The Daily Agenda: Another run at affordable housing
A bipartisan plan from two lawmakers whose names end in -ston ... A strange strategy that isn't legally sound ... And the kind of poem you'd write in English 101.
After cities killed a bipartisan, wide-reaching plan to attack Arizona’s unaffordable housing problem, a bipartisan duo are pushing a piecemeal approach that is earning both high praise and some heavy scorn at the Capitol.
Four bills, drafted as strike-everything amendments by Sens. David Livingston, a Republican, and Lela Alston, a Democrat, moved through the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday.
The strike-everything amendment to Senate Bill 1634 would require cities or counties with more than 100,000 people to choose at least four strategies from a list of more than 20 to incentivize affordable housing. Smaller municipalities would choose at least one strategy, which range from increasing density to expediting applications for new affordable housing to allowing more guest houses or duplexes or triplexes in single-family residential areas. It would also allow for more “novel, creative or innovative incentives for developing affordable housing.” And it would force cities to study and draft plans for addressing their affordable housing shortages.
The striker to SB1117 would incentivize building larger affordable housing complexes by eliminating state property tax for owners of low-income housing with up to 600 units. The previous cap was 200 units.
SB1531 as amended would appropriate $100 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Housing Trust Fund, which funds affordable housing developments, housing assistance programs and homeless shelters.
And SB1581 would offer $50 million in federal ARPA funding to cities and counties to develop “sanctioned camping sights” for the homeless.
Of the four, the only measure facing organized opposition is SB1581, which requires as a condition of receiving the grants that cities adopt and enforce ordinances against “urban camping” (read: being homeless) at unsanctioned sites.
Sure, government-regulated homeless camping sites reek of our sad dystopian future (there’s a pair of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes that come to mind1). But there’s a legal issue as well. Current case law from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals holds that governments cannot ban urban camping unless they offer sufficient beds for the homeless population. And $50 million isn’t nearly enough to house all of Arizona’s homeless, according to activists and lobbyists opposing the bill.
Another troubling provision that orders cities to move homeless people though drug and mental health courts “whenever possible” is on the chopping block as Democrats warned the bill will likely need their votes to pass the Senate.
Progressive lobbyist Marilyn Rodriguez, who opposed SB1581 on behalf of the ACLU of Arizona and other clients, argued that lawmakers are fumbling their way through attempts to solve the problem without ever really understanding the root causes. She pointed to the debate in committee yesterday, which she said largely centered on the danger and crime that the homeless represent.
“If we have $50 million to spend, we should give it to families that need it. They know how to use it better than David Livingston,” she said. “Nobody asks them what they need, probably because they’re scared they’ll get murdered.”
Still, most Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee cautiously supported the bills, saying while changes are necessary to get their full support on SB1581, the package provides a starting point to address Arizona’s housing crisis.
While the festering problem of housing affordability would be better dealt with by strong policies supporting low-income tenants — such as eliminating state bans on rent control and bans on requiring developers to include affordable housing — that ain’t the reality we live in.
The Republican legislature will never push policies developers oppose. Forcing cities to confront their homelessness problems and throwing some money at it is probably the best we can hope for. And it’s better than nothing.
No, you resign!: After initially trying to minimize their roles in the office, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel shot back at the five criminal division chiefs who called on her to resign, dismissing their concerns as “you do not like the way I run this office.” (They claimed she didn’t really run it, and even did that drunkenly.) The letter came just hours after the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met in executive session to discuss their legal options as even her biggest supporters have gone from “she is in over her head” juggling the office and her sobriety to “she should step down.”
“When that level of disagreement rises to such a degree that you feel you cannot support my decisions, as in any other industry, your choice is to do your job and stick it out or resign,” she wrote to the chiefs. “Instead, you have taken the rather extraordinary measure of publicly asking me to resign.”
Compassion only for the people with privilege and power: The way former Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan was treated by police when he pulled a gun on them at his home shows how “police absolutely can peacefully de-escalate deadly situations if they want to,” The Appeal’s Meg O’Connor writes. And, O’Connor notes, Ryan’s fate and the potential charges he may face now sit in the hands of Adel, who is herself embroiled in numerous scandals and wants compassion for her addiction issues.
Shockingly, started in Arizona: A group called Bonds for the Win is targeting school boards in more than a dozen states using the tactic of filing claims against a school district’s insurance, which aren’t legally sound but waste school resources, NBC News’ Tyler Kingkade and Ben Collins report. It was founded by a Scottsdale QAnon adherent, Miki Klann, and the strategy aimed at the Scottsdale Unified School District, where the group threatened to file claims against the district’s surety bonds, which the district doesn’t have.
The past is the future: A smattering of large tech companies like Amazon, DoorDash and Robinhood are opening offices in Tempe, a sign that the big names believe workers who can work from home will come to an office again in the future, the New York Times’ Kellen Browning reports from the ring of shiny buildings around Tempe Town Lake.
Just in time for a climate crisis: Tucson got national praise for an ordinance that requires developments to get half of their landscaping water from rain, but the ordinance isn’t being enforced and developments aren’t abiding by it, the Arizona Daily Star’s Tony Davis reports. The city even did its own report which found developments weren’t complying, but still no citations have been issued for violations.
Did you know the Legislature proposes new laws?: Well, if not, now you do, and here are a bunch of the proposals.
If this resolution passes, voters would get to decide whether wages should be a matter of statewide concern, supplanting the ability of cities and towns to set higher minimum wages than the state.
The full House approved a bill that requires fingerprint background checks and online posting of discipline for massage therapists.
While a bill that would override a court rule that bars peremptory strikes of jurors is moving, it’s unclear if it has the support needed to pass.
Arizona Sen. Tyler Pace makes the case for his bill to extend and expand the post-birth health care mothers receive on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System as a way to combat high maternal mortality rates.
As a bonus, this one is already a law: Arizona surgeons must now present information to people seeking breast implants about the risks of potential illness from the surgery and implants.
Nothing new, but growing every year: The rash of education bills for things like posting curriculum online and anti-critical race theory stem from a mistrust and anger toward public schools, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff and Mary Jo Pitzl report. Arizona joins a wave of other states pushing for parental control of classrooms in the wake of COVID-19 mitigation efforts and the 2020 racial justice protest movement.
Choppy waters ahead: Continuing declines in enrollment threaten the budgets of the Maricopa Community Colleges system, which could cut costs across the board and increase tuition to make up for the holes, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports. The rough financial picture comes as five of the 10 community colleges install new presidents and several other top positions are in flux.
“If no one came to buy your burgers if you were a burger place, you can’t do that indefinitely," Maricopa County Community Colleges District governing board member Kathleen Winn told Steinbach. "But because of this community college system being taxpayer funded, we function whether we’re doing a good job or not. And right now we’re not doing a good job.”
End of an era that actually ended more than a decade ago: Soon, you won’t be able to drive by the abandoned dog-racing track in Phoenix, a landmark of sorts, if you consider a dilapidated, vacant building a landmark. The Phoenix Greyhound Park closed in 2009, and crews started tearing it down this month, the Phoenix New Times’ Benjamin Leatherman reports. The story talks about the park’s glory days and its ties to organized crime. (Back in the day, it was one of the few places that would serve booze to an underage Hank.)
Speaking of booze, would you buy us one beer per month to tell you all the hot political gossip we can find? Well, you’re in luck! A subscription is just $8 per month, which is less than a beer in this town.
Like many union-busters before them: Starbucks workers in Phoenix claim the company’s union-busting tactics are breaking federal labor law, the Phoenix New Times’ Elias Weiss reports. The workers filed a complaint, while the company said the claims, like surveilling employees, were false. The Phoenix claim comes as a Mesa Starbucks location’s vote count is held up and other locations locally and nationally eye unionization.
While we’re on the subject, you should listen to the Unfinished: Short Creek podcast: The Mohave County Board of Supervisors approved funding for a study of Short Creek, the area once controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its former leader, Warren Jeffs, to see what the community and its residents may need, Today’s News-Herald’s Brandon Messick reports. The data will then help the county and area nonprofits understand how to address community needs in the isolated area.
Friends in low places: The “groyper army,” an online group of white nationalist trolls, rallies against their political enemies, including ones that Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers directs them to attack, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reports. But the group isn’t just an online attack dog or meme-spreader, which is bad enough. Their tactics shift the political consensus further to the right and spread into offline life as well.
Just last year, lawmakers voted unanimously to allow county officials to start counting early, mail-in ballots earlier to ensure results are ready as soon as possible.
Now, Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli, who voted for the bill extending the window to tally ballots last year, wants to ban counties from counting ballots until Election Day.
If his strike-everything amendment to SB1492 is signed into law, we can say goodbye to that first batch of election results at 8 p.m. on election night. Those are early votes tallied in the weeks before Election Day. The bill would also delay the final election results by days, if not weeks.
Borrelli said the bill is based on the idea that someone could get those early results before Election Day — which is already a crime and has never happened — and could use that information to know how many illegitimate votes need to be injected into the system to steal the election. That, of course, is also a crime, and the conspiracy that it happened is a central tenet of the Big Lie to which Borrelli subscribes.
After the New York Times report that Ron Watkins, the no-chance Arizona congressional candidate, was likely Q of QAnon based on forensic linguists, the charisma-lacking potential cult leader wrote a poem on Telegram called “I am not Shakespeare” to prove he is not Q, Vice reported. Watkins said he started talking like Q because he learned to mimic his style. This is the poem, which he posted in writing and read as an audio clip:
Not once, no where, was I involved with Q.
Real truth is hard for leftist sheep to see;
Their claims are not substantial in my view -
All lies they spread are spread with utter glee.
The lies; deceit; and hate they sow for us,
Designed to trick your friends and kin astray,
Fake news for money, greed, and a quick buzz,
Ensnaring words entice you to obey.
In spite of their attacks on our spirit,
We persevere and stand our ground with pride.
Our God's good grace and love does not pivot,
No man, malign in thought, may break our stride.
This sonnet wrote in style of old is clear;
Where does it prove that I am Bill Shakespeare?