Forgive the posting style tonight. I was taking notes on my laptop and trying to write the post while listening to the meeting.
That method didn't work too well. :)
Anyway, on to the post...
On Thursday evening, more than 150 interested voters (and a few of their babies :)) ) attended a Republican
propaganda session budget town hall at the Scottsdale Library.
The mouthpieces for the session were Sens. Russell Pearce, Chuck Gray, and Thayer Verschoor and Rep. John Kavanagh. Other than a couple of Rep county party functionaries, no other Rep officials showed up.
Perhaps 40 members of the audience were Kool Aid drinkers - Libertarians, at least one home school mom, and assorted nativists from Pearce's posse - and all were seated front row center, BTW. The rest were teachers, members of the disabled community, and citizens concerned about the state of the state.
Eric Kurland of the Scottsdale Education Association organized a group of more than 100 educators at the front entrance of the library (SPD sent 4 cops on bikes!! We're raucous rebels!! Whoo hooo!!! :) )
The crowd in the auditorium.
The Republican spiel was predictable - taxes bad, government bad, stimulus money bad because of strings attached, the causes of our problems are named "Napolitano" and "Obama", etc. They also pounded on the point that all government bureaucracy is "wasteful." While they were (usually) careful to say that they don't want to cut services to needy Arizonans, they made it clear they want to gut the administrative infrastructure that delivers such services.
They made some noises about protecting "the most vulnerable in our society," but protecting the GOP's touchstones, big business and the wealthy, was clearly a higher priority. As in for every mention of the disabled or education, there were 10 mentions of "no taxes."
They also tried to shift the blame for the state's revenue problems on the Voter Protection Act and on Prop 301, funding for transportation and education.
Pandering to the large number of teachers present, Chuck Gray strongly hinted that if voters opened up the VPA and its protections, Clean Elections' funding would go to education. He called Clean Elections "welfare for politicians."
Gray also decried the VPA and the motivation behind it, the lege's override of the voters' passage of the legalization of medical marijuana.
Oh, and in a shout out to the wingers, Gray called the property tax "extortion."
Russell Pearce, as is his wont, blamed undocumented immigrants for all that ails the state and country. That rant went on for more than 10 minutes, though he slipped in related jibes at other times.
Pearce also demonized the medical marijuana initiative from the 1990s...and he proclaimed, yet again, that "we have been very generous to education."
Laughter of the derisive variety ensued. :)
John Kavanagh opined that "the wealthy already pay their fair share."
Kavanagh spoke of "logical fallacies," saying that there were other possible courses beside program cuts and raising taxes. He wants to sell off state assets (parks? prisons?) and securitizing future lottery revenues. To be fair, even he admitted the lottery revenue scheme is just another word for "borrowing."
That was about the only sensible thing (lottery securitization is borrowing) that any of them said all evening.
Pearce, when he wasn't harping on undocumented immigrants, was excoriating the federal government for not letting private industry operate unfettered by regulation.
Of course, what he didn't mention (and perhaps didn't know because the library isn't part of his district) was to warn people about the tap water - the library is located in the northern reaches of the North Indian Bend Wash Superfund Site. A designation necessitated by private industry dumping toxic chemicals into the groundwater there.
Something they did until they were stopped by some of those pesky regulations.
Of course2, the library is part of his nativist saddle partner's (Kavanagh) district. Maybe Kavanagh should have mentioned it to him.
Kavanagh spouted about misinformation circulating about cuts to education, saying that reports of devasting cuts were misleading. He said that reports of pending cuts in the vicinity of $900 million were overstated by double, projecting cuts for FY2010 at less than $450 million. He reserved a special comment for ASU President Crow, calling his actions and words on the topic of university cuts "despicable."
In the end, the Reps tightly controlled the forum. For the vast majority of the forum, they either gave statements or answered pre-selected questions.
At the end, they *did* open the floor up to a few questions/comments, but with only a few minutes left in the forum. The time for the forum ran out with more than half of the people interested in addressing the panel still standing in line, waiting their turns at the mic.
In way of comparison, consider the format for Democratic budget hearings - 10 minutes of presentation on the state of the budget, and two hours listening to Arizonans talk about the effects of the draconian cuts have had on their lives.
In short, where the Democratic caucus of the lege listened to the concerns of voters, the Republicans lectured at the voters.
Hopefully, enough voters will see and understand the difference, and vote to make some changes come November 2010.
More pics tomorrow or Saturday....