Arizona Bans Public Workers From Union Political Work On Taxpayer Dime

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a first-in-the-nation law banning public entities from paying workers to conduct union politicking.

Ducey signed the Release Time Reform Act. The new law bans any unit of government in the state from entering into a contract that allows “paid release time” or union workers advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate. It also bans them from lobbying or advocating for or against any legislation, ordinance, or ballot initiative.

The new law does not affect any existing labor contracts.

In the Goldwater Institute’s 2020 report Money for Nothing, the nonprofit found government workers across the country conducting union work while drawing pay from a taxpayer-funded entity. Some employees would devote all of their time to union work while paid via their government employer, the report found.

“Public funds should advance the public’s interest, not the political and lobbying activities of private labor unions,” Goldwater Institute President and CEO Victor Riches said. “This law will ensure that tax dollars cannot be used to pay government workers to lobby and engage in political activities for labor unions instead of working for the public.”

The City of Phoenix paid 67,511 hours of paid union release time in 2020, resulting in $3.7 million in wages. The report noted release time pay attributed to a worker’s pension, meaning the wages add to annual retirement costs for the city. The city contracts with seven different unions allowed for up to six full-time release positions, including other part-time work positions funded by taxpayers.

A city representative stated the government’s opposition to Senate Bill 1166 but did not speak against it in committee hearings.

The city did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The Goldwater report found the federal government allows up to 3.6 million hours of release time annually. The nonprofit tallied the taxpayer cost at $177 million.

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This article was published in The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Maricopa County, Phoenix Area, Lead Nation in Population Growth Amid Pandemic

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Arizona’s valley region was one of the few major metropolitan areas in the country to grow amid the COVID-19 pandemic’s business closures, remote work, at-home school, and other disruptions.

On Thursday, the U.S. Census released more detailed data from its annual population estimates recording changes in headcount from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021.

Maricopa County, the nation’s fourth-largest by population, gained an estimated 58,246 people in that timeframe. The increase, calculated by adding births and incoming residents and subtracting those who left or died, is more than any other county. The Census data shows an increase of 46,866 solely because of domestic migration, more than any other county.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a dispersion of people from some of the nation’s largest metropolitan counties to smaller cities or suburbs, which Census demographers say led to a broad increase in population for most counties.

“The patterns we’ve observed in domestic migration shifted in 2021,” said Dr. Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “Even though over time we’ve seen a higher number of counties with natural decrease and net international migration continuing to decline, in the past year, the contribution of domestic migration counteracted these trends so there were actually more counties growing than losing population.”

While most of the largest cities saw population decreases, the Census said 63% of metro areas had positive net domestic migration. The largest of those was the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler area, which saw an increase of 66,850.

“Phoenix has a very welcoming environment for new families, part of the reason the city added more population over the past decade than any other U.S. city,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego told The Center Square Thursday. “While the Census estimates for cities have not been released, the dynamic growth of Greater Phoenix is also being felt in our city. We’ve prepared for growth with smart policies, attracting high-value employment opportunities, and led the nation in life sciences job growth in 2021.”

Gallego touted the area’s business ecosystem attracting startups as well as legacy companies to expand.

“The Census reports Phoenix has the shortest average commute time of any major city,” she said. “This is important for families creating a positive work-life balance. Over the past five years, we’ve seen most of our new families coming from southern California, Chicago, and the northwest. However, because of our significant growth in technology and bioscience jobs, we’re also seeing large numbers of new families joining us from Asia, according to Census data.”

Los Angeles County saw the largest numeric decrease in population of any county, dropping 159,621 in total population.

Statewide, Arizona’s decennial Census figures saw growth but many were surprised that the population increase wasn’t enough to earn the state a 10th member of Congress for the first time since 1950. The difference between the last annual estimate and the official count was higher than in any other state. A total of 7,151,502 people called Arizona home as of April 1, 2020, according to the official 2020 count. An earlier estimate by census counters had the population as 7,421,401, a 3.6% difference that wasn’t in the state’s favor.

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This article was published in The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Arizona Senate Study Finds 200k ballots Counted in 2020 With Mismatched Signatures

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The estimate is more than eight times the number of mismatches acknowledged by the county.

A study of Maricopa County’s mail ballots in Arizona’s 2020 presidential election estimates that more than 200,000 ballots with mismatched signatures were counted without being reviewed, or “cured” — more than eight times the 25,000 signature mismatches requiring curing acknowledged by the county.

Commissioned by the Arizona State Senate, the signature verification pilot study was conducted by Shiva Ayyadurai’s Election Systems Integrity Institute, which released its final report to the public on Tuesday. Ayyadurai is an engineer and entrepreneur with four degrees from MIT who bills himself as the inventor of email, a claim which critics have alleged is exaggerated.

Of the 1,911,918 early voting mail ballots that Maricopa County received and counted in the 2020 presidential election, the county reported that 25,000, or 1.3%, had signature mismatches that required curing, but only 587 (2.3%) of those were confirmed mismatched signatures.

Under Maricopa County election rules, a reviewer first compares a signature on an envelope with the signature on file for the voter, which takes about 4-30 seconds. If the signature does not appear to match, the ballot is cured, which takes three or more minutes and includes attempts to contact the voter to determine whether or not the signature is a match.

In the signature verification study, three expert forensic document examiners and three novices reviewed 499 images of early voting mail ballot envelopes to determine if the signatures on them matched with the signatures on file. All the reviewers agreed that 60 of the 499 envelopes, or 12% were signature mismatches…..

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Continue reading this article at Just the News.

Arizona GOP Vote to Cut Maricopa Into 4 Counties

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Arizona Republicans, stressing the value of local representation and denying retaliation over the 2020 general election controversy, have given early approval to legislation that would split Maricopa County into four counties.

Should Gov. Doug Ducey sign House Bill 2787, it would take the nation’s fourth-largest county and split it into four counties by June 15, 2023. Maricopa County would remain but would be much smaller and centralized around metropolitan Phoenix.

To the north, Mogollon County would include parts of North Phoenix, Scottsdale, Carefree and Cave Creek. Newly-formed O’odham County would contain Buckeye, Goodyear, Peoria and Surprise, as well as the large rural swath of land to the southeast of the valley. Hohokam County in the southeast would become home to Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Queen Creek.

Lawmakers in the House Government and Elections Committee approved the bill along party margins Wednesday.

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, said his bill is about giving residents a government that would better represent local communities that might be different than the Phoenix population center.

“We are already 65% of the state population,” Hoffman said of Maricopa County in relation to the rest of the state. “If you represent southern Arizona, do you want Maricopa County, representing 65% of the power base in this state, consolidated and centralized into one single place?”

Maricopa County has a larger population than half of the U.S. states and more than 109 countries and territories, Hoffman said.

Democrats uniformly opposed the bill, saying carving up the county is retribution for officials opposing Republican efforts to overturn the 2020 general election results that determined President Joe Biden won the state’s 11 Electoral College votes over former President Donald Trump.

“This is not about representation,” Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, D-Avondale, said. “This is about putting more chips on the roulette table so that you can win your bet. One of these three counties, I’m sure, would have decertified the election in a heartbeat.”

Hoffman and other Republicans refuted the accusations.

“Any attempt to paint this as retaliation or retribution to the county is pure conspiracy theory,” Hoffman said. “To say that this has anything to do with the election is laughable and nothing more than a conspiracy theory.”

Hoffman noted there have been several other attempts to split the county.

Other Democrats said the cost of creating three new county governments would represent a taxpayer burden. Hoffman acknowledged the potential cost but maintained the benefits of local representation would outweigh the cost, adding that counties could work together via intergovernmental agreements.

The measure still needs consideration in a couple of House committees and the full chamber before it can be sent to the Senate and then Ducey for his signature.

With a population of more than 4.4 million people, Maricopa County has a larger population than all but Los Angeles (California), Harris (Texas), and Cook (Illinois) counties. The original Arizona Territory consisted of Mohave, Pima, Yavapai, and Yuma. Maricopa County was formed in 1871, more than 40 years before Arizona’s statehood in 1912. Maricopa’s boundaries were last changed in 1881 to carve out Gila County to the east.

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This article was published by The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Phoenix Six-Figure Job Growth Ranks Second Among Large U.S. Metros

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Phoenix has the second-highest percentage change in high-paying jobs out of a list of large U.S. metros, according to a Stessa report.

Phoenix saw a 217.1% increase in six-figure jobs from 2015 to 2020, marking the second-largest percentage increase among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

More Phoenix workers made six-figure salaries in 2020 than the national average. Out of Valley workers, 180,740, or 8.6% of the workforce, made six-figure salaries in 2020, while only 7.9% of workers nationally made $100,000 or more. Only 57,000 workers in the Valley reported salaries of $100,000 or more in 2015. Phoenix’s percentage beats all but two of the study’s 15 largest metros, including first-ranked Nashville.

“We are leading the nation in high-wage industry growth, including semiconductors, electric vehicle manufacturing, biosciences, start-ups and more,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s office told The Center Square. “Our efforts to accelerate and strengthen the business operating environment in Phoenix and the greater region are reflected in this exciting job growth, a sign of our economic vitality.”

In response to the report, Gallego called Greater Phoenix a “national leader and top relocation destination for families, jobs, and businesses.”

Phoenix provides residents with more opportunities and a higher quality of life, Gallego said.

Tucson ranked eighth on the list with a 156.2% percentage change in six-figure jobs between 2015 and 2020.

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This article was published on January 1, 2022, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Covid Vaccination Incentives Could Cost Phoenix $29 Million

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The city of Phoenix will offer bonuses up to $2,000 to vaccinated city employees, costing the city between $25 million to $29 million.

The Phoenix City Council voted, 6-3, this week to approve the bonuses, which will go out to full and part-time employees by Jan. 18. City employees who do not have the option to work remotely already were set to receive $500 bonuses from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Councilmembers decided to grant an additional premium bonus to those same employees if vaccinated.

The approval allows the city to give an additional $1,500 bonus to full-time employees and a $750 bonus to part-time employees who are fully vaccinated by Jan. 18. The city of Phoenix will use the remaining $198 million from ARPA to fund the bonuses.

Councilmember Betty Guardado, who voted in favor of the measure, hopes the incentive will increase vaccination rates.

“This is money that is going to come very handy to a lot of people that are out there that continue to keep us safe,” Guardado told Fox 10.

Councilmembers Ann O’Brien, Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio voted against the measure.

DiCiccio accused the council of “politicizing” the COVID-19 vaccine in his statement at the formal meeting.

“While certain leaders were cowering in their homes, hiding from COVID, brave men and women, primarily from police and fire, were out there protecting us,” he said.

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This article was published on December 17, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Phoenix Home Prices Experience Nation’s Biggest Price Spike in September

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(The Center Square) – Even though they already are at historic highs, home prices in the Valley are increasing faster than in any other market in America.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Schiller Home Price Index from September showed Phoenix home sale prices increased more than 33% from September 2020.

Of the 20 major metropolitan markets the index tracks, no other city increased as much in the report, which was released Tuesday. The next-highest annual percentage increase was Tampa Bay at 27.7%

“Phoenix home prices continued to grow at the fastest pace among the 20 cities reported by the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller HPI for 27th consecutive month, up 33.1% in September,” CoreLogic Deputy Chief Economist Selma Hepp said.

Despite the price increase, home value acceleration slowed, which is likely welcome news for homebuyers that consistently find themselves in bidding wars for homes.

“Nevertheless, as with a majority of other metros, Phoenix home price growth is slowing, and September annual gains are slightly lower than 33.3% reported in August,” Hepp said. “In terms of gains reported between August and September, relatively larger slowing was recorded among lower priced homes which suggests that affordability concerns are setting in given the rapid price appreciation seen in the region for the past several years.”

The median home value in Phoenix in November was more than $383,000, according to Zillow. One year prior, the median value was $295,000.

Phoenix wasn’t alone in the month-over-month slowing of inflation, Hepp said.

“After 14 consecutive months of acceleration, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index finally took a turn, with the national index up 19.5% year over year, down from the 19.8% increase the month prior,” she said. “While housing market activity is experiencing a typical seasonal slowdown, home buyer demand remains strong and continues to push total home purchases above pre-pandemic levels, resulting in another month of close to 20% annual gains in home prices.”

Hepp stressed while activity continues to outperform pre-pandemic levels, there are encouraging signs of a national slowing of home price increases, which she called a welcomed return to more sustainable balance between buyers and sellers.

“There is still low availability of for-sale homes, which continues to drive price growth, but the competition has faded and assuaged some of the bidding war intensity. Overall, home price growth is likely to continue slowing over the next year,’ she said.

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This article was published on December 1, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Phoenix City Council Could Shoot Down COVID Vaccination Mandate

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Members of the Phoenix City Council are demanding a vote on a previous decision to adhere to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

In response to City Manager Jeff Barton’s decision the city is considered a federal contractor and must adhere to Biden’s mandate, Councilwoman Ann O’Brien wrote Mayor Kate Gallego to demand the council has a say on the matter.

The mayor agreed with O’Brien and added the issue for consideration at a future meeting.

“I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti-mandates,” O’Brien said in her Nov. 24 announcement. “I am pro-personal choice and I believe that Phoenix employees will do the right thing and make decisions that are right for them and their families.”

Barton used the significant amount of federal dollars the city received to justify the decision to implement the Jan. 18 vaccination deadline.

“Due to the number of federal contracts held by the city of Phoenix, we are considered a federal contractor,” a letter from Barton read. “As such, all city employees are subject to the provisions outlined in the Executive Order, which requires all employees, regardless of telework status or if you previously tested positive for COVID-19, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 18, 2022, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation.”

In reaction to Barton’s edict, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and the United Phoenix Firefighters Association Local 493 (UPFA) joined Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s lawsuit against Biden’s vaccination mandate. The addition of the unions expanded the legal challenge to include federal contractors.

Unless the federal contractors or employees prevail in their legal challenge to Biden’s mandate, vaccination holdouts among the city’s 13,000 workers – including police and firefighters – who do not receive an exemption face suspension and eventual termination. 

In a Nov. 22 letter to Barton, Councilman Sal DiCiccio warned the mandate would lead to a severe worker shortage that could put residents in danger.

“The decision will compromise vital city-wide services to our residents, including public safety, which this Council has been aware of the alarming crime data and how the city is struggling to hire and retain personnel,” DiCiccio wrote.

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This article was published on November 29, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Scottsdale School Board Chair Under Investigation For Parent Dossier

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Calls for Jann-Michael Greenburg to resign are growing as the district and local police department look into allegations the school board chair was involved with an online dossier on district parents.

Officials with the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) announced Friday they would find an independent investigator to look into whether Greenburg or his father, Michael, utilized school resources in compiling an online repository of parents who have protested the district’s COVID-19 mitigation rules.

Superintendent Scott Menzel said in a letter the cloud storage files containing background information on protesting parents allegedly were created and maintained by Greenburg’s father. The younger Greenburg allegedly shared the information, the letter said. Greenburg has not admitted to any involvement in the dossier.

The Scottsdale Police Department said Friday it had opened up an investigation into the allegations against Greenburg.

“The Scottsdale Police Department is aware of the allegations against Scottsdale Unified School District President Jann-Michael Greenburg,” the department said in a release. “We are conducting an investigation into the matter and will report our findings once it is complete.”

The investigations come as a growing chorus of parents and public officials in the community call on Greenburg to resign his elected position as the school board head.

“The parents and community members targeted in the Drive appear to be anyone who has spoken out against our district publicly or online,” said Amy Carney, a Scottsdale parent and member of the Arizona Coalition of School Board Members, in a Monday release. “It is unacceptable for our elected officials to be creating files on people for exercising their constitutional right to free speech.”

The coalition has gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition demanding Greenburg resign. SUSD previously said it could not terminate an elected official.

The school board has scheduled an emergency meeting for 6 p.m. Monday and has included “Adoption of Consideration for Resignation of Jann-Michael Greenburg” as one of its action items.

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This article was published on November 15, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Arizona School Boards Accused of Stalking Activist Parents

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Editors’ Note: As we see the spread of “tiny tyrants” and the abuse of liberty by local officials, it is worth exploring where this attitude originated. Besides coming from the universities that have become bastions of intolerance, the attitude of the Federal Government cannot be dismissed. The constant rhetoric coming from the Biden administration and from the Justice Department is that Americans who feel elections have not been fair, that Covid restrictions overreach without making logical sense, and those that oppose socialism are “white nationalists”, “domestic terrorists”, and “science deniers”, has been unrelenting. Once you dehumanize your political opponents, all sorts of awful things logically flow from that attitude. This constant fear-mongering from the Left that demonizes anyone who opposes them, is unlikely to stop. It has always been a part of Leftism. But it can be contained, and those that use such tactics can be removed from office.

 

Arizona school district officials are accused of taking some controversial steps to keep tabs, even intimidate, parents unhappy with COVID-19 mandates.

Scottsdale Unified School District, one of the state’s largest, sent a letter Wednesday to parents, assuring them private student data is not accessible by its school board members.

“We want to assure you in no uncertain terms that personal student information and educational records are private and protected in district-maintained, secure information systems to which neither Board members nor the public have access,” the letter read. “Any student information the Board may receive is in relation to discipline cases under its consideration, and that information is provided to the Board by the district’s legal counsel.”

The memo stems from an uproar over SUSD Board Chair Jann-Michael Greenburg’s father being implicated in compiling an extensive online database containing information on his son’s political enemies, namely parents who had been showing up at board meetings and protesting the district’s COVID-19 measures.

The story was originally reported in the Scottsdale Independent.

The database, which has been removed from the public eye, contained pictures of parents, some of their children, copies of parents’ professional certifications, mortgage information, and other private data.

State officials from the Scottsdale community have since joined parents in petitioning for Greenburg’s removal from the board, though it’s unclear he was involved with curating the information.

“As a Scottsdale parent and member of the community, I am calling for the resignation of Jann-Michael Greenburg,” said state Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale. “The evidence of his cyberstalking and spreading of an enemies list should be the last straw for his fellow board members, and I expect them to join me in this call.”

State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Scottsdale Republican who is running for Arizona Secretary of State, said she signed onto a letter from SUSD parents demanding Greenburg step down.

“We stand together in requesting the immediate termination of Jann-Michael Greenburg as SUSD Governing Board President, and we further demand his resignation as an SUSD Governing Board Member,” the letter read.

In the letter to parents, SUSD said there was nothing the district could do to remove an elected board member.

SUSD isn’t the only district with board members accused of taking controversial steps to keep tabs on protesting parents.

Emails obtained by activist Peggy McClain show members of Chandler Unified School District’s board and district officials working with a school resource officer and sergeant with the Chandler Police Department to monitor social media posts from parents involved in groups that have protested district meetings. The emails were sent in May, according to copies McClain posted online.

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This article was published on November 12, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

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