Flooding the Sistine Chapel

Once in a while, I come out of hiding to post here at my old haunt. It has to be something big, however.

There are plenty of policy outrages that have happened in this legislature so far, the evisceration of our education system being the undisputed number one on the list. It is something else, though, that is the best illustration that the crew running the place care more about ideological wins and short term profits than Arizona as a place.

Darin Mitchell has introduced HB 2570, which would limit the ability of local government to regulate landscaping. It may seem a minor point, but these are the rules that protect our iconic saguaros.

The Arizona Republic cites a variety of rules in the Phoenix area that protect native plants, but we in Tucson have the native plant ordinance as well. It mandates that developers (including the city itself) have to replace plants that are taken out for development. The city also partners with Tucson Electric Power for the Trees for Tucson program, which puts up native trees to increase our natural canopy. The growth in our natural canopy (planting non-native palm trees has only a negligible effect on it) has can lower power bills, mitigate flooding and even make it more pleasant to walk to the store on a July day.

Still, most of the attention of this bill has focused on protections for a non-shade plant: the saguaro. Yes, having to pull them out and move them, or having to “mitigate” them is a pain in the nalgas for builders. But, think for a second why people move to Arizona. Let me give you an example. Here is the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau web page:

Scottsdale Screenshot

See that? Saguaros, saguaros, saguaros. You notice what you don’t see? Tract homes, strip malls and parking lots. Funny that.

By the way, that’s from a city that’s on the edge of the saguaro’s range. Still, the saguaro is so identified with our Southwestern deserts that they feature them. For years, we had a problem with Las Vegas cactus-napping saguaros because they wanted in on the action too. They are what makes us look different than suburbs in Orange County, Dallas or Denver.

These rules aren’t just there to protect the saguaro, but also exist to protect the broader environment and save water. Non-native plants tend to be higher water use, thus harder to maintain. I’d bet that the property managers that have to keep up landscapes for all those subdivisions that Mitchell is building would appreciate not having to maintain a conifer forest out in some tract of desert. Non-native plants can also cause other problems. The amount of money and labor both governments and property owners have had to spend on controlling buffel grass is a testament to that.

Most importantly, we live in a desert with sparse water resources. It’s taken decades, but we are finally getting both a local government and business culture that understand the challenges we face. We are in a unique place, and our policy needs to reflect that.

If you think that saguaros and the laws that protect them are a nuisance, I gotta wonder if you understand what it means to live in Arizona and whether you really give a damn about this place.

Signing Off

Well, I start my new job a week early…sorry for the lack of warning. I’ll be starting today, so this will be my last post for a while.

But, parting shots are always necessary:

  • The “Rosemont Referendum” never materialized, but we still see the ads telling us how pulverizing a mountain is good for the environment. I suggest that Rosemont change the closing titles on their ads to better show what their improvements will do:

    It’s just a rough draft, but I’m sure they have pros who can work on that.

  • Samuel L. Jackson’s um…creative…GOTV video got some buzz last week. Not among it’s fans is Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash, who had this level headed response on his Facebook page:




  • Yeah, Pima Bunch…clever. But the knocks about cronyism would probably be better delivered if not financed by a shadowy group led by a guy who desperately wants his own stop on the local government gravy train.

    By the way, how did they get permission to use the Brady Bunch theme? Or, is there some obscure part of the BMI licensing agreement that allows fair use if you sing the song in a really irritating falsetto?

Okay, enough of that.

Thank you all for the support and yes, even opposition, over the last seven years.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

Quick Take

I saw my first Rosemont Copper ad yesterday (and my second and third as well…). The ad notes, and I’m not sure where this stat comes from, that the proposed mine will only use 20% of the water that a Pecan grove will.

Gee…who are they trying to take a shot at?

No Biggie, Right?

So, we are supposed to believe the folks at Rosemont Copper will be responsible in running their proposed mine in the Santa Ritas and that they will remediate the place when they have taken the copper out.

I’ve never been sure how we are supposed to judge these claims. Other than a few local hired guns, they are a foreign owned company with no presence in the area. It makes it hard to take them at their word that they will feel any responsibility for the environmental consequences.

Their lack of any firm track record in this sort of mining and the subsequent remediation calls into question whether they even have the expertise to carry out their promises.

Heck, the fact that they couldn’t tell the truth about their own officers’ history should call their claims into question.

Now, the Arizona Corporation Commission says it’s no big deal. Great. So, if you are a big international corporation, lies of omission aren’t a problem. I wonder if a taxpayer can get away with that one.

Press release from Save the Senic Santa Ritas after the jump.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due Department, Governor Division

Eagle Nebula, T. A. Rector & B. A. Wolpa, NOAO, AURA, NSF, Copyright WIYN Consortium, Inc., all rights reserved.I had heard from a lot of people that were hopeful that the governor would veto HB 2757, the bill that would have allowed “Electronic Message Centers” (an industry euphemism because “Obnoxious Bright Flashing Billboards” wouldn’t fly) along highways in the state. Maybe the governor would understand how many people are employed by astronomy in this state and how much of a spark that is for the optics industry, they said. I didn’t hold out the same hope given the knee jerk anti-environment and anti-scientist sentiment in our state’s Republican party, so I was pleasantly surprised by la Cervecera’s veto of the bill yesterday.

I’ve got a bit of a history with dealing with the billboard industry. I was on the Tucson Citizens’ Sign Code Committee for years and dealt with three industry reps, the change in representation coming as the main billboard company in Southern Arizona changed hands. I came away with respect for only one of them, a fellow named Marv Kirschler.

Of the other two, not so much. One came to a couple of meetings, skulked in the back of the room, refused to be acknowledged during the public comment period and even refused to say hi to me, even though he knew me from before. After coming to a couple of meetings and making it obvious he didn’t want to talk to us, he wrote an op-ed complaining about how the city and our committee was intransigent and didn’t want to negotiate with his company.

When Clear Channel bought out Eller’s local billboard operation, a representative of the company came to us to extoll the virtues of electronic message centers (he didn’t want to call them billboards). They could be used, he said, for Amber alerts, emergency notices and community advisories. The message was: please, our billion dollar corporation isn’t interested in profits, we just want to help Tucson. It was probably the most cynical snowjob I’d heard in my time on the committee. By the way, that guy is running for congress now.

This experience, plus reports from the Town of Marana we were treated to of midnight modifications of billboards so that they could claim “grandfathering,” make me distrust many of the claims of community responsibility of the billboard folks. I’m glad to see that the governor was not taken in.

NB: The photo is a view of the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16, NGC 6611) taken at Kitt Peak Observatory, Schuk Toak by T. A. Rector and B. A. Wolpa. Non-commercial use, credit National Optical Astronomy Observatory/Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy/National Science Foundation, additional copyright WIYN Consortium, Inc., all rights reserved.

When You’re Losing, Call ‘Em All Commies

Al Melvin is pushing his ideas on nuclear power again, particularly on his Twitter accout. He’s getting a bit of pushback for it. This is his latest tweet:

#azright To show the political agenda of  environmentalists, slice a water melon open. It has a thin veneer of green but is Commie red inside

Yep, everybody in the environmental movement is a dyed in the wool communist. I guess he wins the argument.

Remember, for a moment, that the Senator is throwing around charges of “communism” on behalf of the nuclear industry, which would not exist here or anywhere else without government intervention and support.

Is Jason Rose Going Soft?

When he isn’t keeping us informed of the restaurant scene in the Valley of the Jakes, Jason Rose  uses his Twitter feed to treat us to political analysis. By “political analysis,” I mean overblown cheerleading for even the most minor league Republicans (Vernon Parker, anyone?) and casual dismissal of the importance of any politician that doesn’t genuflect in his direction with the proper amount of gusto.

But, I’ve detected a change. Here is Rose this morning:

Well done secretary salazar:why do anything to infringe on #grandcanyon? Too, single biggest economic generator in #arizona besides weather

Extra adverb aside, I’m glad to have an ally on the other side on this. Doubly so because it seems that the rest of the Republican establishment that Rose runs with are doing everything but grabbing shovels and learning the proper spelling of pitchblende.

I’d dismiss this as “Rose must not have gotten the contract with the uranium mines,” except here’s another Tweet from this weekend:

Should I stay or should I go? Don bivens really to clash w/ perhaps best bio (carmona) 2 ever run 4 #arizona office? Top democrats say no

Wait, did he just say that Richard Carmona has the best bio to ever run for Arizona office? First off, what about Buckey O’Neill? More importantly, did he just have high praise, highest praise even, for a Democratic candidate?

Is Rose broadening his horizons or has he had enough of some of the clowns he runs with?

Facts Are Inconvienient Things

Remember when John McCain toured the Wallow Fire and then blamed illegal immigrants for the damage?

Well, about that

Two Southern Arizona cousins have been charged in connection with the half-million acre Wallow Fire in May.

Caleb and David Malboeu are accused of leaving a campfire unattended while hiking, causing the wildfire that burned for weeks in Arizona’s mountains, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Wheeler on Arizona Week Tonight

Bruce Wheeler called me this afternoon (why? because I’m that big of a deal) to tell me that he will be on Arizona Week tonight at 8:30. His interview with Michael Chihak will mostly cover issues surrounding the wildfires and the legislative study panel that met earlier this week.

If you miss the interview, it will be posted on line soon after air time.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Gosar/Allen position here: we’ll stop forest fires by allowing timber companies to cut down the older growth trees most resistant to fire. Naw, still doesn’t make sense.