The Daily Agenda: The rent is too damn high
Let's talk about conflicts of interest ... And Brett Mecum is still around ... Stop kicking it, Rusty, it's already dead!
But if you rent in Phoenix, you already knew that. Still, the Post helpfully quantifies Phoenix’s annual average rent increase at an eye-popping 26%. Other lists put several Arizona cities into the top 10 for rent increases. Economists suspect these rising rents will further drive inflation, too, so this affects you even if you don’t rent.
Guess what didn’t increase by 26% last year: Most people’s salaries.
Cities and towns around the state know they have an affordable housing problem, and some are working to address it. In Tempe, for instance, the city started collecting money the past two years for a program that “puts the onus on the city to create affordable housing rather than relying on developers to bring affordable projects to the city,” the Republic’s Paulina Pineda reports.
But at the state level, there’s little effort for a broad-ranging affordable housing package, even at a time when the state coffers are overflowing. And the perils of massive rent increases recently came to a head in Tucson, where an investor purchased a senior living apartment complex and jacked up the rents.
Arizona Daily Star reporter Carol Ann Alaimo wrote about the price increases and then followed up with a story about how they can happen: State law not only doesn’t include rent control, it explicitly prohibits cities from passing rent control, too. Some Tucson leaders said they’d be interested in such measures, if their hands weren’t tied.
Don’t expect that to change, Republican Arizona Rep. Ben Toma told the Star. He instead pointed to land-use policies and housing supply problems that need to be fixed. And he said he expects there will be several bills the Legislature works on this year related to housing affordability.
We’ll hear about one of those plans tomorrow, when Arizona Reps. Steve Kaiser, a Republican, and César Chávez, a Democrat, announce a bipartisan plan to “improve housing affordability and address homelessness statewide.” We’re all ears, especially after Chávez’s ill-conceived tweet about the issue.
But getting the details right is critical. Arizona needs some big thinking on housing — and not stuff like gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s plan to jail homeless people or move them to blue states.
We’re glad to see at least some bipartisan recognition of the problem from lawmakers, though, because the runaway rent train affects people regardless of political affiliation. The rent is always too damn high, no matter who’s in power.
Lots of reporting focuses on home-buying prices, which also saw massive increases throughout the pandemic, and our rising homelessness problem, both of which warrant attention. But the rental trap isn’t covered as much — we want to change that. We’re looking to report on people whose rents were raised who either had no choice but to stay in their current place or had to move, but found rental prices at other places still out of budget (and not to mention the costs of moving, deposits, application fees …) If that’s you, or someone you know, and you’re willing to share your story with a reporter, email email@example.com.
Politicians’ annual financial disclosure statements were due yesterday, offering the public a rare, if shrouded, glimpse into what kind of financial conflicts Arizona lawmakers and local politicians may have.
But if local politicos are squirreling away billions in Bitcoin while working on pro-crypto policies, you’ll never know.
We mentioned a while back that a couple of Democratic lawmakers were calling on their colleagues to disclose Bitcoin and other crypto holdings. This is especially important considering a host of state lawmakers are working on a crypto study committee developing rules and regulations for digital currency in Arizona. Members of Congress have to disclose their crypto holdings.
But of course, no state lawmakers voluntarily disclosed their crypto wallets, according to Rep. Domingo DeGrazia, one of the signers of the call for lawmakers to disclose. (FWIW, DeGrazia told us he owns about $150 in Bitcoin and Ether, or at least he did — “It’s probably worth about $75 now,” he said — and he was considering writing it into his financial disclosure statement even though there’s no field asking about crypto.)
State Sen. Wendy Rogers, who serves on the study committee, has been working on a host of pro-crypto policies, including letting Arizonans pay the government with crypto.
We know she owns crypto. And she has been using her position as a politician and her considerable clout in the alt-right social media circles to attempt to juice the market.
But we’ll likely never know which coins or how many are in her wallet or any other local or state politician’s wallet. That’s because updating the financial disclosure requirements to include the exciting new field of potential political scams in the crypto field would fall to lawmakers themselves.1
While Arizona lawmakers are always on the cutting edge of volunteering Arizonans up as guinea pigs to the latest tech scammer in a turtleneck, they’re far slower at adopting conflict of interest laws on themselves that keep up with the times.
Read til the end: Gov. Doug Ducey asked for $50 million more for a border security fund that still has most of the $55 million it previously got still available, Arizona Public Media’s Andrew Oxford reports. And not only is there still a good chunk of money left, but the spending so far has focused on Republican-led counties. Plus, all-around shady dude Brett Mecum, a former aide to Sen. David Gowan, is lobbying Gowan for one of the companies seeking a contract from the fund.
He could afford to go to space with this cash: Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly blew away the competition in fundraising, leaving him with $18 million in cash on hand as he fends off Republican challengers, the Republic’s Ronald J. Hansen reports. How’s that compare to the GOP candidates? To be frank, it doesn’t. Hulk Hogan impersonator Jim Lamon has the next-most cash on hand, but a lot of it is his own cash. Blake Masters has less than $2 million cash on hand, and Attorney General Mark Brnovich has less than $1 million (but he’s got all that free Fox News time). The Capitol Times’ Nick Phillips has some handy charts for you.
If everyone stopped contributing to politicians and subscribed to local newsletters instead, the world would be a better place. Subscribe for $80 per year and we’ll never ask for your vote.
If only they were as forgiving to the rest of us: Public defenders didn’t buy that whole “we look at the facts of each case” statement from Tempe police about why they didn’t send former Department of Corrections Charles Ryan to jail after he pointed a gun at police during a three-hour standoff at his home, they told the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins. This quote pretty much sums up the whole story:
“If Charles Ryan wasn’t who he was, and didn’t have the career he did, he would be in a different place. To be honest with you, he would likely not even be alive,” Maricopa County Deputy Public Defender Katie Gipson said.
We shudder to think of what she’ll do next: Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers prevailed at the Arizona Supreme Court, which ruled that her campaign ads against fellow GOPer Steve Smith didn’t constitute defamation. The court’s 4-3 ruling said that Rogers’ speech needed to be protected, even if it was “repugnant,” the Cap Times’ Kyra Haas reports. It wasn’t Smith who sued; it was the owner of the talent agency he worked for, which Rogers attempted to tie to sex trafficking.
When your tweets get you censured, stop tweeting: U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar has taken his most extremist content to the far-right social media platform Gab, where he’s spent time defending white nationalist Nick Fuentes, the Republic’s Tara Kavaler reports.
Watching the Legislature creates endless deja vu: It must be a day that ends in -day, because the Legislature is again trying to make it harder for initiatives and referendums to get on the ballot. And some bills stemming from the audit “findings” passed through the Senate Government Committee, including one that would penalize election workers if a ballot is misplaced. Another proposal would make it so mayors couldn’t shut down businesses during emergencies, like some did during the pandemic.
Wait for the amendments: Arizona Republican Senators introduced a big election bill that Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer — neither of whom are beloved in the Stop the Steal movement — don’t seem to not hate. Senate Bill 1629 is probably the elections bill to watch, the Cap Times’ Camryn Sanchez notes.
Wait until they hear about the 10 Commandments monument: The Secular Coalition of Arizona sent a letter to House Speaker Rusty Bowers asking him to take down the “Pine Tree” or “Appeal to Heaven” flag that’s flying in the House, saying it’s well-known symbol of the Christian nationalist movement and violates the separation of church and state, the Phoenix New Times’ Katya Schwenk reports.
Bipartisanship is her middle name: Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Danny Seiden praised U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for her filibuster vote, calling her a “refreshing independent voice.” (While it’s somewhat surprising to see the business group publicly applaud a Democrat, it’s par for the course for Sinema, who’s spent ample time courting this kind of attention. Here’s just the latest example.) Arizona Mirror editor Jim Small panned Seiden’s praise, saying Sinema exalts bipartisanship over seemingly any other ideal these days, including ones she claims to support, like voting rights.
One voter fraud: A woman in Scottsdale pleaded guilty to illegally voting in place of her recently deceased mother in 2020. The woman was herself ineligible to vote, so she forged her mother’s signature on a mail-in ballot.
Reading about reading: Our friends at the Border Chronicle talked to authors Jude Joffe-Block and Terry Greene Sterling about their book detailing the rise of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the resulting racial profiling lawsuits and fallout.
This is the last time we’re going to talk about the spelling of Tucson: And we’re only bringing it up this time because we didn’t realize there’s a Twitter bot that flags all misspellings of the city name.
Homes burning down isn’t the only property damage that wildfires can cause, and Republican Rep. David Cook wants insurance and the federal government to recognize that by covering the costs of flooding after a wildfire. Fires alter the land, leaving it more susceptible to flooding and mudflow afterward.
Cook, whose own property burned in a wildfire last year, held hearings during the off-season about the destructive wildfire seasons we’ve seen in recent years, which resulted in some new proposals on how to address them.
Additionally, Cook paired up with Democratic Rep. Andrés Cano for House Concurrent Memorial 2006, which calls on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to include the costs of flooding when it calculates the costs of wildfires needed to meet the threshold that unlocks federal assistance for emergencies.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers gave the kiss of death to Republican state Rep. John Fillmore’s HB2596. That’s the election bill we mentioned that would take us back to “1958-style voting” and give lawmakers the ability to overthrow elections they don’t like (among a host of other offensive provisions).
For those who don't follow the intricacies of the legislative process, a brief primer: The speaker assigns House bills to committees. Usually it’s one committee (plus the required Rules Committee) though if the speaker wants to ensure it dies, they may add additional hurdles by assigning it to two or three committees. We once saw a bill assigned to four committees and that was a pretty big deal.
Well, Bowers assigned Fillmore’s bill to all 11 committees that the House has to offer (plus Rules) — almost certainly setting a new record and passing along one of the most effective fuck-off messages that we've ever seen.
HB2596 was the brainchild of laughing stock 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Daniel McCarthy, who has history with Bowers after leading the failed Patriot Party recall against the speaker while claiming Bowers is a pedophile. (Like pretty much everything McCarthy says, that’s bullshit.)
The only time we can recall lawmakers updating the rules on financial disclosures statements was back in 2016 when then-Rep. J.D. Mesnard successfully decreased transparency in the forms by increasing the threshold for disclosing paid junkets.