Since The East Valley Tribune went weekly, an entire swath of our news-verdant Valley has fallen under a shadow when it comes to daily coverage. But with the addition of new outlets from local National Public Radio member station KJZZ (91.5 FM), the sun is rising again in the East. “The key focus for us is the development of our youth media center… we’re also going to be hosting several of our reporters [who will have] an East Valley focus,” says KJZZ communications officer Estevan Bellino. The new center in east Tempe will house the eastern campus of SPOT 127, an initiative to teach at-risk and low-income kids broadcast reporting skills. Also in January, KJZZ launched its new mobile production unit Soundbite, a food truck-news van hybrid, bringing live storytelling events, reporting capabilities and gourmet wieners courtesy of Short Leash Hot Dogs to locales all over the Valley.
Kickin’ It... AZ-Style
As this issue went to publication, a fantasy board game called Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 was on pace to exceed $8 million on the Kickstarter crowd-funding website – smashing the record set by the Exploding Kittens card game. The top Arizona-based Kickstarter campaigns, in terms of funding:
Brings Us Up
Contrary to what you might think – or want to think – the Valley’s most prominent divorce lawyer is no Valentine’s Day grinch. Yes, Angie Hallier has represented such high-profile divorcées as Alejandra Nash and Dina Shacknai. Yes, she highly discourages couples from getting married before their late 20s. But the one-time aspiring ballerina – who put herself though law school as a young single mother after her abusive first marriage crumbled – also loves flowers, Frenchmen and old romantic movies. And she wants your
relationship to work out. Cross her heart.
What’s the key to attracting big-name clients and effectively representing them?
“From my perspective – and I authored a book about it – it’s not enough just to concentrate on the legal proceedings [during divorce], but preparing the client for their next best life after divorce. Preparing for life when they’re single again. Making decisions based on the future, not [the] past.”
Hallier’s book, The Wiser Divorce, was published in 2014. Her top three takeaways:
• “The way you talk about, think about and act regarding your divorce will have a profound impact on the outcome.”
• “Put the kids first. Nothing should be a higher priority.”
• “Settle whenever possible. Going to court means leaving your divorce in the hands of a judge who won’t necessarily see things your way. You’ll save on costs, prioritize your most important issues and avoid the risk of unwelcome decisions.”
Day job aside, Hallier does enjoy a good classic Hollywood kiss-and-tickle flick. Her three faves:
1. Casablanca (1942)
“I married a Frenchman, so it’s that whole thing.”
2. Desk Set (1957)
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn play rivals in a network TV research department. “Love those two.”
3. Bringing Up Baby
Hepburn again, this time with Cary Grant and a pet leopard. “Kind of funny, but still romantic.”
Hallier’s firm, Hallier & Lawrence, represents “a roughly equal number of men and women” as clients, but she says husbands often prefer female attorneys. Why?
“Men often choose female attorneys because they believe it will gain them some insight into the minds of their ex. And to make things less contentious with a female on the other side.”
What about the dictum that divorcing couples should avoid “lawyering up,” if possible?
“They should avoid bad lawyers. Good lawyers work with clients to preserve assets and families, and not get contentious. I believe the best divorces happen as a series of board meetings, which is to say, sitting with clients and mediators, working things out.”
Is it possible to envision a scenario where a divorcing couple should not get lawyers?
“If a couple has no assets of significance and no disagreements on children... no home and both have W2 jobs, yeah, you could do it yourself.”
Hallier is not immune to the appeal of a nice Valentine’s Day gift. Her all-time favorite?
“Oh, let me see. My husband gave me an etching by an artist whose work I first saw on my first trip to Paris with him. Her name is Marie Laurencin. Seventeen years later he bought me one of her etchings as a reminder of [our] first trip. That’s romantic, right?”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s principal stated policy objective has been annual tax cuts, especially for businesses. This has required widespread cuts in state spending. In most areas, such cuts impact limited constituencies. In public education, however, the cuts have been so draconian and so sustained that public support for increased education funding skyrocketed.
Pro-education activists – inflamed by the resignation of more than 1,000 teachers at the beginning of the academic school year – are desperate for an ally to pressure a governor who, frankly, seems to have more pressing concerns. And they may have found one – a rather unexpected one, as I’ll explain in a bit.
It’s not like the governor and his legislative partners don’t feel the pressure. Last year’s Proposition 123 was an attempt to mollify the festering and inconvenient public unease over education. In order not to interfere with the pledge of annual tax cuts, the measure was funded by increasing the rate at which money was pulled from the state Land Trust, a fund already constitutionally earmarked for education, rather than by an increase in legislative appropriations. The governor and Legislature clearly had hoped that passage of Proposition 123 would have mollified public concern over education funding. It has not.
While proponents pledged that “123” was only a first step, there has been no sign of the promised “456” follow-up. Since public concern about education funding has not abated, the stage was set for the governor to propose a very modest increase in funding, just enough so he could proclaim that he had responded swiftly to public concerns. In making such a claim, he could rely on the fact that the public finds it difficult to discern the differences between “millions,” “tens of millions” and “hundreds of millions” of dollars.
To put it another way: Ducey was expected to aim for some number that sounded to the average person like a lot, but which, when spread across a half-million Arizona students, would amount to a drop in the bucket – and small enough to not jeopardize his promise of annual tax cuts.
To clear the way, he created a “Classrooms First Initiative Council” to provide a blueprint for funding; instead, the council just recommended that the governor’s office, Legislature and public work together to “develop a simplified and single school finance formula for all public schools.” In other words, they punted. The governor is on his own.
Enter Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. She is the highest elected education official in the state. Although she has been willing to take on the governor in the past and is clearly not part of his “team,” it is significant that she is a Republican and a conservative. Nominally invested with little formal power, she can, however, command public attention. And she’s proposed a new funding model that would give the state’s public schools $680 million to pay for teacher raises, school repairs and new school buses. The funding proposal includes $200 million to schools to use as they see fit, $140 million to boost all teacher salaries by 5 percent, $60 million for rural transportation and teacher recruitment, and $280 million for capital funding.
$680 million is real money, unlike the token proposal that was likely to come out of the governor’s office. And by citing a specific figure, she has set a standard against which the governor’s proposal can be measured. If he were to, for example, propose a $70 million increase in school funding, it would be simple to note that this is “approximately 10 percent” of what Superintendent Douglas, a conservative Republican, has said is needed. By citing a precise figure, she has established a benchmark against which legislative and gubernatorial proposals can be measured.
This is a game-changer. In order for the governor or the Legislature to be able to credibly claim their “support for education,” they will have to come up with numbers somewhere in the ballpark of Douglas’ proposal. And that, by every prior action, is probably more than they’re willing to offer. Douglas’ bold move has precluded their ability to claim to be genuine supporters of public education without ponying up real money.
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.
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