The Lobby

Written by Mike Meyer Category: Valley News Issue: January 2018
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DASHBOARD
Vetting Help
Arizona veterans are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives than civilians, according to a new study by the Arizona State University Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. Using data compiled by the Arizona Violent Death Reporting System, the report found that veterans had a suicide rate of 54.8 per 100,000 veterans in all of 2016, versus the non-veteran rate of 14 per 100,000. Nationally, the average for veterans is 38 suicides per 100,000. This is markedly higher from last year’s report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which concluded that U.S. vets are 22 percent more likely than non-vets to commit suicide. ASU center director Charles Katz says one reason Arizona – where young male vets (18-34) are the most vulnerable, and four-fifths of all suicides are committed with firearms – is so impacted is likely related to resources. “Veterans in rural communities, where the problem is worst... can be more socially and physically isolated than those in urban areas. Another reason for Arizona being at higher risk is most likely related to the availability of guns.” According to Rally Point AZ, an initiative of mental health organization La Frontera that assists local vets and their families, common warning signs of suicide are anxiety attacks, excessive irritability and unstable employment, which are also signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (affecting up to 20 percent of recent veterans). If you see these signs of stress in a loved one, call Rally Point’s hotline: 1-855-725-5948.
— Lauren Loftus

 

Mood Stabilizer 

(Really) Smart Cars
Waymo – the Google-owned driverless car company that’s been testing its vehicles in Metro Phoenix for the past two years – says it’s ready to hit the road… sans human back-up driver. The Waymo white minivans aren’t exactly the epitome of pop culture futurism, so we compare them here to the famous smart-car stars of TV and film to gauge their potential as automated taxis.

(Really) Smart CarsBatmobile (1939)
Originally an ordinary red car, it’s been customized over the years to fight crime on its own.
Plusses: Late to the airport? Rocket propulsion, baby.  
Minuses: No trunk.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1964)
Dick Van Dyke flies behind the wheel of a magical 1910s European Grand Prix racecar.
Plusses: Flying is cool.
Minuses: Emissions test nightmare.

Herbie (1968)
Got his drivers out of a lot of jams, but even the Love Bug couldn’t save Lindsay Lohan.
Plusses: Taste for adventure.
Minuses: Likely to ignore Google-optimized route.

KITT (1982)
The Hoff fights crime with his trusted A.I. self-aware sidekick in Knight Rider.
Plusses: Can suggest a nice wine pairing en route to dinner.
Minuses: Kind of a fussy blowhard.

Johnny Cab (1986)
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s automated ride from Total Recall is purpose-built for taxi services.
Plusses: All electric; great for fleeing fascist henchmen.
Minuses: Mannequin avatar driver looks like Howdy Doody with a tan.

Waymo (2017)
Could offer Uber-like ride services as early as 2019.
Plusses: No driver = no creepy comments about your outfit.
Minuses: Unnervingly similar to Johnny Cab.

 

7 QUESTIONS

Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield
Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield

Tammie Coe
Tammie Coe detests dry desserts. “Even when I eat yogurt – and I eat yogurt every day – I like the ‘wet’ yogurt. I like the ‘wet’ custard,” Coe says of avoiding foods that leave a dry mouthfeel. “I know that sounds weird, but there’s a difference… Like, ‘Ahh, it tastes like ice cream.’ It’s almost melty, but it’s not. I like it to soak into something.” After more than two decades as one of the Valley’s premier pastry chefs, Coe is entitled to some strong opinions on sweets. We caught up with her on the Tuesday after the Thanksgiving pie rush, our conversation periodically paused by fruit deliveries to her Downtown Phoenix bakery Tammie Coe Cakes.

What are the big dessert trends you see coming in 2018?
Everything old is new again, Coe says. Including: Boston cream pie, whipped cream cakes and icebox cakes (her fave): “Anything a housewife in the ‘50s or ‘60s would make.”
Gelatin: “A lot of mousses stabilized with gelatin” or substitutes for vegans and the gluten-free crowd, like agar-agar.
Piping on cakes: “They were doing it in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so it’s just the 30-year turn” of trend resurgence.

Which desserts do you crave?
“I’m not even a vanilla person, but crème brûlée. But crème brûlée in a layer with cake, or with cream puffs, something like that. I’m a big fan of flourless chocolate cake. But you know what? I’m a big fan of desserts. I always say this, but it’s true – even if I go to a not-so-great restaurant, I still want to try the dessert. I like sweets. So I guess I’m in the right profession.”

What gives you inspiration for your creations?
“I like to spend about two hours in the grocery store and go through every shelf and see what’s available. I’ll pick it up. I may hate it; I may love it. Gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free – I’m always looking for different… People don’t always inspire you, so you have to inspire yourself. I have eight magazines that I bought last week and I have not even opened them. I just don’t have time. But to be inspired by one thing in that magazine when I open it up – I have time. Or fashion design, just so I can be inspired for a cake. I’m always trying to be inspired.”

What do you eat to balance all the sweet?
“Sushi and Italian are my favorites. I like Pino’s Pizza [Al Centro] – their pizza and pasta. I love Moira Sushi [Bar & Kitchen]. I love Zinc Bistro. [Matt Carter] is such an amazing chef.”

How did you conceive your Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport shop, Tammie Coe to Go?
“I had an opportunity to get in there, and that took like two years just to go through it. Now I’ve been there five years. We’re going to be doing a face-lift by the end of [this] year. My inspiration was to make it polka dots, so it’s kind of girly... Make a nice place for people to go to get delicious food, stuff that I believe in.”

Any exciting plans for 2018?
“There’s something I’ve been thinking about for several years. I have a concept for delicious sandwiches and delicious pastries – just a place where people can chill out and drink coffee. Something that you can relate to, but maybe a little different.”

Where else can we get your goodies?
“We’re at the [Old Town Scottsdale] farmers’ market every Saturday until May. What I do for the farmers’ market is stuff I normally don’t do. I’ll just throw a bunch of things in there. It’s always something different. It’s kind of like an outlet of creativity. This weekend I have a mixed berry doughnut with a mixed berry cake crumb on the outside. It’s so scrumptious… I totally love what I make. I guess that’s the goal: to love what you make and love what you do.”

 

O'PINION BY MIKE O’NEIL

Act of Goddard
Frustrated at the role of big money in politics, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain co-authored the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or the McCain-Feingold Act, which regulated the financing of political campaigns. Now, another old lion of Arizona politics – former state attorney general and Phoenix mayor Terry Goddard – is picking up the baton.

In 2010, a Supreme Court decision struck down key provisions of McCain-Feingold – including one that forbade most third-party communications (read: media ads) in the 60 days before a general election – and opened the door to unlimited campaign spending by third parties including corporations and unions. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such limitations on campaign funding pose an unacceptable restriction on free speech. Late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, then writing for the majority, suggested that the remedy for unlimited corporate campaign contributions is transparency and full disclosure of campaign contributions.

Since that ruling, however, exactly the opposite of transparency has happened. Corporate and other interest groups have been able to funnel unlimited money into campaigns. And, by setting up a maze of shell groups to conceal original monetary sources, they have been able to remain anonymous in doing so.

The names of such intermediaries provide no clue as to their funding sources. The names range from the innocuous (“Citizens United”) to the completely misleading. Who would think a group called “60 Plus” would lobby for cutting Social Security benefits?

Examples of this abuse hit close to home. In Arizona, suspicion abounds that electric utility APS has engineered a functional takeover of the Arizona Corporation Commission, the body that regulates their ability to raise utility rates, by helping to elect a majority of its commissioners. It would be difficult to imagine a more direct conflict of interest.

The amounts are not chump change: Since 2008, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has estimated that $690 million has been funneled into our political system to ensure the election of favorable candidates and the passage of favorable citizen initiatives as well as the defeat of ones hostile to their interests.

Goddard has stepped into the fray with a proposed Arizona solution: a constitutional amendment aptly titled “Stop Political Dirty Money.” The initiative would require that any entity donating $10,000 or more to influence the result of an election must disclose such contributions. Significantly, organizations would have to report the original sources of such funds. No more hiding behind non-descriptive or even misleading front groups.

“Dirty money has done damage to the Arizona political system and dampened the voice of the people for far too long,” Goddard wrote on social media before a November 29 press conference at the state Capitol.

Will such disclosure prove enough to clean up our political system? Unclear. Candidates or causes can still benefit from potentially unlimited contributions; nothing in Goddard’s proposal will stop that. And it will not apply to federal offices since the Arizona Constitution cannot regulate those. But it is hard to see a meaningful downside to disclosing such substantial contributions. At least for those not making them.

The barrier Goddard and his allies face is substantial. They need approximately 250,000 signatures to achieve ballot status, but that seems realistic, given the recent success of the Save Our Schools (SOS) coalition which got a referendum on the ballot with virtually exclusive use of citizen volunteers. SOS needed only about half the number of signatures that a constitutional amendment requires to achieve ballot status, but Goddard’s group has longer to collect the signatures – and can do their work outside of Arizona’s torrid summer season.

Moreover, Goddard is a master of the initiative process. He got his feet wet in Phoenix politics 35 years ago when he successfully spearheaded an initiative to get Phoenix City Council members elected from districts rather than at large, a measure that was opposed by almost the entire Phoenix political establishment. He got the change on the ballot – and won. A year later he was mayor. The barrier for a constitutional amendment is high, but such petition drives are the 70-year-old’s   home turf. It could be his last hurrah – and it’s a meaningful one.

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

photo by David Venezia“Living here in the Valley, I am always chasing the perfect sunset. On a particularly warm summer night I ended up at the Tempe Town Lake Marina. Clouds filled the sky, but the color had not come yet. Rowing teams practiced in the lake. Slowly, the sky shifted from a dull blue to magnificent hues of orange, purple and red.

I framed my shot and captured this photograph of an unknown rowing team with a full sky of fire behind them.”

— David Venezia
Freelance photographer and director of marketing for Parts Score European car shop