Things we love and loathe this month.
Once known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio was supposed to be sentenced on October 5. He could have faced up to six months behind bars. Instead, the former Maricopa County sheriff’s lawyers will deliver oral arguments in court the day before, arguing for his criminal contempt of court conviction to be thrown out completely. This, after President Donald Trump used the first pardon of his presidency to grant clemency to Arpaio, saying the former lawman – who was also one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters in Arizona during the campaign – was treated unfairly and just “doing his job.” Arpaio was convicted in July of willfully disobeying a judge’s order to stop making immigration arrests. This isn’t Arizona’s fist high-profile pardon. In 2001, on his last day in office, President Bill Clinton pardoned Arizona’s 19th governor, Fife Symington, just before a retrial on bank fraud charges. But while Symington left public service, instead becoming a chef and co-founding the Arizona Culinary Institute, the 85-year-old Arpaio told the Washington Examiner he wouldn’t rule out a run for mayor, state legislator or U.S. Senate.
— Lauren Loftus
At press time in late August, Hurricane Harvey had brought torrential rain (more than 51 inches in some places) and massive flooding in western Louisiana and east Texas. In the Houston area, upward of 40,000 homes were destroyed, while hundreds of thousands more were under evacuation orders. At least 30 people have died. Despite being more than 1,000 miles away from the areas hardest hit, Phoenix stepped up to help. We sent:
United Blood Services
30 units Type O blood before landfall (1 unit = 3 lives saved)
Arizona National Guard
4 military helicopters, with more than 12 servicepeople
Phoenix Fire Department
80 members of a search-and-rescue team
St. Mary’s Food Bank, Phoenix
1 tractor-trailer of food, water and hygiene supplies (30,000 lbs)
American Red Cross
Haason Reddick is looking forward to the mercury dipping a bit this month. “It’s so hot out here,” the New Jersey-bred linebacker says with a laugh during a phone call on a sweltering day in August. The Temple University star, 23, was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals this spring, after shooting up the draft boards at ESPN, Sports Illustrated and NFLDraft-Scout.com. Infernal temperatures notwithstanding, he says his move to Phoenix this summer and initiation into the Red Sea have been smooth. “So far everybody’s been good. [I’m] getting to know everybody, you know, laughing and joking,” Reddick says. Any rookie hazing? “Not necessarily hazing, but I probably have to do team dinners or something like that.” We dished on foodie haunts, football movies and his surprising secret talent.
What’s your favorite part of living in the Valley so far?
The things I like most are all the great places to eat out here… Steak 44. That place is amazing. I get the Wagyu steak and the lobster and crab mac and cheese.
What do you do in your downtime?
I’m a big fan of movies. Any time I get some downtime and I’m not doing nothing, I might go to the movie theater and see what movies are playing, or just stay home and watch movies. I’ve also been spending some time at Topgolf. A lot of people golf out here. I’m trying to get better at it.
What are your favorite movies? Fave football flicks?
I would have to go with either Troy, that Brad Pitt was in a few years back, or the Kingsman… Friday Night Lights is one of my favorite football movies. I would say the most realistic [football] movie, even though it’s an older movie, I would say is Remember the Titans… In the real world, there’s a lot of issues where you have a lot of, you know, issues with racism and things like that, and in Remember the Titans that was a certain issue that they had. However, they got the team to come together.
Which three players are you most looking forward to tackling or sacking in the NFL?
I would say Tom Brady, probably Cam Newton and Marshawn Lynch.
With Deone Bucannon out, you’ve been taking snaps with the first-team defense at inside linebacker, after playing outside linebacker and defensive end in college. How is the position different?
It’s probably different. Learning the new position and, you know, reading a new set of keys and getting acclimated to different players and, you know, how they play the game is a big difference.
Which football players did you grow up looking up to?
I would say [Pittsburgh Steelers safety] Troy Polamalu and [Baltimore Ravens linebacker] Ray Lewis. I would say those were the main two.
Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?
Maybe that I’m a great singer.
Do you sing karaoke?
[laughs] Nah. I think I might stick to my day job.
If you had to sing karaoke, what would you sing?
I’d probably sing The Temptations – “My Girl” or something like that.
O'Pinion by Mike O'Neil
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead
Six Arizonans who did not know each other kept running into one another at the state Capitol during legislative hearings on education. They didn’t like what they heard – especially when the Legislature passed an expansion of student vouchers, which they saw as pilfering money from already grossly underfunded public schools.
So, they decided to do something about it.
Banding together, the six Valley parents and educators reasoned that the state’s woeful track record in funding public education – 49th or 50th nationally, even before the voucher expansion – would mobilize much of the public against the legislation.
As previously explored in this column, Arizona has a firm constitutional provision permitting citizens to force a vote on any law passed by the Legislature. But getting such initiatives on the ballot is not easy. It requires more than 75,000 “valid” signatures to force a vote. These signatures are required to pass muster by a “strict compliance” standard, not the looser “substantial compliance” standard that legislators have applied to their own nominating petitions. This means citizens need to submit more than 100,000 signatures to survive usual petition challenges for minor technical infractions.
Normally this is accomplished by paying petition circulators to collect the signatures. Need 100,000 signatures? Easy: Get a fat cat or organization to write a check for $500,000 to $1 million and you’re on the ballot.
Whether due to principle or to the absence of an available fat cat, the group endeavored to get on the ballot solely with volunteer effort. Every political pro I spoke to said this would never be successful. Why? Because they could not recollect any instance of a referendum or citizen initiative making the ballot by volunteer labor alone. Most thought it was an effort worthy of Don Quixote.
But the Gang of Six was a group of citizens, not political pros. No one told them their task was impossible. So they organized as “Save Our Schools” (SOS) and proceeded.
Starting in May, they collected more than 111,000 signatures in the blistering Arizona summer – and did so on an almost entirely volunteer basis. (In the last two weeks, after collecting about 100,000 signatures using volunteers, they relented and hired paid circulators to collect the last 10,000 as a cushion. Much of that funding came from exhausted volunteers who asked if they could donate in lieu of further work.)
How did they do it? According to spokesperson Dawn Penich-Thacker, “People had been hearing about education funding, the concern was there, the time was right.” Social media helped. SOS has more than 4,000 Facebook followers and a stable of Twitter followers. These were leveraged to recruit about 3,000 volunteers, who passed petitions.
Most were engaging politically for the first time. As one reported: “This is the first time I’ve ever done anything but vote.”
Those who had done petition-gathering before reported that this was about the easiest “sell” they had ever encountered. Most people were happy to sign, and few were hostile. Many were highly concerned about depleted public education funding.
Before the initiative is added to the November ballot, the signatures have to go through two screenings: one by Secretary of State Michele Reagan, and a second, more rigorous check by individual county recorders. The Reagan screening already happened – she only tossed out about 3,000 signatures. About 70 percent of the remaining signatures must be validated for the effort to qualify. An anecdotal observation by a member of Reagan’s staff may be a harbinger of what they are likely to find in the second stage: “My God, these are pristine.” It looks like the volunteer workers were meticulous after all.
Sadly, if the effort does survive the “strict scrutiny” signature checks and makes it to the ballot, the initiative will likely be opposed by out-of-state “pro-voucher” interest groups with multimillion-dollar budgets. That kind of money invested in mass advertising can do a lot to change public perception. But I wouldn’t count this group out. They’ve already done the impossible once.
Mike O’Neil is a sociologist and pollster who hosts the public affairs program, The Think Tank, on KTAR-FM 92.3. Most of his recent articles are available at mikeoneil.org.
From the Hip
“Living and golfing at StoneRidge Golf Course in Prescott Valley, we enjoy all that nature has to offer. The approach shot on the 13th hole [doesn’t let] you see where your ball lands until you arrive at the elevated green. It was a great surprise to see the snake [had] beat me to the hole!”
— Jolene Marsh
A golfer and nature-lover, Marsh moved to Arizona from Colorado five years ago.
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