Archive for the ‘Government’ Category
Arizona’s developing quite a reputation for being a state by and for scaredy-cat old white people feeling the hot breath of becoming the minority (which the Census Bureau expects will happen by 2015). The infamous SB1070, another law banning the teaching of ethnic studies, and a bill coming through that would make schools count illegals and tally up their “cost” — I guess that’s what happens when a real estate market collapses, and white people can no longer sell their houses to flee, um, whatever they call those who are not white people.
It didn’t take a Sarah Palin-assailed girls high school basketball boycott for the state to set up a “hey-weren’t-not-so-bad-commission” to burnish its image as something more than Crazy Coot Cracker Central. It took multiple boycotts by multiple organizations.
Even with all that, the worst hit to Arizona’s image may be yet to come. That will happen if the state’s voters on May 18 turn down Proposition 100, which adds another percentage point to the Arizona sales tax, with most of the money going to schools, as well as health care, and police and fire services. It won’t be interpreted nationwide as an attack on illegal immigrants only. It’ll be interpreted a sign Arizona is closing up shop to pretty much everybody except scared old white people — and even they’re going to be hit if the day comes that budget cuts make an ambulance a lot slower in coming.
How do I know this? Because the of the list of supporters. Among them: pretty much every state and local division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Education Association, the Professional Fire Fighters Association, the Gila River Indian Community, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, the Arizona Medical Association, US Airways and the Arizona Cardinals. Basically, a mishmosh of large and powerful and not-so-large and not-so-powerful that rarely stand on the same side of the same issue. Oh, and also the majority of Arizona state House and Senate, and Gov. Jan Brewer, who had to approve of the ballot measure.
Their fear is this: if Prop 100 — which would raise taxes only through 2013, when the provision sunsets — doesn’t pass, the state immediately cuts $900 million from a state budget already collapsing from a housing and tourism bust, including $450 million in cuts from education. This isn’t a threat or a hypothetical. The Arizona state legislature already has a contingency budget passed in case the tax increase is rejected. (The Cardinals also might feel a little guilty for youth sports funding being slashed because tax revenue generated around its new stadium wasn’t up to par.)
And more than the budget cut is the signal the rejection sends: that the old white people of Arizona are dying, and they’re taking the state with them. Even for business types who get a cold sweat at every mention of a tax, such a loud and public signal of disinvestment in education, public safety and health (the beneficiaries of the tax increase) would let the world know Arizona isn’t willing to step up to invest in its future. I know every state is cutting, and the backers know every state is cutting. But they also know that at least the signal needs to be sent that they feel a little bad about it.
So what does this have to do with youth sports? Plenty. Many Arizona schools already have certain sports, particularly nonrevenue sports and programs for those who are not on the high school varsity — at the ready to get chopped by their budgetary guillotines. From MaxPreps.com:
“If it fails, the announcement has come from our district office that the possibility of eliminating athletics across the board in our district is real,” said Herman House, director of interscholatics for the Tucson Unified School District. House doesn’t think it will come to that. He believes revenue-producing varsity sports such as football, basketball, baseball and softball will survive, but the reality is, if Prop. 100 fails, Tucson will have to shave about $45 million from its annual budget.
“Athletic directors are a resilient bunch and we always seem to find a way,” said Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen, whose district is the largest in the state. “At the same time, there are fiscal realities you can’t ignore. Sometimes, that has bad consequences for the kids.”
Hogen said Mesa was already discussing a pay-for-play fee for all student-athletes. But if Prop. 100 does not pass, that fee will likely rise by 50 percent, putting a hardship on a district with many lower-income families. House said if Proposition 100 fails, his district is also considering restrictions on travel and a reliance upon fundraisers to pay coaches’ salaries and keep sports self-sufficient.
Not to mention, a Prop 100 passage might speed up or intensify a plan by Arizona’s state high school sports authority to cut athletic divisions and tournaments, and set limits on travel, all in the name of saving money.
If Arizona wants a preview of how this would work, it can look at New Jersey, where school districts across the state are slashing sports — and, of course, lots of other, more curricular parts of education — when locals rejected higher school taxes on top of state budget cuts. Or just about anywhere else nationwide, really. Having your funding tied in a big way to property taxes and state government receipts is great when housing prices are flying upward, not so when they’re crashing. Just go to Google News and search “school sports budget cuts,” and you’ll get the feeling in many places this recession means the end of days for school-sponsored sports.
Or look at the past coverage of tax rejections at the Grove City Schools in Ohio, which became national news precisely because the district eliminated sports entirely as a result — but were brought back when voters finally passed a hike. Maybe you don’t notice when the math department cuts a teacher, but everyone notices when the football team isn’t playing on Fridays.
So why does Arizona get the pressure of having its image tarnished by rejecting an education tax hike? Well, there’s the matter of all the other legislative nuttiness in the state. But there’s also the matter of Arizona’s taxes being relatively low to start with. The sales tax hike would go to 6.6 percent. Not bad at all, especially to someone such as myself in Chicago, where the sales tax can go more than 11 percent. That’s not to say Arizonans deserve to get soaked as much as I do. It’s more like the feeling I have when I would hear my parents in Carmel, Ind., carp about their property taxes, and I’d find out they were paying about one-quarter as much for a house that wasn’t worth that much less than mine. It’s just hard to work up sympathy. And least New Jersey’s rejections were understandable, with the state’s extremely-high-in-the-nation property taxes.
However, the main issue is that Arizona’s populace knows exactly what it will get if the tax doesn’t pass. The gun is loaded and at your head — and yet you might still decide to pull the trigger.
If most polls are to believed, about half of the state’s voters are suicidal, with passage of Prop 100 as a tossup. While the supporters are well-funded, the opponents have some politicians on their side, as well as the always more popular stance of not raising taxes.
Maybe what supporters need more than money is 7-year-old Logan Wade. He is the young fan Glendale (Ariz.) City Council member Phil Lieberman credits with convincing him to join the majority vote May 11 for a $25 million guarantee for the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, which play in a taxpayer-funded arena in a taxpayer-financed entertainment district that threatens to go down the tubes if the Coyotes, as is very possible, move back to their ancestral of Winnipeg. This vote, which would come if the NHL-owned, bankrupt team can’t find a buyer, comes despite the city budget deficit of $15 million. But how can you turn down a little kid? From the Arizona Republic:
Councilman Phil Lieberman, who had asked tough questions of staffers, said he was persuaded by Logan Wade, a 7-year-old fan.
“‘Will you vote for this resolution tonight?’” Lieberman said the Glendale boy asked.
“I can’t turn him down,” the councilman added.
What Prop 100 supporters should do is spend their money on jetting Logan Wade around the state on the May 18 election day, and have him wear a jersey for a local high school, asking voters, “Will you vote for Prop 100 today?” Even scared old white people can’t turn him down!
It’s all the rage to boycott Arizona for its legislature being stone xenophobes. Or boycott anything with Arizona in the name, like Arizona Iced Tea, which is made in New York. (However, I draw the line at no longer watching and quoting “Raising Arizona.” “I’ll take these Huggies, and all the cash you got in your drawer.” “Son, you got a panty on your head.”)
This rage for rage, all over the new state law that, and I’m paraphrasing, allows — nay, demands – for police to rustle up Latinos for pleasure (when I explained how police would be compelled to ask anyone “suspicious” of being illegal for “papers,” my 12-year-old son Godwinned it right away: “Like the Jews in Nazi Germany!”) is extending into the sports arena as well, specifically in athletic pontificators pontificating that major leagues should make sure to strip Arizona of any major events planned there, such as the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and not to plan any more.
Greg Esposito at the Phoenix fan site Fanster doesn’t like the idea of a boycott.
In [CBSSports.com columnist Mike] Freeman’s piece he says, if a person believes that sports leagues should stay out of politics than they live “on a unicorn ranch”.
I don’t live on a unicorn ranch, but I do live in Arizona, and I can’t change what some legislators decided was a good idea. Neither can the Fiesta Bowl, the Arizona Diamondbacks or any other professional sports team in this state. Boycotting games of teams and people who didn’t have anything directly to do with the law seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Believe it or not, Arizona is a lot like the rest of America, divided. For every person who sees the current immigration law as a good idea there is at least one who doesn’t. The only difference is, the state legislature doesn’t currently have that same balance.
Hey, stop trying to be reasonable here. We’re trying to make a point!
I hear what he’s saying, but unfortunately the only way to get Arizonans to consider changing the dim bulbs in their legislature is to take drastic action. And for sports, this can come at the youth level as well.
For example, if you’d like to really sock Arizona in the wallet, put pressure on U.S. Youth Soccer to yank the 2012 Far West Regionals out of the state. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game might bring the top players in baseball and high-rolling sponsors, but a soccer tournament brings scads of kids and free-spending soccer moms and dads. I bet the losing the soccer tournament would be a bigger hit.
I’m sure there are other multi-state youth sports events going on Arizona. So, travel parents, don’t send your kids, and put pressure on your organization to pull out. Make Arizona’s sports insides an economic rocky place where your seed will find no purchase.
Dammit, I’m sorry. I still can’t support a boycott of quoting “Raising Arizona.”
As many as 400,000 nonprofit organizations are weeks away from a doomsday.
At midnight on May 15, an estimated one-fifth to one-quarter of some 1.6 million charities, trade associations and membership groups will lose their tax exemptions, thanks to a provision buried in a 2006 federal bill aimed at pension reform. …
The federal legislation passed in 2006 required all nonprofits to file tax forms the following year. Previously, only organizations with revenues of $25,000 or more — or the vast majority of nonprofit groups — had to file.
The new law, embedded in the 393 pages of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, also directed the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the tax exemptions of groups that failed to file for three consecutive years. Three years have passed, and thus the deadline looms.
Unless your league president has watched the books closely, it might be time for that person to break out the guitar and start singing, “Who’ll Buy My Memories?”
The Obama administration announcement that it is stepping up enforcement of Title IX, the law that requires equal gender opportunity at any educational institution receiving federal funding, and the possible expansion of the Big Ten Conference appear to be separate stories. But soon enough, they will become one.
That’s because colleges are going to have to reconcile two differing mandates: providing fair representation, opportunity and funding for female and male athletes, and plowing every dollar possible into football in for what for most schools will be a vain hope of creating an athletic cash cow. Not for nothing have the lords of football and their protectors fought numerous times, including soon after Title IX was passed in 1972, to exempt football from the law.
The Obama administration, trotting out Vice President Joseph Biden for the grand announcement, on April 20 said it would increase enforcement of Title IX (technically, since 2002, the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, named after the late Hawaii representative who created it), and that it would rescind a George W. Bush-era rule that gave schools more leeway with “model surveys” as a means of proving compliance.
Since 2005, schools could use email surveys of women to determine athletic interest, and could use a lack of response to indicate a lack of interest. Now, my wife is an Internet consultant for associations, and her line of work, a 10 percent response rate for a member survey is considered golden. So the possibility existed that women’s actual interest in sports would be skewed way downward, one of the many reasons the NCAA was against the Bush approach, and why so few schools implemented it.
Biden announced that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX, will still allow the use of surveys, but that a nonresponse can’t be used to indicate lack of interest. (If you want to read the full scope of the tests used to ensure schools are in Title IX compliance, it’s here.)
Even those who aren’t the biggest Title IX fans will say the law has been a great success in expanding opportunities for women. On the college level, we’ve gone from a time when schools openly admitted to requiring women to have a higher grade-point average than men for admission to women representing around 55 percent of college graduates. There were 30,000 female college athletes in 1972; now, there are 150,000. (Just in case you’re wondering how girls’ youth sports became as cutthroat and mercenary as the boys’.)
However, the argument against Title IX is that men’s opportunities have remained static — and in many cases have been eliminated — as schools used quota systems to prove compliance, turning men in nonrevenue sports such as wrestling and gymnastics into would-be Allan Bakkes, arguing their opportunities were sacrificed unfairly on the mantel of supposed gender equality. Title IX, in its own language, declares that opportunities should not be a zero-sum game. However, even if Title IX hasn’t been the real reason a men’s sport has been eliminated, it would be logical to think it’s entered the conversation at some point.
Testimony about declining men’s opportunities is present throughout a 2003 Bush administration report on Title IX (titled, tellingly, “Open for All’) that helped bring about its changes in approach, and the 2008 Republican Party platform stated that Title IX “should not be distorted by Washington bureaucrats to micromanage collegiate athletics or force cancellation of men’s sports programs.”
The Title IX opponents don’t like when you bring up raw numbers, but I’m going to bring them up anyway. Despite all the progress made over the last 40 years, and despite all the cuts made to men’s sports, women are 55 percent of college students, but 43 percent of athletes. In high school, the gap is 49-41 for women — meaning boys are 51 percent of students and 59 percent of athletes.
And what is skewing these numbers? For the most part, football.
With 85 scholarships at the Football Bowl Series level (formerly Division I-A) and 63 scholarships at the Football Championship Series level (formerly Division I-AA), football by miles has the largest rosters and the largest representation of athletes. Throw in nonscholarships walk-ons — who count in Title IX computations — and the numbers grow higher. The American Football Coaches Association has fought against Title IX pretty much from its infancy, and four times Congress has considered bills to exempt football from Title IX. All have failed.
The argument for all the attention and money on football is that it supports the rest of the athletic department. However, that’s usually not true. Football does usually stay in the black, but not enough to underwrite losses elsewhere — that’s covered by student fees and general fund contributions. Plus, it’s getting harder for more schools to keep their football financial heads above water. The average salary of an FBS head football coach jumped 46% from 2006 to 2009, to $1.6 million. Even if most of it is paid by boosters and sponsors, not the athletic department, it’s still reflective of an arms race for coaches, facilities and whatever else can attract the nation’s best football players and turn a woebegone program into the next Boise State.
This is where the Big Ten’s possible expansion comes in. It’s all about football (and a little bit about spreading its cable property, the Big Ten Network). Adding to the 11 teams in the misnamed Big Ten means that the conference can have a conference championship game, more teams in the postseason bowls, and the geographical reach to negotiate a larger network television contract. (Commissioner Jim Delaney said April 21 that expansion would not happen for 12 to 18 months, at least — but it’s coming.)
The Big Ten’s move would spark another round of conference reorganizations, starting with the Big East. That once-powerful basketball conference, now at 16 members, could lose Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Notre Dame (a member in every sport but football) to the Big Ten, and perhaps have other powerful football members like West Virginia poached by other conferences as well, leaving it mostly with private schools with no football — and frozen out of the Bowl Championship Series elite.
What this is creating is a one tier of elite football programs and conferences, and everyone else, who are going to have to look at cutting football (if they have it) not only as a means to keep Title IX compliance in tight financial times, but mostly as a way to keep its athletic department solvent in tight financial times.
The College Sports Council, a passionate spokesorganization when it comes to what it sees as the (mostly) men-hurting excesses of Title IX, has already blamed Title IX for the elimination of football at Hofstra and Northeastern, and it says more FCS schools could have football in their sights. After all, at the FCS level, football really doesn’t make any money.
The Big Ten expansion highlights a growing gap between the football haves and have-nots, and schools left on the outside will have to decide if football is worth the money. Throw in the garnish of more aggressive enforcement of Title IX, and you could have the ingredients of football’s demise at some institutions.
I’m not saying Title IX would be the real reason for cutting football. I’m just saying, it would be logical to think it would enter the conversation at some point.
In Tom Farrey’s excellent book on the state of youth sports, “Game On,” he devotes a chapter to the development of future NBA star Carmelo Anthony, and why drug dealers were so essential to it.
While Baltimore lavished all sorts of resources on Camden Yards, the Orioles’ stadium (and later, the Baltimore Ravens’ football stadium), it was gutting its parks and recreation department, closing many facilities and turning others over to the Police Athletic League, which ran them like little athletic gulags. Anthony found another parks department court, but he still needed financial help to advance his career, and that’s where the drug dealers came in. And why to this day Anthony is loathe to speak out against them.
Carmelo Anthony, in red, in his world-famous “Stop Snitchin” cameo.
It appears that things haven’t gotten worse for the parks department in Baltimore since Anthony was growing up there in the 1990s. Hopefully the drug dealers are in good shape, because future Carmelo Anthonys are going to need them. From WBAL:
Fewer city pools and no more bulk trash pickup are just two items on Baltimore City’s budget chopping block.
On Monday [March 29], both the department of Parks and Recreation and Public Works gave their take on the doomsday proposals. The city’s $121 million budget deficit is leading to cuts in nearly all departments in the proposed 2011 budget.
“The reality is this is a devastating hit to recreation and parks,” Parks and Recreation Director Dwayne Thomas said. … They’re losing more than $8 million of city money in the proposed budget. The agency is looking at closing city-run pools and 29 recreation centers.
Judy Atkinson, with the Roosevelt Park Rec Center, said that could be devastating. “It’s gonna mean a lot more children out on the street that you’re gonna have people with idle time on their hands,” Atkinson said.
The cuts announced Monday in the Parks Division include cutting back on the maintenance at the parks including taking care of ball fields used for youth and adult sports leagues. “If we’re not able to maintain the fields at the level that we might want, maybe there aren’t as many activities going on,” Thomas said.
When I go to the park, I take a water bottle, maybe a wagon for the younger kids, some snacks, perhaps light jackets in case there’s a chill in the air. On another planet, there are people who are beside themselves that they can’t bring their guns.
I’ll come right out and say it: I don’t get it. I don’t consider myself crazy anti-gun. I don’t own a gun, probably never will, but that’s not out of any anti-Second Amendment principle. It’s because I have no more interest in owning a gun than I do an expanded special edition of Reese Witherspoon in “Sweet Home Alabama.” I just don’t find it useful to my interests, unless I’m forced to watch “Sweet Home Alabama,” at which time I might want a gun to go all Elvis on the TV.
And I’m certainly not sure why people feel so scared of their shadows that when they go for a nice stroll, or they go to watch their kid’s ballgame, they need to pack heat or their hearts palpitate nervously like me when I show up to a ballgame without a Starbucks grande americano with two Sweet-n-Lows and skim milk.
Indianapolis is the latest place where someone is proposing that people with permits be allowed to pack heat in public parks. That someone is a Libertarian who, philosophically, figures our Second Amendment rights extend to having a Glock in your pocket while you push your child on the swings.
Kid, that swing is taken, if you catch my drift.
In some way, I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. What I don’t get is the reaction of Republican council member Ryan Vaughn, quoted in the Indianapolis Star:
“For the sake of consistency, I think there’s merit in it,” Vaughn said. “You could have citizens who don’t know what kind of park they’re in.”
Don’t know what kind of park they’re in? What is THAT supposed to mean? I don’t know if Vaughn has a racist bone in his body, but it sounds to me like my fellow white man wants his constituents protected in case they somehow stumble across Scary Black Park. (If Vaughn introduces an ordinance to change the names of parks to reflect their racial makeup and crime status, then we’ll know.) The only other way I could see citizens not knowing what kind of park they’re in is if they travel there wrapped inside a sack and then get dumped off the back of a truck.
Fortunately, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican and ex-Marine who presumably knows how to handle a gun, unlike most of the numbnuts who would pack heat at the park, said he would veto allowing guns in the parks, given that in three years in office, by his reckoning, exactly zero people have brought up this issue with him.
Still, that’s not likely to stop pro-gun types, not with victories such as the upcoming lifting of the gun ban in national parks, set to take effect Feb. 22. (It won’t be all Wild West — the park will enforce whatever local gun laws are in place.) Plus, you still have the push-pull in Tennessee, where it became legal to carry in public parks, unless local governments passed a law saying otherwise — and some have.
It doesn’t help the case when you have oddballs like the guy in Seattle who protested his city’s new ban on guns in the parks by taking a pistol to a dog show. You know, just in case a shih-tzu looked at him cross-eyed. (Technically, the guy is right — a Washington state law passed in 1983 prevents any locality from passing such a gun ban, and there are lawsuits against the city declaring just that. But still.) Or tragic cases like the mom in Pennsylvania who created a cause celebre by openly carrying a weapon at her kid’s soccer game — and then ended up dead by her husband’s hand in a murder-suicide.
The only person I know and would trust taking a gun to a park for a Sunday walk or a kid’s ballgame is a friend of mine who happens to be an ex-Marine and a Secret Service agent. At least I know he’s trained to be alert for danger and would know how to discharge his weapon without wiping out the opposing team’s parents. Otherwise, it just seems like overkill, no pun intended, for people to bring guns along. If you’re feeling tense and nervous at the ballpark, I would recommend a strong cup of coffee instead.
I want to be a young mom, not the mom inside. I’ll be the coach of the baseball and soccer teams!”
– Kendra (Wilkinson) Baskett, US Weekly, Sept. 7, 2009
Given the former Girl Next Door’s camera-whoring and the impenetrability of that first sentence, the most likely thing your child would learn from a Coach Kendra is how to be a nutty reality show archetype. Which, come to think of it, is a more applicable and valuable life skill than most of your youth coaches can offer.
As if it’s not bad enough that living in Illinois I have to suffer through corrupt politicians, money grabs disguised as a 2016 Olympics bid, and Cubs fans, now I’ve got the state lusting even harder after my children’s urine.
The state recently expanded its steroid-testing law to allow random tests of Illinois High School Association athletes during the regular season as well as the playoffs, and expanded the pool of potential whizzers to 1,000. My own kids aren’t high-school athletes yet. The closest is a seventh-grader soon to try out for the volleyball team. But, to sound a little Republican for a minute, it’s pisses me off that my tax money is going down the toilet like this, and reducing me to bathroom puns.
The only Whizzer Illinois needs.
Why am I against something that is so important so we can Protect the Children? Because there’s no evidence high school testing of steroids, as it has been conducted, is any better at ferreting out performance-enhancing drug use that anything the major leagues have done.
To date, only three other states have conducted steroid testing of high school athletes: New Jersey, Florida and Texas. In Florida, one out of 600 athletes have tested positive. In Texas, it was 19 out of 45,000. I can’t find information on New Jersey or Illinois, but I presume neither discovered a rampant steroid problem. Backers of the programs say they are working, because clearly kids are scared straight out of taking PEDs.
Nonbackers such as myself say that the number of positives is low because most high school athletes don’t have designs on a future career, and are thus not taking steroids. Those that are probably have people who tell them how to cycle to avoid a positive test, particularly by taken human growth hormone or something else that won’t be tested. Plus, the laws have no authority over travel and club sports, so athletes there can have an andro cocktail every day without worry.
New Jersey’s program, which tests 500 athletes during playoffs, is in place. But Florida killed its program this year because of budget cuts. It costs $166 per test. Texas cut its steroid-testing budget by two-thirds, to $2 million from $6 million.
Texas school sports authorities are fearful the cuts mean athletes will take steroids by the fistful. I highly doubt that. Just like I doubt that kids in Illinois will stop (or start) taking steroids based on the law in my state. If my seventh-grader develops back acne and 12-pack abs, perhaps I’ll change my mind. Sure, I don’t encourage any taking steroids. But I also don’t encourage my government wasting its time worrying about, especially when budgets are so tight.
That’s because a southern California park district failed to approve taking land by eminent domain that had been sold to a group including the Republican Congressman. The Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District, which serves an area near Riverside, wants the four acres for a park or youth sports field. Rep. Calvert and his Stadium Properties would rather use it as the site of a storage facility.
The park district is suing the local water and sewer district over the 2006 sale to Calvert, on the basis of a judge’s ruling that the $1.2 million sale violated state law because it didn’t provide state-mandated notice to other governmental agencies that it was selling property. Calvert and his folks last year offered to sell it back to $1.5 million, but the park district puts the fair market value (what an agency needs to pay to acquire property through eminent domain) at $700,000. Clearly, Rep. Calvert and Stadium Properties aren’t liking that rate of return.
Last year the park district got community approval by a 3-to-1 margin, through a mail-in vote, to take the property. So why didn’t it do so Thursday night? Four out of five members needed to say yes. One was absent. One abstained. Why did one abstain? That commissioner won’t say. But the district is planning to vote again Aug. 13.
Even if the vote goes through, surely Rep. Calvert and his group will sue or do something to fight it. That generally happens. At least one thing Calvert can’t move the land out of town in the dead of night to avoid eminent domain.