By Kathleen Winn, Maricopa Community College District Governing Board Member |
Arizona’s largest college system is experiencing the effects of Covid. Since last March when the college shut its doors to on campus learning and cancelled all athletic programs the enrollment numbers have significantly changed. Across the district enrollment is down almost 20%. This taxpayer enterprise continues to remain on-line and as we have learned this is not conducive for students who attend community college. At the same time GCU and ASU are getting the benefit as their enrollments are up by 7 to 10 percent.
Ironically, the college campus has allowed thousands of community members on campus to be tested for Covid and now to be vaccinated. One board member had suggested “we let people know they could benefit from taking classes” as they had a captive audience waiting in line. They were told this would be in poor taste. So, the numbers continue to decline.
The Interim Chancellor has made many personal changes and has many interim positions serving as college Presidents. After Maria Harper-Marinick was forced out, Leslie Cooper, and the recent resignations of Provost Karla Fisher and Dr. Larry Johnson from Phoenix College, one might question what all the volatility is about.
Many classes require hands on experience that cannot be accomplished virtually. The choice to stay closed has been a costly one for the district and may cost some their jobs. There have been no layoffs like University of Arizona or ASU. Unbelievably the board gave a COLA raise recently. If it were not for mismanagement, there would be no management at all. As college Presidents make hard decisions, the leadership has not committed to reopening the college.
This week the community college is asking to expand some of their programs to 4 years, a bill that was designed to help the rural colleges (HB2523). If Maricopa cannot serve the community by training a much-needed workforce, does adding more expensive 4-year programs make sense? Until this college is fully operational and can demonstrate stable leadership and better enrollment numbers we may want to wait before asking taxpayers for more money. But while they remain closed you can get a COVID vaccine and that is the only way you can get on a Maricopa Community College campus.
Ms. Winn has extensive experience in public service, devoting much her time to combating a variety of causes including senior abuse, human trafficking, crime, homelessness and substance abuse.
Arizona businesses are one step closer to freedom from state and local governments requiring them to enforce mask mandates. On Wednesday, the House passed HB 2770 in a close vote of 31-28, with one representative abstaining. The decision was made along party lines – all Republicans voted in favor of it, all Democrats voted against it.
State representative Joseph Chaplik (R-23) introduced the bill; 11 Republican co-sponsors signed onto it. The only Republican representatives that didn’t sign on were Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-25), Joel John (R-4), John Kavanagh (R-23), Joanne Osborne (R-13), Bret Roberts (R-11), and Jeff Weninger (R-17).
In a press release following the vote, Chaplik commended the House members who voted in favor of the bill for deferring to their constituents’ judgment when it comes to enforcing mask-wearing in their businesses.
“Business owners are intelligent enough to make their own decisions with their private companies and this bill restores their rights,” stated Chaplik. “Employees should not be forced to police other citizens on private property and be in confrontational situations risking their safety when their job duties did not require this role.”
Although a majority of customers complied with business’ imposition of mask mandates last year, there also came to be a continued pattern of highly-publicized incidents of retaliation or protests. This occurred frequently enough for major retailers like Walmart to relax its requirement that employees enforce customer mask-wearing.
At present, Arizona doesn’t have a statewide mask mandate. However, the state does mandate that schools and businesses enforce mask-wearing. Certain counties and cities have enforced a mask mandate, such as Maricopa County.
The guidance on mask-wearing has changed frequently over the past year of this pandemic. Whereas before the CDC didn’t state initially that masks protected the wearer, they now claim that they do – and that practices such as wearing more than one mask (“double-masking”) and knotting the mask more tightly to the face further reduce the spread of COVID-19. Although experts don’t recommend storing masks in a ziplock bag between uses, which ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ has claimed is a safe method of storage.
Following the lift of the stay-at-home order in mid-May, cases began to rise up until the beginning of July. Around mid-June, Governor Doug Ducey began to implement mitigation measures such as business closures, mask and social distancing requirements, and public event limitations. Cases reportedly began to decline around July. A subsequent report by the CDC issued in October didn’t connect mask wearing with the reduction in cases exclusively, but attributed all the mitigation factors imposed collectively.
Wednesday marked other advances made to move communities out of pandemic-imposed restrictions. Ducey announced that schools must offer in-person learning options for their students.
The legislature is also contemplating bills addressing Ducey’s emergency powers. The Senate passed SB 1084 to terminate a state of emergency after 90 days unless the legislature extends it. They also passed SCR 1003, a resolution to allow voters to decide whether a state of emergency should be terminated after 30 days unless the legislature extends it.
Other bills in the legislature inspired by the pandemic include severalbills addressing vaccine exemptions, neither of which have advanced in the legislature since they were introduced.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
America’s recent presidents have been all over the spectrum politically, but they shared one thing in common: near total indifference to our national debt.
George W. Bush wasn’t that interested in fiscal matters, not vetoing a single bill his first six years in office. He exerted little influence as the deficit started to climb. Barack Obama zealously pursued spend and borrow strategies. He affirmed the mindset of ignoring future implications.
Fiscal conservatives who hoped a Republican president could right the ship were crushed when Donald Trump announced the giant entitlement programs were safe from reform on his watch.
Now, Joe Biden, in a time of peace and prosperity, except for our self-inflicted Covid relief spending, has proposed a $6.1 trillion budget which includes authorization of almost $4 billion of borrowing in a single year. That’s enough debt, inflation adjusted, to finance the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Great Depression and both world wars combined (but not the Green New Deal).
Why do presidents matter? After all, appropriations bills must originate in the House and the president has no constitutional spending authority.
The reason is that most politicians, including many who won’t admit it, love spending money without having to raise taxes. Budget cutting is tough work and costs political support.
No matter how urgent the reductions or how indefensible the cause, the deprived party always raises a media-supported stink while the beneficiaries – the taxpayers of the future – are mute. Knowing that your “conservative“ leaders aren’t fully behind your cost cutting efforts stymies even the most stalwart legislators.
But the Biden administration is breaking new ground. They came into office with the virus on the wane, vaccinations becoming available through the prodigious efforts of their predecessors and the economy growing. Meanwhile the graph showing the growth of federal debt, now over 100% of GDP, resembles a hockey stick.
But they didn’t despair at the apparent lack of opportunity to spend now that they had the reins. The New Republic advised to “spend like crazy“ anyway and influential party leftists like AOC and Bernie agreed. So they created an imaginary crisis requiring $1.9 trillion more in Covid relief in addition to the $3.7 trillion already spent.
Pitching a crisis just now isn’t easy to do. The housing market is up 12%, manufacturing is at a five-year high, unemployment is falling and private sector GDP growth was 4.3% in the last quarter.
Still, they soldier on. But the “Covid relief” bill looks suspiciously like a Democrat wish list. There’s a $15 minimum wage mandate. Those who are still unable or unwilling to work get a $400 per week bonus employment benefit, which will make working a losing proposition for many. Schools get $130 billion, even though they have been mostly closed and unable to spend their previous allocation.
There’s $400 billion to bail out overly generous pension plan promises in big spending states. There’s pork galore. Art, farms, climate, bridges, you name it. About 4% of the funding goes to directly combating Covid.
Biden is determined to reward his political supporters. He preposterously insists that he learned the dangers of spending too little from the 2009 “shovel ready“ infrastructure debacle and won’t repeat that mistake. It’s not intuitively clear how, if they couldn’t constructively spend $830 billion, even more money to bungle would have helped. Still, spending for its own sake has become the de facto operating principle.
Republicans as usual are ramping up their anti-spending rhetoric now that Democrats are in charge. Democrats love to point out Republican past fiscal failures to justify their own reckless behavior.
But not one congressional Democrat has stood up to demand a stop to the madness. Groupthink is a powerful force. Surely some of them must be sane enough to recognize that we are on an unsustainable and highly dangerous path and that we are unconscionably victimizing our children and grandchildren.
It’s not rocket science. Yet the desire to be a good member of their tribe trumps all.
So this is how the new Bidenland works. There’s no longer any need for Covid economic relief and, if there were, this “rescue” bill wouldn’t provide it. We spend because we can.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.