Things we love and loathe this month.

The Lobby

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Valley News Issue: March 2017
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Bracket Brouhaha

Americans love a good bracket. This month, Arizona wins the proverbial American office pool by hosting the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four weekend (March 31-April 3). Dawn Rogers, CEO of the Phoenix Local Organizing Committee, says the economic impact of Arizona’s first Final Four “will be significant and felt across the state,” pointing to last year’s College Football National Championship game that generated more than $274 million for the Valley. A whopping 100,000 people are expected to check out the games in Glendale and Fan Fest activities planned in Downtown Phoenix, including a free music festival (Rihanna and Bruce Springsteen are past headliners). Foisting a bit of that March Madness on our youngsters, third grade classrooms from 68 schools across the state are competing in the Read to the Final Four competition to rack up the most minutes read. In true NCAA fashion, winners get bragging rights – at least until next year’s bracket. ncaa.com/finalfour

 

Gimme Shelter

President Donald Trump’s moratorium on refugee admissions – and travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations – cast no small degree of uncertainty over the Valley’s sizable Syrian community. Since the outset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Arizona has been the third most common U.S. destination for Syrian resettlement, accepting 1,149 of roughly 18,000 refugees. Almost half of those live in the West Valley city of Glendale.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Receiving Syrian Refugees 2012-2017

San Diego
1,040
Houston
447
Chicago
765
Dallas
437
Sacramento
380
Troy
594
Clinton Township
428
Dearborn
357
Glendale
489
Atlanta
404
 

 

Mood Stabilizer – Brings Us Up

Maverick is back y’all.

The boys of summer return to the Valley. It must be spring.

Singh Meadows in Tempe opens. First round of Persian cucumbers is on us!

Hundreds protest Trump’s immigration ban at Sky Harbor. PHX Sky Train finally proves useful.

Cause: Boy Scouts allow transgender boys to join. Effect: A run on basketry badges.

Mmmmmm. Just smell those orange blosso… om… AH–CHOOO! Crap.

University of Phoenix chairman Peter Sperling lists his Arcadia estate for $17 million. That’s what a decade of student loan default will buy you.

ASU study finds 24 percent of K-12 kids experience chronic bullying, often on Twitter. Same stat applies to State Department employees.

 

Torey Lovullo

What’s California boy turned tough Boston townie Salvatore “Torey” Lovullo most looking forward to in Phoenix? The heat. No kidding. Lucky for him, Lovullo will get plenty of it as the new manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I want to feel [the heat] the way everyone has been talking about,” the 51-year-old insists. “But talk to me in September and we’ll see if I still feel the same way.” We caught up with the former big league infielder and Red Sox bench coach before he hits the field for spring training to talk coaching styles, favorite movies and, of course, America’s favorite pastime.

YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS HAVE EARNED RAVES FROM FORMER COLLEAGUES AND PLAYERS. WHY’S THAT SO IMPORTANT IN A COACH?
“The old-school baseball theory is keep your mouth shut and play as hard as you can and hopefully everything will work out, but as we know, athletes are human and have feelings. Being able to express yourself takes a lot of pressure off… Really, what it’s all about is making the athlete as comfortable as possible.”

WHO ARE YOU EYEING ON THE D-BACKS ROSTER FOR A BREAKOUT YEAR?
[Laughs] “What I will say is we have an assortment of players who are going to fill a variety of roles. We have a number of core players who we’re going to count on. I think Paul Goldschmidt is the one everyone recognizes. [But] I think we also have guys ready to take that next step to become special everyday players.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN YOUR FIRST MLB MANAGING STINT WITH THE RED SOX WHILE FILLING IN FOR JOHN FARRELL, WHO WAS BATTLING LYMPHOMA IN 2015?
“I learned that there’s a lot more behind the scenes happening than most people are aware of. The manager is pulled in a bunch of different directions each day… you have to prioritize your time and what [is possible to] accomplish in a day. I think the Red Sox were a little different animal, too, because they had such a huge amount of coverage from the media – I think that was something I wasn’t quite ready for. It can be, at times, very overwhelming.”

SPEAKING OF: Arizona HAS ITS FAIR SHARE OF SPORTS FANS, BUT CAN WE REALLY COMPARE TO BOSTON?
“I think the whole New England community is very passionate about their sports team[s]. There’s a long history there... In Arizona we’re a fairly new franchise – we are not as connected to the city because [the D-backs] haven’t had as much time.
But I think in time, Arizona fans will become
passionate… we want to win their support.”

PRIOR TO COACHING, WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE EXPERIENCES AS A PLAYER?
“Well, obviously, all of the firsts were the things I remember most. My first hit, my first home run [with the Detroit Tigers in 1988]… and getting to meet Sparky Anderson, who was my first manager, who was legendary.”

NAME YOUR THREE FAVORITE BASEBALL MOVIES.
1. Bull Durham
2. The Rookie
3. 42
“I like non-fiction – I tend to enjoy watching things that have actually happened… With Bull Durham, I just loved the humor and originality.”

YOUR DAD WAS A PRODUCER ON THE COUNTRY MUSIC VARIETY SHOW HEE HAW. ANY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES FROM THE NASHVILLE SET?
“I remember knocking on [the “King of Country Music”] Roy Acuff’s dressing room door at the Grand Ole Opry at 7 or 8 years old. He wore these massive cowboy boots and I thought it was entertaining for this performer to take 45 minutes to get these huge boots on.”

 

O'Pinion by Mike O'Neil

Putting a Value on Values

What are the core values of American society? That is, what are the things we believe we should guarantee all citizens, regardless of cost? If our guarantee is conditional, equivocal or based on available funds, then it’s a preference, not a core value. We make decisions about preferences based on priorities. We can’t fulfill all our preferences, so we choose between them all the time.

This distinction was brought home to me during a recent trip to Cuba. Please don’t mistake this for a full-throated defense of a deeply flawed – and oppressive – system, but I was impressed by some of Cuba’s core values. Despite the country’s poverty, the regime makes three fundamental guarantees to its people. First: Everyone gets fed, period. Second: Everyone gets medical care. Third: Everyone gets education at every level. As core commitments, all are universal and free of charge.

That got me wondering: What, if any, are core American commitments to its citizens?

K-12 education comes to mind. Since education beyond the 12th grade involves tuition and seems dependent on resources available, it is not a core commitment. We were a world leader in instituting mass education in the 19th century, but in recent years our commitment seems tentative and vague.

Our Bill of Rights guarantees certain rights: free speech, the right of association, free press, gun ownership and other “rights” – generally enumerated in Amendments 3 through 10 – that are probably more constrained and situational, e.g. unreasonable searches, speedy trials, etc. These constitutional values are mostly political in nature. We can pretty much say what we want, associate with who we want, practice any religion (or none), and carry a gun most anywhere, but if we are starving, we have no right to be fed. Other developed Western nations regard our particular combination of rights as odd.

Our attitude toward medical care is more nuanced. If we get hit by a car, we are taken to a hospital and treated on an emergency basis, regardless of insurance or the ability to pay. But we might get hit with a bankruptcy-inducing bill on the back end. Inflicted with a more chronic condition, like asthma, we have no absolute right to treatment – until we suffer a life-threatening asthma attack, in which case we’re rushed to the emergency room and hopefully don’t succumb en route. (Physicians I’ve spoken with confirm that asthmatics die all the time in ambulances – typically people who lack the resources to manage the condition.) The very controversy over the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) highlights how medical care is not universally seen as a right in this country.

How do these observations relate to education in Arizona? I wrote last month about Governor Doug Ducey’s dilemma. He faces immense public pressure to restore some of the funding cut from the education budget since 2007. He hoped that dipping into a state lands trust with Proposition 123 would allay this public pressure. It did not. On January 9, he gave a State of the State address that paid homage to teachers and cited education as a very high state priority – but four days later unveiled a budget that offered peanuts in the way of additional funding, including a teacher raise of about a dollar a day. There was a complete disconnect between the earlier rhetoric and his funding proposal. Along with most of the Legislature, the governor is telegraphing the message that maintaining public education is not a core value, but rather a preference, one that ranks somewhere below annual business tax cuts as a state priority.

A perpetually diminishing business tax – maybe that’s our core value as Arizonans.

Mike O’Neil is a sociologist and pollster who hosts the public affairs program The Think Tank on KTAR-FM 92.3. His recent articles are available at mikeoneil.org.

 

“While out on a hike near Redington Pass in Tucson, [I saw that] a small, dark smokestack began to rise above the tall grass of the surrounding hills. I saw a hill in the distance, the yellow and green vegetation now black and burning. The fire grew like an orange, glowing ripple moving through the hillside. The authorities were called and arrived quickly, but nearly 60 acres of beautiful desert were scorched before the wildfire was eventually extinguished. Gunfire is being investigated in what caused the fire and has been an increasing cause of wildfires in the state. In 2016, 98 percent of wildfires in Arizona were determined to be caused by humans.”

— Madison Kirkman Professional Photographer, took this photo on January 7, 2017

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