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Written by Editorial Staff Category: Valley News Issue: September 2017
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Flooding Arizona
In this section, we previously warned of the dangers of hiking in Arizona’s extreme summer heat (Heat Hike Hacks, May 2017) after 279 hikers had to be rescued on Phoenix hiking trails in 2016. But heat is hardly the only climatic concern as summer winds down. In July, 10 members of a Phoenix family were killed when a surprise flash flood ripped through an area around Cold Springs swimming hole in the Tonto National Forest near Payson. June’s Highline wildfire north of the swimming spot is suspected as an accessory to the tragedy, since land scorched of vegetation causes summer monsoon rainfall to flow downhill without interference. Still, does the U.S. Forest Service bear any culpability? The Gila County Sheriff’s Office says the National Weather Service did issue a flash flood warning for the area about an hour and a half before the flood on July 17, but the victims would not have received notice as they were out of cell service range and did not have a weather radio. The Arizona Emergency Information Network reminds the public to check weather.gov for official warnings and reports and to avoid streams during monsoons as rain from storms miles upstream can drain quickly and create flash floods. If you get a warning while camping or hiking, get to higher ground as quickly as possible. ein.az.gov/hazards/flooding

 

Aging Out
Sun City is great and all, but what sun-drenched Valley city lures the most retirees? According to SmartAsset, an online wealth management resource, it’s Mesa, which ranked No. 1 nationally in net migration among people age 60 and older in 2015. Arizona also fared pretty well as a whole, ranking second only to Florida among U.S. states.

But are conditions really that hospitable here for the Boomer-and-beyond set? Using data from three sources, we put together this Venn diagram to reveal America’s most snowbird-friendly state.

Circle A: States that don’t tax Social Security or pension income.

Circle B: States that average at least 120 days of unimpeded sunshine, so your sore knees don’t drive you into a tizzy, dear.

Circle C: States with at least one Country Kitchen, generally recognized as the French Laundry of budget buffets.

Related: SmartAsset Study - Where Are Retirees Moving - 2017 Edition

Sources: U.S. News and World Report, Current Results; Country Kitchen

 

Vanessa Ruiz
Where in the world is Vanessa Ruiz? The former 12 News anchor was born in Miami, raised in Colombia, went to high school in Spain and returned to Florida for college. A regular Carmen Sandiego of journalism, Ruiz kept moving with broadcast reporting stints at Telemundo Internacional, FOX Miami and TV Martí, a Spanish broadcaster that transmits to Cuba. She spent a year at KNBC in L.A. before moving to Phoenix’s NBC affiliate in 2015. This summer, she put down roots by signing on to lead the borderlands program at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Excited to flip the script – producing new journalistic talent rather than chasing the story – Ruiz says, “We need good journalism, thorough journalism [and] objective journalism now more than ever.” 
Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield.

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR NOMADIC EXISTENCE DURING YOUR FORMATIVE YEARS SHAPED YOU AS A REPORTER?
“I grew up within three very different cultures, and I grew up thinking that was normal – different types of people and cultures and traditions and languages [in each place]. It marked me as someone who’s open-minded and values diversity.”

WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO JOURNALISM?
“My dad was a lawyer, and I think for a brief moment in time I wanted to be an attorney, but thank God I didn’t do that. I would always be reading a newspaper or magazine. I knew what I didn’t want to do – be stuck in an office doing the same thing over and over, and [my dad] said, ‘Why don’t you think about journalism?’ And I didn’t think about doing anything other than that since.”

WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 MOST IMPACTFUL EXPERIENCES YOU’VE HAD IN YOUR 17 YEARS ON AIR?
1. 9/11: “I had just turned 21 years old. I was a baby. I was super green to be thrust into the biggest news story of our lifetime. That was huge.”
2. Being a Latin America correspondent for TV Martí: “Traveling to Venezuela and Nicaragua, just a cameraman and myself, dealing with security concerns, not knowing if we were going to make it back to our hotel sometimes… being followed in Venezuela by government forces.”
3. “Reaching my professional goal of becoming a main evening news anchor in a major TV news market here in Phoenix.”

WHAT SPURRED YOUR MOVE FROM PRODUCING THE NEWS TO TEACHING?
“Probably everything I saw with my own two eyes, quite frankly, from the beginning of this [2016] presidential campaign. I could see the need for hardcore, engaging journalism. I started to see my priorities shifting, wanting to be more directly engaged and work with young people and help guide them and mentor them in ways I wish I would’ve had [when I was in school]. For me, this is a way to pay it forward.”

AS A BILINGUAL JOURNALIST, AND NOW PROFESSOR, HOW DO YOU HOPE TO CONNECT with FELLOW HISPANIC-AMERICANS?
“I don’t think it’s a hard market to tap into… We feel like we’re not from here, but we’re also not from there. My cousins [in Colombia] would joke I’m the gringa cousin. But [in the U.S.], I would sometimes feel I’m not American. I say I’m 200 percent – I’m 100 percent American and I’m 100 percent Hispanic. I feel like I was really lucky to experience both cultures. I want to convey that to students who are perhaps feeling the same. I tell them it’s only going to help you – it’ll open more doors for professional opportunities.”

YOU’LL BE RUNNING THE CRONKITE NEWS BORDERLANDS INITIATIVE. WHY IS THAT SUCH AN IMPORTANT BEAT?
“Because Arizona is probably ground zero for a lot of the topics we’re hearing in the news – the border wall, immigration, changing demographics. It speaks to me because I’ve navigated both worlds. It’s also not just Arizona and Mexico – we’re going to South America, the Caribbean and beyond, covering cultural issues, political, economic, etc.”

AFTER YEARS OF BOPPING AROUND MARKETS, YOU SEEM WEDDED TO ARIZONA – IN FACT, YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED LATER THIS YEAR. WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR NEW CITY?
“I would say No. 1: The possibility to come here and start fresh, to create your own life and make it whatever you want it to be. That’s the kind of place this is. Also, I live in awe of the natural beauty of Arizona. I’m from Florida – we have beaches and swamps. Here, we have mountains and deserts and valleys and lakes.”

 

O’Pinion

by Mike O’Neil

McCain’s Last Stand?

Senator John McCain cast the deciding vote that seems, at least for now, to have dashed Republicans’ hopes for repealing the Affordable Care Act, AKA “Obamacare.”

Most were surprised by the Republican senator’s negative vote, but should they have been?

As a former POW, McCain is no stranger to facing one’s own mortality. But his recent brain cancer diagnosis is a reality check of a different breed. It would be hard to think of a more compelling motivation to take honest stock of our nation’s healthcare and our aspirations for American life.

What does John McCain really care about? McCain has been a U.S. senator for more than 30 years. It’s clear, based on his own words – and even his earlier, decisive vote to permit consideration of alternative healthcare proposals, just a day before joining two other Republican senators to quash the Obamacare repeal – that he cares deeply about the traditions of the Senate, traditions that once informed its apt description as the “world’s most deliberative body.” His 30-plus-year tenure is long enough that he has seen these traditions deteriorate in increased acrimony and partisanship.

He repeatedly objected to the “rushed” way the ACA had been passed, though months of public hearings preceded the ACA vote, and dozens of Republican amendments were incorporated into the final bill.

No wonder his indignation has grown in kind with the current Trumpcare imbroglio, wherein even most Republicans were kept in the dark until a couple of days before the vote. McCain’s vote and explanation of it was a demand to return to “regular order,” meaning consideration by relevant committees, public hearings, expert testimony and careful analysis before voting. And bipartisanship. It is clear McCain wants this bipartisan regular order to apply not just to healthcare, but to everything. His own explanation of his vote was a clarion call for that.

A second explanation for his vote cannot be dismissed: Perhaps the man who has just come face-to-face with his own mortality was unwilling to cast a vote that would certainly have ended health insurance for millions and perhaps caused the premature deaths of many thousands of newly uninsured people.

Moreover, his medical diagnoses put him beyond the reach of any credible threats of repercussions, political or otherwise. You can’t threaten to “primary” a senator who will not run for re-election.

Other explanations would seem not to fit the facts. If McCain wanted to vote as an act of revenge against a president who has attacked him personally (“Not a war hero; a hero does not get captured”), it might be understandable. I just don’t think such a motivation is likely to drive an ailing man focused on his legacy and what is really important to him. Considerations of one’s mortality are likely to elevate one above such petty concerns.

Why did McCain cast his vote in the negative? This “Skinny Obamacare Repeal” simply removed the individual and company mandates – a technical detail, albeit one necessary to expand coverage. Insurance companies could agree to insure those with pre-existing conditions only if they were provided with a large pool of healthy people to compensate for those with pre-existing conditions. Remove these mandates and the large health pool would not be there and no insurance company would offer policies available to all.

This bill would have ensured the collapse of ACA coverage in its entirety. Wavering Republican senators knew this and were promised that this bill – which enjoyed just 17 percent public support – would never become law, it was just a mechanism to get a bill, any bill, into conference with the House. But with this Congress, who knows?

McCain’s senatorial colleagues should send him a thank-you note. His defiance of party-line voting will allow them to go home and truthfully tell hardline primary voters they tried to scuttle Obamacare at all costs, without having to face the wrath of general election voters who surely would have held them accountable if they had lost their coverage.

Maybe that’s why McCain took the bullet – to help his comrades. War heroes often do that. 

Mike O’Neil is a sociologist and pollster who hosts the public affairs program, The Think Tank, on KTAR-FM 92.3. 

 

 
From The Hip

“The temperature is 112° F and the sun is setting amid a slowly gathering storm. South of Phoenix lies the Gila River Indian Reservation, a mostly desolate desert, but this has been the home of herds of wild horses for hundreds of years, roaming the land and enjoying their freedom. It's amazing how these healthy animals can survive the ultra-hot summers, with no shelter or shade, eating almost anything they can find – a triumph of survival and adaptation to their environment.”

— Andrei Stoica
Valley software engineer and  photography enthusiast

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