Tucson City Council To Increase Water Rates To Incentivize Water Conservation

Tucson City Council To Increase Water Rates To Incentivize Water Conservation

By Corinne Murdock |

The Tucson City Council began the process for increasing residents’ water rates in order to incentivize greater water conservation. The council motioned in a study session on Tuesday to increase rates by reclassifying winter months, which have lower rates, into summer months. 

A customer’s water usage over the winter months determines the Average Winter Consumption (AWC), which is charged at a year-round base rate; in the summer months, water usage between 101 to 145 percent of AWC is billed at a higher rate, and over 145 percent at an even higher rate.

The rate increase comes at the behest of the water efficiency and conservation program goals outlined in the city’s Natural Environment Plan. On Tuesday, the city approved Options 1A and 1B to restructure water rates. Those options direct city staff to proceed with the rate adoption process, commence a notice of public intent with a 60-day public outreach and communication hearing prior to a public hearing and rate adoption.

Councilman Kevin Dahl said the water crisis defined by PFAs in the water supply and the Colorado Water River drought necessitated the restructuring of rates. Dahl also claimed that the rate restructure would create equitable change, noting that wealthier entities like homeowners associations and golf courses pay lower water rates while larger families and garden owners pay more. 

Rather than allow the traditional policy process, which would take four or five months per proposed change, Dahl moved to expedite both options together rather than separately. The council adopted his motion. 

“We need to have a quick start on this,” said Dahl.

The 1A option changes winter months from the current definition of six months to three months. The 1B option then adds on another tier, greater than 145 percent, to the block structure. City staff explained that 1A allows the commercial and industrial class to get used to the three-month winter quarter average for several years, then follow up to determine conservation effectiveness. 

Councilman Paul Cunningham said that he appreciated the notice of public intent and hearing, sharing that it alleviated his concerns that residents would experience “sticker shock” over the hike in water rates.

“This is the direction we’re going. We might as well be transparent about it,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham voiced concern over the possibility of specialized rates for different businesses. He also brought up a desire to establish conservation-compliant water parks in the city, noting that they lose residents in the summer to the water parks housed in surrounding cities and states. 

“Water, like it or not, is becoming a commodity and is becoming a quantifiable and limited resource,” said Cunningham. 

Mayor Regina Romero called the city’s water situation “bleak.” Vice Mayor Steve Kozachik concurred. 

“Our goal is to send a strong conservation signal,” said Kozachik. 

Tucson hasn’t been the only city to hike its water rates for conservation’s sake. The city of Phoenix proposed increasing water rates over the next year by a minimum of 25 percent.

Watch the city council discussion of the water rates here:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Kari Lake’s Election Challenge Dismissed; Lake Launches Voter Registration Initiative

Kari Lake’s Election Challenge Dismissed; Lake Launches Voter Registration Initiative

By Corinne Murdock |

On Monday, the Maricopa County Superior Court dismissed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s case. Tuesday, Lake announced the launch of the “largest ballot chasing operation” in state history, which she clarified was a voter registration initiative for the upcoming election year.

Leading the initiative, backed financially with the Save Arizona Fund, will be longtime grassroots activist Merissa Hamilton.

Lake asserted that her team had proven “beyond a shadow of a doubt” to the Maricopa County Superior Court the brokenness of the state’s election system. However, despite her court loss, Lake pledged to continue to fight for election wins. Lake said that left-wing political actors shouldn’t be the only ones that conduct voter registration.

“We’ve got to work in this rigged, corrupt system, and we can do it,” said Lake. 

Lake said that while she opposes mail-in ballots, she believes that the current election system requires participation to win. She claimed that about 500,000 Republican and independent voters combined were sent a mail-in ballot that they didn’t return.

“If this is the game we have to play, if this is their rigged system, we’ll work in their rigged system,” said Lake. 

The Arizona Supreme Court granted a review of Lake’s challenge in March.

In Monday’s ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson explained that Lake failed to prove that election officials engaged in misconduct that affected the results of the gubernatorial election. Thompson ruled that Lake’s presentation of evidence that the signature review process was unlawful didn’t provide certainty that a specific number of ballots were impacted by the allegedly quick review.

Thompson cited several testimonies presented by Lake’s witnesses, who reported a preference for a more hasty and thorough signature review process but admitted that the multiple signature reviews required by law were completed. He said it was Lake’s own witnesses that confirmed the counties had abided by election law concerning signature processes, and rejected Lake’s argument based on Reyes v. Cuming that proper elections administration wasn’t adhered to and therefore hindered their ability to argue on a specific number of affected ballots.

“[T]his review was done hastily and possibly not as thoroughly as [complainants] would have liked — but it was done,” wrote Thompson. “This evidence is, in its own right, clear indicia that the comparative process was undertaken in compliance with the statute, putting us outside the scope of Reyes. There is clear and convincing evidence that the elections process for the November 8, 2022, General Election did comply with A.R.S. § 16-550 and that there was no misconduct in the process to support a claim under A.R.S. § 16-672.”

Lake’s team argued that the ballot signatures were processed much too quickly — under one second — to be in compliance with the spirit of the law. Thompson dismissed this argument, saying that time constraints weren’t outlined in the Election Procedures Manual (EPM) and therefore weren’t a standard that could be held against the counties. 

“Plaintiff argues that this is so deficient for signature comparison that it amounts to no process at all. Accepting that argument would require the Court to rewrite not only the EPM but Arizona law to insert a minimum time for signature verification and specify the variables to be considered in the process,” stated Thompson. “Plaintiff asks the Court to interpret the word ‘compare’ in A.R.S. § 16-550(A) to require the Court to engage in a substantive weighing of whether Maricopa County’s signature verification process, as implemented, met some analytical baseline. But there are several problems with this. First, no such baseline appears in Section 16-550. Not one second, not three seconds, and not six seconds: no standard appears in the plain text of the statute. No reviewer is required by statute or the EPM to spend any specific length of time on any particular signature.”

Thompson stated the Lake’s witnesses were truthful in their testimonies.

“The Court makes no finding of dishonesty by any witness — and commends those signature reviewers who stepped forward to critique the process as they understood it,” said Thompson.

Thompson declared that no further matters remained on the case, save costs sought by the state and county election officials. Thompson issued a 5:00 pm Tuesday deadline for proposed form of judgment from the defendants, with a 5:00 pm Wednesday deadline for objection to those proposals by Lake’s team. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Abe Hamadeh: Last Man Standing

Abe Hamadeh: Last Man Standing

By Corinne Murdock |

The state of our republic is the foremost concern for Abe Hamadeh. Arizona is in a position to define it, specifically based on the outcome of Hamadeh’s election challenge.

“The idea of America, whether we are a nation that is ruled and governed by ‘we the people’ is threatened,” said Hamadeh in an interview with AZ Free News. “It’s the idea that Americans have lost faith in the idea that our elections are fair and honest. Once you lose confidence in that, you lose confidence in other aspects of America — like the rule of law.”

Hamadeh said that the recently released Durham report epitomized these concerns. The Department of Justice’s 306-page findings on the weaponization of the federal government against former President Donald Trump shined a clear light on the current nature of government and media, and the vital importance of an honest judiciary to hold them accountable. 

“I sit back, and in its plainest terms: it was an attempted coup on President Trump. How there’s no accountability for that, how Hillary can collude with Russia to create a fake dossier, and this is what Durham has reported. That’s frightening,” said Hamadeh. “I recognize the power of the media, and it’s something I never thought I had a good grasp on. I thought they were generally biased but trying to be factual. But now I’ve discovered that the fourth estate has been totally corrupted, and there’s nobody holding the government accountable. The only thing we’ve got left to hold it accountable is the independent judiciary, which has been threatened by the left.”

It’s his deep concern for the direction of our nation, starting with the state of our elections, that affords him the boundless energy to continue his challenge of the 2022 attorney general election. Hamadeh engaged in oral arguments last week to argue for a new trial, based on the evidence they’ve found of disenfranchised voters.

“I think it goes much deeper than me winning. I’m fighting because I’m fighting for the truth, the people’s voice, and their votes to be honored. I think that’s a noble cause. Whether we succeed or fail, the government’s incompetence, the media’s hypocrisy, and the truth. And the truth is I won,” said Hamadeh. “How can we survive as a country when we no longer have faith in our elections or rule of law? What is the government at this point?”

Mayes was declared the winner initially with a 511-vote lead. The recount slashed that lead to 280. Yet, there are thousands of provisional votes — over 9,000, an increase from the estimated 8,000 reported in April — that weren’t included in the final count. About 70 percent of Election Day voters were for Hamadeh. Hamadeh said these additional provisional votes took as long as they did to discover because of the delay in response from the counties.

“We have to get information from 15 different government agencies, and it’s complicated,” said Hamadeh. “I wish we had access to the information that the government has. That’s why we’re asking for a new trial.”

“Statutes don’t trump the Arizona Constitution.”

Arguments from his opponents — Attorney General Kris Mayes and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes — focused mainly on how much time has passed since the election, the recount, and Mayes taking office. Hamadeh said that didn’t matter, asserting that Hunt v. Campbell ruled that the Arizona Constitution made immutably clear that the person with the most votes is deemed the legitimate officeholder. 

“Even with a recount provision, even with a statutory timeline, none of that trumps the Arizona Constitution. All that allows is a statutory tool to make a process to determine who has the most votes and who is the legitimate officeholder,” said Hamadeh.

Hunt v. Campbell concerned the last major election challenge in a close race: over 100 years ago, in the 1916 gubernatorial election. Mayes’ counsel argued that the precedent was inapplicable since the ruling came before statutory timelines for elections were established. However, the judge rebutted in closing that there was a recount provision in place at the time of the Hunt v. Campbell decision.

Of all that the attorney general’s counsel did argue, they never claimed that Mayes obtained the most votes. Hamadeh’s team presented evidence of existing votes not counted, claims which went uncontested by the opposition. When given their turn to speak, Maricopa County didn’t offer any arguments of their own. 

Based on what he’d witnessed, Hamadeh said he didn’t believe Mayes’ team came prepared. He believed it evinced a troubling, baseless confidence that the case was over before it had even begun, speculating that the consistency of favorable media coverage played a role as well.

“I think they were trying to treat our case the same as that of Mark Finchem or Kari Lake, or some of these cases with a larger margin,” said Hamadeh. “When they control the media and the government, they feel really emboldened to – it’s almost this hubris where they don’t think this judge will do something.”

Before Hamadeh had the complete voter data handed over from the counties to argue his case fully, The Washington Post editorial board wrote in a post-New Year’s piece that his defeat symbolized an end to election denialism. 

“It brings me a lot of joy when we keep discovering the truth.”

Hamadeh pointed out that the media has trotted out the phrase “count all the votes” on repeat since 2020 — which he says is exactly what his case is all about. I’m fighting for the truth. I’m actually scared that these people are running our government and controlling our media.

“The government hasn’t counted all legitimate ballots,” said Hamadeh. “The media always argues, you have to count every single vote. I intend to show their hypocrisy. I have a lot of fun. I’m basically doing what I said I was doing as attorney general, which is exposing corruption, incompetence, and hypocrisy for the truth. I’m enjoying it.”

Hamadeh shared that he asked a group of about 100 attendees at a recent Republican Federation for Women event how many of them knew of someone who had lost faith in their elections and would no longer vote because of what happened last November. According to Hamadeh, every single hand went up. 

“It breaks my heart that they’ve lost faith and confidence, and their solution — it’s not a solution — is ‘why vote?’”

Hamadeh claims that the 280 margin isn’t that unreasonable to question considering the myriad hiccups throughout last year’s election season. Last October, Gov. Katie Hobbs in her former capacity as secretary of state revealed that there were 6,000 Arizonans mistakenly registered as federal-only voters. 

“This is 280 votes, and the government has already admitted to making these big mistakes,” said Hamadeh. “Why would Katie Hobbs not have done the right thing by telling the court and us if they didn’t have anything to gain?”

Hobbs neglected to disclose the undervotes in the attorney general race until after the December hearing. She claimed that the Maricopa County Superior Court order to prevent disclosure of the recount results prevented her from disclosing the undervotes, but Hamadeh said that wasn’t the case.

“Their actions speak louder than anything I have to say,” said Hamadeh. “We were in court arguing about undervote issues, and they [Hobbs’ team] didn’t say anything. They should not be the ones that take a side in an election contest. They should be the ones doing their jobs as government officials.”

“I wish Republicans had as much a desire to save the country as Democrats have in destroying it.”

Hamadeh said that losing this case would close the door to challenging elections in the future. 

“If we don’t prevail, the idea that you can’t question elections and election officials and the government itself regarding elections, is going to only get worse,” said Hamadeh. “My family came from Syria. I know from their experience what it’s like to not live in a democracy, to not be able to question your government. That’s exactly what the media, ironically, and the Democrats are leading us to right now.”

Hamadeh characterized his fight as a natural extension of a uniquely American duty: to serve as a check and balance on the government by questioning it.

“It’s not only our right to question the government, it’s also our duty. Especially when there are this many errors, this much incompetence regarding our elections,” said Hamadeh. “I’m fighting because I think questioning our government is the foundation of what being an American is; if we lose that, we basically lose our country.” 

After last week’s oral arguments concluded, Mayes issued a fundraising email asking for campaign and legal fund donations. 

“With regard to the never-ending lawsuit… it was more ‘we think’ drama, without factual evidence,” wrote Mayes.

Hamadeh says he hasn’t issued any similar fundraising emails.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.