I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. It has always been my home base. After living abroad and traveling extensively for over 10 years, I moved back to Tucson in 2010 and moved away from Arizona nearly a year ago. Tucson is an interesting microcosm; it’s surprisingly more liberal than Phoenix, has a beautifully diverse cultural landscape where you can have the best goddamned Mexican food in the Barrio for lunch and then partake in horribly underrated Ethiopian food right down the road. Tucson is rich with multi-cultural heritage and is celebrated annually at Tucson Meet Yourself. And the weather and the landscape? Unparalleled.
That’s not to say parts of Arizona are Utopian. Tucson’s infrastructure is abysmal; because of some seriously money hungry shady city council members, Tucson is collapsing under its weight due to the mishandling of budgets, and it is happening on a very large scale. That’s just the tip of my grievance iceberg that I won’t get into here. However, there are days when I terribly miss living in Arizona. Recently though, Arizona has provided reasons for me not to return on a permanent basis. And JFC, where to start?
Arizona has a sordid history when it comes to discrimination. If you’ll recall back in 2010, SB1070 made international news by being the broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in a very long time. SB1070 gave police officers the duty to demand the papers of people suspected of being in the country illegally. Thankfully, the last vestige of that bill was eliminated, but the effects of that bill are ever-present.
Now, another state bill has hit the spotlight. From Arizona Capitol Times
Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened.
SB1142 expands the state’s racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others.
Sweet. Arizona senators want to pass pre-crime legislation like they’re some sort of futuristic Minority Report body of government, BECAUSE THAT ENDED SO WELL.
This bill is the work of Senator Sonnie Borelli R-Lake Havasu, who famously called voters who backed his opponents “ignorant, c—sucking idiots.” So, you know he’s a reasonable guy. According to the bill, a person can be charged with conspiracy to riot even if no “overt act” was committed. It would also expand on the definition of rioting to include property crimes. Rioting is already a Class 5 felony and is punishable by up to 2 years in prison.
“The sponsors of the bill believe that there is some network paying people to go out and protest,” Arizona ACLU spokesman Steve Kilar says. “They believe that they are creating a system that allows them to get back to these fictitious funders.” The bill still needs to pass the Arizona state House and be signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to become law; Kilar says the ACLU is taking that possibility “very seriously.”
For more information on this, Stephen Lemons (who writes for the Phoenix New Times) covers SB1142 extensively.
There is another state bill that flew through the Senate Education Committee unopposed and that was SB1317. The bill, SB 1317, would qualify any teacher with a credential to instruct “special-ed” children, kids with learning or physical disabilities. Committee chairwoman Sylvia Allen, a Republican from Snowflake (can’t make this up), said she introduced the bill because the state education department had interpreted the original law governing special instruction differently than intended. SB 1317 was designed to clarify that the state wanted all along for all teachers, not just those with specialized credentials, to help kids with disabilities. Republican Senator Kate Brophy McGee of north central Phoenix said, “This has got to be my most favorite bill coming out of the education committee,” before casting her vote. Supporters of this bill take issue that there are not enough special-education experts to go around, and they cannot be expected to teach core subjects as well as those who do it now. This state bill neglects to acknowledge that special-ed teachers have a unique skill set that differentiates from other teachers and that’s largely due to the specialized education they’ve received to understand the exceptionality of each of their students. The majority of teachers do not have that.
“That’s a legitimate concern,” Arizona Department of Education spokesman Stefan Swiat said.
“We want to protect our students and we believe special educations should be placed in the hands of specialists,” he added. “This is saying anybody can do that. We definitely have concerns about that.”
Speaking of schools in Arizona…Finally, I’ll need you guys to make sure you’re sitting for this next story and are in a place where you can scream. This story starts on Twitter. A woman in Scottsdale has resigned from her teaching position after making some horrific tweets, which have since been deleted. Her name is Bonnie Verne and her tweets were in response to this particular tweet.
In case you were thinking that this was a joke, it’s not.
If you’re wondering what kind of monster tweets something like that, you should know a few things. Mainly, that Bonnie Verne was a teacher.
A third-grade teacher.
At Pardes Jewish Day School.
Head of School Jill Kessler called the tweets “inappropriate, offensive and unbefitting of a Pardes teacher,” in a letter to families and other members of the school community announcing the teacher’s resignation. “She believes, and the school concurs, that the best course of action, both for her and Pardes, is for her to resign immediately,” the letter said.
If any of you are thinking about a vacation to Arizona, might I suggest southern Utah or New Mexico? Otherwise, welcome to Arizona: it’s a dry hate.