Letter writers had a lot to say this year, with more than 4,800 letters received (and read) by Star editorial staff. Here's a sample of some of the local and state issues people were talking about in 2017.
Efforts to quash dissent bring Soviets to mind
First, the Legislature wants to severely limit citizen involvement in the lawmaking process by imposing extremely onerous restrictions on how initiatives get on the ballot. Now, under the umbrella of law and order, they want the option of charging demonstration organizers with a very serious crime. Apparently, government of the people, by the people and for the people applies only if one holds a certain ideology. These very effective methods of squashing dissent are right out of Soviet Russia's playbook.
TPD chief should uphold all laws
Re: the Feb. 28 article 'Immigration status barrier protecting Tucson residents ' I read with interest and frustration the article written by Chris Magnus. If you hadn't included his title, I would have assumed that he was a politician rather than the police chief. As stated, his intent was to alleviate fear and anxiety among those who have broken the immigration laws of this country and those that feel it is OK to do so. However, he talks about being committed to upholding the law, while apparently disregarding the immigration laws.
I wonder how he would treat a U.S. citizen who took up residence in an unlocked home. Would he use the term 'undocumented homeowner'? Some of us think of this wonderful and beautiful country as our home. We welcome guests into our home, but if someone illegally enters our home or overstays their welcome, I would expect the police the department to help us and not simply to relieve the anxiety of that person. Respectfully submitted by the proud son of two legal immigrants, who became U.S. citizens.
UA creating mistrust among its neighbors
The University of Arizona is now deciding to go over an agreed-upon boundary that protects North University Neighborhood from encroachment. It plans to build a six-story, 1,000-bed dormitory-type student complex and parking garage in a two-square-block student complex, while leaving the surrounding area unlivable during both the construction and 'occupation' phases of this project.
Rentals will be vacant, property values will go down, and urban blight will occur. As president of North University Neighborhood Association, I can only see this move by the UA as 'the big gorilla stepping on the little kitten,' and as a concerned UA alumna, I see it as a trust and- reputation-ruining move of my alma mater.
NW main roadways are falling apart
Thornydale, Shannon and Overton roads are well on their way to returning to the horse trails they once were. Those of us on the Northwest Side can literally hear the nuts and bolts falling off of our cars as we navigate the patched, cracked, pot-holed, extremely rough surfaces. Think of the wear and tear on county vehicles such as sheriff's cars and emergency vehicles.
The Governor of Arizona values tax cuts as some mystical way to attract business investment in Arizona, but what company would be attracted to a state where the infrastructure is in decay. Mr. Governor, you stole our road repair money, and we want it back! Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller, in case you didn't recognize those roads, they are in your district. Your campaign signs said you were going to fix our roads. You are in your second term as supervisor, what are you waiting for? Your citizens need some action, and I don't mean tomorrow; I mean today.
UA president's salary outrageous
The Arizona Board of Regents seems caught up in the race for money as the greatest good, regardless of other concerns. Almost $1 million in salary, plus perks, for an administrator with little academic standing and without full support of the professors in this institution, is a scandal.
In the meantime, tuition rates go up, students are charged for using the library and must pay for sports facilities they don't use. Whatever happened to the concept of universities as vehicles for higher learning and research? They are becoming sports franchises and opportunities for enrichment. Shame on the Board of Regents.
Pop quiz for teachers who feel duped
It seems as though our teachers forgot the one basic civics lesson we all learn, usually the hard way. Pop quiz: How can you tell when a politician is lying? (a) their lips are moving; (b) They're from Arizona; (c) they're saying what you want to hear; (d) all of the above.
They sold Prop. 123 in order to steal money from the school land trust by saying they'll give it back to the schools. Except they didn't intend to give it to public schools or teachers. They had a plan to subsidize private and religious schools with money from the trust fund intended for public education- vouchers. 'School choice' is not a choice for families that can't afford bus fare and tuition to the expensive private school in the Foothills. No one really believes that choice is Arizona's motivation for vouchers- do they? Take the quiz.
I-10 farm that spawns dust should be charged
This has got to stop. The company that created this situation needs to be charged for every hour that the Highway Patrol and other police officers spend closing I-10, and they should be fined for inconveniencing truckers, vacationers and other travelers who have to go 110 miles out of their way to avoid the deadly situation of blowing dust. What about the people with breathing problems who have to live near this manmade catastrophe?
Blowing dust rarely ever happened before the land was disturbed by a company that apparently knows nothing about farming in the Southwest. The Phoenix land company, owned by David R. Turner, that disturbed the natural vegetation near San Simon in its quest to make money should be held accountable and even charged with reckless endangerment of the public. Even the Willcox and Animas playas do not create this much blowing dust, and they are natural dust bowls.
McSally no moderate, health-care vote shows
Rep. Martha McSally has served honorably as a leader in the military and on some women's issues, and she characterizes herself as an 'independent voice for Southern Arizona.' However, her vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, without sufficient protections for those with pre-existing conditions, for those who are elderly and for those on Medicaid, will lead to great suffering among her constituents and among my neighbors. Her lock-step vote with Speaker Ryan and President Trump provide clear evidence that she is no moderate. 2018 will provide a good opportunity to assess whether she has acted responsibly and truly represent her constituents.
No More Deaths raid indefensible
Since 2001 more than 2,500 migrants have died in the Tucson Border Patrol Sector alone largely due to US deterrence policies. Organizations such as No More Deaths provide medical aid to seriously sick and sometimes dying migrants. The No More Deaths aid camp is supposed to be, by previous written agreement with Border Patrol, a safe place that Border Patrol will not enter. The raid and arrest of four sick migrants this week is indefensible. It is time for everyone to speak up about the continued deaths and actions such as this raid. It is time to say 'No More!' Not in our backyard.
Proposed Tucson tax affects poor the most
Here we go again. Another sales tax increase for Tucson will be on the ballot on May 16 in a special election. Yes, it is a small tax, as taxes go, only one-half cent for five years. But like every other sales tax, it unfairly burdens the poorest among us. Regressive taxes hit everyone with the same increase, but a sales tax increase for a struggling worker or a family with children is a much bigger percentage of pay than for those of us who have better paying jobs. Do we have to do this again? Can we not find a more equitable way to fund the repairs and services we need?
Bicycle racers don't belong on Rillito paths
I'm 82 years old and ride a 1951 Schwinn single-speed bike to maintain my cardiovascular health. I've used the Rillito River bike path for some time and am increasingly concerned about it becoming a raceway for bikes going 25 to 30 mph and passing in unsafe conditions, especially on weekends.
I had another close call today with a cyclist cutting in front of me, nearly forcing me off the path. My neighbor was forced off and received bruises. The offending racer did not stop. Recently I noticed more road racing bikes than walkers and runners, who are mostly using the unpaved area next to the path. We need a 15 mph speed limit. Those paths were designed for walkers, runners, skaters and bike riders — not racers. They are too narrow for high speeds.
Ducey's teacher plan a slap in the face
Gov. Ducey, in his state of the State speech, proposed a solution to the teacher shortage facing Arizona schools: Lower the standards until you get enough teachers to fill the classrooms. That's exactly what SB 1042 does. He totally ignored the 2014 data that 95,000 Arizonans are certified to teach but just 52,000 are teaching.
My granddaughter stayed up until 1 a.m. studying for four years, plus took summer classes to get her degree and teaching certificate from the University of Arizona. She is now an elementary school teacher making $22,000 in annual take-home pay. She works 91/2 hours at school plus 21/2 hours at home, totaling 12 hours daily. She buys much of her classroom supplies and materials herself, leaving her with about $8 per hour take-home pay, $2 less than minimum wage. What a slap in the face to find out she can now make more at McDonalds, or be a teacher without the time and expense of college.
Regents were right to back 'dreamers'
Hats off to the Arizona Board of Regents for showing real heart in deciding to continue allowing qualified resident 'dreamer' students to pay in-state tuition next semester pending an appeal of the recent decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals. As the state Supreme Court reviews this unfortunate appellate decision, it is encouraging to see a public body like the regents looking out for these deserving young people. The continued efforts by our governor and attorney general to deny these (few hundred) young people an affordable education or a driver's license show no heart at all.
Gowan's ignorance of the law no excuse
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a statement declining to prosecute David Gowan 'because there is insufficient proof that Gowan had both actual criminal intent as well as knowledge of the laws that were being broken.' Wait, what? Ignorance of the law is an excuse? When did that change? I realize that Brnovich is allowed discretion regarding prosecutions, but this proclamation sounds more like a judgment.
Cancer picked on a fighter
Back in June, after the James Comey hearing, I wrote a letter to the editor about the bizarre questions coming from Sen. John Mc-Cain. They were just not making sense. Well, his diagnosis of brain cancer makes sense of why this was happening. I wish him the best as he faces one of the biggest challenges in his life. Like Obama said, cancer does not know what it's up against.
Peculiar expression of white pride
Re: the Aug. 14 article 'After Va. attack, Miller's Facebook post: 'WHITE- and proud.'' What is Ally Miller's white pride? I take pride in my Scottish heritage, remembering my grandfather speaking to me in Gaelic when I was little. I take pride in my ancestors fighting in the American Revolution. I take pride in my warrior nieces in the Army and Air Force. I take pride in my son, whom I hooded last year when he received his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.
My grandmother remembers being terrorized as a child by the KKK in hoods on horseback. My grandfather fought them. My grandparents were not the right religion. We will never remove the stain of white supremacy on our nation's history, but we can decide it has no place in our government at any level, whether the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the Statehouse, or the WhiteHouse and Congress. We can remove the paeans to white supremacy by removing Confederate memorials and symbols from our public spaces. And Ally Miller can resign.
Cops should sell guns seized here in Phoenix
Re: the Aug. 18 article 'Tucson no longer able to destroy seized guns.' It's disturbing that the Phoenix and Republican-controlled Legislature has prevailed and Tucson must now sell seized guns back into the community rather than destroy them. But perhaps there is a solution. The Tucson Police Department can drive to Phoenix, sell the guns there- legislators want them back on the streets, after all- and bring the cash back to Tucson.
Dad's profound lesson at drinking fountain
It's the mid-1960s in my hometown of Tucson and I'm 6 years old. My father and I are walking on the grass fields of Santa Rita Park. We stop. He shows me a drinking fountain that says 'For Whites Only' and then we continue walking for about 10 steps and stop. He shows me another drinking fountain that says 'For Coloreds Only.' It's the drinking fountain we drink from, and then we drive back home. My father didn't say a word. That was a profound experience that my father gave tome as a gift. The gift of a lifetime to a 6-year-old white boy.
Trump did a good job pardoning Arpaio
As far as I can see the only one really outraged is Rep. Raúl Grijalva. The pardon was good. Surely we can pardon a sheriff who is 85, served our nation for over 50 years, and the only crime they could come up with is criminal contempt for violating a court order to stop racially profiling. Seems the only ones who disagreed with Sheriff Joe Arpaio were the ones breaking immigration law. If immigrants are here legally, then they have nothing to worry about, so stop. He was protecting the citizens of Arizona. Which, as our sheriff, should be his No. 1 job. Good job, Mr. President!
Tucson's gift of saguaro environmentally careless
Re: the Sept. 14 article 'Tucson sending saguaro to Bezos in bid to get HQ.' I'm appalled that of all things to send Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to entice him to bring his company to Tucson, Sun Corridor Inc. chose a 21-foot saguaro. The saguaro is going to die. There must have been better things that could have been sent. It makes a statement of how much Tucson does not care about its environment.
City Council could use a challenge
The Tucson City Council has been insulated from political pressures from its left for too long. We may be a political blueberry in the bowl of tomato soup that is Arizona. That doesn't mean our progressive city should settle for inaction. I was incredibly disheartened by the mayor's tone-deaf reread of his DACA statement in front of a crowd that demanded more than a cookie-cutter response.
I've also been continually disappointed by council members who don't see the need to answer the more systemic concerns of fearful and struggling residents. Ideas such as Strong Start Tucson have been scoffed at by the local establishment; meanwhile, they refuse to address pressing issues in new ways. Tucson can draw a line in the sand against our harmful federal and state governments. We don't need base-quelling sound bites. We need to fight back.
Sedgwick should resign from TUSD board
Re: the Oct. 1 article 'Sedgwick, on TUSD board, is accused in work complaint.' Rachael Sedgwick's rhetoric and behavior toward a TUSD employee is outrageous. She admits the grossly unprofessional behavior and is quoted in this article: 'I fully admit that what I did was rude, and I behaved inappropriately. In a professional workplace, you're not supposed to write snooty emails.'
Really, this needed to be pointed out to her? I know she is an elected official, and I'm not sure why TUSD did not pursue this further; but as a retired human- resources director, I would not have dismissed this action. I would have called for her resignation. Which, as a matter of fact, as a taxpayer in Tucson, I will do- Ms. Sedgwick, you should resign.
Don't eliminate Catalina High School
Re: the Oct. 7 guest column 'It's time for University High School to have a campus of its own.' Indeed, indeed, UHS needs its own campus. But it is not necessary to close Catalina to make this happen. I can remember when CHS was the top school in the district. That was before education was seen as an expense instead of an investment, and before TUSD cut many of its programs and shifted priorities.
For years it has been apparent that funding and resources have been sent elsewhere rather than provided where needed. Even with this, and the influx of refugees and English language learners, students have accomplished great things at Catalina. Instead of assigning experienced administrators who might have brought ideas for how to manage under these circumstances, we have had at least three first-time principals assigned to the school in the last decade. Yes, UHS may need a campus, but this proposal- and it is just a proposal should not be approved. Save this iconic building and school!
Does 'personal freedom' extend to vehicle safety?
Hailing from Germany, a country where all participants in traffic are equally respected, I have experienced rampant distracted driving that goes unchecked; photo vans banned; red light cameras taken down- all in the name of 'personal freedom.' It is evident how speeding and red-light running have increased dramatically. No longer do I feel safe riding my bike even on routes billed as Tucson's safest.
My wife and I just bought a new car, with our decision solely driven by how well the vehicle can protect us against a distracted, drunk, red-light running or speeding driver. We also bought a house away from midtown, retreating from the daily carnage that is called 'Tucson traffic.' We feel forced to conclude that this society values the 'personal freedom' of staring at a phone while barreling through populated areas in an oversized truck higher than personal safety. While other municipalities across the world move toward safer, more people-friendly traffic solutions, Arizona appears to be promoting the opposite.
We can't be expected to pay for everything
Evidence from the recent Tucson elections show you can't shove state inefficiency down locals throats. The zoo, schools, stray animals, etc. are all nice, yet those who love their pet projects need to come forward with time, treasure and talent, and not expect seniors, the poor and disinterested people to keep paying more taxes for public safety and potholes. Voters finally said 'no!'