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.

Tucson Starbucks Latest to Unionize in Arizona

Tucson Starbucks Latest to Unionize in Arizona

By Corinne Murdock |

The first Starbucks in Tucson unionized on Thursday in a 11-3 vote, the first in Pima County and the fifth in the state. 

In an April letter announcing unionization intent with Starbucks Workers United (SBWU), 10 of the Tucson Starbucks workers said that unions were the only option for an ideal work environment. The words “partner” and “partnership” were brought up frequently. 

“We do not see unions as an assault on Starbucks. Rather, we see unions as a symbol of both our love for the company and as an opportunity for partners to prosper alongside Starbucks moving forward,” wrote the workers. 

The University of Arizona (UArizona) neighbor succeeded where two other stores’ unionization efforts failed earlier this year: one in Chandler, Arizona by a 1-9 vote taken last month, and another in Phoenix by a narrow 6-8 vote in May (though seven ballots were challenged and the official outcome is to be determined). 

The following Arizona stores are unionized: in Mesa, the Power & Baseline Road and Crimson & Southern locations; and in Phoenix, the 7th Street & Bell location. The 7th & Roosevelt location in Phoenix filed to unionize and will take a vote next Friday. 

Nationwide, 310 stores in 35 states filed to unionize. 186 of those stores won union elections. The nationwide unionization efforts have succeeded rapidly since the first Starbucks union formed last December in New York. 

SWBU insists that coffee shop employees are overworked and underpaid, and often face issues like understaffing. Arizona Starbucks’ minimum wage sits around $14 an hour. Nationwide, that average sits around $17 an hour. 

“We know what it’s like to be understaffed and overworked, on our feet for hours at a time, memorizing long menus, presenting a sunny demeanor to customers — even when they’re entitled, or impatient, or rude, or creepy,” reads the SWBU FAQ page. “We will have the right to negotiate a union contract and have a real voice in setting organization policies, rights on the job, health and safety conditions, protections from unfair firings or unfair discipline, seniority rights, leaves of absence rights, benefits, wages, etc.”

Starbucks unionization means that workers can’t be disciplined or terminated “at will,” and instead will be shielded by union contracts, or collective bargaining agreements. The employees do have to pay dues, which range depending on the region. In Buffalo, New York, where the first union launched, dues for full time workers are nearly $11 a week, or $5 a week for those who work under 25 hours. 

The Tucson store’s unionization efforts weren’t without pushback. Employees claimed that they received a new district manager and had their hours reduced after announcing their intent to unionize. 

Among the local officials who applauded the unionization was Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. The mayor said that the effort was a win for “justice, equality, and a better life.” 

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.

Tucson Pledges to Break Abortion Law for ‘Pregnant People’

Tucson Pledges to Break Abortion Law for ‘Pregnant People’

By Corinne Murdock |

In a resolution passed Tuesday, the Tucson mayor and city council declared support for local law enforcement to not enforce laws banning abortion should the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) overturn Roe v. Wade. Should SCOTUS uphold the constitutionality of abortion, the resolution directed law enforcement to refer any complaints of abortion restriction violations to the Arizona Department of Health Services instead of responding. The mayor and council also denounced Arizona laws prohibiting or criminalizing abortions in any manner.

The resolution language fluctuated between insinuating that abortion was a woman’s issue and a “pregnant person’s” right. It also claimed that abortion was a safe medical intervention that contributed to Tucson residents’ welfare, namely women’s physical, psychological, and socioeconomic well-being. 

In a statement announcing the resolution’s approval, Romero equated abortion to health care. 

“Tonight, we have taken bold action to ensure that no Tucsonan is criminalized for exercising their reproductive freedoms and right to make personal health decisions without government interference,” said Romero. 

The resolution came about shortly after the Politico report of a leaked Supreme Court (SCOTUS) draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization determining the constitutionality of abortion. The individual responsible for leaking the confidential SCOTUS document hasn’t been identified or named publicly. Currently, SCOTUS clerks are the prime focus of investigatory efforts; anonymous insiders told CNN that officials required clerks to turn over private cell phone data and sign affidavits.  

In a mid-May memo, Romero cited a previous resolution from last November to justify her request for this latest resolution.

“Roe v. Wade has made it clear that [the right to abortion services] is fundamental,” wrote Romero. 

The latest announcement from Tucson leadership comes about a month after Pima County Attorney Laura Conover promised to not give jail time to those seeking or assisting abortions if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade.

Support for elective abortions is widespread within the Tucson area. As AZ Free News reported late last month, an abortion rights group with University of Arizona (UArizona), Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAZ), and Pima County Democratic Party ties launched a ballot initiative to make abortion a right in the Arizona Constitution. 

The abortion rights group relies on ActBlue, a fundraising platform used exclusively by Democrats, to collect their donations. They argued that “old white men” shouldn’t legislate women’s bodies. Of the nine SCOTUS justices determining the fate of elective abortions, five are white men, two are white women, one is Latina, and one is a Black man. One of the white male justices, Stephen Breyer, is considered liberal.

The publication date for the official opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization remains to be determined.

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

$6.8 Million ‘Medical Respite Center’ for Homeless to Open in Tucson

$6.8 Million ‘Medical Respite Center’ for Homeless to Open in Tucson

By Corinne Murdock |

On Tuesday a groundbreaking occurred for Tucson’s first forthcoming $6.8 million “medical respite center” exclusively for the homeless. Medical respite centers are short-term residences and caregiving locations for the homeless that are ill or injured enough to warrant assistance but not hospitalization. 

As of mid-March, the initiative raised just under $3.5 million. Major funders include the Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation, St. Joseph Catholic Healthcare Endowment Fund, Connie Hillman Foundation, Southwest Catholic Health Network, Ginny L. Clements and Tom Rogers, O’Rielly Family Foundation, Del E. Webb Foundation, Jim and Vicki Click, William and Mary Ross Foundation, Margaret E. Mooney Foundation, PetSmart Charities, Union Pacific, Raskob Foundation, and the Sundt Foundation. 

The Medical Respite Center for Men and Women Experiencing Homelessness will be 15,000 square feet and include housing for 10 women and 36 men, a small group therapy space, activity areas, a cafeteria, a kitchen, a pet play area, and a chapel. 

The nonprofits behind the medical respite center are Catholic Community Services (CCS) of Southern Arizona and the H.S. Lopez Family Foundation Center of Opportunity. CCS has been involved in housing illegal immigrants under federal contracts over the last year. 

In September, AZ Free News reported that an undisclosed number of Haitian illegal immigrants and refugees were bussed or flown into Tucson. CCS ran a shelter in Tucson called Casas Alitas. 

Also behind the medical respite center is El Rio Health Center, a dental and medical center that receives federal funds from Health and Human Services (HHS) and is has federal status under the Federal Public Health Service (PHS). 

According to the Tucson Housing and Community Development, there were an estimated 1,660 homeless people on any given night in Pima County in 2020. Those experiencing chronic homelessness in the county were estimated to be around 380. 

Tucson is plagued with a homelessness crisis currently. Councilman Steve Kozachik said that the current number of homeless people are beyond past trends. Those rising numbers correspond with an increase in homeless deaths, as reported by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

In a statement to KGUN9, Kozachik said that he was attempting to convince the rest of the council to establish controlled encampments to counteract the masses of temporary encampments occurring naturally where the homeless congregate and settle. 

“I think the rest of the council simply does not like the optics, and they believe allowing an encampment to exist constitutes a failure,” said Kozachik. “I have a different perspective. Squeezing the balloon and moving people around from camp-to-camp week to week is the failure.”

Controlled encampments have begun to pop up in the major cities experiencing homelessness crises in other states, such as Denver, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Denver launched its first controlled encampment last November. In April, the city and county asked federal appeals judges to rescind court-ordered standards on homeless encampment cleanups intended to preserve public health and safety.

Albuquerque hasn’t established controlled encampments yet, but it’s likely they will soon. Their city council is looking to amend its zoning code to allow for encampments managed mostly by churches or nonprofits: tents with facilities like restrooms called “safe outdoor spaces.”

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