City Of Phoenix Gives NFL Authority To Quash Residents’ Free Speech

City Of Phoenix Gives NFL Authority To Quash Residents’ Free Speech

By Terri Jo Neff |

Although Super Bowl LVII will be played in Glendale, the residents, property owners, and business owners in downtown Phoenix must obtain permission from the NFL to place temporary signage on their own property before and after the big game. 

Phoenix city officials passed Resolution 22073 earlier this year to designate nearly all of downtown as a Special Promotional and Civic Event Area in connection with the Super Bowl game being played at State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12.

The NFL has planned several pregame events at venues across the area, including downtown Phoenix. As a result, a little publicized provision of the city’s resolution restricts “all temporary signage” unless approved by city staff, the NFL, and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.

“In other words, the city has banned hundreds of businesses, and thousands of residents, from speaking freely without permission from the government and two of the government’s handpicked entities,” explains John Thorpe, an attorney for the Goldwater Institute which is fighting back on the constitutional restriction.

Thorpe sent a letter on behalf of a Phoenix property owner to City Attorney Julie Kriegh last week demanding an end to the unconstitutional free speech restrictions.  

“The ordinance also violates constitutional guarantees regarding due process and improper delegation of government power by broadly authorizing two private entities—the NFL and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee—to regulate private citizens’ speech with unfettered discretion and no procedural safeguards,” Thorpe wrote.

The signage restriction went into effect Nov. 1 with no fanfare from city officials. It remains in effect until Feb. 19, 2023, a full week after the Super Bowl. The Goldwater Institute became involved after Bramley Paulin sought to work with city officials so he could post temporary signage to advertise that his property is available to be leased.

Instead, Paulin was informed the property is within the “Clean Zone” covered by the Special Promotional and Civic Event Area. As a result, he cannot utilize the signage without authorization from the NFL and the host committee.

The city’s actions have already imposed substantial harm on Paulin, Thorpe told the city attorney. The letter seeks assurance that Paulin or his representatives may advertise on his property “without unreasonable restriction and without any input or review by the NFL or the Super Bowl Host Committee.”

It is unclear how city officials believe such an overreaching censorship deal is legal, let alone in the best interest of its residents. It does not appear that such restrictions were implemented in Inglewood, California during this year’s Super Bowl.

And there is no record of such restrictions back in 2015 when the Super Bowl was last played in Arizona, also in Glendale at what is now known as State Farm Stadium.

Thorpe acknowledges that hosting Super Bowl festivities is an exciting opportunity for many Arizonans, but he argues no benefits of any sporting event should come at the cost of forcing Arizonans to surrender their constitutional rights.

“And decisions about the free expression rights of downtown residents should not be delegated to unaccountable private parties,” he added.

AZ Free News has reached out for a comment about the free speech restrictions from Fox Sports and the Westwood One radio network, which are broadcasting Super Bowl LVII. A similar request was sent to Apple Music, the sponsor of the halftime show, as well as Roc Nation Management which represents Super Bowl halftime performer Rihanna.

No responses were received by press time.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

Groups Sue To Have Prop 211 Declared Unconstitutional

Groups Sue To Have Prop 211 Declared Unconstitutional

By Terri Jo Neff |

A civil rights lawsuit has been filed by two Arizona nonprofits in hopes of having the recently passed Voters’ Right To Know Act aka Proposition 211 declared unconstitutional.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) and the Center for Arizona Policy have joined forces to seek a preliminary injunction barring implementation of Prop 211 while the case is litigated. The groups are represented by the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.

In announcing Thursday’s lawsuit, AFEC issued a statement which argues that Arizona voters “were misled into passing Prop 211” by supporters like former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard who railed against the vague threat of “dark money” in the state’s elections.

Prop 211 received more yes votes than no votes in all 15 counties, and easily passed by more than 1 million votes. But the plaintiffs insist the new law jeopardizes and interferes with the right of all Americans to freely support campaigns and causes in Arizona without being intimidated.

The Voters’ Right To Know Act requires all entities and persons spending more than $50,000 in “campaign media spending” on statewide campaigns (or $25,000 on other campaigns) excluding personal monies and business income to disclose the original donors of any contribution over $5,000.

The Act involves the disclosure of those donors’ names, mailing addresses, and occupations. It also requires disclosure of the identities of those donors’ employers.

“This is just another attempt to target, harass, and dox conservatives who won’t submit to the Left’s agenda,” the AFEC statement reads. “And if you don’t think this happens, think again.”

The statement notes the experiences of its own staff “who have received numerous phone calls and voicemails threatening violence—including one staff member whose car was vandalized for engaging in public communications on our behalf.”

As required by state law, the Plaintiffs were required to provide notice to the Arizona Attorney General, the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and the President of the Arizona Senate that they are seeking to have Prop 211 declared unconstitutional.

There is recent precedent for the legal arguments put forth by the Goldwater Institute for the plaintiffs. A U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta struck down a similar law in California on the grounds that the First Amendment protects the freedom to anonymously support organizations and nonprofits.

A central theme of the Arizona lawsuit against Prop 211 is the guarantee in the state Constitution that citizens have the right to speak freely, a right even broader than what is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit notes the Arizona Constitution expressly guarantees that an individual’s “private affairs” will not be disturbed, particularly those that pertain to financial information and one’s choices when casting a ballot.

“Transparency is for government; privacy is for individuals,” the lawsuit argues.

Another problem with Prop 211, according to the lawsuit, is its definition of campaign media spending to include any public communication which “promotes, supports, attacks, or opposes” a candidate within six months of an election or “refers” to a candidate 90 days before a primary election.

That overly broad language means any article, blog, or social media post by groups like AFEC or Center for Arizona Policy about something as commonplace as a vote by a lawmaker could trigger compliance with the new law if that lawmaker is running for office or opts to soon after the communication.

“And if you think that by simply avoiding traditional campaign media spending (sending out a mailer, airing a TV commercial, etc.) will protect you from Prop 211, think again,” the AFEC statement notes. That is because the new law applies to all “research, design, production…or any other activity conducted in preparation for” a public communication about a candidate.

“Since writing articles and producing social media posts have a cost, we would have to calculate and regularly track how much staff time and office resources are used to produce these materials,” the statement notes.

Such an onerous level of accounting would force AFEC to drastically limit its public communications—even if a communications are not campaign related—“to avoid the absurd dragnet and complex regulatory labyrinth established by this Act,” the group noted.

Joining AFEC and Center for Arizona Policy as plaintiffs are “Plaintiff Doe I” and “Plaintiff Doe II,” both described as Arizona citizens and Maricopa County residents. The Doe plaintiffs allege that it is unconstitutional to require them to “reveal his or her identity when donating to charitable organizations that engage in public communications supporting issues and candidates” the two support.

Their lawsuit has been assigned to Judge John Hannah of the Maricopa County Superior Court. The defendants include Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as well as the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, its executive director, and its five commissioners.

It is the Clean Elections Commission which is tasked with establishing and interpreting the new standards outlined in Prop 211. The Commission has often been at odds with AFEC in past ballot initiatives and litigation, including one case in which the U.S. Supreme Court significantly reduced the Commission’s power.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

High Demand For Skilled Labor Turns Focus To Non-College Education Options

High Demand For Skilled Labor Turns Focus To Non-College Education Options

By Terri Jo Neff |

In the last year, Arizona has added nearly 15,000 manufacturing jobs. But the demand for skilled workers to fill those jobs along with thousands of others across the state which require specialized training is drawing attention to the importance of ensuring students have access to trade or vocational schools.

The Imagine America Foundation (IAF) is focused on promoting the value of specialized career education and helping students get the hands-on training they need. One category the IAF concentrates on is the skilled trades, which includes a variety of occupations running the gamut from production, installation, maintenance, and repair.

“Because the world runs on machines and energy, those able to service them will always be in demand,” according to a recent IAF report titled Pandemic-Proof Careers in Skilled Trades. “Through economic downturns, pandemics, or other natural disasters, keeping these pieces moving will always be crucial to keeping society moving.”

The growth in demand for skilled trade jobs across Arizona is being powered by emerging technologies, a concerted effort by Gov. Doug Ducey to attract certain industries, and an aging workforce set to retire in the next few years.

“For young people deciding on a career or those looking to make a career change that better aligns with the stability, demand, flexibility, and ROI they seek, this growth comes at the perfect time,” the IAF report notes.

IAE recently highlighted several “hot emerging skilled trades” which can offer a more pandemic-proof career. Those jobs include:

  • Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic / technician
  • Electrician
  • Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanic / installer
  • Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technician
  • Industrial machinery mechanic, machinery maintenance, or millwright
  • Machinist or tool and die maker
  • Medical equipment repairer
  • Solar photovoltaic installer
  • Welder
  • Wind turbine service technician

Scholarships and other tuition assistance for vocational and trade schools has also become more common in the last few years, with the Arizona Community Foundation leading the way away from a college-only mindset.

That example is now being followed by one of Cochise County’s largest employers, which has created a new scholarship for high school seniors interested in obtaining the training needed for a skilled trade job.

The program announced last month by Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC) Foundation will award $4,000 to five students who plan to attend a trade school, skilled job training program, or apprentice program in 2023 instead of seeking a traditional higher education degree.

“Our Directors recognized the importance of encouraging, and providing resources, to students who plan to attend a trade school or certified program rather than a degree from a college or university,” said Marcus Harston, SSVEC’s Community Relations Manager.

More information on the SSVEC Foundation Trade Scholarship Program is available here.

Some companies across Arizona are getting even more involved in training the new employees they need. Several, including Boeing and Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., are now working directly with educational institutions to ensure a quality workforce.

For instance, Gulfstream has partnered with Arizona State University and Chandler-Gilbert Community College to turn out maintenance specialists for the company’s fleet of luxury jets.

In addition, the Governor’s Office recently featured Prescott-based CP Technologies which has joined forces with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Yavapai College to train and hire upwards of 200 employees.

Another example is battery manufacturer KORE Power, which is working with Rio Salado College and West-MEC to facilitate training for the advanced manufacturing workers needed at the company’s Buckeye facility.

And Boeing has partnered with Mesa Community College to offer a boot camp for students interested in various electrical wiring technician jobs. Since 2019, more than 350 students have graduated from the boot camp with over 200 getting hired at Boeing, according to the Governor’s Office.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

Sinema Leaves Democratic Party And Shakes Up Early 2024 Campaign Plans

Sinema Leaves Democratic Party And Shakes Up Early 2024 Campaign Plans

By Terri Jo Neff |

Within hours of U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s announcement on Friday that she is now a registered independent voter, posturing began for the 2024 election as the public learned just how deep the divide is within the Arizona Democratic Party.

Sinema took part in multiple media appearances to explain her decision, stressing her bipartisan efforts and focus on being an “independent voice” as Arizona’s senior senator despite being the Democratic nominee in 2018 against then-Sen. Martha McSally.  

“Removing myself from the partisan structure — not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country, who also are tired of the partisanship,” Sinema said.  

In another statement Friday, Sinema noted her independent minded approach “is rare in Washington and has upset partisans in both parties,” but she believes it is “an approach that has delivered lasting results for Arizona.”

Sinema’s sentiment that she has well-served her constituents is not universally shared by Democrats back home, where her lack of enthusiastic support for many Democratic candidates in the 2022 election cycle, including Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ run for governor, caused frustration for the Arizona Democratic Party.

Friday’s defection announcement was met by a good riddance style statement from state party leaders, who said everything except don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

“Senator Sinema may now be registered as an Independent, but she has shown she answers to corporations and billionaires, not Arizonans,” the statement read. “Senator Sinema’s party registration means nothing if she continues to not listen to her constituents.”

Some of Sinema’s votes in past years vexed key party leaders, but the discontent remained mostly under the surface until January. That is when the Arizona Democratic Party’s executive board censured Sinema for opposing changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules so that Democrats could push through voting rights legislation in advance of the 2022 election cycle.

Over the last two election cycles, the number of Arizona voters now registered as independents or no-party designated is almost equal to the number of registered Republicans, while independents outnumber registered Democrats by about 110,000 voters.

If Sinema seeks reelection in 2024, a run as an independent allows her to avoid a rough primary such as one U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego has been suggesting for months that he plans to put forth. Gallego issued a statement Friday that promoted his donation webpage while criticizing Sinema.  

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton decried suggestions that Sinema’s decision was somehow connected to a “post-partisan epiphany.” Instead, the former Phoenix mayor said it was “about political preservation” in light of Sinema’s recent polling numbers.

However, Sinema’s move was applauded by many Conservatives, including Larry Elder, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Twitter CEO Elon Musk.

Sinema’s voter registration switch ensures far-left Democrats will lose any foothold they expected to have after the recent Georgia runoff gave Democrats a slim 51 to 49 majority in the Senate. However, she is expected to retain all of her committee assignments from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top-ranking Democrats.

Unlike fellow independents Sen. Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) who formally caucus with Democrats, Sinema says she does not plan to caucus with any party.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

Delay Announced In Special Ethics Rules For Government Attorneys

Delay Announced In Special Ethics Rules For Government Attorneys

By Terri Jo Neff |

The task force charged with recommending special ethics rules for attorneys who work for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and other public entities across the state will miss its December 2022 report deadline, according to Arizona Supreme Court records. 

The Task Force on Ethics Rules Governing the State Attorney General, County Attorneys, and Other Public Lawyers was established by Chief Justice Robert Brutinel in February following high profile ethics complaints filed by the Arizona Board of Regents and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs against Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Although the task force has met eight times, members requested additional time to prepare its ethics recommendations. As a result, Brutinel recently signed an order setting a new deadline of June 2023.

In Arizona, the attorney general is mandated by statute to provide certain legal advice as well as representation to various state agencies, state officials, and state employees. The same principle applies to the state’s fifteen county attorneys.

Brutinel’s creation of the Public Lawyers Task Force acknowledged there are  particular ethical concerns a government lawyer may face when representing a public body, elected official, or even a government employee that other attorneys do not have to address. Similar considerations can arise for private practice attorneys who are retained to provide legal counsel to a government client.

Many of those considerations came to a head in 2020 when Brnovich and his staff attorneys were accused by Hobbs of failing to abide by the Arizona Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct. In another instance, Brnovich actually sued his own client, the Arizona Board of Regents, who in turn contacted the Arizona State Bar.  

The ethics complaints against Brnovich’s staff were dismissed by the State Bar, although the attorney general himself agreed to a diversion resolution. The situation, however, drew renewed attention to the dual ethical obligations government lawyers have, particularly when required by state law to represent a specific client.

Former Maricopa County Attorney and current Justice Bill Montgomery was appointed by Brutinel to chair the task force. Among the issues the members are expected to address are:

  • the process to follow if a government or public lawyer believes there is a conflict of interest in representing a public client;
  • how to handle situations in which the government lawyer does not approve of, or cannot ethically fulfill, a specific course of action desired by a client;
  • how the terms and conditions of legal representation should be documented between an attorney and a government client, and who calls the shots if the client is more than one person.