Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Awards Arizona $75 Million for Infrastructure

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Awards Arizona $75 Million for Infrastructure

By Corinne Murdock |

On Thursday, Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited Tucson and Phoenix, announcing over $75.2 million in grant awards for communities throughout the state.

“[These are] improvements that are going to make for better travel and better safety here in Tucson and in Phoenix,” said Buttigieg.

These Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants were awarded to Navajo County, Phoenix, Tucson, and the Colorado Indian River Tribes.

Over $2.2 billion from 166 RAISE Grants were distributed throughout the country. Arizona communities received five different grants: $261,000 to Navajo County to improve 16 miles of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure; $25 million to Phoenix to construct a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Rio Salado River; $25 million to Tucson to renovate an old bridge; and nearly $25 million to the Colorado Indian River Tribes to reconstruct 10 miles of road.

The DOT characterized this latest round of grants as their largest investment in RAISE Program history. 

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-02) explained in a press release that the Tucson grant will update the 22nd Street bridge to accommodate heavy vehicles like trucks, buses, and emergency medical services — something the bridge was unable to do before, which Kirkpatrick said led to traffic congestion and delays.

“Increasing capacity on 22nd street will reconnect our communities and facilitate a necessary east-west economic and transportation corridor between downtown Tucson and disconnected and underserved areas in the city,” said Kirkpatrick. “This project will help close the gaps in our city’s transportation infrastructure, and support equitable access to resources and opportunities for all Tucsonans.”

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego shared that the $25 million for a bridge over the Rio Salado river would connect downtown Phoenix to South Phoenix. Gallego provided a map of the planned bridge location, which revealed that the bridge would span the Rio Salado River and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, going from Central Avenue to State Route 143.

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

Phoenix Approves Paid Parental Leave With Estimated $2 to 8 Million Cost

Phoenix Approves Paid Parental Leave With Estimated $2 to 8 Million Cost

By Corinne Murdock |

At the start of this month, Phoenix City Council unanimously approved up to 480 hours of paid parental leave, the equivalent of 12 weeks and costing an estimated $2 to $8 million annually. The benefit kicks in for births, adoptions, and foster care placements during 12-month periods. 

The new benefit requires that employees meet Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) eligibility requirements: be employed by the city for at least 12 months and have performed at least 1,250 hours of work during the 12 month period preceding the leave. The city’s leave would run concurrently with FMLA leave, unless the FMLA entitlement was exhausted when caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition or being unable to work due to a serious health condition. 

The added benefit, which the city boasted was “among the most generous parental leave packages offered by any local government agency,” will kick in on October 1. 

Mayor Kate Gallego expressed her enthusiasm for the new policy. She recalled her efforts years ago to implement a similar policy when lobbying for equal pay for women. 

“It has taken quite a long time to figure out how to pay for this generous benefit financially,” said Gallego. “May this lead to healthier, happier babies.”

Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari equated caring for live children with abortion. She said that this policy reflected on the importance of family planning in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that abortion law should be left up to the states — the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“I think it’s especially fitting that we have this policy now, given that reproductive rights are under attack as well. We need to be doing everything in our power to protect Phoenicians’ ability to continue to make their own family planning decisions,” said Ansari.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio rebutted Ansari’s view of the policy’s impact, noting that this was support for the decision to choose life — not just an affirmation of one type of family planning that included abortion.

“For those of us on the pro-life side, we really need to start evaluating how and what type of programs we’re going to be supporting going forward,” said DiCiccio. “If we’re going to be seeing more adoptions, more foster care, then we’ve got to be stepping it up ourselves, too.”

Councilman Carlos Garcia expressed hope that this policy would just be the beginning of family care benefits. He mentioned childcare and housing benefits.

Councilwoman Ann O’Brien recounted how, 27 years ago, her husband first received two weeks of parental leave but she received none from her employer at the time. O’Brien added that paid leave would help mitigate the city’s employee shortage by offering a competitive benefit.

Councilwoman Betty Guardado said that 12 weeks was necessary for parental bonding time.

“Spending time with your child without losing your income should be a right for all working people in this country,” said Guardado. 

Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data reported that 26 percent of state and local government workers across the country had access to paid parental leave. In 2008, that number was 15 percent; it reached 17 and then dropped to 16 percent by 2012. It wasn’t until 2017 that the percentage increased by nearly 10 points to 25 percent. The last period of growth occurred in 2020 to the present total, 26 percent. 

BLS data reports that 23 percent of private and civilian industry workers had access to paid family leave in 2021. 

Watch the Phoenix City Council discussion and vote on paid family leave below:

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

13 Arizona Private Schools Accredited by Network Advocating for Child Transgenderism

13 Arizona Private Schools Accredited by Network Advocating for Child Transgenderism

By Corinne Murdock |

13 private schools in Arizona are associated with a private school accreditation network that’s long advocated for transgenderism in minors: the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). 

The following are the 13 NAIS-accredited schools:

  • Mayer: The Orme School
  • Paradise Valley: Phoenix Country Day School
  • Phoenix: All Saints’ Episcopal Day School, Gateway Academy, New Way Academy
  • Scottsdale: International School of Arizona, Nishmat Adin – Shalhevet Scottsdale, Pardes Jewish Day School
  • Sedona: Verde Valley School
  • Tucson: The Gregory School, Imago Dei Middle School, International School of Tucson, Tucson Hebrew Academy

One of the latest major initiatives by NAIS involves transgenderism advocacy for minors. Last month, NAIS hosted a joint conference with Gender Spectrum, a pro-transgenderism organization heavily focused on promoting child and teen gender transitions. Gender Spectrum partners with a plastic surgeon that specializes in gender transition procedures: Align Surgical Associates.

Gender Spectrum’s premiere sponsor is Pearson, one of the leading education materials providers in the world. 

NAIS has an entire page dedicated to “Supporting Transgender Students in Independent Schools.” Many of their resources on the page, such as their legal advisory on handling transgender students, is hidden behind an NAIS member login. 

NAIS’ reliance on Gender Spectrum and advocacy for minors transitioning genders isn’t new. They’ve been doing so for well over a decade. One of their earliest mentions of transgenderism advocacy occurs in a 2010 edition of their magazine, which was dedicated entirely to gender and sexuality ideology. In a guideline, NAIS instructed affiliate schools and educators on “Gender and Sexuality Diversity,” which they abbreviated as “GSD.” 

NAIS told its schools to incorporate GSD materials in curriculum and libraries, establish GSD professional development programs for faculty and staff, and form GSD non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies. The network encouraged schools to allow students to wear gender-affirming clothes, and use the preferred bathrooms of their choice. 

“If you have a gender variant child in your school, put together a team, including a professional therapist and/or consultant, to create plans and approaches on a case-by-case basis. Each child and school community has particular needs that can best be addressed with a collaborative consultation model,” read the guideline. “Remember that helping your school community examine unhealthy gender-role stereotyping is a benefit to all, not just those students who are gender variant.”

Nearly 2,000 private schools in the U.S. and abroad are affiliated with NAIS, with over 1,600 of those being independent, private K-12 schools in the U.S. That accounts for over 60,000 out of nearly 131,000 teachers in the country, nearly 46 percent, and just under 697,000 of the nearly 54 million students, a little over 1 percent.

31 percent of NAIS membership is based in the West and Southwest, followed by 29 percent in the East and Mid-Atlantic regions. 50 percent of all NAIS-affiliated U.S. schools are elementary and high schools, with 38 percent being preK-8 schools, and only 13 percent being high schools.

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

Phoenix BLM Canceled First Annual Juneteenth Event, Citing Low Interest

Phoenix BLM Canceled First Annual Juneteenth Event, Citing Low Interest

By Corinne Murdock |

The valley’s first annual Juneteenth celebration from Black Lives Matter (BLM) Phoenix Metro, a fundraiser, ended before it started due to a low level of community interest. 

“Hey BLM family! Deepest regrets but our Juneteenth event is postponed. We’ll keep you all updated on the new date. Juneteenth is a very important holiday that should be taken seriously and celebrated,” wrote the organization. “We unfortunately did not have the capacity or momentum behind this event to put it on this year. We were hoping for this to be an awesome event. Stay tuned for our next big celebration.”

Those wishing to attend were asked to pay a minimum of $50 for general admission, which came with a swag bag, limited edition BLM shirt, and one green raffle ticket which could win designer sunglasses or other luxury items with a $500 to $1,000 value. 

There were other, higher-priced tickets: $100 for a “supporter”-level ticket, which came with the general admission items plus an additional green raffle ticket, and a “trailblazer”-level ticket, which came with the general admission items plus an additional red raffle ticket for winning luxury items over $1,000 in value. A limited, undisclosed number of “solidarity” tickets for low-income and BIPOC-only individuals (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) were available for $25. 

The organization, which has over 10,000 followers on Twitter and over 33,400 followers on Instagram, first announced the event in early May. 

BLM Phoenix Metro explains that part of its mission is dismantling white supremacy, abolishing police and prisons, and prompting community healing from generational trauma. As part of their “Who We Are” page, the organization quotes Assata Shaukur, the infamous cop killer and FBI Most Wanted Terrorist. 

Some of the organization’s most recent work included protesting outside Phoenix City Hall against increased funds for the police force.

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

Inflation Crisis in Arizona at Historic Worst, Phoenix Most Impacted

Inflation Crisis in Arizona at Historic Worst, Phoenix Most Impacted

By Corinne Murdock |

President Joe Biden’s skyrocketing, 40-year-high inflation levels have resonated with a historic worst for Arizona. Arizona households are spending an average of nearly $6,000 more on household necessities since the 2020 election. 

According to the most recent report from the Common Sense Institute, a Phoenix-based research nonprofit, Phoenix inflation prices rose over eight percent in one year. The metropolitan area reached 11 percent price inflation, nearly three points higher than the nation’s average. 

The institute noted that the current rate of increasing inflation would cause the cost of living in Phoenix to be higher than San Francisco’s cost of living by 2034. 

Additionally, the cost of rent and housing grew by nearly 15 percent over the last year. The pandemic marked a record-high for the number of those moving to Arizona. 

Yet, Biden declared that the last year marked positive changes lending to a “historically strong” economic foundation that would result in a decline in inflation. 

Governor Doug Ducey blasted Biden’s handling of inflation as a “disaster,” noting that Arizona families were paying an average of over $500 a month more in household costs. 

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece succeeding Memorial Day, Biden blamed inflation on Russia President Vladimir Putin. Biden said that Putin’s warring impacted the energy market and supply chain. The president alluded to heavier intervention in the Russia-Ukraine war, with more aggression toward Russia, to uplift the flagging economy.

“We can’t let up on our global effort to punish Mr. Putin for what he’s done, and we must mitigate these effects for American consumers,” said Biden.

The president explained that the federal government would build a million more affordable housing units, and proposed using Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. He also proposed recouping lost tax revenue from companies established overseas who benefit from international tax policies, and claimed that billionaires pay lower tax rates than working-class individuals like teachers or firefighters. 

Biden also claimed that the job market was the strongest since World War II, though he didn’t distinguish between new jobs and those restored after the pandemic layoffs. 

The president relied on the “kitchen table” illustration again to empathize with Americans’ struggles. (For context: there are over 40 speeches from Biden on the White House’s website in which he’s used the “kitchen table” illustration; it is unclear whether his speech writer has a penchant for kitchen tables or whether the term is meant to serve as a touchstone concept, but former first lady Hillary Clinton is credited for popularizing the term within the Democratic Party in the 1990s). 

Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs has picked up on the “kitchen table” illustration, though she hasn’t denounced the Biden administration’s handling of inflation.

Instead, Hobbs blamed Ducey and the Republican-controlled state legislature for not doing more to curb inflation. She insisted that her plan — Affordable Arizona — would mitigate inflation. 

Biden has denounced one specific plan from across the aisle by Senator Rick Scott (R-FL): a “12 Point Plan to Rescue America.”

Earlier this month, the president reiterated that the plan to bring down inflation consisted of taking a hands-off approach with the Federal Reserve. He then listed two end goals — lowering the cost of living and reducing the deficit — as part of the plan, without elaborating further. 

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