Arizona Education, Is It All Just About the Money?

Arizona is part of a group of about eight states that are 49th out of 50 in education spending. Others include Florida, Illinois, Idaho, Louisiana, Utah, and Pennsylvania. How can that happen? It’s all in how you combine the data sets. Anyway, the point is that states are competing to be at the bottom. Why is being at the bottom better than being at the top? There are few better arguments for increasing spending than being at the bottom. It’s all about the money. The stated goal of increased spending is to improve the quality of education, but does quality vary concomitantly with spending?

Here is what the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) says in its Nation’s Report Card about 4th grade reading achievement, “In 2009, the average score of fourth-grade students in Arizona was 210. This was lower than the average score of 220 for public school students in the nation. The average score for students in Arizona in 2009 (210) was not significantly different from their average score in 2007 (210) and was not significantly different from their average score in 1992 (209).” 4th grade reading is critical because when the skill is substandard, students tend not to catch up, they can’t read their textbooks in middle and high school, they become frustrated, act out, and drop out.

Now let’s compare Arizona’s spending to our rather flat level of achievement. According to Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, public school per student spending went from $6,497 in 2000 to $9,698 in 2009. After adjusting for inflation, the net increase is slightly over 20 per cent. Again, the increase is the per student rate – the total increase is much more. There is a bright side to this situation. Achievement levels are, after all, not going down; and we are not alone, California has also increased per student expenditures with virtually no change in outcomes. So, what is the money doing? Who knows. The important lesson is that something is stuck, and money is not shaking it loose.

If money does not have the desired affect, what will? Florida, which has many of the same demographic challenges as Arizona and California, has made some dramatic strides in education. NAEP scoring placed Florida comparable to Arizona in that critical area of 4th grade reading during most of the 1990’s. In 1998, Florida took off and is now scoring well above Arizona. The success has been disproportionally enjoyed by Hispanic and Afro-American students. Hispanic students went from a score of 192 in 1994 to 218 in 1996 while Arizona’s total students hovered around 205-210 during the same period. Florida’s Afro-American students went from 181 in 1994 to 208 in 2007, matching Arizona’s total students.

Yikes! What did Florida do? Florida took a two pronged approach. It instituted programs that allowed parental choice, and rated individual schools based on performance through a program of high-stakes testing. A synergy developed between the principles of choice and accountability. The performance data available to the parents helped them to make good choices which led to the better schools expanding, and the failing schools contracting. This improved the quality of education across the state, which is reflected in student performance.

Meanwhile, Arizona has made some modest gains in the area of choice. It has one of the best charter school laws in the country. Charter schools, along with magnet schools, fill the choice bill. They tend to be diverse, are over-represented in schools that excel, and are under-represented in schools that are failing. Parents tend to be much happier with charter schools since they can choose the one that matches their educational vision.

Alas, accountability is another story. Arizona developed the AIMS test to ensure that graduating students were educated to a high school level, and to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind program. The test was “dumbed-down” over time, primarily by continuously lowering the cut-score. The “cut-score” is the minimum score required to pass. In 2003, the cut-score for 8th grade reading was 73% for “proficient”, in 2004 it was lowered to 59%. In this way, the state was able to show improvement without actually having to achieve it.

Speaking of choices, Arizonans have a big one to make: do we want to continue spending more and more money for the same level of mediocrity, or do we want to fight the status quo, and those who appear willing to do anything to maintain it?

Prop 100 Sales Tax Increase

I forget exactly when it was. I think it may have been 1999, the last time the state sales tax was increased for education. There were a number of news stories reporting that teachers had to purchase pens and paper for their students with their own cash because the school districts were so starved for money. Such a cynical ploy cured me of any misplaced trust I may have had in the local school districts.

Now it is 2010, and state revenues have plummeted in excess of thirty per cent, taxes must be raised – in other words, it’s time to pimp the school children again. This time the legislature, at the request of the governor, put a proposition to add a “temporary” increase of eighteen per cent to the state sales tax – an additional penny on the dollar. It is called Prop 100, and will be on the May 18, 2010 special ballot. Here’s the official descriptive title:

Temporarily increases the state transaction privilege (sales) and use tax by one cent per dollar from June 1, 2010 through May 31, 2013 for the purpose of funding primary and secondary education, health and human services and public safety.

The amount of the increase is perfect because one can throw the terms “penny”, and “one cent increase” around a lot and it sounds very small indeed. Actually, it is estimated that around $900,000,000.00 will be drained from the job creating private sector in fiscal 2011.
What will this mean for schools? Perhaps nothing, there is nothing in Prop 100 that says the education budget must be increased, only that funds from the tax will be applied to education. They may very well be applied to education, which would free-up money that went to education from other sources, which can then be spent elsewhere. Prop 100 does not make the budget, the legislature does. Tom Jenney of Americans for Prosperity Arizona Chapter was one of the first people to notice this. He ran the idea past a lawyer who confirmed the possibility. This fact is tacitly admitted by proponents who warn that the university system will loose $100,000,000.00 in state contributions if Prop 100 does not pass. Note that the university system is not part of “primary and secondary education, health and human services and public safety.” The $100 mil would be part of that freed-up money I mentioned. So really, it is a general fund tax that is being promoted with imagined threats to children.

Proponents also claim that Arizona per pupil spending is near the bottom of state rankings. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona is 48th in per pupil state government expenditures at $6,472.00 as of 2006. That is a fact; it is also a deception. The number and rank refer to state government contributions only, not total expenditures. When you add in other sources of funds, like the federal government, you discover that the total expenditures are over $9,000,000.00 per pupil, and close to the middle of the national pack.

Speaking of rankings, here’s an interesting fact that appeared in a Goldwater Institute press release dated January 27, 2010, “Arizona has an unusually large share of non-teaching public school employees. Teachers make up slightly less than half of on-site staff in public schools, placing Arizona fourth worst among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in teachers as a share of on-site public school staff.” Maybe now is not such a bad time to make some staff reductions while keeping the teachers. Steve Voeller of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club reports, “According to the Department of Education, total state aid to education increased 40 percent from $3.2 billion in 2004 to $4.5 billion in 2008. Student population plus inflation increased 25 percent during that same time.”

Prop 100 is a general fund tax increase which will not balance the budget. It will not save schools from some imagined financial disaster. Propagandists waving signs that say “My Child is Worth a Penny”, and “One Cent Will Save a Teacher”, should be ashamed. Maybe the education establishment should try to deal with the recession like the rest of the adults.

The economy will recover, though that recovery may be delayed by increasing taxes now.

University of Arizona Clings to an Archaic Understanding of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Though the University of Arizona is an institution of higher learning, it appears that the students and faculty are decades behind in regards to the cultural and legal progress of the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA).

It was back in 1987 that the state of Florida took the lead in passing a new type of concealed carry law. Concealed carry permitting laws that existed prior to that time were actually remnants from the Jim Crow era; permit applications had to be approved by either the local sheriff, judge, or magistrate with no provision for appeal – good luck if you were a man or woman of color. The new permit laws were written so that anyone who met the criteria, “shall” be issued a permit. When the word “shall” is used in the law, it means it must happen, no discretion here, no denying people of color, political adversaries, mother’s-in-law, etc.

Opponents of such laws warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, they never happened. The idea caught on, and Arizona passed a similar bill in 1994. Opponents of the law warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, you know the rest. The phenomenon swept the country, and now 45 of the 50 states have “shall issue” laws of some type.

Intrigued by this wave of new laws, research scientist John Lott (University of Maryland, College Park, University of Chicago, Yale University, and the Wharton School studied crime statistics from vitually all the counties in the United States. He published the results of this work in the book More Guns, Less Crime. According to Lott, enactment of such laws leads to a significant reduction in violent crime, with a slight increase in property crime. Oddly, Lott’s research received no serious challenged by opponents; rather, they generally chose to attack him personally. Ad hominem attacks are like shooting heroine, it feels really good when you’re doing it, but regular use makes you dull, frustrated, and hollow.

The next milestone was the 2008 United States Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v Heller. The court ruled that outright bans on firearms are unconstitutional because the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an individual right. The case was followed by a wave of challenges to onerous restrictions on gun ownership.

It is interesting to note that the Obama administration, and the Democrat controlled congress, have made no attempt – to my knowledge, not even a mention – of any “gun control” initiatives or goals. Actions not taken are as telling as those that are.

So, both the people, and current legal thought, have evoled into a much more liberal (in the classic sense) view of the right ot keep and bear arms. Consistent with this new enlightenment, the Arizona Senate introduced SB 1011. According to the fact sheet, the bill, “Allows a faculty member with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon (CCW permit) to possess a concealed firearm on university or college grounds.” This seems like a rather mild adjustment in these enlightened times, particularly in light of the fact that the universities would still have a more oppressive environment that the state as a whole.

Alas, the University of Arizona is a couple of decades behind the progressive (in the literal sense) thought of today. It became a hot topic with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA). At a regular meeting, one day after the bill’s introduction, members showed up ready to pass a resolution against the bill. The Arizona Daily Wildcat reported Senator Daniel Wallace saying, “The overwhelming majority of students I’ve talked to are against having guns on campus,” and, “The faculty shares that opinion.”

Really? From where did this archaic mindset come? I think that there is a clue in Wallace’s statement, “The faculty shares that opinion.” Could it be that, for many faculty members, time stopped somewhere back in the late 60’s or 70’s when they entered academia as a career? Are students learning to pay attention, apply thought and reason, or are they being indoctrinated in politically correct thought that has been long abandoned by everyone from the courts, to the politicians, to the people?

We are well into the 21st century. For the benefit of the students, I hope the universities will decide to join us.

Tucson Celebrates Bill of Rights Day

As I am sure you all know, December 15 was Bill of Rights Day. In Tucson, it was celebrated in a manner reminiscent of colonial times.

The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The amendments were ratified on December 15, 1791, which would make December 15, 2009 the 218th anniversary of that ratification. The Bill of Rights was critical to the adoption of the United States Constitution itself. A number of states refused to vote for adoption of the constitution because it did not specifically guarantee the rights of individuals. There were others who did not want any enumeration of rights for fear of the list being misinterpreted to mean that rights were limited to those enumerated therein. A deal was struck, and the the United States Constitution was adopted with the condition that the amendments would be adopted. The constitution was adopted, and shortly thereafter, the Bill of Rights was adopted. It has been said that that was the last time a group of politicians kept it’s promise.

I attended an event honoring Bill of Rights Day on Fourth Avenue. It was styled after colonial Committees of Correspondence. These committees were formed by citizens to deal with problems as they arose, or by local governments or institutions to provide news reports for other governments or citizens outside the area. Some committees were ongoing, some were disbanded after the problems for which they were created were resolved. Our committee was not organized (those with libertarian streaks do not organize well); rather, it was an informal meeting of local citizens for the purpose of discussing the first ten amendments and how the current governments might be influenced to abide by the its principles.

Charles Heller, host of the “Swap Shop” and “Liberty Watch” radio shows heard on KVOI 1030 AM, and all around good guy, arranged the event and acted as the moderator. The food was catered by Fourth Avenue Delectables; it was fantastic. Folks volunteered to take turns reading the amendments, including the preamble. After each was read aloud, it was discussed.

At one point, Charles asked Ken Rineer to read the second amendment of the constitution. Ken recited from memory, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize maintain or employ an armed body of men.” There was much smiling, and some chuckling, as the folks in the room recognized his recitation as not the second amendment of the United States constitution, but rather the equivalent in the State of Arizona constitution (Article II, Section 26) – as you can see, a much stronger statement than the federal version. Most states have there own version of a statement of rights in the their respective constitutions similar to the federal Bill of Rights.

The discussion touched on a broad range of topics from the affect of the fourteenth amendment on the application of the Bill of Rights, to state nullification of federal regulation, to the affect on checks and balances of the 17th amendment.

If as I described the discussion, you pictured in your mind’s eye a bunch of suits talking shop, or perhaps a few late middle-aged pony-tailed professorial types , guess again. Were you to line us up along the sidewalk, we would look no different then the folks waiting for the bus. The folks at the event were regular people – no celebrities, no movers, no shakers. They do, however, possess a depth of knowledge of American history and law rarely seen in modern citizenry. Most are engaged in the politics of their city, county, state, and country. This is American citizenship as God and James Madison intended. If this does not make you feel just a little choked-up, I pity you.

It is said that change does not happen from the top down, only from the bottom up. I do not believe that. As I write, we are getting hammered with change from the top down. I do believe that legitimate change only happens from the bottom up. If we all had the same love of America, and sense of civic duty as our neighbors who attended the informal Committee of Correspondence, imagine how much better our governments and institutions would be.

Senator Inhofe asks UofA’s Malcolm Hughes to not destroy “Climategate” records

Senator Jim InhofeTucson’s Arizona Daily Star reports that Sentor Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma has written a letter to Malcolm Hughes, and the University of Arizona Legal department, asking him to not destroy records regarding what has come to be known as the “Climategate” scandal. Professor Hughes is also one of the developers, along with Michael Mann and Raymond Bradley, of the controversial “hockey stick” graph.

The “Climategate” scandal involves over one thousand emails and other data that was downloaded from a University of East Anglia server by an unknown hacker. Some of the emails appear to show that researchers were manipulating data to achieve results that would support the theory of man-made global warming. Reports and publications based on these data are used by governments to support and shape international treaties, and “Cap and Trade” type legislation.

Here’s an email that suggests an admission that global temperatures have been dropping for the past ten years – and a prediction by at least one scientist that the cooling will continue until the year 2020:


From: Phil Jones

To: Tim Johns , “Folland, Chris”
Subject: Re: FW: Temperatures in 2009
Date: Mon Jan 5 16:18:24 2009
Cc: “Smith, Doug” , Tim Johns

Tim, Chris,
I hope you’re not right about the lack of warming lasting
till about 2020. I’d rather hoped to see the earlier Met Office
press release with Doug’s paper that said something like –
half the years to 2014 would exceed the warmest year currently on record, 1998!
Still a way to go before 2014.
I seem to be getting an email a week from skeptics saying
where’s the warming gone. I know the warming is on the decadal
scale, but it would be nice to wear their smug grins away

.

Here’s a humorous one from Michael Mann in which he diplays the “very thin skin” nature of which he is accused in the quoted text – note that Malcolm Hughes is one of the recipients:

From: “Michael E. Mann”
To: Ray Bradley , “Malcolm Hughes” , Mike MacCracken , Steve Schneider , tom crowley , Tom Wigley , Jonathan Overpeck , asocci@xxxxxxxxx.xxx, Michael Oppenheimer , Keith Briffa , Phil Jones

, Tim Osborn , Tim_Profeta@xxxxxxxxx.xxx, Ben Santer , Gabi Hegerl , Ellen Mosley-Thompson , “Lonnie G. Thompson” , Kevin Trenberth Subject: CONFIDENTIAL Fwd:
Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2003 13:47:44 -0500
Cc: mann@xxxxxxxxx.xxx

Dear All,
This has been passed along to me by someone whose identity will remain in confidence.
Who knows what trickery has been pulled or selective use of data made. Its clear that
“Energy and Environment” is being run by the baddies–only a shill for industry would have
republished the original Soon and Baliunas paper as submitted to “Climate Research” without
even editing it. Now apparently they’re at it again…
My suggested response is:
1) to dismiss this as stunt, appearing in a so-called “journal” which is already known to
have defied standard practices of peer-review. It is clear, for example, that nobody we
know has been asked to “review” this so-called paper
2) to point out the claim is nonsense since the same basic result has been obtained by
numerous other researchers, using different data, elementary compositing techniques, etc.
Who knows what sleight of hand the authors of this thing have pulled. Of course, the usual
suspects are going to try to peddle this crap. The important thing is to deny that this has
any intellectual credibility whatsoever and, if contacted by any media, to dismiss this for
the stunt that it is..
Thanks for your help,
mike

two people have a forthcoming ‘Energy & Environment’ paper that’s being unveiled tomoro
(monday) that — in the words of one Cato / Marshall/ CEI type — “will claim that Mann
arbitrarily ignored paleo data within his own record and substituted other data for
missing values that dramatically affected his results.
When his exact analysis is rerun with all the data and with no data
substitutions, two very large warming spikes will appear that are greater than the 20th
century.
Personally, I’d offer that this was known by most people who understand Mann’s
methodology: it can be quite sensitive to the input data in the early centuries.
Anyway, there’s going to be a lot of noise on this one, and knowing Mann’s very thin
skin I am afraid he will react strongly, unless he has learned (as I hope he has) from
the past….”

Property Rights, Markets, and Feldman’s Fight for Neighborhood Preservation

In the early part of the twentieth century, the University of Arizona occupied a quaint, two story, brick building now referred to as “Old Main”. Meanwhile, not far away, a number of “sanatoriums” were being built for TB patients from across the country. The neighborhood north of Speedway was nicknamed “Lung Hill.” Today the University of Arizona has metastasized into a gigantic sports, research, and educational facility with an international student body that numbers around 38,000. “Lung Hill” is now the Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association, in which many of the sanatorium buildings, along with homes of the same vintage, still stand. The Feldman’s neighborhood is primarily residential, composed of both owner-occupied and rented houses, with a mix of university employees, students, and others.

As the university student population has ballooned – doubling over the last few decades – the market for student housing has increased concomitantly. Naturally, areas around the university have seen an increase in student residents. Often a parent would lease, or even purchase, a house near the university and the child, along with any number of friends, would occupy it. Eventually, developers began to respond to the market demand by building rental structures designed for the student customer – they were nicknamed “mini-dorms”.

Long established residents of these neighborhoods suddenly realized that they did not live in gated communities, and as Dylan said, “The times they are a-changin'”. The folks in Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association were on the cutting edge of these changes, and they did not like it one bit. Seeing, or seeking, no alternative, they sought the force of government to freeze time and turn their neighborhood into a preserve.

Of course, a villain was necessary. The obvious one is the University of Arizona. Its inability to provide accommodations for its students is the root of the problem. The behavior of students themselves, not their existence, is the problem itself. One might even blame the residents themselves for not protecting the neighborhood with extreme zoning before now. Somehow, all these parties were overlooked, and the mini-dorm developer, Michael Goodman, became the bad guy.

Look, I would not want affordable student housing in my neighborhood either. However, I find it hard to condemn a developer who is satisfying a need in the community while staying within zoning laws and codes. He also purchased the land he wished to change. He did not seek the help of city government to force a change on other people’s property. A primary function of property rights is to settle the question of land use. If you want to call the shot, you buy the property. The alternative is large protracted fights over land use with some arbiter assigning a solution that pleases nobody. The idea of ownership also tends to direct land to the best use. For example, a couple with children would be willing to pay more for a four bedroom house than a retired couple, so they each end up in suitable houses. In fact, professionals often buy properties on which to build structures to satisfy a local need. Then they become the villain.

While Feldman’s may have no choice but to resort to extreme zoning – the approval of the development manual and NPZ overlay – other neighborhoods might take some preemptive action. Imagine a neighborhood that came together and pooled some resources and bought up the properties that came up for sale. Once there was a consensus, the residents could contract with each other to adhere to guidelines regarding the properties that went above and beyond the zoning. They could get the city to give them the streets and public areas, abandon the rights of way, etc. They could limit access, take responsibility for the roads, and be at peace with each other, like a gated community.

I know that gated communities are not at all “cool”, but we’re not posing here. Look, people talk a lot about loving “diversity”, but they don’t mean it. I’m sure many of the residents of Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association hold “diversity” close to their hearts, until it arrives on their streets. They then clamor for tighter zoning. The point of zoning laws, my friends, is to prevent diversity. No family wants to live by a meat packer, a mini-dorm, or a 24-hour coffee shop.

Hopefully, the example of Feldman’s will lead to securing neighborhoods through co-operative rather than combative methods.

Tucson Elections Wrap-up

The votes have been cast, and Tucsonans sent clear messages regarding the ballot proposals. Council races are now official.

Candidates:

Richard Fimbres won Ward V beating Shaun McCluskey. Karin Uhlich hangs on to Ward III by 195 votes beating Ben Beuhler-Garcia. Steve Kozachick upsets incumbent Nina Trasoff in Ward VI by well over 1,000 votes.

Props 401 and 402, TUSD Overrides:

Both attempts by Tucson Unified School District to exceed its its budgets limits were defeated, both by substantial 20 point margins. The failure reflects a basic distrust among Tucsonans. From the many financial scandals, to the “Post Unitary Status Plan”. Greg Patterson of Espresso Pundit credits the controversial “La Raza” (The Race) program.

Young man with Karin Uhlich tee-shirt holds SEIU generated ant-prop 200 sign at Tea Party


Prop 200, Public Safety:

This ill-conceived proposal would mandate specific police and fire response times, officer/population ratios, etc.The idea was to force the council to fund basic services rather than pet projects, favored charities, and payoffs to supporters. The promotion effort was terrible, and the Left seized on the general anti-tax mood to attack the proposal. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) activists were seen at the last Tucson Tea Party parading around with signs saying that Prop 200 would increase taxes. It lost 70% to 30%

Election Night Republican Party Party

On election night, November 3, 2009, the Democrats met at Club Congress downtown – their usual venue. For whatever reason, the Republicans chose Chuy’s on Tanque Verde. Chuy’s was crowded, noisy, and too poorly lighted outside to take good pictures. The patio was nice, however, and since it was “Bike Night”, there were lots of cool motorcycles to view.

Many Republican activists were there, along with many candidates – not just the three city council candidates, but many state and federal 2010 hopefuls. Mayor Bob Walkup showed up long enough to give a few interviews and leave. Though a Republican, Mayor Walkup is not very popular with members of the party. He did nothing for the Republican city council candidates, and when asked for an endorsement by Steve Kozachick, he refused saying that if Kozachick lost it wold make it harder for him to work with the Democrats. At one point, while Walkup was speaking with Sate Representative Frank Antenori, a Republican activist shook Walkup’s hand and thanked him for all the work he did on behalf of the Republican candidates. When some people began to laugh, Walkup asked Antenori at what were people laughing. Antenori replied, “He was making fun of you, and you deserve it.”

The Republicans stayed til closing with no clear victories. Bob Westerman, Pima County Republican Party Chairman, he would ask for recounts if necessary.

Update: As of Wednesday morning, Democrat Richard Fimbres appears to have won in Ward V over Shaun McCluskey. The other races are still too close to call, though Kozachick has a slight lead over Trasoff in Ward VI and Uhlich has a slight lead over Buehler-Garcia in Ward III.

President Obama’s Celebrity Turns Creepy

Many people were a bit creeped-out by president Obama’s school lecture to the kiddies. It is important to understand that it was not the fact that the president was speaking to the kiddies, but the “Dear Leader” manner in which it was planned.

It was not broadcast on a Saturday morning, nor was it a clip on the news. It was done as part of the school curriculum, where attendance is compulsory. It also included, originally, a teacher guide that included exercises such as writing a letter to oneself abut how one could help the president, which was then collected to be distributed when appropriate to hold the individual accountable.

Now we see this video that apparently preceded the speech to schoolchildren:

Anybody care to deny the pattern here?

In the Graffiti Colony

Graffiti is the bane of Tucson residents. It is generally ugly, costly, and is an indicator (like broken windows) of a crime-ridden neighborhood. I’ll take it a step further, and claim that it is bad for the perpetrators. It is a tool for minors to develop their ant-social, even solipsistic tendencies.

No part of Tucson, certainly no part of mid-town, is untouched by graffiti. Individuals and neighborhood groups are engaged in an endless campaign to clean up after these proto-vandals. The City of Tucson assists residents in this effort by offering classes in graffiti abatement, and providing removal services. In fact, before the City of Tucson started experiencing budget constraints, it used to hire a contractor with two paint trucks to professionally color-match and paint over graffiti. A telephone call would dispatch a team to the scene of the crime.

Meanwhile, in another part of the municipal government, a how-to-do-graffiti class was both facilitated and subsidized. You may recall the mural spray painted on the side of a Tucson Water building downtown. It was the product of a class taught by “graffiti artist” Rocky Martinez. Mr. Martinez teaches a graffiti-art program for the City of Tucson called Arts in Reality. Accorfing to the Red Star, the program is funded in part by $8,000.00 from Regina Romero’s discretionary youth fund.

Here’s a money saving idea: the City of Tucson should decide if it wants to discourage graffiti, or promote it; then it could discontinue either the abatement efforts, or the how-to classes. Does that make sense, or am I missing something? The reaction of the public, particularly those who live in the vicinity of the “mural’, might have provided some direction to the City, but no, it went directly into silk-purse-from-sow’s-ear mode.

Everybody got together and talked with everybody else and decided to repaint the wall with more pleasing imagery. Everybody spoke of the community coming together and about what a great learning experience it was for the kids. However, all of this wishful thinking pablum pointedly avoided the problem – the kids were still being taught how to deface buildings. I know, they were told that it must not be done illegally, and a bunch of other cover-your-keester crap, but the promoters of that line are only fooling themselves. The new “mural” was unveiled in a ceremony on August 25.

The situation is Kafkaesque. It reminds me of his short story, “In the Penal Colony.” As you may recall, the story tells of a traveler who visits a penal colony where he witnesses an execution. The method is brutal. The prisoner is put in a machine that carves the name of his offense in his back, repeatedly, until he dies. It is an all day affair. The traveler sees this as barbaric, while the operator of the machine sees it as a good thing that brings the community together (there was a large gallery), and it really is art, you see, since the offense is written in beautiful swirling caligraphy. The prisoner himself figures out the message about ten to twelve hours into it, and seems to achieve a certain peace, according to the operator. If you guessed that the traveler is the people, the prisoner the kids, and the operator Regina Romero, move to the head of the class. At this point I must say that it is important to understand that the operator was not bad or evil, he just missed the larger point.

Everybody needs a hobby, especially kids, especially kids with too much time on their hands. There are lots of private groups and organizations that provide positive activities for children. I know of none that teach “graffiti art.” What do they know that the City does not?