Skip to content

The Annual Statehood Day Post: Ten Great Arizonans You Have Never Heard Of

It is statehood day, so I wanted to write something special. This was written a few years ago and posted in a few different places. I was going to re-visit this list, but I decided that I still like my choices, since you still have not heard of most of these. My call to the reader to feel free to take issue with this list still stands.

February 14th is, among other things, Statehood Day in Arizona. This means that someone, somewhere, will publish the inevitable “greatest Arizonans who ever lived” or “people/events that changed Arizona” lists in newspapers or blogs. The results of these lists are predictable. They nearly always, for instance, include Barry Goldwater. I have nothing against Goldwater’s inclusion, but the late Senator is a little like the Beatles; yeah they were great; yes, things are different because of what they did, but that does not mean that they are not over-rated.

So I am making my own list. This list will not include easy choices like Goldwater, Kino and Poston, names which should already be familiar to most readers. Instead, I take this opportunity to highlight some of the individuals whose names should be familiar, but have instead slipped into relative obscurity despite their role in shaping the Arizona we all know and love.

My standards in making this list are fairly simple. First, the named individual must no longer be alive and must have no institutions, streets, towns, parks, or substantial monuments named for them. Naturally, the individual must have made a lasting, positive contribution to Arizona during their lifetime regardless of the length of their residency in the state. This last one is, of course, highly subjective, and I will have to admit not only to my geographic bias as a Tucsonan but also my political bias as a Democrat. Anyone who has an issue with one of my choices, or someone I did not choose, should feel free to make these views known.

flag_of_the_yaqui_tribe1. Antonio Siraumea (~1686-?): A Yaqui Indian who worked as a laborer in the mines of Sonora, in 1736, Siraumea stumbled upon a remarkably rich silver vein while prospecting in a remote canyon near what is now the international border west of Nogales. The subsequent rush of miners to the site, and Siraumea’s ultimately successful fight to retain his rights to his discovery, led to a long and complex legal battle, assuring the region’s lasting reputation for mineral wealth which would forever be associated with the name of an otherwise obscure ranch at the mouth of the canyon, a place called Arizona.

General Urrea2. General José Cosme Urrea (1797-1849): Born in Tucson to a prominent military family, Urrea rose to fame in the Mexican Army. Commanding a brigade during the war against rebelling Tejanos and Texan colonists, Urrea scored a string of impressive victories and emerged as the most respected Mexican general in the war. An advocate of democracy and reform, Urrea became a leader in the opposition to the dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna. During his service as Governor of Sonora (which included a substantial portion of what is now Arizona), Urrea negotiated a peaceful settlement to an unnecessary war with the Tohono O’odham, ushering in an era of friendly relations that continues in Southern Arizona today.

great_western3. The Great Western (1812-1866): A “camp follower” who attached herself to General Zachary Taylor’s army during the war with Mexico, the woman named Sarah was dubbed The Great Western after a famous steamship for her six foot tall “Amazon” frame. A shrewd businesswoman, she made successful investments in real estate, livestock, and other ventures, as she continued to follow the Army. Now named Sarah Bowman, she arrived at Fort Yuma in 1852, where she worked as a laundress and hospital matron at the post even as she ran businesses that catered to the soldiers. In 1854, she acquired land on the opposite bank of the Colorado River where she established a restaurant, boarding-house, bar, and brothel. The civilian settlement that rose up around these businesses eventually became the city of Yuma. When she died, she was buried at Fort Yuma with full military honors in recognition of her long and dedicated service to the Army.

Manuelito4. Manuelito (1818-1893): Manuelito had already risen to a position of leadership among the Navajo by the time New Mexico (which then included Arizona) was conquered by the United States in 1846. He relentlessly defended Navajo lands from incursions by these newcomers even as he had from the Mexicans, Pueblos, and Utes before them, through war and, when possible, negotiation. In 1865, his band was among the last to be deported to Bosque Redondo after General Carleton’s extensive and brutal campaign. When the reservation there proved a failure, Manuelito was among the Navajo leaders to successfully argue with General Sherman for a return of their former homeland. The Navajo emerged from their captivity with an unprecedented sense of solidarity as a people, and Manuelito stood prepared to argue for their sovereignty and their rights. In 1876, he travelled with a delegation to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant in Washington D.C. and got an expansion to the Reservation, his first of four successful efforts to secure more land for the Navajo, creating what would become the largest Reservation in the United States.

Edward Cross5. Colonel Edward Ephraim Cross (1832-1863): Cross already had extensive experience as a journalist before he arrived in Tubac, in what was to become Arizona, in 1857. He invested in area mines, and reported on the region as a correspondent to newspapers Back East. In 1859, he and other local investors had a printing press, the first one in what would become Arizona, shipped from Ohio via Cape Horn and Cross became editor of The Weekly Arizonian, the area’s first newspaper. Cross’ strident editorial policy made a few powerful enemies and he sold his interest within a few months. In 1860, he went to Sonora to take a commission in the insurgent forces of Benito Juarez until returning to the States with the outbreak of the Civil War. Commissioned a Colonel in the New Hampshire Volunteers, he received a reputation as a colorful and fearless officer before being killed at Gettysburg. His press remained in Arizona and was used for some of the earliest government printing after Arizona became a territory in 1864, as well as, at various times, newspapers like the Tucson Citizen and Tombstone Epitaph. The press remained in operation intermittently at various locations in Arizona until well into the 20th Century.

Josephine Hughes6. Elizabeth Josephine Brawley Hughes (1839-1926): Josephine Hughes came to Arizona to join her husband (see #7) in 1871. She became a crusader for numerous causes for social improvement, helping to organize the first protestant Church in Arizona (1876) and advocating for public schools. At various times, she assumed many editorial and management duties at the Arizona Star, particularly during her husband’s absences as he pursued politics. In 1880, she organized the Arizona chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and became involved both locally and nationally in the women’s movement, particularly in promoting the cause of suffrage. Her son, State Senator John T. Hughes, worked for suffrage in the First State Legislature, but, after he was stifled, the two organized a successful initiative effort to secure the vote for women in Arizona in 1912, eight years before the passage of the 19th Amendment. For her lifelong work, Governor George W.P. Hunt dubbed her “The Mother of Arizona.”

L. C. Hughes7. Governor Louis Cameron Hughes (1842-1915): A Union Army veteran who worked his way through college as a machinist, Hughes arrived in Arizona in 1871. A Democrat, he quickly entered politics, serving on the Tucson City Council and as Pima County Attorney. After serving a brief and stormy tenure as Territorial Attorney General under Republican Governor A.P.K. Safford (1873-1874), Hughes founded the Arizona Star as a platform to promote his political views. He was an early leader in the progressive movement, promoting radical ideas such as women’s suffrage, organized labor, and election reform. Appointed Territorial Governor by President Grover Cleveland in 1893, he was able to restore reason and fiscal restraint to Arizona’s government, but his term was cut short by the machinations of the numerous enemies he had earned due to his liberal views. He retained a substantial following, however, and the progressivism that he promoted eventually came to dominate the Democratic Party and guided the drafting of the Arizona State Constitution.

Morenci Strike8. Wenceslao “Three-Fingered Jack” Loustaunau (1869-1906): A humble blacksmith who worked for the Arizona Copper Company at Metcalf, Loustanau rallied fellow mine workers to protest a cut in wages for Mexican-American employees instituted as a cynical reaction to new labor laws passed by the Territorial Legislature in 1903. With stirring rhetoric, Loustanau inspired a strike that quickly spread to nearby Clifton and Morenci and involved as many as 5000 people. The Arizona Rangers and the National Guard were sent in to break the strike and Loustanau was arrested and eventually sent to Yuma Territorial Prison where he died a few years later. Though the strike was ultimately a failure, Loustanau, with no help from established labor unions or anyone else, was successful at drawing nationwide attention to labor conditions in western mines. He also succeeded, even if briefly, at organizing working people, and Mexican-Americans in particular, around a common cause to an extent that had never before been seen in Arizona.

Bonaventura Oblasser9. Father Bonaventure Oblasser, O.F.M. (1885-1967): Father Bonaventure was sent to Arizona in 1910 as a part of renewed Franciscan missionary efforts among the Tohono O’odham. During his three decades in the region, he built over a dozen churches in the remote villages of the Papagueria. Believing that the boarding school system was harmful to the culture, Oblasser created a system of day schools so that children could be educated in or near their own communities. He came to be an advocate for the Tohono O’odham, organizing the successful lobbying effort that created the Reservation in 1915 and helping the Tribe fight an old lawsuit that sought to take title to their lands. With the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, Oblasser participated in the drafting of the Tribe’s first constitution, striving to make a document that codified the O’odham’s traditions.

sam_goddard10. Governor Samuel Pearson “Sam” Goddard Jr. (1919-2006): Goddard came to Arizona after serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II to attend the University of Arizona Law School. Establishing himself as a lawyer in Tucson, his civic involvement led him to pursue politics and he was elected Governor of Arizona as a Democrat in 1964. Recognizing that Arizona was changing rapidly, he pursued a bold agenda as Governor, which did not endear him to a legislature dominated by a coalition of Republicans and conservative rural “Pinto” Democrats. Nevertheless, he accomplished much in his single term, including the establishment of a state budget office, an Arts Commission, and, most importantly, the passage of a sweeping civil rights law. He was actively involved in the fight for Arizona’s share of Colorado River water at a critical time in the development of the Central Arizona Project, and strengthened ties with his counterpart in Sonora. After his term, he remained active as Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party and as a member of the Central Arizona Project board.

The NFL Sanitizes The Declaration of Independence

I suppose that I could go on and on about how high-handed, pretentious, manipulative and ultimately hollow the annoying Super Bowl tribute to the troops was (someone else already did that here). Instead, I will point out a glaring omission in their reading of the Declaration of Independence.

As every schoolboy knows, the Declaration features a list of grievances against the Crown, among which is this one, condemning His Majesty for being insufficiently committed to exterminating the natives:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The item referred to the alliances that the British and the Loyalists had entered into with many of the tribes on the frontier. Leery of the intentions of the Patriots, many native leaders had thrown in their lot with the Crown. Their weariness was understandable. Britain’s agreements with tribes had long been controversial among colonists eager to expand into the frontier, so joining the effort against the rebellion was a matter of survival.

When war came, tribal allies joined British forces in the brutal irregular fighting on the fringes of the wilderness, and the reports of atrocities by Indians, some exaggerated, some wholly fictional, rallied support for the Patriot’s cause. Of course, the Patriots were hardly blameless in this violence. After all, it was not without cause that the Iroquois called George Washington “Town Destroyer.”

In fairness, the reading omitted the entire list of grievances from the  Declaration, including this one, which attacked the Quebec Act of 1774, which was considered offensive by the colonists for, among other things, recognizing the rights of Catholics:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

I know that it is absurd to expect a history lesson at the Super Bowl, and that we as a country have largely gotten past the worst of the bigotry exemplified by these passages. However, it does not seem that our understanding of our past, or, for that matter, our present, is well served by ignoring the complexity of American history, even the parts that make us a bit uncomfortable.

It should be pointed out that this sort of thing has been done right. About 10 years ago, Norman Lear and Rob Reiner put together this short film with famous actors reading the unabridged Declaration of Independence. Graham Greene’s reading of the passage about “savages” at 10:58 is particularly powerful in its irony.

What Stephen Lemons Missed About the 17th Amendment

Henry Fountain AshurstFor Arizonans, the rise of the TEA Party nationally has only meant that we now have a convenient name for a strain of Republicans who have always menaced the political scene and been, to at least some extent, an obstacle to our progress as a state. Back in the 80s and early 90s, we called them Mechamites, after our not-so-esteemed Governor Evan Mecham. This particular breed was already decades old by this time, as even Arizona’s first Governor, George W.P. Hunt referred to the “standpat reactionary furies” in what we now call The East Valley as the chief obstacle to his progressive agenda.

These days, there is little question that this crowd is driving the Republican agenda, and they made a spectacularly successful effort to embarrass us as a state this week. The thing that got most of the attention was a resolution by the Arizona Republican Party condemning Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) for attempting to be an effective legislator. The author of the resolution, a failed candidate for legislature and noticeably less than telegenic fellow, stumbled through an interview with Chris Matthews, refusing to admit that the President was lawfully elected and lecturing the former chief of staff to House Speaker Tip O’Neill about Ronald Reagan. Apparently he was unaware that Matthews worked with and personally knew President Reagan, and if you wait long enough, he will even tell you about the book he wrote about him.

All of this begs the question: given that the Republican Party runs the state, shouldn’t they be able to find a more effective spokesman than this guy?

What got a little less attention was a resolution calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment, the 1913 revision to the United States Constitution that calls for the direct election of Senators rather than having them elected by the state legislatures. Stephen Lemons at the New Times was one of the few reporters who gave this more than passing mention, but he failed to give it the proper context.

Lemons jokes that this resolution was being pushed by disgraced former State Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) as a means to get himself back in politics. While such a thing would certainly be in character for the former Senator, the truth is that this has been a cause celebre for Pearce and the right wing for quite a long time. Supporters of repeal argue that the 17th Amendment, a progressive era reform intended to address the cesspool of bribery and corruption that the appointment process had become and to generally make government more responsible to the people, was what began the precipitous slide away from “states rights,” though the failure of General John Bell Hood to take a hill in Pennsylvania some 50 years before might have had something to do with it as well. A cursory Google search will yield a catalog of alleged ills that activists blame on the fact that the United States Senate is a popularly elected body.

Marcus_A_SmithWhat largely has not been discussed (except on this blog) is that there is potentially some question about what repeal of the 17th Amendment would do in Arizona. The State Constitution calls for an “advisory vote” for the United States Senate. In December, 1911, candidates for Senate appeared on the primary and general election ballots along with candidates for U.S. House, Governor and legislature. After a spirited and hard-fought campaign, Democrats Henry Fountain Ashurst and Marcus Aurelius Smith came out on top. The following March, the legislature ratified the results unanimously and without debate. It is clear that the framers of the Arizona Constitution intended that Senators be elected and that legislative action was to be merely a formality.

The strange obsession with this issue shows a certain contempt for popular sovereignty among movement conservatives. This also manifested itself this week in the legislature with regard to voting rights. It is also shown in their passion for a wonky issue that has almost no popular support, despite the fact that these folks consistently claim that they are speaking for the majority of Americans, an arrogant assertion that can only be made by an insular group of like-minded obsessives who talk to no one but each other.

Moreover, it shows that folks who claim to be committed to the original intent of the framers of the United States Constitution are largely ignorant and unconcerned about their own state’s constitution and the intent of its framers. Perhaps none of this is really about constitutional principles at all, but merely about the oddball obsessions of some truly strange and narrow-minded people.

Abuse of Language: SOTU Edition

In the wake of Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, two reactions stand out, not so much for the degree which they contributed to or failed to contribute to public debate, but for their complete and hollow meaninglessness.

The first has to be Representative Michael Grimm’s (R-New York) by-now-notorious tirade against a reporter. By now this has been analyzed to death, either as an example of racial double standards in the light of the criticism endured by Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman over his rant, or as a manifestation of an unfortunate macho swagger particular to East Coast Republicans, one in which one plays tough by abusing the weak and powerless, whether they be ethnic minorities, the poor, underpaid women, or nebbish journalists who are smaller than oneself. But more than this, what he said was silly.

Specifically, he threatened to “break” the reporter “like a little boy.” Whatever the hell does this even mean? The simile implies that breaking little boys is somehow familiar to him, so maybe he has done this before, or he knows people who do it. More likely, he’s just a preening jackass who said whatever he thought would make him sound like a big man by employing the rhetoric of his (allegedly) mobbed up Staten Island constituents.

The other comes from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who we keep hearing is a thoughtful guy, even though so much of what he says is predictable. Graham declared that “the world is literally about to blow up.” As comedian David Cross once put it so eloquently, “when you misuse the word ‘literally’ you are using it in the exact opposite way it was intended.”

Obviously, Grimm did not mean that he was going to break anybody, and Graham did not mean that he believed that the planet was going to explode like something from a JJ Abrams flick. The problem is that the substance of their words was not nearly as important to them as sounding tough, defiant, or contrary. If they themselves put so little thought into what they are saying, then why should we take them seriously?

By Way of Explanation

I got an e-mail from DreamHost (the folks that host this blog) saying that several files had been “exploited.” I went through and deleted them, but the site was down for a couple of days. There may be some extras that won’t be working until I can poke around and reinstall them, but Tom should be able to post without a problem.

The Bear Essential News regrets the error.

Help Britt Farbo Go To DC

Folks who have been active in Baja Arizona Democratic politics for a while probably remember Britt Farbo, the feisty badass from the Sulphur Springs Valley who made her mark on the Young Democrats back in the aughts. Since then, she has led a wandering life of adventure, including a stint in DC with EMILY’s List, studies in Norway, and work with an NGO in Afghanistan. Currently, she is doing NGO work for the advancement of women in Cambodia and is working on a degree in Phnom Pen.

Farbo is also active as an officer with Democrats Abroad, the arm of the Democratic Party that represents expatriate Democrats around the world. She is raising money so she can go to Washington DC to represent the Asia-Pacific Region in her capacity as a Regional Vice Chair at Democrats Abroad’s 50th Anniversary meeting at the end of February. In Farbo’s words:

My hope is that I can raise enough money to cover travel from Cambodia to the United States, in order to attend the Democrats Abroad 2014 Annual Meeting and 50th Anniversary as well as the DNC Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. (Febuaray 27th-March 5th, 2014) where I am looking forward to representing the Asia-Pacific Region and Cambodia.

At these meetings Americans abroad and Americans from all walks of life will meet with members of congress to advocate for fair applications of the law to Americans living abroad. Work hard with party leaders to understand our role better in the 2014 elections and pass ideas around. Democrats Abroad will also celebrate fifty years since our founding.

2014 is shaping up to be an interesting one political, economically and socially for the world and by extension the individual. For myself personally this year marks the half-way point in finishing my undergraduate degree, turning thirty and five years abroad. My hope is that through my life as a student trying to make it work, my continued participation in Democrats Abroad, and a different and emerging perspective that one day I might be a better change agent for my country and community.

Thanks for your support, patience, and encouragement over time.

In Solidarity,

Britt Farbo
Democratic Party Committee Abroad

Regional Vice Chair Asia-Pacific Region 2013-Present
Chair Democrats Abroad Cambodia 2012-Present
Frm. Secretary Democrats Abroad Afghanistan 2010-2011

Farbo is very close to her $2500 goal. Folks who want to help can contribute over at her site at gofundme.com.

John Kavanagh Does Not Want People Like Himself To Go To College

State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) is an ex-cop from a working class background who earned a PhD at a public university and teaches at a community college. This should be considered in light of his recent comments attacking financial aid for allowing “too many” Arizonans to attend our state’s universities.

I am not going to pretend that I know exactly what programs Kavanagh may or may not have benefited from during what must have been a remarkable academic career. Though I served with him for two years, I really know little about his story. Suffice it to say, I made many Republican friends while I was at the capitol and he was not one of them.

However, during my college career, I knew many people from backgrounds very similar to Kavanagh’s. Most of them were helped directly by financial aid in one way or another. More importantly they were helped by the fact that the college experience is very different than it was in previous decades because legislation like the GI Bill (the brainchild of Arizona’s own Senator Ernest “Mac” McFarland) and the Higher Education Act of 1965 made college accessible to more people. As a result, colleges have been forced over the years to accommodate so-called “non-traditional students,” including working people, older students and students with families by altering their schedules, loosening stuffy traditions, and providing services on campus for a population with different and diverse needs. The once-elite experience of college has been democratized, and financial aid has been a big part of this.

Kavanagh points out, correctly, that there are people who should not be in college. He is right. Not everyone is college material, and there are plenty of students who do not take their education seriously. However, his rhetoric implies that he believes that academic merit has something to do with one’s ability to pay. This is insulting bunk, and we can all think of mediocre students who were able to attend elite colleges based solely on their family’s reputation and money. There were plenty of undeserving students in college before the era of financial aid, and there will still be without it. The problem is that too many talented students will be unable to go to college without it.

But more than this, financial aid has been integral to the general opening of the college experience to folks beyond the sons and daughters of wealth and privilege. Without it, campuses would be less diverse and eventually less welcoming to students from different backgrounds, including working class transit cops.

Kavanagh speaks of a halcyon time when only deserving people attended college. What he ignores is that in his perfect world he would probably not have been considered one of them.

Steven Seagal is not running for Governor, so stop talking about him.

NB: Some folks may be wondering why I have not been posting here of late. This is largely due to the fact that my name is being circulated for a possible legislative appointment, and I was reluctant to write anything which would stink of shameless politicking. However, there are some stupidities so offensive as to demand comment.

A throwaway comment by Steven Seagal that he thinks it might be fun to run for Governor of Arizona has inspired much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among your Facebook friends. Even ostensibly serious journalists like Jim Nintzel have been chasing the story, giving the bloated action movie hack more ink than any of the actual candidates have received.

It was not until yesterday that a reporter, apparently embarrassed by a Facebook post from one of her former colleagues, made the ten minutes or so of phone calls and internet surfing necessary to find that Seagal does not meet the residency requirements for the office and is not even registered to vote in Arizona. The fact that Seagal is ineligible to run was not addressed in the pages of The Arizona Republic, but on the reporter’s Twitter feed. Keep in mind that the non-story had already been running for a few days at this point.

Also, no one seems to have noticed that Seagal is doing absolutely nothing to organize a campaign, a necessity at this point in the process. American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken may be annoying, but the fact that he has actually been talking to campaign professionals in preparation for a possible run for Congress shows that he is serious and thoughtful in this regard. Seagal, in contrast, is, in the words of the philosopher, merely farting in the wind.

Seagal’s candidacy is fake, and an obvious attempt by an attention starved used up action actor to get some publicity. While it is sad that a gullible media is willing to accommodate him, it is downright pathetic that so many people who consider themselves well-informed and sophisticated are pulling their hair out over this, but are blissfully unaware of the actual race for Governor which will be shaping up over the next few months.

So far, the field of candidates on the Republican side includes a blowhard geezer who thinks entirely in stale FOX News talking points and a CEO who thinks that the Rio Grande runs somewhere immediately south of Phoenix. Both of these candidates are scarier than Seagal, since one of them could actually be our next Governor.

Meanwhile, the only Democrat running has been dismissed by supposedly serious people as being too thoughtful, well informed and intelligent for public office.

We like to complain about the state of our politics in Arizona. We criticize our elected officials as buffoons and often question how anybody could have put such a motley horde in office without realizing that the blame falls on us, our friends, our family, and our neighbors. Seagal is being taken seriously because we do not take our politics seriously. This is the real problem. We are getting exactly what we deserve.

Yes Day: Vote Early and Often

Voting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Online Fan Poll lasts only a few more days.

For Tucsonans, two choices are obvious. First, we are going to vote for Linda Ronstadt. Second, we are going to vote for guitar demigod and one-time Tucsonan Link Wray. Wray had a special place in his heart for the Old Pueblo and played here frequently, often sharing the stage with local great Al Perry. I am not sure if there is any truth to the persistent rumor that Wray’s “Tucson, Arizona” was written in the Tap Room at the Hotel Congress, but it is a good story nonetheless.

As for me, my third vote goes to Yes. I loved Yes in high school, then drifted away for them as I discovered punk rock and what came to be called “alternative.” By my college years, I was embarrassed to admit that I had all their albums on now-obsolete vinyl. This story is pretty common, actually, but in more recent years, their profound impact has been acknowledged, with artists as diverse as Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, ?uestlove and The Red Hot Chili Peppers admitting to their influence.

Yes’ nomination to the Hall has gotten some unusual attention, in large part because there is an unprecedented campaign being waged on their behalf, which started with a chance meeting of political consultants at a Yes show. I assume that this happened in the men’s room between sets. One dark secret of politics is how much business gets done standing at urinals, something which should change as more women achieve prominence.

These consultants, one a Democrat and the other a Republican formed a group called Voices for Yes, which is applying political tactics to promote the band’s candidacy, including talking points, press releases and an elaborate social media strategy. In the end, win or lose, they plan to release a documentary chronicling the effort.

The band, in true rock-and-roll fashion, does not really care whether they get inducted or not, but it nonetheless seems an interesting experiment, and will probably be a case study for folks in who work in marketing. What is not clear is if the effort, even if successful, will have much impact. The Hall’s process remains murky, with many observers believing that the process is controlled largely by notorious snob Jann Wenner, who rewards artists based on his personal tastes and political views. And of course, there is the persistent accusation that the process is subject to commercial pressure.

The fundamental problem is the balloting process which makes the Electoral College look like a triumph for direct Democracy. The campaign seems to focus on the “fan poll,” whose results count as 1 (one) of over six hundred ballots. Effectively, this means that the more votes there are, the less impact each individual vote has. Don’t tell Michelle Reagan about this. It might give her ideas.

This said, it means that the real effort will have to focus on those six hundred or so electors. It will be interesting to see what strategy these high-powered DC political consultants will be using to win those votes.

It is not an important story, but an interesting one nonetheless.

Legislative Immunity and The Things Man Was Not Meant To Know

Most folks here have already heard that former State Representative Daniel Patterson (D-Tucson) has filed a suit against the City of Tucson and The Pima County Sheriff, alleging that they violated his legislative immunity back in 2012.

It needs to be pointed out that legislative immunity, which is spelled out in the State Constitution, is hardly unique to Arizona. There is similar language in many, if not most, constitutions. In fact, it was such a matter of course that the article was the subject of little or no discussion at the 1910 Constitutional Convention.

Everybody who has worked with or in the legislature has at least one story about someone embarrassing themselves with regard to legislative immunity, usually these have something to do with some arrogant boob being obnoxious to a cop. There are also a number of urban legends about what immunity is and how it works, but the fact is that it has never been tested in court and most law enforcement agencies have no clear policy to deal with it.

Of course, there is a good purpose behind it. Such language is there to prevent police harassment of legislators during the session. One can easily imagine, given what happened to the owners of the Phoenix New Times at the hands of Sheriff Arpaio’s office in 2007, how a megalomaniacal  and politically motivated law enforcement agency could attempt to use their power to influence legislation by threatening lawmakers.

Staff counsel at the legislature tends to tell legislators not to cite immunity. If one gets pulled over for a traffic violation, for example, they say to simply pay the ticket and let it go. They also tend to point out that immunity does not extend outside the session, and police can simply choose to sit on a complaint and wait to serve the legislator. Making an issue about immunity potentially makes a routine stop for a broken tail-light into a headline story about an obnoxious and entitled Representative or Senator getting out of a ticket. This would mean attention that was unwanted not only because it could be embarrassing, but also because it would mean that people would be talking about legislative immunity. Generally, folks at the capitol do not want to see this becoming a political issue.

I will not be surprised if Patterson’s lawsuit does not go far, but if it does, a good result might be some clarification of how legislative immunity is supposed to work, either by court precedent or through policy. However, it also draws unwanted attention to an easily misunderstood and abused, though necessary, protection of the integrity of the legislative process, placing it in political jeopardy. It remains to be seen if Patterson has thought through the long-term constitutional consequences of his suit.