City of Tucson

4th August
2012
written by Taylor Davidson

Please see here for a very complete account of the grading policy story at Pueblo High School. Board member Dr. Mark Stegeman (UA economics professor) appears to have come to similar conclusions as my prior post.

3rd August
2012
written by Taylor Davidson

One of my father’s favorite quotes is from Woody Allen. I’ve heard it a couple ways but he always related it as “90% of life is just showing up.”

The older I’ve gotten the more I have come to find this an astoundingly important and fascinating insight. It (rather unexpectedly) says that doing the minimum or close to it is really a big deal in most of life.

In my firm I write insurance contracts for clients. What my client is looking for, and what they will pay me to do, is fill out forms and file them with insurance companies. There is a lot more that we do in addition to this, policy reviews, competitive bidding to ensure the best price, custom marketing, employee services, etc. But at the end of the day, the client (AT MINIMUM) just needs that paperwork done.

The flip side though, is I get NO credit, NO payment, if I fill out the application to 10%, 30%, 50%, etc. If that minimum standard is not met, I get ZERO credit.

For my job, Woody’s adage certainly applies. 90% of what I do is meeting that minimum effort requirement. Everything above that is icing, but anything below that is worth nothing, nada, zip, zilch.

The important lesson here is that 1% effort doesn’t normally give you 1% of the results. It generally gives you 0%.

If I complete 28% of my insurance paperwork, I get $0 in return for my effort.

If a swimmer is 37% as fast as Michael Phelps he gets 0 gold medals for his efforts.

In real life, effort itself is not what counts, it is only effort that meets the standard of whatever you are trying to achieve.

If you climb 64% of the way up Mt. Everest, you just didn’t reach the top.

Heart surgeons don’t stop 91% of the way through your bypass surgery; pat themselves on the back and say, “Great job!” It’s 100% or you are deceased.

This idea of minimum effort and standards of achievement is crucially important in society, work, and family, everything in life in fact. However, it has been under repeated attack for decades, particularly in our schools.

Just two days ago, The Arizona Daily Independent, reported on a new grading policy being implemented for the start of the school year at Pueblo High School in TUSD (read here). From the ADI News Service:

We will not be using zeros for any purpose. If assignments cannot be counted because of plagiarism and/or cheating, please assign a 50 to the assignment rather than a zero which may have been past practice. Any assignments where students have a D or F can and should be ‘do overs.

Though it pains me in the extreme, I am going to ignore for the moment the total moral abrogation of the cheating/plagiarism comments (this is already too long) and focus instead on the general principle of giving credit where no or little work has been completed.

Very simply put, Pueblo High School will now be spotting students 50 points at the beginning of the year and disallowing them to fail.

In response to this article several related interviews with teachers and administrators, including board president Miguel Cuevas, have been held on the Garrett Lewis radio program as well (listen here and here).

Vivi Watt

While these officials are not necessarily in favor of the new policy (listen to the interviews for more detail), they are at least familiar with the reasoning most often given for the change. The implementers, including the school’s principal Vivi Watt, have stated that they want an F to count the same as an A. They find that it is wrong (or detrimental to the student) that missing, incomplete or poor percentage scores disproportionately affect a student’s overall grade. They want each letter grade to weigh equally.

Basically, if a student puts in 1% effort they want the student to get 1% credit.

As mentioned above though, that simply isn’t the world we live in.

We have for decades already given our students a fairly large margin for error in their studies (30% – 40% depending on the school). However, we have always used systems of grading which still imposed some minimally acceptable standard. Below this you were afforded an F, a 0%, and possibly required to repeat your studies in order to obtain an acceptable performance.

This is an incredibly important lesson for our youth. It is a part of life that they must learn, and for a school in TUSD (and some administrators at the district level) to abandon this teaching is grossly unacceptable and frightening in what it implies about the educational philosophy which underlies school officials.

I have a daughter who is entering 8th grade this year and while I pay attention to most of what she does, and will work on quality and other issues when I can, I have only ever had one absolute school rule.

No missing assignments. Ever. Period. You’re grounded right now if I find you didn’t turn something in.

I don’t know if that seems harsh, but I do know that if at minimum, she just does the work assigned by the teachers she will learn what they are trying to teach. They aren’t pulling assignments out of thin air. Papers, projects, readings, quizzes, tests and everything else are designed by classroom educators to make sure she leaves the class at the end of the semester or year with a basic understanding of the material.

How do I know this? Because I was a terrible student when it came to completing my assignments and it haunted me through high school and through college. I never learned the basic crucial discipline of at least getting the minimum done.

Years after I left high school, my brother was in the first day of English class with one of the best teachers I ever had, Mr. Jones at Catalina Foothills. As my brother relates it, Mr. Jones was working his way through the attendance sheet and as he got to my brother’s name he paused, looked up and said, “Davidson? Are you TAYLOR Davidson’s brother?” He answered, “Yes.” Mr. Jones replied simply, “Smart kid… Never did his homework.”

My experiences taught me the consequences of failing to complete the work and I am now relating that lesson to my daughter as best I can. I want her to know that the first and most important thing is not, how “smart” you are, or what your “potential” is, but whether you showed up, listened and got your work done today.

That is the minimum required in life, but more importantly it is the starting point. It is the jumping off point from where you can then show all the extra-special, super-great things you can do. But with any race, competition, project or journey in life the first thing of importance, the first requirement is to know the correct location of the start line.

Does anyone else feel like our kids are lining up for a 100 meter sprint but we’ve put them on blocks 50 meters behind the true start line?

I hope TUSD will turn around and make sure we start showing our kids where the real starting lines are in this life and stop the incessant drive to push them farther and farther back until none of our students will have any chance at meaningful journeys and significant achievements.

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20th July
2012
written by Taylor Davidson

As we start debating the re-authorization of our state’s 1 cent sales tax I would like to pause for a moment and take a slightly closer look at what has been, and will undoubtably be again, one of the oft heard sentiments in these discussions.

You almost certainly have heard some version of it, but Paul Krugman (writing in his recent release A Manifesto For Economic Sense) provides a good example: “There must of course be a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit. But if this is too front-loaded it can easily be self-defeating by aborting the recovery.”

So more or less, “Yes, we absolutely, positively know we need to get back to (INSERT NORMAL HERE) but certainly not right now.”

Dr. Krugman is certainly and simply an easy target but is an excellent example of those who, over many years, have maintained an incessant drum beat for “emergency measures”. Whether it is stimulatory fiscal and monetary policy, private company bailouts, vast military spending, expanded police powers, environmental regulatory interventions, increased taxes or other“temporary”, “one-time” reactions to current difficulties, there always seems to happen to be another “emergency” on the horizon which will serve to extend the definition of “temporary” and turn “one-time” into repetitive.

My primary issue are the pundits and government officers who prefer to define us in an almost constant state of “crisis” or for whom at least the pendulum seems only to swing in one direction.

They are quick and aggressive to yell “Crisis!” and push interventionist planning and coercion on our economy and society when any dip or bump in the road occurs, but then they work tirelessly to stretch the crisis ad infinitum until, when finally their pleas for emergency efforts fall on deaf ears due to the simple overwhelming weight of contemporary evidence to the contrary… they fall silent (or at least fairly quiet). They never turn the corner, calling for the legislative counter-actions that would bring budgets or regulations or police/military powers back in line with a healthy normative standard. They let their “gains” stand and then wait at the ready for the next “crisis” which they can use to move the line of scrimmage just a bit more in their favor.

This strategic ideology is fairly well summed up by Rahm Emmanuel, Stanford economist Paul Romer and others, who have been quoted in a variety of ways but always with the same basic message, “NEVER let a good crisis go to waste.”

But for how long have we been hearing these Crisis Seekers (and I include many Arizona intellectuals and politicians in this crowd) make the argument, “Well in the long term we have to get this back to normal but in the short term we have to TAKE ACTION”?

I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems we have been living distinctly in the “short term” for at least 35 years now by my count and I’m kinda ready for the more rational, moderate, disciplined actions of the “long term” to take over.

It all reminds me of those ubiquitous bar signs, the ones you see advertising, “FREE BEER TOMORROW!” But we know when we come back the next day the sign still reads, “FREE BEER TOMORROW!”

That kind of double speak is funny at your favorite pub or restaurant but it is a bit disconcerting out of the mouths of those who purport to instruct our electorate on proper economic and government financial policies. Though it might be refreshingly honest for them to hang a “BALANCED BUDGET NEXT YEAR!” sign over the front steps of the US Capitol.

Which brings me back to our upcoming decision on the sales tax. In this article I am not arguing for or against this levy or the purposes to which the money would be directed. What I am suggesting is that, in the upcoming public debate, our politicians and public intellectuals, academics, pundits, newspaper editors, talking heads, et al, be held to account for their definitions of crisis measures and their idea of the temporary short term. When do the great results show up? How is this different from every other tax increase? When do we “get spending under control”? When does a stable, normal arrive?

I find it self evident that politicians just love their emergency powers. They generally bring with them great expansions of both authorities and revenues which many times are never given back after the “emergency” has passed. I would argue that we should be far more paranoid and skeptical in our examinations of these efforts and arguments (too often we let fear and uncertainty rule our collective wisdom), however, is it too much to ask of Arizona voters that we all at least demand to know from our policy makers, “So, specifically, when is this crisis over?”

I think holding our politicians and pundits accountable for acknowledging when we are NOT in crisis, would be a strong step away from the neverending mousewheel of short term, band-aid fixes that we seem to be ever increasingly reliant upon in today’s Arizona specifically and modern America in general.

8th July
2012
written by Taylor Davidson

In 1689 John Locke published Two Treatises of Government. Within those pages he detailed a theory of Natural Rights. Rights which are Man’s from birth, Rights which are not bestowed by government but which are to be secured and protected by governments established by Man. Those Rights he summed up as, “Life, Liberty and Estate”. Our forerunners in the 1st Continental Congress restated these in the Declaration of Colonial Rights as “life, liberty and property”.

These ideas of Natural Rights, Rights “endowed by their Creator”, are the cornerstone of the Declaration we celebrated this week on the Fourth of July.

However, the author of that famous document, Thomas Jefferson, made a curious choice in his final drafting of this letter to King George. He opted for an alternate ending…

“… certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.”

For a long time I saw this as watered down language, flowery rhetoric that had lost the meat of the earlier formulations if Man’s Rights. Man’s Right to be secure in both his person and his legally obtained possessions, his property, are the foundations on which rest all of the remainder of our Freedoms.

As Vladimir Lenin is quoted, “Let them have freedom of speech, how will they print their papers when we own all the presses?” Freedom of association and religion likewise are meaningless if we cannot have a secure place to meet. We see this throughout the world where political opponents, churches and artists have been driven into hiding in countries with laws on the books proclaiming “protection” for freedoms of speech, expression, etc. but NOT securing the rights to own and use property.

Thus it disappointed me that in our first founding document was absent a positive, direct grant of this most important of Natural Rights.

I struggled with this for years, assuming “happiness” was in some way a lower calling, a lesser sentiment, than others that could have filled this prominent place. Happiness? That’s the best Jefferson could do?

But then I looked at my daughter and thought about how great it was watching her grow up (she’s doing so awesome). I looked at my football team and how much fun it was to coach, year after year, in good seasons and bad. I went hiking and looked out over the beautiful Tucson valley from the top of Wasson’s peak. I felt the accomplishment of success as I grew my business, the wonder of life as I dug and planted and nurtured and grew my gardens, the love and companionship I felt as I met and courted and married my wife.

It kind of came on me suddenly a few years ago and I just stood and laughed… I was pursuing my happiness… and that opportunity makes all the difference in the world.

I thank God to live in a country where my life’s work can be the pursuit of happiness.

My and all of our hearts and prayers should go out for those on our Earth who do not yet live in nations which protect this Right and hold tight to cultures which lift up this ideal.

It is not a Right to happiness, but instead that we are each free to pursue what is in our own mind’s eye. To succeed but also to lose, to choose right or left, to reap the rewards of our victories but also pay the costs of our failures.

To me, MY right to pursue MY happiness by MY own means, for better or worse, without interference from my neighbor or my government, is the highest value described and embodied in the founding principles of our nation.

It takes effort, imagination, cooperation and sometimes a little luck doesn’t hurt, but the results of hundreds of millions of people FREE to pursue their dreams as they see them is absolutely and simply awe inspiring.

I hope you ALL had a very happy 4th of July and pray you all find fabulous, fun, productive, enlightening, fulfilling, educational, profitable, engrossing and creative ways of pursuing your happiness in the upcoming year!

Yours Truly, Taylor

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22nd April
2012
written by Arizona Kid

High school graduate Jesse Kelly defeated a Harvard educated Air Force pilot, a nice American named Dave Sitton and Frank “Spank me, I’m bad” Antenori. Now that the fat lady has sung and the primary is over it’s time for Act II of “The Barber of Civility”: A contest between the guy who looks like the Jurassic Park professor without the pith helmet and a carpet bagging gun-toting Bible thumping gosh and shucks Gomer Pyle who can channel Sean Hannity.

Jesse will do great among the unwashed, the rural, the illiterate, the scared goobers willing to cheerfully vote against their own interests, whipping up the groundlings and the believers with rhetorical red meat so rotten with the stench of untruths that honorable flies will choose to lay their eggs elsewhere. And he’ll smile like a man surprised he said something resembling a coherent thought. And the crowds who hate elitists and grammar and syntax and critical thinking will slap their knees and hoot. Scan the online comment section for repugnant speech and unfiltered anonymous hatred of all who differ with the strict conservative view and and you have found your archetypal “here come the black helicopters from Kenya” Kelly supporters.

And he will be petted and stroked and groomed and cooed to by right-wing think tanks and he’ll be showered, nay, flooded with bags of cash from big oil and all the right PACs looking for a manly mannequin with a pull string. And he’s a pretty one. He’s tall and he’s handsome and he’s tall and he’s handsome. Elderly church ladies who can’t tell you who the Vice-President is gaze adoringly up at Kelly, yearning to vote for him and to adopt him and to feed him apple pie. Goodbye Mo Udall, hello empty plastic Ken doll.

And he will be angry at those who question his ascendency and his indignant finger will raise up to poke the sky and he’ll thunder incoherent talk radio babble about freedom and liberty and liberty from freedom and FOX news and the right-wing machine will give him their cameras and their spotlights every chance they can.

He won’t represent you. He will represent the Tea Party fanatics, talk radio freaks, the hand-wringing evangelicals, the gun fondlers and the paranoid. The rest of you are just not Americans, you Marxists and Communists and baby killers and you can go to Hell for all he cares. He’ll terrify crowds with his tales of the liberal straw man, the wretched progressive sasquatch, the abominable secularists and he’ll shake the scarecrow and he’ll offer himself up as the great peasant’s torch just waiting to be pressed into battle against the fictitious kindling. Swaddled in the flag and clutching his sacred Constitution he’ll weep for America and prophesy a plague of socialism sweeping across the land that will rival the fire-in-the-sky visions of St. John. Evolution is a head-shaker and abortion is for harlots and those who are not with him are devils. The Word is Limbaugh and he is the word made flesh. Hearken to Jesse all ye Limbaugh Christians, the end times are upon us and the Messiah has a high school diploma. Reject him not, oh ye dittoheads. The Republicans have their man, their folksy Baron of bromides, their King of jingos, raised in the womb of the right-wing echo chamber. And their darling will have an army of fanatical feverish shock jocks who’ll trumpet at the Walls of Jericho for He who is Him everyday until Medicare, Social Security, Big Government, Taxes, the department of Education, our rotting public education system, and those diabolical regulators and the United Nations all come tumbling down.

At the final debate with Giffords in 2010 he was figuratively hoisted on the shoulders of believers with pitchforks and torches who cheered their Messiah with yahoos and slogans in lieu of palm fronds. How can one be civil when you’re debating an opponent who lies and smirks and makes George Bush sound look Stephen Hawking? His adherents cannot be moved by facts, they have found faith.

Sinclair Lewis had his Main Street Babbitt, we have Kelly. This Barber v. Kelly election will truly be an American spectacle rivaling the Scopes Monkey trial because its outcome will define us for years. Are we an easily frightened America aching for the shallow comfort of the primitive and the superstitious or are we the fearless America that questions, that embraces the future, that is modern and smart? Mark Twain and H.L.Mencken savaged their respective times as the gilded ages of carnival hawkers and tent evangelists and smiling shoeshine salesmen and gullible rubes willing to say yes to any smiling carpet-bagger. They are gazing up from Hell longing to see this show unfold. This summer the oldest American story shall repeat itself.

Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/blogs/fitz-blog/fitz-kelly-wins/article_fe79178c-890e-11e1-baa5-001a4bcf887a.html#ixzz1soimfI63

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24th February
2012
written by JHiggins

13th February
2012
written by JHiggins

Don’t worry, be happy … in Tucson?

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.
•Charleston, S.C.
•Napa-Sonoma, Calif.
•Seattle
•Los Angeles
•Palm Springs, Calif.
•Washington, D.C.
•Las Vegas
•Houston

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.

3rd February
2012
written by Land Lawyer

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

2nd February
2012
written by Cactus Bill

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/16662854/2012/02/02/nbc2-investigates-voter-fraud

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?

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2nd February
2012
written by admin

Guest Opinion: Is Jeff Rogers Abusing His Office?

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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