Blog Archives

Capitol Mall’s Mining & Mineral Museum to get makeover

Governor Jan Brewer announced that in celebration of Arizona’s 100th anniversary of statehood, an Arizona Centennial Museum will be created.   In a ceremony at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum in the Capitol Mall area of downtown Phoenix, the governor presented her vision and plans that will be instituted over the course of the next two years to transform the museum into the Arizona Centennial Museum.  The museum’s exhibits will be devoted to showcasing Arizona’s economic growth and industrial development. 

“This new Centennial Museum will be a vibrant, interactive facility, offering state-of-the-art technology and exhibits unlike any in Arizona,” said Governor Brewer. “This facility will feature educational profiles of each industry, showcasing the rich heritage of Arizona’s economy and providing a vision of its brilliant future.”  [Note: Read the full article at Capitol Mall’s Mining & Mineral Museum to get makeover.]

Arizona Governor declares Phoenix a “hell hole”

hellhole9p092309_tmb0001_20090923222052_640_480[Source: Fox 10 News] — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is caught on camera making a remark you wouldn’t expect.   The state’s budget battle apparently prompted her to refer to the State Capitol as a “hell hole.”  No doubt the state’s budget battle taken its toll on Gov. Brewer — enough to get her to say something surprising during a stop in Tucson.

She told a group of Republicans at the Tucson Country Club: “It’s a great relief to say the least to get out of that hellhole in Phoenix.”

Her office says she wasn’t referring to the city of Phoenix — instead, the state Capitol.  Not because of the building, but because of the budget battle.

It’s been a trying few months for Brewer as she’s tried to solve the state’s huge budget deficit.  Brewer has been pushing for a 1-percent sales tax increase, but lawmakers in her own party have fought back against it.  The governor expects to call lawmakers back to work soon to try and resolve the remaining budget issues.

Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — University officials are putting the final touches on plans to build a $164 million building that will expand downtown Phoenix’s medical school and high-profile biomedical campus.  But the project is stuck in political limbo and it’s unclear if construction crews will break ground in February, as planned.  “It will be difficult until we get moving through the Legislature,” said Jaime Molera, a University of Arizona lobbyist.

On Thursday, the Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved plans for the Health Sciences Education Building, a 265,000-square-foot facility that will house lecture halls, an anatomy lab, a simulation center, and a library that will be used by the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.  The building will be located on the 28-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus that’s taking shape downtown.  The hub includes the medical school, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and ABC1 — a medical-research building used by ASU and UA.  Down the road, supporters would like to build a hospital and more research buildings.

The campus is part of Arizona’s longtime quest to grow the state’s bioscience industry.  Phoenix owns the land and the campus is part of city plans to redevelop downtown.  The Health Sciences Education Building is also a key part of plans to expand the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University, which opened in 2007.

Without the new building, the downtown medical school can’t grow much bigger, said Judy Bernas, an associate vice president at the University of Arizona.  Right now, it has 120 students and could have a maximum of 192.  But the original plan calls for a school that would eventually have 480 students.  The school won’t have enough room for that many students until the Health Sciences Building is complete, UA officials say.

Funding for the project has been approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer through the state budget process. The building would be paid for by bonds that would be paid off with lottery revenue.  But a handful of powerful Republican lawmakers are using a bureaucratic procedure to put the brakes on the project.  [Note: Read the full article at Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo.]

Downtown Phoenix affordable housing project completed with stimulus funds

[Source: Arizona Guardian] — On Tuesday, September 15, Governor Jan Brewer and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims visited the construction site of Catherine Arms, a low income housing project being built at 315 W. Fillmore Ave. with the help of federal stimulus funds.  “The Arizona Department of Housing has identified this project as a very worthwhile program that will provide assistance to extremely needy victims of domestic and substance abuse,” said Governor Brewer.  “Catherine Arms is one of many projects receiving assistance in the State of Arizona, providing much needed housing for working families.”

Native American Connections began rehabilitating the Catherine Arms multifamily rental project when construction stalled due to the current economic situation.  Through the federal Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP), established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the Arizona Department of Housing was able to provide additional monies to fill a funding gap, saving jobs that would have been lost and allowing construction to continue on the project.  When complete, Catherine Arms will consist of 28 one-bedroom rental units, five of which will be reserved for victims of domestic violence and/or chronic substance abuse.  The amount of funding allocated to this project from TCAP is approximately $500,000.

How the arts fared in Arizona’s budget crisis

[Source: Robert C. Booker, Executive Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts] —  After a legislative session that began and ended amidst much uncertainty, the bill containing the Arizona Commission on the Arts budget was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on July 1, 2009.

Some of the Arts Commission’s funding streams are interest-bearing (ArtShare Endowment) and fee-based (Arts Trust Fund); thus staff will need a few days to sort out precisely how the legislative reductions will affect the total fiscal year 2010 arts budget.  This much is certain: as a result of legislative reductions and the market downturn, the Arts Commission’s overall budget will be reduced by approximately 42% for fiscal year 2010.

Some of the key arts-related items from the enacted fiscal year 2010 budget follow:

  • The Arts Commission’s general fund appropriation was reduced by 54% from fiscal year 2009.
  • The enacted general fund appropriation – now $956,100 – is sufficient to match Arizona’s annual federal arts allotment as administered by the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • The ArtShare Endowment principal – $20 million at full funding and built over the course of 12 years – has been cut in half from fiscal year 2009.  The endowment corpus now stands at $10 million. Interest payments on the remaining endowment principal continue to underperform.
  • The Arts Trust Fund was not reduced, though decreased receipt of Arizona’s small business filing fees means the fund will pay out less in fiscal year 2010.
  • The Arts Commission has now sustained losses equivalent to twice the sum of its annual budget.  At the beginning of fiscal year 2009, the Arts Commission had an annual budget of $5.8 million.  Over the year, the agency sustained losses of nearly $12 million as the state attempted to close its growing budget gap.

As the legislative session wore on, it became clear that the best possible funding scenario would see the arts budget reduced by at least 39%.  Within the budget proposals debated and passed during the Arizona State Legislature’s session, the state arts budget would have sustained reductions ranging from 39% to 80%.  (This does not include the budget proposal offered by Legislative Democrats, which cut the arts appropriation by less than 5%. This budget was never brought to committee by legislative leadership.)

Given Arizona’s massive budget shortfall and volatile political climate, and though it is distressing to say, a 42% reduction is considered a legislative success.  Several elected officials from both parties, as well as Governor Brewer and members of her budget team, understood the importance of a general fund appropriation and the ArtShare Endowment, and fought mightily against indomitable odds to achieve the best possible outcome for the arts.  Thankfully those individuals were able to fend off deeper cuts to the Arts Commission.

As these officials were fighting for the arts, statewide arts advocates were passionately giving voice to the value of public funding for the arts in their communities.  Parents, youth, volunteers, patrons, arts leaders, educators and artists stepped forward to tell personal stories about the educational, economic and cultural impact of the arts in Arizona.  In all, hundreds of calls were placed and thousands of messages were sent to elected officials in support of the arts during the legislative session.

Because several parts of Arizona’s fiscal year 2010 budget were vetoed by Governor Brewer and the Legislature’s proposed package did not close the state’s budget gap, and because economists project increasing revenue shortfalls over the next several fiscal years, we remain concerned about midyear and ongoing budget reductions.  Together we must remain vigilant in support of the statewide arts industry.

In fiscal year 2009, though the Arts Commission’s actual operating cash budget was reduced by over 33% in legislative reductions and interest/fee losses within the year, the agency was able to fulfill all fiscal year 2009 grant commitments.  This was accomplished by careful fiscal planning and deep cuts to programs, operations and personnel – reducing agency staff by 23% over the past two fiscal years.

That said, an additional 42% reduction will no doubt have a significant impact on administration, operations, grants, programs and services.  We pledge to continue reducing internal costs so as to mitigate losses to agency grant-making, though with only 14% of the agency budget applied to personnel and with many fixed operational costs (such as rent and other state contracts), the agency will not accomplish a balanced budget without percentage cuts to grants and programs.

Arts Commission staff is diligently working with the now-final budget numbers to calculate fiscal year 2010 grant awards.  We apologize for the inconvenience, but because the state arts budget was not finalized until July 1, 2009, grant award announcements will not be available until July 15, or thereabouts.

Your tireless work is of great value to the Arizona Commission on the Arts staff and board.  Know that we never forget our charge, to provide statewide access to and support your work in the arts – and with your help, we continue to imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts wherever they live.

Arizona lawmakers approve bill allowing guns in bars

[Source: Jonathan Cooper, Associated Press] — The Arizona Senate has given final approval to a bill that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry a gun into a business that serves alcohol.  The 19-8 vote completes legislative action on the bill and sends it to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.  She has not said whether she will sign it, but she has long been a supporter of gun rights.  The measure has pitted powerful groups representing gun and bar owners against each other, sparking a debate about whether guns and alcohol can coexist without bloodshed.

Critics of the measure say guns and alcohol are a dangerous combination.  “We don’t let people drink and drive, why should we let them drink and carry guns?” said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, who voted against the bill.

Supporters say they should be able to protect themselves and their families even if they happen to be inside a business serving alcohol.  “It’s very important that criminals are now afraid rather than law abiding citizens,” said Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, the bill’s sponsor.

The measure would ban drinking while packing and allow restaurants to deny entry to gun-toting citizens by posting a sign next to their liquor license.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix leaders to fill city council vacancy… again

Arizona's new State Land Commissioner, Maria Baier

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Here we go again… Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision Tuesday to tap Maria Baier as state land commissioner leaves another vacancy on the Phoenix City Council.  Just a few months ago, the council appointed Sal DiCiccio to replace Councilman Greg Stanton, who resigned to take a top job in Attorney General Terry Goddard’s office.  Twenty-two people had applied for the vacant seat.  Baier, who has represented District 3 on the council since January 2008, plans [resigned] her seat at 5 p.m. Wednesday.  The council will have to appoint an interim replacement between June 29 and July 2, according to the city charter.

Those interested in applying for the vacancy should contact the City Clerk’s Office at 602-262-6837.  Applicants must be a registered voter and live in the district, which includes the Sunnyslope, Moon Valley, and Shadow Mountain neighborhoods and the area around Paradise Valley Mall.  Because Baier has more than one year left on her term, the council must call for a special election no sooner than Nov. 3.  Voters in the district will then determine who will complete Baier’s term, which ends in January 2012.

Baier said things happened suddenly. She got a call from the Governor’s Office last Saturday asking for references and other background check information.  By Monday, Brewer had offered her the job.  The councilwoman said it will be bittersweet leaving the city after such a short time in office.  “It was the greatest priviledge of my life to serve the residents of District 3.  I haven’t met a more thoughtful and kind group of people in my life,” Baier said.  “But I’m going to continue to serve the residents of District 3 and many other folks across the state as state land commissioner.”

Mayor Phil Gordon called Baier “one of our council’s brightest stars” and said her successor will need to be ready on Day 1.  “These are challenging times that require strong and immediate leadership,” he said.  “I will be supporting the best-qualified candidate to fill a pair of shoes that need to hit the ground running from the first minute of the first day.”  [Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]

Arizona governor releases budget proposal

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has released her FY 2010 budget proposal.  Citing current assessments that show the state’s FY 2010 General Fund budget deficit to be growing and reaching upwards of $4 billion, coupled with the June 30th constitutionally mandated deadline for a balanced budget, Governor Brewer renewed her call for a “truly balanced budget.”

“Arizona’s growing fiscal crisis stands to inflict a devastating impact on our state,” Governor Brewer stated.  “We have a non-negotiable duty to adopt a budget that simultaneously addresses our current fiscal situation, our future economy, based on realistic projections, the immediate needs of our least fortunate adults and children during this grave economic time, and our stewardship role on behalf of future generations of Arizonans.”  To view Governor Brewer’s FY 2010 budget proposal, click here.

Growth may stall for UA medical school in downtown Phoenix

UA medical school, downtown Phoenix (Photo: Arizona Daily Star)

[Source: Ken Alltucker, Arizona Republic] — The University of Arizona wants to rapidly expand its medical school in downtown Phoenix to ensure a steady supply of medical workers for the state and an economic punch for the center city.  But university officials say the school’s growth is in jeopardy because of the state’s budget troubles and lawmakers’ reluctance to release $400 million in state Lottery funds to expand the campus.  The money would pay for two new buildings — an education building and a research building — that would house students, faculty, and scientists and anchor the biomedical campus.

University officials say the campus is simply running out of space and cannot match the state’s need for more doctors and medical professionals.  “We are making do, barely, with the space we have,” said William Crist, UA’s vice president for health affairs. “Without this medical center continuing to grow, we don’t have the capacity to train medical professionals in Arizona.”

University of Arizona and Phoenix city officials are pressing state lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer to provide the money they say is critical to the future health of the downtown medical school.  They worry that prospective medical school students may search elsewhere if the Phoenix school cannot grow and offer the types of services that students expect. “They are bright people (students), they are going to look around,” said Stuart Flynn, dean of the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University. “Once students begin figuring this out, that is when we will not be able to get the highest-caliber students.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona State Fairgrounds could be sold in budget fix

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The state could sell off the Arizona State Fairgrounds and other assets and take on more debt instead of raising taxes to help solve a $3 billion budget deficit. Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said Thursday the Arizona House of Representatives was working on an alternative to the budget plan proposed by Gov. Jan Brewer in an effort to shore up the deficit.  Brewer wants a statewide referendum asking voters to raise sales taxes by 1 cent.  Arizona currently has 5.6 percent state sales tax.

Kavanagh said the House budget plan would not have tax increases but instead could raise state debt limits and would look to sell off some assets.  That could include the state fairgrounds at Grand and 19th avenues and McDowell Road in west Phoenix.  He said the city of Phoenix has some land along Buckeye Road that could accommodate a new fairgrounds.  The state also could sell off an airport near the Grand Canyon and privatize more state prisons and corrections facilities.  The state needs to raise more revenue in order to avoid drastic cuts to a slew of programs and services, including universities and K-12 schools.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]