Archive for March, 2009

30th March
2009
written by Arizona Kid

House Democrats unveil budget fix

Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

March 30, 2009 – 5:13PM

Key elements include:

• Rolling back a 10 percent income tax cut enacted in 2006, but only for those at the top of the income scale; (a.ka. Robin Hood)

• Suspending the ability to get dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donations to help students go to private and parochial schools;

• Suspending a similar tax credit for donations for public school extracurricular activities.

There also would be a new tax on fossil fuels. But Democrats said a majority of the $233 million raised would be passed along by utilities to their out-of-state customers. (Are you kidding me?)

House Minority Whip Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, pointed out that Gov. Jan Brewer is proposing a temporary $1 billion tax hike for the next three to four years. (Good luck on getting re-elected)

Campbell said a 1 percent tax hike, which would get the income desired, would cost the average family about $360 a year. By contrast, he said the House Democratic plan would add no more than $100 a year to an average family’s tax burden.

There would be differences.

For example, the plan would rescind a 10 percent cut in individual income taxes enacted by lawmakers three years ago, but only for individuals making more than $150,000 a year, or $300,000 for couples. Campbell sidestepped questions of whether that amounted to class warfare. (see Robin Hood above.)

It also would suspend tax credits for donations to organizations that help students attend private and parochial schools.

In 2007, the most recent data available, individuals diverted more than $54.2 million to those programs; corporations claimed $2 million for 2006 according to the latest figures.

Backers of the credits say the lost tax revenues are less than what taxpayers would pay to send the youngsters to public schools. (BINGO!) But Campbell said that’s true only if the students would have been going to public schools in the first place.

“A lot of these tax credits are not being taken by lower income families, they’re not being taken by lower income kids,” Campbell said. “They’re being used by people that I have personal belief probably could afford Brophy if they wanted to go to Brophy,” referring to Brophy College Preparatory, which is run by Jesuits. (Add up to 20% of the private school kids to public schools and watch what it does to your state educations spending.)

But Campbell acknowledged he has no statistics to back up his claim.

Paul Mulligan, director of the organization that provides scholarships to Catholic schools in the Phoenix diocese, said about 60 percent of the 13,000 students get some form of financial aid. He said about a third of those are from families earning less than $30,000 a year; 63 percent have household incomes of less than $50,000.

Gracie Quiroz, his Tucson counterpart, said 78 percent of the recipients are children in families earning less than $50,000 a year for a family of four.

And the Brophy Community Foundation, which provides scholarships for students to attend that school, says on its Web site all aid is based on need.

Campbell, contacted later for a response, said any family getting taxpayer-subsidized help for tuition that doesn’t need it is too much.

“If I were to go out and say 30 percent of taxpayers in Arizona aren’t paying their taxes, people would be in an uproar,” he said.

The Democrats also propose to suspend a similar program that gives donors a dollar-for-dollar credit for funds donated to public schools for extracurricular activities. Campbell said the need for cash to keep schools running makes that credit a luxury the state cannot afford.

“Do you want your kids to go to New York City, or do you want your kids to find New York City on a map?” he asked.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, the No. 2 House Democrat, conceded the plan as crafted is never going to become law. (Thank God!) Instead, she said, it represents a starting point for negotiations with the Republicans, who control the House and Senate, whose plan includes no new taxes and $740 million or more in spending cuts on top of the $580 million already sliced to balance this year’s budget.

That, however, isn’t the only obstacle it faces: Senate Democrats have their own plan to balance the budget.

There are some elements in common, including restoring the state property tax and suspending some tax credits. But Senate Democrats propose to bridge the deficit with $500 million in long-term borrowing.

29th March
2009
written by madge

I got to tell you I’m a huge fan of O’Dell. He has this council’s number down. Their congenial, vote as a group – go along to get along – policy is completely bringing the City of Tucson to a halt.

The city manger is on pins and needles and more worried about self preservation than leading the ship. His cover your A#$s! approach to this years budget has brought the city to a stand still. Hein won’t release a budget until the council gives direction and the council isn’t knowledgeable enough or doesn’t have the guts to propose the needed cuts.  It’s an election year for two power hungry incumbents so watch the sparks fly over the next couple weeks.

We covered Glassman’s impact fee smack down HERE. Tax increases HERE and HERE. Layoffs are off the table HERE. Problems with Rio Nuevo HERE HERE HERE Here, here, here, here….you get the picture.

Do you think there’s a pattern developing in Tucson local government?

From Walter C – AZ Star. 
The City budget is full of emotional, nice-to-do things that could be cut to balance the budget quickly without layoffs. But with the leftist, politically correct bunch on council, don’t look for any logical solutions. Mike Hein’s only goals in this are to keep his job, while crippling the City government to prepare it for a takeover by Chuckelberry and the County goons. Nobody in this game is looking for anything more than advancing their personal goals and agendas (including reelection).

Little action on proposals

The council and Hein have done an intricate dance with the budget over the past year.
Hein urged changes the council either rejected or took no action on — or, in a few cases, implemented.
While rejecting Hein’s proposals, council members offered few alternatives, and haven’t passed any of their own ideas.
Last June, council members complained Hein was over-stepping his authority and they needed to be more involved. But at an October budget-strategy session, in the face of an increasing deficit, they demurred and told Hein to figure out where to make cuts.
In most cases, the council and Hein have backed away from dramatic action.
A timeline
January 2008:Hein created a list of outside-agency funding he believed could be cut. Mayor Bob Walkup stressed belt- tightening in his State of the City speech.
February 2008:Hein announced a hiring freeze, travel restrictions and deferring maintenance and acquisitions to help bridge what was then a $12 million shortfall for the budget year, which ended June 30.
March/April 2008:Hein suspended the city’s sustainability plan of pre-programmed spending increases for road paving, police officers and firefighters, and parks.
June 2008:The council approved this year’s budget, but slammed Hein over a proposal to increase bus fares to raise $1 million. The council soon moved to fire Hein, but then he was retained unanimously weeks later.
August 2008: The city announced it needed to use $12 million to balance the previous year’s budget, lowering the city’s reserves from $44 million to under $32 million.
September 2008:Hein proposed combining Community and Neighborhood services departments to save $380,000. The council agreed.
October 2008:Plunging sales-tax receipts prompted the city’s budget deficit to explode to $51 million. The city said for the first time it might cut or suspend services. The council voted to cut funding for outside agencies by 10 percent, but told Hein to come back in December with a plan for more cuts.
November 2008: The city began to quietly cut swimming pools and recreation centers, the TICET shuttle, graffiti abatement, and the Community Food Bank. It laid off some part-time and seasonal workers.
December 2008: Hein announced another $31 million in cuts were needed. The council signed off on cutting police and fire academies, some Sun Tran bus service, and Parks and Recreation classes.
January 2009: The council said it preferred raising fees and taxes or spending down the city’s rainy-day fund to making massive budget cuts.
February 2009: Hein unveiled budget cuts and potential tax increases for next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Cuts included taking $4 million from outside agencies, saving $2 million by combining the Planning and Development Services departments, cutting $4 million in transit, and hitting employees with furloughs, higher benefit contributions and no more sick-leave buybacks to save a total of $10 million.
He also offered a menu of tax increases, from which he hoped the council would implement $5 million worth.
The council agreed it would back most of Hein’s proposed cuts at that time, but, on Tuesday, council members said they need to think about it further.
Still scrapping Despite earlier statements they would back many of Hein’s cuts, council members criticized Hein over his budget again last week.
Councilwoman Regina Romero demanded more public hearings on the budget, including longer ones to allow more people to speak.
Uhlich was much harsher, saying the council needs to vote on many of Hein’s proposals, rather than continuing to let them linger in the public mind until they become de facto cuts with no council input.
For example, the merger of the Planning and Development Services departments is already under way, and employees have been given layoff notices. The council has discussed the plan, but it has not taken action.
In an interview, Uhlich said she has been “very aggressive to have the budget come in front of us. . . . Decisions have to be made sooner rather than later.”
Councilman Rodney Glassman said in an interview that he has been talking for some time about his priorities of police, fire, parks and roads.
But he said the council has not been able to come to any consensus, and he can’t make decisions alone.
“The longer we wait, the more difficult our financial situation will be,” he said. “It takes four votes to align my priorities with the budget.”
Hein said he welcomes policy direction because he doesn’t want to submit a budget to the council that is dead on arrival. But he told the council that submitting his own budget is “a duty under the (city) charter that I’m willing to fulfill.”
He is scheduled to submit the budget on April 21.
28th March
2009
written by JHiggins

From todays Arizona Republic – Despite a horrid economy, there’s no shortage of interest to build the Arizona Diamondbacks a new spring-training facility, expected to cost more than $100 million and possibly be shared with the Colorado Rockies……

The situation in Tucson, however, has become tense with Hall and Pima County’s top executive trading barbs. After the Diamondbacks sought proposals for a new facility last month, Pima County Administrator C.H. Huckelberry wrote a March 12 letter to county officials.

Huckelberry, who could not be reached Friday, wrote it was “disturbing” that the D-Backs sought a new facility when the franchise “makes a private profit of nearly $3 million on spring training.”

This week, Hall responded to Huckleberry’s letter, writing that the team made less than $1 million in profits and that its facilities “have never been maintained to adequate levels” and “provided risk and caused injuries” to players.

“It is clear to us now that you have moved on and are not seeking a solution for keeping us in Southern Arizona,” Hall wrote. “I also assume you have not been working with the city to help keep the Rockies in Tucson, as they continue to become more and more impatient.”

A Tucson spokesman said the city had no update on negotiations with the Rockies.

28th March
2009
written by Arizona Kid

I gotta hand it to Inside Tucson Business for doing a little investigative reporting and jumping on the Rio Nuevo bandwagon. Keep it up guys the “safety zone – cloth reporting”  is yesterday’s business model. Just ask Kimble at the Citizen.

It was a short but sweet story about how Reno is revitalizing their downtown centered around…..wait for it…… SPORTS STADIUM and ENTERTAINMENT! Why didn’t we think of that?

They even gots a web site – HERE.  Click HERE to see the photos.  If we only had that one to do over again.

From looking at the background their downtown actually looks worse than ours. Looks like they have a great first start. I wonder if they spent $80 million in consultants to get this far?

26th March
2009
written by Arizona Kid

Authors on this blog have called from Mike Hein’s head. After 3 years on the job the drum beats are sounding.  With one open seat and two freshman incumbents up for re-election it’s going to be an interesting 9 months. During an election year the word ‘scapegoat’ comes to mind. 

Being the City Manager with this, Overwhelming underdogs of a council must make you want to hide under the covers each morning.

The City Manager definitely has a role in each and every one of the decisions that have lead us to the complete mess we are in today. He’s culpable and part of the problem for sure. Hein is the one making $240k+ while the 7 people that collectively tell him what to do make $180k combined! He’s playing a high stakes game but the game board, rules and even the numbers on the dice change from day to day. 

Finanical Down Turn

The city is falling on hard times financially and the pressure is on.  A manager needs to make quick adjustments to get us through the mess. As long as those adjustments don’t affect artists, free rent arrangements to non profits, funding for working poor, Job Path, graffiti classes, Kidco, Department of a(Organize The )Neighborhoods Resources, public access TV,  bus fares, or cuts to any of the 5000 plus employees that are protected by a strong union he’s got full latitude to do what’s right for the community.

What can he cut? Police, road maintenance, garbage services and emergency response staff and equipment.  You know, all the fluffy stuff a city wastes their budget on. 

So if you can’t cut expense you gotta raise money. You raise money in a crazy thing called taxes.  Here’s some of the BUSINESS specific ‘revenue enhancements’ implemented and or being concidered;
Ad Tax
Rental Tax
Impact Fee (ok by not repealing it its still at tax)
Tax to keep your development plan relevant for multiple years
Utility Tax
Water meter hook up tax
Sign Permit Tax
Building Permit Tax
Business Licence Tax
Secondary Property Tax
Increased Landfill Prices
Increased Commercial Waste Fees
Increased Roll Off Fees

The ‘revenue enhancements’ affecting the RESIDENTS of our city;
Increased Utility Tax
Water Fees Increase up to 10% (on top of 8% last year)
Proposed garbage fee increase

Read our previous post HERE

So if you’re the city manger under this council you are officially between a rock and a hard place.  Hein is dealing with so many council sacred cows and pet projects it’s tough to know where to turn.  Hein can’t cut or raise revenues to certain populations. Hein is forced to focus increases on the one special interest not represented on this current council, the business community. 

How does government pay for all the staff, programs, arts groups, low income housing? Oh yeah collecting sales tax from businesses that are brave enough to open in the city of Tucson. Get the picture?

There Are Short Comings….

I agree on management of Rio Nuevo. It’s been botched before Hein came aboard and until the legislature demands new people overseeing the entire project it will be messed up long after he leaves.  Shelko and Barr, aren’t cutting it. Installing Hecker, Lyons and allowing Trasoff’s chief of staff’s wife into management/ oversight positions is highly questionable. Emails from personal accounts to cover tracks…..not good.

MTCVB and TREO need to pull their weight and function in the light of day. Development Services needs a complete cultural shift. 

Hein pissed off council staff and learned how much power they actually had.  Remember THIS near axing from last year?

Where is his plan? All I’m seeing is reaction to the follies that go on around him. How about a 5 year plan? A vison on where we are going?

What’s the deal with the botched search for a new police chief? Do we blame that on Hein?

Why Is Hein Worth Keeping?

What I like about Hein is his early shake up of the Tucson city bureaucracy.  In a climate where you can’t fire  people all you can do is shift them around. By moving around department heads and entrenched fiefdoms Hein took control of the staff. It sets him up to either put the right people in place  and let them do their job or micromanage every aspect of every department he’s responsible for.

He thinks outside the box and isn’t afraid to take a different approach to a problem. 

If he does go what can we expect from the next victim.  Hopefully a potential candidate for the job reads the papers and our blog to get a sense of what they are in for. Tucson could be a career killer.
 

26th March
2009
written by Downtown Dudette

Jim Nintzel from the Tucson Weekly finally took a jab at the Democratic City Council for their handling of Rio Nuevo.  Fast forward to 2.19 minutes for the for history in the making.

Nintzel Changes Tune On Arizona Illustrated

23rd March
2009
written by JHiggins

PUBLISHED ON MARCH 19, 2009:

Recession Dining

Restaurateurs respond to the economic downturn in different ways–and some even say there’s a silver lining
By ADAM BOROWITZ
This is turning out to be a rather unappetizing recession.From the foothills to the southside, people are eating out less to save money, leaving restaurant owners scrambling for ways to adapt.

The fates of those unable to adapt are shown by shuttered windows and locked doors. Terra Cotta, 58 Degrees and Holding Co., Cuvée World Bistro, Old Pueblo Grille Foothills and the Casbah Teahouse have all closed in recent months, each taking with them a piece of Tucson’s culinary culture.

It’s a problem with appreciable reach. The Arizona restaurant industry employs about 250,000 people and brought in $8.4 billion last year, according to Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association. And like many industries, restaurants link to a network of suppliers and distributors that employ countless more.

“Most restaurateurs are certainly having a difficult time and are struggling,” says Chucri. “Any optimism we are seeing is cautious optimism.”

One of those struggling restaurateurs is Bob McMahon, owner of Metro Restaurants, the parent company of Ristorante Italia, Grill on the Green, Old Pueblo Grille, Metropolitan Grill and McMahon’s Prime Steakhouse.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like this, and I don’t know if there’s a magical bullet for any of it,” McMahon says. “I would guess that 20 percent of the restaurants in Tucson need to go away for any of the restaurants to make it.”

McMahon says most of his eateries have made adjustments to stay competitive. Prime rib that once sold for around $30 now goes for $21.95 at McMahon’s Prime Steakhouse, says Dan Multhup, Metro Restaurants’ director of operations. Extended happy hours, ladies’ nights, more specials, redesigned menus and an added emphasis on service have also been put in place at most of McMahon’s eateries.

“We can’t discount our way out of this; we just need to be better than the next guy,” says Multhup. “Our No. 1 focus is giving guests a reason to come dine with us. The poor service of yesteryear is no longer acceptable.”

Award-winning chef and restaurateur Janos Wilder has noticed a similar slowdown in business.

“This is new. We never really had to worry about what the season was going to bring,” says Wilder, who owns and operates Janos and J Bar at Westin La Paloma Resort. “We are seeing that volume clearly go down. In spite of that, we’re really confident and optimistic.”

Much of that confidence is due to a business model that caters to the high end at Janos, while the less-pricey J-Bar can serve as a growth vehicle when times get thin, says Wilder.

Wilder has still made changes, increasing advertising by about 40 percent and putting off upkeep projects, he says. He’s also been “tightening the belt” by ordering smarter and creating menus that help him stay within budget without hedging on quality.

“We believe if we do all the right things, then we don’t need to compromise the quality of the product,” says Wilder. “We want Janos to be top of the line, the pinnacle of culinary perspectives, but we are tweaking our pricing strategies.”

Janos now offers a $20 rib eye alongside French-inspired Southwestern entrées that fetch between $28 and $45. This approach is echoed at J Bar, with $12.95 entrées finding a home among selections in the $15 to $18 range.

“People want special things in their lives, and we want to be there to allow them to do that a little less expensively,” says Wilder.

Officials at Westward Look took a vastly different approach, says general manager Alan Klein.

Instead of hunkering down and weathering the recession, officials decided to spend $10 million retooling the AAA Four-Diamond resort and their flagship eatery, now called Gold (formerly the Gold Room), as well as the Lookout Bar and Grille, in an effort to appeal to visitors and locals alike.

Westward Look has introduced specials in the form of dollar canned beer on Saturdays, family nights, fish frys and other homey-sounding offers that seem somewhat out of place at a resort known for $85-a-person wine dinners.

“We recognize that in a down economy, your locals are your bread and butter,” says Klein. “There’s a crowd out there who’s forgotten about us.”

Downtown at Hotel Congress, business has been steady, slipping just a bit in recent months, says general manager Todd Hanley, who is also the president of Tucson Originals, an alliance of about 40 locally owned and independently operated restaurants.

Hanley says many diners are becoming disinterested in lavish, expensive meals and are seeking a more common-sense approach when spending their diminishing disposable income.

“Fine dining is fast becoming a dinosaur,” Hanley says. “It’s the casual fine dining people are looking for.”

Hanley says the recession is an opportunity to identify weaknesses and plan for the future. He expects the rest of 2009 to be rough on local restaurants.

“We have to weather this storm for another year or 18 months,” Hanley says. “If you’re not concerned, you have your head in the sand.”

While many restaurant managers are rethinking their customer base and the way they do business, others say the secret to success is making sure a bulletproof business plan is in place from the very beginning. That is exactly what Jay and Kim Thorpe aimed for when they opened Game on Sports Grill in December.

The couple considered 38 other locations before settling on the former Chuy’s Baja Broiler spot at 6453 N. Oracle Road. They also agonized over food costs, the lease and other details that could have whittled away at their revenue.

“If you don’t have a good business plan, those wounds are going to show through in an economy like this,” says Thorpe, adding that he knows how much he pays for each item–down to the ounce. “I’m also a pilot, and if you go up in a plane, and you don’t have a checklist, and you don’t have a procedure, you are flying blind.”

That’s a philosophy shared by the Arizona Restaurant Association, which expects the industry to rebound sometime toward the end of the year.

“Arizona is still a hotbed of growth in the restaurant industry,” Chucri says. “But current restaurants aren’t expanding as fast, and new restaurateurs are doing their homework and doing their best to offset hardship down the road.

“The industry will remain strong, and will become more sustainable as a result of all this,” Chucri says.

23rd March
2009
written by Arizona Kid

Top 10 poverty cities:This has got to be one of the greatest American tragedies.

What do the top ten cities with the highest poverty rate all have in common?

Detroit,  MI (1st on the poverty rate list) hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1961;

Buffalo ,  NY (2nd) hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1954;

Cincinnati,  OH (3rd)…hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1984;

Cleveland,  OH (4th)…hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1989;

St. Louis,  MO (6th)….hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1949;

El Paso,  TX (7th) has never had a Republican mayor;

Milwaukee,  WI (8th)…hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1908;

Philadelphia,  PA (9th)…hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1952;

Newark,  NJ (10th)…hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1907.

It is the disadvantaged who habitually elect Democrats based on campaign promises—yet they are still among the most disadvantaged.

 

From CNN

By Glenn Beck
CNN

Editor’s note: Glenn Beck is on CNN Headline News nightly at 7 and 9 ET and also hosts a conservative national radio talk show.

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck says Democrats have ruled many of the poorest cities for too long, and it’s time for a change.

NEW YORK (CNN) — “I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty but leading them or driving them out of it.”

What hate-mongering politician would be so politically incorrect as to suggest that things like higher minimum wages and more government handouts don’t actually help the poor? I’ll identify the culprit at the end of this column, but for now, I’m more interested in figuring out why that statement sounds so controversial.

Poverty is one of the few national issues that, at least on the surface, unites us all. It’s not a political condition; it’s a human one. After all, when’s the last time you’ve heard a politician campaign on a pro-poverty platform?

But although the problem may unite us, the solutions don’t. And perhaps nothing illustrates that better than what’s been happening in Detroit, Michigan, and Buffalo, New York.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly a third of the residents in those cities are living beneath the poverty line, the highest rates among large cities in the entire country.

No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, that is nothing short of appalling. Yet if you ask people what we should do about it, you’ll probably hear answers that inexplicably break down right along party lines.

Is there a perfect answer? Probably not. But what bothers me is that people stubbornly stick to their solution, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it’s not working.

For example, Detroit, whose mayor has been indicted on felony charges, hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1961. Buffalo has been even more stubborn. It started putting a Democrat in office back in 1954, and it hasn’t stopped since.

Unfortunately, those two cities may be alone at the top of the poverty rate list, but they’re not alone in their love for Democrats. Cincinnati, Ohio (third on the poverty rate list), hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1984. Cleveland, Ohio (fourth on the list), has been led by a Democrat since 1989. St. Louis, Missouri (sixth), hasn’t had a Republican since 1949, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (eighth), since 1908, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (ninth), since 1952 and Newark, New Jersey (10th), since 1907.

The only two cities in the top 10 that I didn’t mention (Miami, Florida, and El Paso, Texas) haven’t had Republicans in office either — just Democrats, independents or nonpartisans.

Over the past 50 years, the eight cities listed above have had Republican leadership for a combined 36 years. The rest of the time — a combined 364 years — they’ve been led by Democrats.

Five of the 10 cities with the highest poverty rates (Detroit, Buffalo, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Newark) have had a Democratic stranglehold since at least 1961: more than 45 years. Two of the cities (Milwaukee and Newark) have been electing Democrats since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908.

Two cities, 100 years, all Democrats.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, the asylums in those cities must be as full as the soup kitchens.

Not too long ago, I had the great honor of being invited to a charity dinner hosted by Chris Gardner. He’s the guy whose rags-to-riches life was portrayed by Will Smith in the movie “Pursuit of Happyness.” Chris had been on my show a few times, and I’ve always admired his story and his message of hope through personal responsibility.

As I prepared for the dinner and looked into Chris’ charity, I started to get nervous. The roster was filled with liberals, most of whom would probably hate me. Hillary Clinton, Mario Cuomo, Alan Alda, Kenneth Cole and Charles Grodin were just a few of the people I was worried about running into.

But the question I kept asking myself was, why? Why can’t people from wildly different political stripes come together in support of a common cause without feeling alienated? Why is an issue like poverty “owned” by one political party?

I consider myself a conservative, but I consider myself an American and a human being first. When people whom I normally agree with screw things up, I call them on it. Yet the people in these cities apparently don’t. Newark keeps drinking the Kool-Aid, electing the same people with the same ideas, slipping down the poverty list (along with the “Places Never to Visit Unless it’s the Airport” list) and wondering why.

We’ve talked a lot about “change” in this country recently, but there’s a much more important catchphrase that we’ve neglected: “All politics is local.” Maybe instead of focusing so much on who we put in charge of our country, we should focus more on who we put in charge of our cities.

Oh, and before I forget. The hateful politician who suggested that we should be “driving” or “leading” the poor out of poverty? It was Benjamin Franklin.

Good thing he never tried to run for mayor of Newark

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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22nd March
2009
written by Mike
Exactly who is this Nathan Sproul? He is a graduate of the Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, and a Republican political consultant and strategist with ties to the Arizona GOP and the Christian Coalition. Early in his career he worked tirelessly to end sex education in his state. In 2004, he was instrumental in the nearly successful efforts to remove the Arizona Clean Elections Law. Sproul also set up a voter registration drive in 2004 called “America Votes”, which just so happened to have the same name as a progressive group trying to expand the electorate. His intention was to register as many new Republicans as possible. This in itself is not illegal, but the methods that Sproul and Company used to do so were highly suspect.

 

The new firm managing the “grassroots” campaign for the coal industry has a history that distinguishes it as being one of the most notorious voter fraud organizations in the country:

- In Oregon and Nevada, Lincoln Strategies — then known as Sproul and Associates — was investigated for destroying Democratic voter registration forms. The Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign paid Sproul $7.4 million for campaign work. [CNN, 10/14/04; KGW News, 10/13/04; East Valley Tribune, 09/07/06]

- In Nevada, people who registered as Democrats with Lincoln Strategies — then known as Sproul and Associates — found their names absent from the voter registration rolls. [Reno Gazette-Journal, 10/29/04]

- During the 2006 midterm elections, Wal-Mart banned Lincoln Strategies for partisan voter registration efforts in Tennessee. The Republican National Committee had hired the firm. [Associated Press, 08/24/06]

- In Arizona, Lincoln Strategies employed a variety of deceptive tactics — including systematically lying about the bill — to push a ballot initiative to eviscerate the state’s clean elections law. [Salon, 10/21/04]

- Lincoln Strategies, then employed by the Republican Party, was behind efforts to place Ralph Nader on the ballot in states such as Arizona. [American Prospect, 06/25/04]

Even former Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), during a hearing on voter fraud, admitted that “the difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn’t throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out.”

After the coal industry was caught red-handed stealing letterhead and forging fake letters in opposition to clean energy reform, they simply blamed their contractor — a firm with a long track-record of providing exact type of astroturfing they were caught doing. Now with the coal industry hiring a firm with a long history of fraud and possible criminal activity (the Bush administration declined to ever investigate Sproul and his Lincoln Strategy firm), it is clear the industry is interested in defeating clean energy with deceit and purchased support.

Sproul and his group have been repeatedly investigated for voter fraud. His own employees have alleged that they were specifically instructed only to register Republicans, and told to shred thousands of forms submitted by people wanting to become new Democrats. Yet even with his terrible track record, and the small amount of local media attention he has drawn to himself and his company, Nathan Sproul remains a trusted operative of the GOP. During this very presidential race, John McCain has directed $175,000 worth of funds to Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy Group for get-out-the-vote efforts. Meanwhile the Republican National Committee has diverted $37,000 to the Lincoln Group during this cycle, explicitly for registering voters.

 

What makes all of this especially problematic is how vocal Sproul has always been in support of McCain and the Far Right Wing of the Republican Party. He’s given the McCain campaign $30,000 of his own money for this election. He is absolutely dedicated to winning at any cost, and I believe characterizations of him as “Arizona’s Karl Rove” are unfair to Sproul, as he is quite obviously more of an idealogue. While it’s true one could make the case that ACORN leans politically left, there is a big difference, as Republican Congressman Chris Cannon noted in May of this year: “The difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn’t throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out.”

 

It is widely believed that Sproul will do anything possible to advance his political agenda. Since 2004, Democrats in Congress have been aware of both his objectives and methods. In fact, in October of 2007 Representative John Conyers complained that the Bush Administration Justice Department had refused to closely scrutinize the activities of Sproul and the Lincoln Strategy Group. Given the ample assistance Sproul provided to Bush in the 2004 presidential race, I guess that’s not surprising. But what is surprising is that the mainstream press has remained mum about this fraud, especially if you believe that the corporate-owned media has a “liberal bias” (as many on the Right maintain). Why aren’t Sproul and his Lincoln Strategy Group household names, like ACORN? I guess you’ll have to decide that one for yourself.

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