting.
However, I have personally observed this happening in both of the recent states in which I have lived (Arizona and Colorado). But the source of the problem has not been immigration from Mexico or any other country but from California. Californians seem hell-bent to escape the mess they have made of their state. They run to other states complaining of the disaster they are escaping. And then they proceed to vote for the same taxation and regulatory policies that screwed up California.
Arizona state politicians are excited to get all that new income tax money. While I am happy to see new wealth and talent flowing into our state, I fear that these new immigrants are plague carriers, bringing the virus of out-of-control state power to heretofore only mildly infected states.
The other day, the City of Glendale approved a deal which has the city subsidizing (more in a second) the buyers of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team to get them to actually stay in town rather than move to Seattle. The deal is arguably better than deals it was offered in the past (it gets shares of parking and naming rights it did not have before) and may even be a rational deal given where it is today.
But that is the catch -- the phrase "where it is today." At some level it is insane for a city of 250,000 people to pony up even more subsidies for a team that has the lowest attendance in the league. The problem is that the city built the stadium in the first place -- a $300 million dollar palace for a metropolitan area that already had a major arena downtown and which was built (no disrespect to Glendale) on the ass-end of the metropolitan area, a good 90 minute round trip drive for the affluent Scottsdale and east-side corporate patrons who typically keep a sports franchise afloat.
Building this stadium was a terrible decision, and I and many others said so at the time. But once the decision was made, it drove all the future decisions. Because the hockey team is the only viable tenant to pay the rent in that building, the city rationally will kick back subsidies to the team to keep it in place to protect its rent payments and sales taxes from businesses supported by the team and the arena. The original decision to build that stadium has handcuffed Glendale's fiscal situation for decades to come. One can only hope that cities considering major stadium projects will look to Glendale's and Miami's recent experiences and think twice about building taxpayer funded facilities for billionaires.
The deal the other night to keep the team went down in the only way it could have. As I had written, the NHL was insisting on selling the team for its costs when it took it over in bankruptcy, which were about $200 million, which was well north of the $100 million the team was worth, creating a bid-ask gap. Several years ago, the city tried to just hand $100 million to a buyer to make up the gap, but failed when challenged by the Goldwater Institute. The only real avenue it had left was to pass the value over to the buyers in the form of an above-market-rate stadium management contract.
And that is what happened, and I guess I will say at least it was all moderately transparent. The NHL came down to a price of $175 million, still $75 million or so above what the team is worth. The City had already sought arms-length bids for the stadium management contract, and knew that a fair market price for that contract would be $6 million per year. It ended up paying the buying group $15 million per year for the 15-year contract, representing a subsidy of $9 million a year for 15 years. By the way, the present value of $9 million over 15 years at 8% is... $75 million, exactly what was needed to make up the bid-ask gap. Again, I think the city almost had to do it, because the revenue stream it was protecting is likely higher than $9 million. But this is the kind of bad choices they saddled themselves with by building the stadium in the first place.
So, what is the next danger to the Republic that requires coercive government control to protect us all from disaster? Pedicabs:
Operating a pedicab used to be cheap and easy. A person could make a buck with little or no overhead and without restrictive, burdensome regulations.
That’s no longer true in some Valley cities that have approved ordinances limiting who can operate pedicabs on their streets. Scottsdale is the latest to tighten its rules, joining Phoenix and Glendale. No other Valley municipality regulates pedicabs.
To continue doing business in Scottsdale, pedicab operators must have a valid Arizona driver’s license, maintain insurance and adhere to regulations pertaining to the safety and visibility of the pedicab. The ordinance, which became law on May 9, includes penalties for non-compliance but does not specify any inspections.
Phoenix’s ordinance, which went into effect in August 2008, was in response to concerns and complaints from downtown stakeholders and patrons regarding pedicab activity, city spokeswoman Sina Matthes said. The ordinance is stricter than Scottsdale’s, requiring Police Department inspections and inspection tags.
Glendale’s ordinance, which became law in late 2007, requires a city-issued license and limits the hours of operation and what roads can be used by operators, said Sgt. Jay O’Neill of the Glendale Police Department.
Why the regulation. What safety disaster led to this? Well, apparently some poor pedicab operator allowed himself to be hit by a drunk driver.
Scottsdale’s ordinance was prompted by a Jan. 4 crash involving a suspected drunken driver and a pedicab trailer on Scottsdale Road near Rose Lane. The two pedicab passengers suffered serious head and spine injuries.
Scottsdale police determined that there were no mechanical or safety violations.
Here is some government cluelessness: it is OK if we rape you as long as we ask for your feedback first
In Scottsdale, operators must maintain at all times a commercial general-liability insurance policy of at least $1 million per occurrence and $2 million annual aggregate.
Jay Ewing Jr., owner and operator of Big Papa Human Powered Transportation, said four people have asked him if he wanted to purchase their equipment because they are going out of business in connection with the Scottsdale regulations. He says a pedicab operator can expect to pay at least $250 a month for insurance....
Scottsdale police Cmdr. Jeff Walther said the transition has gone smoothly because all operators were made aware of the proposed changes and were given the opportunity to provide input before the regulations were approved by the council.
“I was surprised, my folks were surprised, that almost immediately there seemed to be a pretty dramatic decline in operators,” Walther said.
I am a little late to this, via the Washington Post
A federal judge ruled on Friday that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies had violated the constitutional rights of Latinos by targeting them during raids and traffic stops here and throughout Maricopa County...
The ruling prohibits the sheriff’s office from using “race or Latino ancestry” as a factor in deciding to stop any vehicle with Latino occupants, or as a factor in deciding whether they may be in the country without authorization.
It also prohibits deputies from reporting a vehicle’s Latino occupants to federal immigration authorities or detaining, holding or arresting them, unless there is more than just a “reasonable belief” that they are in the country illegally. To detain them, the ruling said, the deputies must also have reasonable suspicion that the occupants are violating the state’s human-trafficking and employment laws or committing other crimes.
Good. Phoenix residents, even those who support Arpaio, all know people are routinely busted here for "driving while brown." I remember one time Arpaio made one of his famous "crime sweeps" through the tony suburb of Fountain Hills (where he lives) and managed to arrest dozens of Hispanics -- more Hispanics than I thought one could even find in that neighborhood, much less find committing crimes. Seriously, I don't think I could have found that many on a bet.
Deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office raided a Mesa landscaping company early Wednesday morning, arresting nearly three dozen people suspected of being in the country illegally.
The raid on offices of Artistic Land Management, on Main Street just west of Dobson Road, happened about 4:30 a.m., according to one workerwho was handcuffed and detained before being released when he produced documentation that he was in the country legally....
Juarez estimated about 35 workers were handcuffed with plastic zip-ties while deputies checked for documents. Those who could provide proof they were in the country legally were released, while others were put on buses and taken away.
Basically his deputies zip tied everyone with brown skin, releasing them only when they could produce their papers. It has become a common occurrence in the Hispanic community here to have family members racing to work with identity documents to free loved ones from Arpaio captivity.
Raymond Rodden was arrested and dragged to the police station for interrogation for a) taking pictures of the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Court Building (not a crime) and b) walking down an alley (also not a crime). The police followed him for an hour on foot (how creepy would that be), tore his car apart, have impounded and will not return his phone and computer, and contacted the man's boss to make sure Rodden would get fired from his job. Eventually they released him, because he had done nothing illegal. They kept repeating this to him in the interrogation:
“I told them I was not doing anything illegal by taking photos and they kept saying, ‘we’re not disputing that it’s illegal, we just find it odd,’” he said.
Sorry, but people cannot be arrested, detained, and have their property searched and seized for being odd.
This seems to be a typical police state reaction after a terrorist incident or public crime. If we had just hassled that guy earlier for being odd, this may never have happened. The problem is that for every one person who does odd things in the runup to a horrendous crime, another hundred thousand people do odd things because either they are odd or because we simply do not understand their motives.
My daughter is ready for her final (in-car) driving test to try to get her driver's license. But it turns out that the AZ DMV only gives driving tests before 3PM each day.
This is yet another policy designed for the pleasure of government workers (who want to get home nice and early) and not customer-citizens. Ask yourself: Who are 99% of the people who take the in-car driving test. Answer: 16-year-olds, also known as high school sophomores. And what are they doing up until 3PM weekdays? Why, they are going to school!
So I have to pull my daughter out of school to take the driving test. But it is worse than that, because we can't just show up at 2:30, missing perhaps her last class. The AZ DMV has this insane process that is essentially a series of chained queues. One waits in line for the receptionist, who gives the "customer" a number based on what task they want to complete (license, tags, etc). One then waits endlessly for this first number to come up, only to find that the person who calls you up can only complete half the task (at best), so you then have to wait in line for the next person to complete the next task, etc.
Well, reports from all the other parents tell us that if you show up two hours early (e.g. at 1PM), there is a very good chance you will not get the driving test. If all the prior queues one must work through cause one to show up at the driving test queue even at 3:01 -- Sorry! You have to come back another day and start all over.
This is obviously insane. The chained queue process is nuts. The fact that the one portion school age kids must complete ends before school is out is nuts. The fact that the person who performs the last step in the chained process goes home first is nuts.
Until last year, and with my previous kid, we did not have to do this. AZ had a very sensible law that allowed private licensed driving schools to give the driving test. You could still go through the DMV, but for a $100 or so one could get this done via a high service, no-queue, work-on-the-weekend private company. But of course our legislature ended this sensible service last year, ostensibly over concerns about quality, but likely because the DMV folks didn't like competition from outsiders who actually gave a sh*t about customer service.
The best time to argue for general principles is when they work against one's own interest, to firmly establish that they are indeed principles rather than political opportunism. Two examples:
First, from a topic rife with political opportunism,
the Supreme Court a three-judge panel recently ruled Obama's NLRB not-really-recess appointments were unconstitutional. I think that was the right decision, but a President has got to be able to get an up or down vote in a timely manner on appointments. As much as I would love to see all of Obama's appointments languish for, oh, four years or so, and as much as I really don't like his activist NLRB, having to resort to procedural hacks of this sort just to fill administrative positions is not good government. The Senate rules (or traditions as the case may be) that even one Senator may put a hold on confirmations is simply insane. While I am a supporter of the filibuster, I think the filibuster should not apply to certain Constitutionally mandated activities. Specifically: passing a budget and appointment confirmations.
Second, readers of this blog know how much I dislike our sheriff Joe Arpaio. He was unfortunately re-elected a couple of months ago, though the vote was closer than usual. This week, an Arizona group who also does not like Joe has announced it is going to seek a recall election against him. Again, as much as I would like to see Arpaio ride off into the sunset, this practice of gearing up for recall elections just days after the election is over is just insane. It is a total waste of money and resources. While I don't like to do anything that helps incumbents, there has to be some sort of waiting period (perhaps 1/4 of the office term) before we start this silliness.
Arizona is generally more intelligently managed, at least fiscally, than California. But while that state still is treated seriously for all its dysfunctionality, Arizona is often a media laughing stock. This is in large part due to the fact that Conservatives in the Arizona legislature just can't seem to stop themselves from proposing a few absurdly goofy pieces of legislation each session.
House Bill 2467, sponsored by Republican state Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, and Steve Smith, proposes the following:
"Before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:
"I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; so help me God."
Smith and Shope are also in on House Bill 2284. Whereas current Arizona law says students in public schools can opt out of doing the pledge if they so choose, Smith's and Shope's proposal says only a child's parents can let them avoid reciting the pledge.
So they want to make it harder to opt-out of the current loyalty oath (Pledge of Allegiance) and then add a new loyalty oath.
Historically, loyalty oaths are the hallmark of dictators, the Caesers and Hitlers of the world. In a free society, loyalty is earned by a government. When government officials demand a blank check in the form of a loyalty oath that pledges allegiance no matter what the government does, watch out.
A few other observations:
- I love the part in the oath above that says "I take this obligation freely." Sure. We won't give you the diploma you have in every other way earned without taking the oath, a diploma practically required to function in our society, but the oath is voluntary. This is the kind of double speak that is a hallmark, along with loyalty oaths, of a dictatorship.
- Apparently to graduate in Arizona, this would force every student to acknowledge the existence of God
- I understand what it means for the President to preserve and defend the Constitution. But what does it mean for the average high school graduate? Just what is this obligating them to do? And what is the penalty for not doing it?
- I would gladly trade having all high schoolers in the state embrace this oath for simply having our state officials, in particular our Sheriff Joe Arpaio, being true to this oath.