Archive for February, 2012
Cityscape of Tucson downtown against mountain range, Arizona.
By Rob Lovitt, msnbc.com contributor
Is winter giving you a bad case of the blues? If so, perhaps you should go to your happy place, which might just be Tucson, Ariz.
In a new study, “The Old Pueblo” topped a list of the 10 happiest winter travel destinations in the U.S. It was joined, in descending order, by:
•St. Petersburg, Fla.
•Palm Springs, Calif.
The study was commissioned by Hilton HHonors, the company’s loyalty program. Hilton Worldwide, to the surprise of no one, has multiple properties in each destination.
“People are indoors a lot during the winter and Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD] is prevalent,” said happiness expert Aymee Coget, CEO of the American Happiness Association, who teamed up with Hilton. Travel, she said, can be the antidote to “the moody blues.”
“Being outdoors helps people be happier,” she told msnbc.com. “Sunshine helps because of the Vitamin D.”
It’s hardly surprising then that the list is dominated by sunny southern destinations. Selected by Sperling’s Best Places, they were judged in several categories, including relaxation, nature, average winter temperatures and number of sunny days per year.
Those criteria were augmented by more urban amenities, including the number of restaurants and bars, cultural institutions and, for some reason, ice cream shops. We’re not sure of the science involved but do have to admit that a big bowl of Chunky Monkey certainly makes us happy.
The latter set of criteria may also explain how Seattle and Washington, D.C. — not exactly warm and sunny winter destinations the last time we checked — made the list.
“It’s not rocket science,” Coget told msnbc.com. “When you’re having new experiences, you’re happier.”
Good vibes aside, it turns out that there actually is scientific, albeit equally non-aeronautic, evidence that travel, particularly leisure travel, makes you happier. However, according to a 2010 study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life, the biggest boost isn’t generated by the travel per se but rather the anticipation of it.
Do you prefer short getaways or longer vacations?
“People get excited [when planning vacations],” said Coget. “They’re excited to see this or that person or sit by the pool. It’s a projection of happiness.”
For that reason, both Coget and the scientists in the 2010 study suggest that taking more short getaways may provide a bigger boost than a single, longer vacation will. Presumably, multiple long weekends entail serial planning efforts, which elevates happiness on a recurring basis.
Clearly, more research is warranted but in the meantime, here in the Overhead Bin, we believe quick getaways and week-long trips both have their benefits. After all, why settle for being merely happy when you can enjoy double happiness?
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.
PHOENIX – Saying the Pima County administrator needs to be restrained, a House panel voted Thursday to create a special committee to oversee county bond elections.
The party-line vote in the Republican-controlled Committee on Technology and Infrastructure came after a plea from Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy, who said the county has created a “culture of intimidation.”
He said part of that is because County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry proposes bond elections with more than 100 individual projects – and sub-projects within them – to a point where advisory committee members are so overwhelmed that they defer to Huckelberry’s recommendations of what gets funded and what does not.
HB 2656, sponsored by Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, would require Pima County – and only Pima County – to establish a bond oversight committee with veto power over what projects get put on the ballot and any changes in how already-approved bond money is spent.
Proud said the special legislation is justified.
“Southern Arizona is really no stranger to corruption,” she said, citing the failed Rio Nuevo revitalization project. And Proud said Pima County has more bond debt than even the far larger Maricopa County.
Proud also made it clear she believes the blame lies with Huckelberry.
“For too long we’ve had one man control everything,” she said. “And I think that needs to stop.”
Proud’s bill would do more than simply create an oversight panel. It would give the county and each of its five cities one vote.
County lobbyist Mike Racy said that would allow representatives of just three communities, with as little as 6.5 percent of total county population, to block anything until they could get what they want.
“Our concern is just how grossly inequitable one vote per jurisdiction would be,” he said.
Proud said she sees nothing wrong with that, contending that’s the way it works at the Legislature.
“I represent a larger district than someone else may represent,” she said.
However, under federal law, all legislative districts are required to have roughly the same population. That is why new district lines are redrawn after every census, to adjust for population changes and keep them the same size.
Cassidy, however, said the weighted voting system is justified – and far better than what exists now.
“This is simply an opportunity to provide more transparency to the process and to give real feedback in the nature of an actual, meaningful vote to those communities affected by it,” he said.
He said each supervisor gets to name three members to the current advisory committee, with three named by the county administrator, each of the two tribes getting one member and each incorporated city naming one member.
That, he said, dilutes the ability of affected communities to make their needs known. By contrast, Cassidy said, each community getting one-sixth of the power on the committee ensures “a meaningful and binding, realistic piece of feedback” on the process.
Cassidy conceded Racy’s point that Proud’s legislation would let any three communities, no matter how small, effectively hold up the process and block public votes on multimillion-dollar bond projects for the entire county, or any change in funding priorities. But he said that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it would produce “the happy result of our taxes finally going down.”
While this new oversight panel would have veto power over new bond projects, the main argument of proponents is that it is designed to prevent shifting of priorities after voters approve the borrowing.
Cassidy told lawmakers a prime example involves $22 million approved as part of a 2004 bond to build a joint city-county courthouse. He said Huckelberry instead shifted some of the money to remodel one floor of the Superior Court Building.
Huckelberry called that “a good story until you tell the other side of it.”
He said the court project ran into unexpected delays and an extra $18 million in costs when it unearthed an old cemetery with 1,500 bodies that had to be relocated.
While the project was on hold, Huckelberry said, the county bond advisory committee agreed to spend $9.8 million to remodel the existing court, on the condition the county repay the money for the new courthouse from regular tax dollars, which has been done.
He said the fund shift went through multiple public hearings “and it was always intended as a stopgap measure for court overcrowding.”
While all the Republicans on the House panel supported Proud’s legislation, Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said he is less than comfortable with giving the county’s smallest communities an equal vote with not only Tucson but with the Board of Supervisors, which represents the 36 percent of the population living in unincorporated areas. Seel said he may propose a change when the measure goes to the full House.
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/pima-bond-oversight-advances-in-house/article_a345fd97-585a-5fdd-a411-75c33d107151.html#ixzz1lJrZ1xlY
County supervisors of elections tell me they have no way to verify citizenship. Under the 1992 Motor Voter Law, they’re not required to ask for proof.
“We have no policing authority. We don’t have any way of bouncing that information off any other database that would give us that information,”
Anyone know a place like this?
Posted by Rob Ferrier on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 4:00 PM
While the Pima County Democratic Party might not have a face, it certainly has a voice. I am writing of course of Jeff Rogers, the twice-elected Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party.
The duties of Chair are as follows:
The County Chair shall preside at all meetings; make appointments to committees; make temporary appointments to offices which have been vacated… and generally do all and everything necessary to aid in the election of Democratic candidates, and to promote successful organization and operation of the Pima County Democratic Committee.
In sum, the Chair is to administrate the Party, raise money and groom potential candidates. The Chair is also a member of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is allowed and authorized to express policy position on issues of local, state, and national import. Nowhere, however, in the bylaws, is the Chair authorized to decide who is, and who is not, Democrat enough for the Party’s taste. Nowhere in the bylaws do the words “Chair” and “duly appointed demagogue” appear within the same sentence.
Yet in 2011, the Pima County Democratic Party, seemingly at Mr. Rogers’ direction, but voted on by the Executive Committee, spent almost $9,000.00 to fund a campaign against Joe Flores in the Ward 1 City Council, primary election. In other words, Jeff Rogers, as the head of the Pima County Democratic Party, picked one Democrat over another during a party primary. While, as the Party was quick to point out, this action is not strictly prohibited, it is undeniably unusual.
Such an unusual move must have been firmly grounded in sound and mature disagreements over specific expressed by Mr. Flores. No. Instead, as Mr. Rogers said, “We have someone here (Mr. Flores) who we’ve never believed was a bona fide Democrat.” Mr. Rogers also cited the lack of support among his colleagues on the Party Committee as further evidence that Mr. Flores simply was not Democrat enough for him, and therefore the public at large. Perfectly appropriate for Tammany Hall.
Mr. Rogers, I ask you directly. You do not know me. May I still stand for public office? Must I renounce my Party membership to do so? Must I first approach you and seek your approval? Before I state my view on this or that, should I check with you first? As you read this, are you seated upon a dais, thoughtfully turning the proverbial ring upon your finger?
Mr. Rogers’ war upon the Party extends beyond the Ward 1 primary. His most vociferous criticism of Party members has been reserved for Miguel Cuevas and Mark Stegeman, both Democrats, both members of the TUSD school board. Stegeman’s and Cuevas’ transgressions? They had the unmitigated gall not to vote as Mr. Rogers wanted them to, at least when it came to TUSD’s embattled Mexican American Studies Program.
I also do not agree with Mr. Stegeman and Mr. Cuevas on that particular issue. I would not dream, however, of labeling the men as “Neville Chamberlains when it comes to the war on Tucson…” or state that either needs “to be tarred and feathered and rode out of town on a rail,” or aver that “they are unfit to live in a multicultural community like Tucson,” because they are “evil.” Comparing a man who voted against your wishes to history’s most benighted quisling, (outside of Quisling himself of course), would be faintly humorous, and acceptable hyperbole from the mouth of a fifteen year old. From a prominent Party leader, it is something else again.
At the very least it is juvenile. It is crass. And more than a bit disturbing. To be very, very blunt, it is not for Mr. Rogers to tell a publicly elected official how to vote, nor to label that man as evil when he votes in a way that displeases Mr. Rogers.
Like a lot of Democrats, and I am sure, most Republicans, I think, in general, it is way past time for Mr. Rogers to shut his mouth. I am weary of reading his half-baked theories on Jared Loughner’s political leanings, TUSD, or whatever else crosses the ever-shrinking space between his reason and his speech. But in his position, he has the right, and apparently the endorsement of the Party’s Executive Committee, to comment generally on policy. Well and good.
He does not have the right, however, to tell me, or anyone else, what we are allowed to think or believe as Democrats. And he does not have the right to tell his fellow Democrats that they are not welcome in my Party.
The Democratic Party does not belong to Mr. Rogers. While it is to his credit that he agreed to serve it, neither I, nor the vast majority of the rank and file asked him to define the contours of its policy, nor granted him the right to use it as his bully pulpit. And it is high past time that when he chooses to express his personal views that he identify himself as Jeff Rogers, local gadfly, and not Jeff Rogers, Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party. Because I, for one, am sick and tired of others assuming that Mr. Rogers speaks for me.
I was born and raised Republican. I chose to be a Democrat. Through the years, I participated in Young Democrats, I volunteered for candidates and once, and only once, allowed myself to be dragooned as a Precinct Committeeman. I admired, and still admire, FDR, Truman, JFK and RFK. I voted for Bill Clinton twice despite my personal distaste for his prurient habits. I have long accepted that the blessing of American privilege comes hand in glove with the responsibility of public service. And I embraced the Democratic Party because, fundamentally as a liberal leaning fellow, I believed in a few core ideals.
First, government is and should be, a force for good. Second, all people, regardless of where they came, what they believed, or what the color of their skin, deserved a fair shake from government. And most of all, I joined the Democratic Party because the Party shared those ideals. Within the Party, I am free to think what I want, and to believe what I want. And to know, to coin a phrase, that while my fellow Democrats might not like what I say, they will die for my right to say it. Above all else, we stand and fall together. We are the Great Coalition. The Big Tent. Come one. Come all.
I have friends within the Party that are pro-life. That are gun nuts. That are against gay marriage. That wish to build a wall across the Mexican Border. That dream of the day the death penalty is free from the shackles of due process. I share none of these views. But I would never question their right to belong to my party. And I would never, ever question their right to vote their conscience or to speak their mind. As far as I know, there is no litmus test to be a Democrat.
Except, apparently, in Pima County.
Rob Ferrier is a local attorney and gadfly.
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