Fate of Prop 123 in Hands of Congress, NOT Arizona Voters

Proposition 123 purports to resolve our education funding by draining State Trust Lands core funds, not just relying on the interest earned by the core account.  Prop 123 would amend our State of Arizona Constitution.  

We can read both pro and con arguments.  Fact is the State of Arizona owes $ 400 million, and education is suffering.

Former State treasurer, Doug  Ducey, now Governor, believes Arizona is growing financially stronger but wants to defer payment.  Current Treasurer Jeff Dewitt  says Arizona has the funds on hand to pay $400 million and move on.

The truth is that Prop 123 is not in the hands of Arizona voters.   Arizona  became a state through the Enabling Act of 1910, passed by the US Congress.  Negotiations took two years before statehood in 1912.  Prop 123 win or lose is only a conditional step with many unknowns.  We cannot amend the Constitution without Consent of Congress,  which will take years.

Governor Ducey's proposal is like betting on the 2033 Derby.   Arizona education would be placed in Limbo, hoping that somehow, the Arizona delegation can convince a future Congress to amend the 1910 Enabling Act.  Other" Enabled States" in the west have state lands with lumber, mineral and water resources also to be bargained by Congresspersons in Georgia and New Jersey.  What a mess.

If Prop 123 passed, it could become a worthless derby ticket.  Governor Ducey could deflect criticism, due to inept Congress, waiting for his pony to come in. But by delaying education funding, Prop 123, just extends education  failure.  

Prop 123 puts education into deep Limbo, so I must vote NO.

David Ortega
Former Scottsdale Councilman &  Architect

Prop 123

Sir:  Linda Bentley (Sonoran News, April 20, 2016) is, of course, correct that voters need to be informed of the ramifications of prop. 123. Becoming fully informed, however, is difficult. Proponents say passage will not result in raising property taxes. That contention is false. Taxes will increase in some school districts as a result of passage, and the Cave Creek school district is one where the increase will occur. Nowhere have I been able to find how much our taxes will increase. The Arizona Republic certainly doesn't provide that information, nor does the voter's pamphlet. Can Sonoran News assist the voters in the Cave Creek school district with information on the extent of the increase if 123 passes?

Yours truly,

Edward Burch

Dear Judge Leonardo:

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) is an elected body responsible for regulating the state’s public utilities (electricity, telecommunications, natural gas and water), in addition to facilitating the incorporation of businesses and organizations, securities regulation and railroad/pipeline safety.  In carrying out its responsibility to regulate the telecommunications and electric utilities in Arizona, the ACC works closely with both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The commission also works closely with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and state and federal law-enforcement in enforcing both federal and state securities statutes. Commissioners function in an Executive capacity, yet they also adopt rules and regulations thereby functioning in a Legislative capacity, and have Judicial powers when making decisions in contested matters, most notably those affecting the utility rates of Arizona consumers.  

Given the incredibly powerful and broad scope of their duties, it is imperative that the commission’s ability to impartially carry out its duties isn’t compromised.  This is why we are running for two of the commission seats in 2016 – to restore integrity and balance to the commission. However, as more and more information becomes public, it is becoming apparent that an electoral solution alone may not solve the ongoing controversies of the ACC. We are gravely concerned that certain commissioners, and other elected officials, are engaged in unethical and potentially illegal activities.

On March 24, 2016, it was reported in The Arizona Republic that the newest appointed commissioner, Andy Tobin, had not reported the fact that his brother works for Cox Media. Cox Media is an affiliated business of Cox Communications – a business regulated by the ACC. The fact that Mr. Tobin hid this conflict-of-interest during his appointment process is incredibly troubling, and given the fact that he was replacing a commissioner who also had a conflict-of-interest related to Cox Communications, it is simply inexcusable.

If this were an isolated incident one could chalk it up to a mistake, albeit a big one, but a mistake nonetheless.  And if that were the case we most likely wouldn’t be writing this letter today.

However, this is just another in a series of troubling incidents that have surrounded the ACC since the 2014 election cycle. To wit:

The ongoing issue of Commissioner Stump’s text messages – some of which have been recovered despite vast efforts by Mr. Stump to discard his cell phone and any trail of his communications - with a utility executive, commission candidates, and political operatives running a “dark money” campaign aimed at getting those candidates elected to commission.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has stated that some of the text messages could be considered public records, yet a Maricopa County judge has ruled the texts are not public record. How is it that hundreds of text messages being sent to political operatives and regulated executives from a public official on a phone paid for by public dollars are not public record?  The very notion defies logic.

It is widely known that Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s largest utility, spent millions of dollars in undisclosed funds on influencing elections in the 2014 cycle, most notably on the candidacies of now elected Commissioners Doug Little and Tom Forese. The fact that a regulated body is spending millions of dollars on electing its regulators is troubling, to say the least. Simply put, we need to know if the ACC has been bought and sold for by the utilities under its authority. It would be a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house. 

There is evidence to support this theory. Since being elected, both Commissioners Little and Forese have vigorously defended the interests of APS at the expense of ratepayers and other interests. Even to the point of completely stopping fellow Commissioner Bob Burns’ efforts to require disclosure from APS on any political spending around the Arizona Corporation Commission races. The actions of Commissioners Little and Forese are unprecedented. 

In addition to Commissioner Tobin’s undisclosed conflict-of-interest discussed above, he also has another conflict-of-interest which he initially concealed from Governor Ducey during the appointment process: his son-in-law works for SolarCity, another business which is regulated by the ACC.  Upon learning about this conflict-of-interest, the commission’s own counsel told Mr. Tobin he wasn’t “electable or appointable”.  Yet, this didn’t stop Mr. Tobin, Governor Ducey, or the Arizona legislature from moving forward with his appointment.  Which begs the question, if the Governor is concerned about the impartiality of the commission, why would he replace a conflicted commissioner with another person who has not just one conflict, but two? 

Finally, and perhaps most troubling of all, Commissioner Tobin not only moved forward with his appointment, but is now asking his former Arizona Legislative colleagues to rewrite the conflict-of-interest statues to specifically address his situation. Rather than remove a conflicted regulator, the Arizona legislature is working on HB2123 - special legislation designed to help one individual (of the over 6.7 million Arizona residents) retain his appointed position and taxpayer funded salary.  This is truly incredible.

So, does all of this mean the ACC has been compromised?  We honestly don’t know, but it is with that question in mind that we turn to you.

As the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, we are asking you to initiate a full investigation into possible corruption involving the ACC. Specifically:

Is Commissioner Tobin eligible to serve on the commission?

Does HB2123 constitute “special legislation”, which is illegal under Arizona state law?  And is it an attempt to conceal an illegal appointment of an unqualified individual to the commission? 

Has the ACC been unduly influenced by Arizona Public Service or any other regulated entity’s political activities? 

Have there been communications between commissioners, candidates and independent political operations in order to illegally coordinate campaign activities? 

Why do Commissioner Stump’s text messages continue to be hidden from the public, even though the Arizona Attorney General has deemed some of them as public record? 

Has there been collusion between certain sitting commissioners and Arizona Public Service to prevent public disclosure of certain campaign expenditures?

We encourage you to look at any other commission related activities you deem appropriate to review. Ensuring an uncompromised commission is of the utmost importance to the consumers of Arizona.

We understand the serious nature of this letter.  We turn to you only because we cannot trust the vast majority of our state officials to be unbiased in this matter. 

It is obvious we cannot trust the commission to police itself – other than Commissioner Burns, the current commissioners have shown they will do everything to maintain a cloud of secrecy over their activities. It is also obvious that we cannot place faith in the Governor or the legislature to take any action. They have already shown complicity in supporting the questionable activities surrounding the commission and are actively seeking options to expand the influence of dark money on Arizona’s elections, as evidenced with the recent passage of Senate Bill 1516.

The only statewide elected official who has shown any interest in bringing some accountability to the commission is Attorney General Mark Brnovich. He sought the removal of Commissioner Susan Bitter-Smith prior to her resignation and has tried to secure the public release of some of Commissioner Stump’s text message.  We have copied him on this letter in hopes that he will join our call to your office to fully investigate the activities of the ACC.

Arizona voters and consumers deserve to know if one of the most powerful regulatory bodies in the state is serving their interests, or if it has instead become a captive body to the very interests it is supposed to be regulating.  Thank you for your time and consideration of this serious matter.


Bill Mundell
Tom Chabin
Candidates for ACC

To Governor and House of Representatives and Senate:

Honorable Governor Doug Ducey:

I am writing to you regarding SB 1350 as a concerned citizen, owner of a hotel, and President of the Sedona Lodging Council.

Sedona’s tourism industry is a $500+ million industry and is critically important to Sedona’s economy and quality of life for our residents. Managing the positive impacts and mitigating the potentially negative impacts of this valuable industry is always front of mind for our city leaders. 

Sedona has worked hard to balance the quality of life our citizens with the needs of our visitors; however, we continually struggle managing the very important tourism industry and the negative implications of tourism including traffic congestion, parking, and demands on our infrastructure. Our city currently has the ability to manage room inventory through local city ordinances. SB 1350 would eliminate that local power and allow potentially hundreds – maybe even thousands of new rooms to be added to the market. An additional 150 rooms – or a 10 percent increase - will have drastic impacts on our already fragile and maxed infrastructure.   

This bill would cause several other challenges for the residents and businesses of Sedona. By signing SB 1350 into law, the bill would effectively usurp the planning and zoning powers from local governments and transfer these functions to the state under the guise of a new shared economy. This loss of control would wreak havoc on Sedona and all of Arizona’s smaller towns.   

Sedona’s lodging industry must comply with all local ordinances and zoning regulations. They are inspected by the fire department as well as city and state officials to ensure that they are safe, have adequate parking and ADA services. If enacted, SB 1350 would allow Airbnb to essentially operate without regulations. Furthermore, hotels are currently allowed to build in commercially zoned areas.  With this proposed law, properties operating like hotels would be legal in ALL neighborhoods. What will happen to the quality of our neighborhoods and access to affordable housing?   

This bill only covers municipalities and does not address HOAs. Therefore, homeowners renting their properties as hotels could circumvent HOA rules. As a result, HOAs would be powerless to protect many of their constituents. Neighborhoods could suffer the negative consequences of excessive rentals, party houses, wedding venues, and other problems that could create a nuisance for homeowners. This would amount to an injustice for the many homeowners who, for good reason, do not want to be subjected to the side effects of the Airbnb concept. 

If signed into law, SB 1350 would also allow Airbnb to work under the "honor code" in regards to taxes.  Hotels are taxed at a higher rate, and are required to maintain transparency and accountability in collecting taxes. Will Airbnb operators be required to account for revenues at the same standards as hotels?   

A recent study of Airbnb conducted by Pennsylvania State University revealed an explosion of multi-unit operators who account for nearly 40 percent of Airbnb’s revenue. This indicates that many homes are being rented full-time as if they were hotels, rather than once or twice a month as Airbnb and others would have us believe. Realtors are already telling us that potential buyers are now considering buying large homes with the intention of renting them out as B&Bs or wedding venues. In addition to threatening to disturb the peace of the neighborhoods in which these homes are located, this could begin a trend of determining home values based upon potential rental income rather than location and other traditional factors. 

With home values in Sedona tied to the rental market, prices could skyrocket to the point that they would no longer be affordable.  

The state of Arizona talks about states’ rights and fights any federal government regulations, claiming that the state knows what is best for its residents. I believe that local governments are in a better position to understand and dictate what is best for their residents and businesses, rather than a government 100 miles away.

Please oppose SB 1350.


Steve Segner
Sedona Lodging Council

Prince musicians die but never the music   

Prince Rogers Nelson is gone but will be forever remembered by his music. We are always struck hard when an icon suddenly departs from this life. Regardless of how and why Prince left us so suddenly, his fans mourn.

Musicians leave a print on the earth. Elvis fans remember the moment and the very place they were when they first heard his death announced. Many of us will never forget the chilling news of John Lennon's assassination. Only recently we mourned the death of David Bowie and Merle Haggard.

We expect old people to die. George Beverly Shea was a 104 when he died. He recorded 70 albums and sang to millions around the world. Our natural reasoning is that our favorite musicians will live past 100 and sing a few departing songs then ease off to an eternal sleep. However, some musicians it seems are eternal as Chuck Berry almost 90 and Jerry Lee Lewis who is 80, both entertained forever it seems. I saw Jerry Lee in Owensboro, Kentucky well into his seventies. He could actually still play the piano very well. The hip gyration move had lost some of it gravitas but hey he was still entertaining 4000 people that night. And then of course there is Tony Bennett who is approaching 90 and still performing. Some of us wonder if The Rolling Stones will be touring when they hit 80. Paul McCartney is still rocking at age 73. All of these people will die but their music never will.

Life is great when people are able to still participate and enjoy life. Prince leaving us at age 57 makes it all the more shocking. Reports are that Prince recently presented great concerts in Georgia.  Over the weekend he entertained a small gathering in Minnesota. As always, he presented his music with passion, genius and celebration. Such musical celebration mystifies us even more. It is hard for us to fathom something being wrong when an artist is seemingly hitting all the right keys.

However, the greatest artists fool us. David Bowie was sick but managed to squeeze out one last album. Glen Frey of The Eagles wowed us last summer on tour but is now gone. Robin Williams, of course not a singer but a famed comedian, could always make us laugh but he masked the internal demons that overtook his life. Elvis could still sing and entertain us even though we were not aware of his prescription addiction until his death.

More will be said about Prince's untimely death today and in the days ahead. In the meantime his life will live on through his music and his music will live on in us. 

Glenn Mollette
Enjoy Books By Glenn Mollette at Amazon.com


According to PVT South

If Trump comes up a little short in the count, Kasich may give him his delegates to put him over the top. One could call that "The Art Of The Deal."

Trump may just want four years in the White House, so the VP choice is super critical. First on my list is Rudy Giuliani then John Kasich, Scott Walker and Chris Christie.

On the Democratic side it is a two horse race and Dearly Beloved one is a claimer, while the Super Horse may get its number taken down.

Here is a difficult question for the naive American. Will it make any difference if the United States is no longer a number one world power in the future? China, Russia, North Korea and other rogue nations would like to make it so.

Just look at what this Community Organizer has done to our military and this country in just seven years.

PVT South


Don't say "Thanks Obama" for low gas prices

The price of gasoline is at a record low – and President Obama wants to take credit. At a recent speech the president told the crowd "you're welcome" for the fact that "a lot of families are saving a lot of money at the gas pump."

That's a slick move. President Obama is like a mayor who ignored years of pleas to repair giant potholes, and then shows up at the auto repair shop to say "you're welcome" after you pay for the new suspension and rims because of those potholes.

America has undergone an unprecedented energy revolution. But that's despite, not because of, President Obama. Indeed, his administration has gone to great lengths to hamstring domestic energy production. Most recently, the president proposed a $10.25 per barrel tax on every barrel of oil. President Obama should stop taking credit for what he hasn't done.

The centerpiece of today's energy revolution is hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." This technique has given energy developers access to previously trapped shale energy reserves buried deep underground – and the President has opposed it at every juncture.

Because of the rapid adoption of fracking, domestic oil production has expanded. Last year, American crude oil production peaked at 9.6 million barrels a day. That's about a 2 million barrel increase over 2014.

That surge is boosting energy security. In recent years, America has dramatically reduced its dependence on oil from OPEC, the Middle East oil cartel that crippled the American economy in the 1970s with an oil embargo. The United States now imports only one-quarter of the oil it consumes – its lowest level in three decades.

Our reduced dependence on foreign oil is starving rogue regimes of revenue. That's especially important endeavor now that Iran – a state sponsor of terror – has rejoined the international oil market under Obama's Iran deal. By 2017, that regime's oil exports could generate $10 billion in revenue.

But if the United States can provide its own fuel sources, it can help keep that outlaw regime in check.

But President Obama shouldn't be patting himself on the back for these benefits. The president has repeatedly tried to paralyze the growth of the energy industry.

In November, President Obama rejected Keystone XL, a proposed underground pipeline connecting Canadian shale reserves to U.S. refineries. This would have created thousands of jobs – and strengthened North American energy for decades.

In March, the White House announced it won't offer offshore drilling leases off the Atlantic coast, forfeiting billions of dollars in revenue.

And recently, the White House has gone after consumers. The president's recent $10-per-barrel oil tax will raise gas prices by 25 cents for every gallon.

While the energy industry has grown despite these obstacles, such progress is threatened by the Obama administration. Sustained basement-level gas prices have forced producers to scale back production. The number of active oil and gas rigs in America dropped by nearly two-thirds between 2014 and 2015.

If President Obama wants credit for lower gas prices, perhaps he should have encouraged innovation and refused to block improvements to America's infrastructure.

Of course, the American energy industry will persevere, evolve, and grow. But there's one thing that's for certain: that won't be thanks to this White House.

Michael James Barton is the Energy Advisor at ARTIS Research and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.


Tis the season

During April, sections of the country are decorated with the glorious white and pink of flowering dogwoods. A Smoky Mountains tale would have you believe that the tree owes its name to bloodhounds. 

These animals, according to a story usually told with a chuckle, were highly prized during pioneer days. They seemed to realize that they were no ordinary dogs, for some of their habits were peculiar. Among other things, a male wouldn't lift his leg against just any tree or post---he would use only the variety that scientists call Cornus florida. The legend says that so many bloodhounds relied on this tree that mountaineers called it dogwood.

There is not a word of truth in that explanation. Dogwood gets its name from the fact that lots of old-time folk remedies made use the bark from the tree. Dried and ground before being included in an emulsion, the stuff was considered the best of all concoctions with which to rid a dog of fleas. So much bark was applied to the hides of canines that the tree from which it came is known as the dogwood. 

Ron Lowe
Nevada City, California