Saturday, August 31, 2013

Walmart's response is 'brutally irrelevant'

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09 (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09 (photo: Perian Flaherty)

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
31 August 13
esterday a Walmart spokesman criticized the petition I've been circulating that asks Walmart (and McDonalds) to pay their employees at least $15 an hour.

Walmart's spokesman told the Huffington Post that my petition fails to mention that Walmart is a major job creator and that it promotes some of its employees.

The spokesman is correct. In fact, Walmart is America's biggest employer. And I'd be shocked if some of its employees weren't promoted.

But the brute fact is Walmart's typical employee is still paid less than $9 an hour.

To offer lousy jobs on such an extraordinary scale is not something to brag about. Indeed, the point of the petition - as well as the national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour - is to recognize that most people who work for big-box retailers like Walmart, as well as those who work in the fast-food industry, are adults. They are responsible for bringing home a significant share of their family's income. A decent society requires they be paid enough to lift them and their families out of poverty.

When Martin Luther King, Jr., led the March to Washington for Jobs and Justice, fifty years ago this week, one of the objectives of that March was to raise the minimum wage to $2 an hour. $2 an hour in 1963, adjusted for inflation, comes to over $15 an hour in today's dollars. Walmart doesn't come close to the American dream.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pleasant Valley Winery
Labor Day Weekend
Wine Tasting

At the Little Log Cabin Wine Shop
47779 N. Highway 288

052513 Wines & Awards (60).JPG

Saturday & Sunday
Aug 31 & Sept 1
Noon – 5:00 pm

Bottled Wine Available For Sale
Please Join Us For Our
Labor Day Weekend
Celebration at the Wine Shop

Also in Young - The Cherry Creek Lodge
Music Festival Aug 30 - Sept 1
For information and tickets call:  928-462-4027

Tickets still available for Time Out Gala

The deadline to get your tickets for the "EVENING of TIME OUT" Gala has been extended to Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.

The event is Sept. 14, 2013 and starts at 5 P.M till 11 P.M.  Guests will enjoy food, beverage and entertainment by Gary Cordell, silent and live auctions at the  Mazatzal Casino to support the local domestic violence shelter and its programs.

Tickets are $75.00.

You can pay by credit card at the Time Out Thrift Shop or you can pay online at and click on the red heart.

You can send a check payable to:
An Evening of Time Out Gala
Kim Chittick
PO Box 2241
Payson, AZ 85547

Tickets are only available till Sept. 6.  Please feel free to contact  Kim Chittick at 928-978-5245 or email her at with any questions you may have.

Surprise: Phoenix drivers ranked safest yet again

For the ninth year in a row, the Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report named Phoenix the safest city with more than 1 million residents in terms of car crashes. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Chris Cole)

By CHRIS COLE Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Anyone who’s been tailgated, cut off or rear-ended while driving on the streets and freeways here may be surprised to learn that Phoenix drivers rank as the safest around.

For the ninth year in a row, the Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report named Phoenix the safest city with more than 1 million residents in terms of car crashes.

“I think it’s a very neat accomplishment,” said Chelci Vaughan, a Tempe-based Allstate spokeswoman. “Phoenix drivers should pat themselves on the back, for sure.”

Tucson and Mesa also ranked as the top cities in their respective population sizes in Allstate’s report.

Allstate determined that the average Phoenix driver will experience an auto collision every 9.8 years, which means drivers only slightly more likely to get into a car crash than the national average of 10 years.

Phoenix resident Jesse Ferrell was surprised to hear the news.

“I’ve lived here 17 years, so I see how people drive,” Ferrell said. “They drive like race car drivers.”

Jonna McMaham felt the same way.

“We just have a lot of traffic,” McMaham said. “That’s usually where you see the majority of accidents.”

Allstate found that most auto claims occur at speeds of 35 mph or less. The fact that Phoenix sits in the top spot in spite of that means that congested traffic isn’t as much of an issue as residents may think, Vaughan said.

“Our roads flow a little better,” she added.

Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, credited Phoenix’s grid system and the frequency of stoplights along the streets.

“When you have a grid system on major streets, it makes a safer city because people know where they’re going,” Gutier said. “Lights are synchronized, traffic moves and people know what to expect.”

In addition to the city’s infrastructure, mild weather and an older population that drives shorter distances at slower speeds contributed to Phoenix’s ranking, said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance and financial services for AAA Arizona.

“We don’t have frozen, wet or snowy roads, with the exception of haboobs,” Oltmans said. “You just don’t have a lot of those other issues.”

Joe Zahara, owner of Stop and Go Driving School in Phoenix, said the report is surprising because he notices more people swerving on the roads and causing crashes while texting.

“When I instruct students, I see a crash once a day if not multiple times,” Zahara said. “There’s so much aggressive driving out on the road.”

Population of 1 million
1. Phoenix
2. San Diego
3. San Antonio
4. Chicago
5. Houston

Population 500,000-749,999
1. Tucson
2. Milwaukee
3. Fresno, Calif.
4. El Paso, Texas
5. Nashville, Tenn.

Population 250,000-499,999:
1. Mesa
2. Kansas City, Mo.
3. Colorado Springs, Colo.
4. Lincoln, Neb.
5. Wichita, Kan.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Arizonans join throngs honoring March on Wash.

Thousands gathered around the Reflecting Pool under a rainy Washington sky to hear speeches from the Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. (Cronkite News Service photo by Chad Garland)

By BRANDON BROWN Cronkite News Service 

WASHINGTON – Anthem resident Pamela Gardner was just 4 years old when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” Speech, but it still had an effect on her. 

“As a child I always cried when I read or heard that speech,” said Gardner, who joined thousands Wednesday on the National Mall to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where King gave that speech.

They waited in long, slow-moving security lines to get a spot near the Lincoln Memorial to listen to hours of speeches and songs, capped off by a speech by President Barack Obama.

Despite intermittent rain and steamy Washington humidity, spirits appeared high with some joking about being “drenched for the dream” as they waited for an airport-like security check, complete with metal detectors.

Medical personnel occasionally had to part the crowd in order to retrieve someone who had fainted or had another emergency.

Wednesday’s event capped several days of events to mark anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, when more than 200,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to rally jobs and freedom.

Fifty years later, tens of thousands gathered Wednesday around the Reflecting Pool to hear Obama, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and others praise the successes of the past but lay out the problems that remain.

The three presidents, in particular, pointed to the need for greater voting rights, the disproportionately high number of blacks in prison and high rates of unemployment among minorities.

The crowd was receptive to Carter and Clinton, but the energy was especially high for Obama.

“Give it to ‘em, Mr. President!” one woman shouted from the crowd during a pause in Obama’s speech.

Tucson resident Emma Willerton, a recent University of Arizona who just started school in Washington, said she was excited to hear the president speak.

“Obama being president at the same time as the 50th anniversary is … a huge, powerful statement of progress,” Willerton said of the nation’s first black president.
Wednesday’s events started with an interfaith service at a Baptist church in Washington and a 1.6-mile march down Constitution Avenue to the Lincoln Memorial.
Willerton, who took part in the march, called it an honor to be a part of a historic event.

At the Lincoln Memorial, fences had been set up around the Reflecting Pool with speakers and video screens set up for those who could not get close. Not everyone could even get in: Many watched from a distance, sitting by the Washington Monument several blocks east of the ceremony.

“I wanted to experience what the original marchers felt,” said Gardner, adding that Wednesday’s unpleasant weather made her respect her predecessors even more.
“I was in jeans and a T-shirt and it was so hot,” Gardner said. “I was thinking back then, the woman had on dresses and hats. I could not imagine the discomfort.”

But she said it was worth it, despite the humidity and heat, to be apart of history.

Tom Rose, a Phoenix resident, was in Maryland for a conference and came to be part of Wednesday?s events.

“I wanted to honor what his (King’s) dream was, and see where we need to go from here,” Rose said.

He said he believes there is a lot this country, and his home state, can still learn from King and from what was said Wednesday.

“I think the people of Arizona can take something from these messages,” Rose said.

Ray Cullom, a National Park Service volunteeer working Wednesday at the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, said he does not believe the dream that King spoke about is yet a reality.

“We’ve come along way, but we still have a ways to go,” Cullom said.

He and his wife, Maribeth, have volunteered at national parks across the country, including a season spent at the Tonto National Monument near Roosevelt, Ariz.

Cullom, who is white, remembers going to college in New Orleans during the Civil Rights era and seeing protests around the city. He remembered once getting on a crowded streetcar where all the white people were standing up because group of black riders were in every other seat.

He said he got some stares from the other white riders when he sat down, but was happy to get a seat.

Gardner said there is still work to be done.
“You can’t be afraid of different people and different beliefs,” she said. “When you are afraid you have hatred.” 

- Cronkite News Service reporters Chad Garland and Jack Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.

3 presidents criticize voter-ID laws at MLK event

A group of visitors from New York gathers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the 50th anniversary of King’s historic March on Washington, which was being celebrated nearby on the Mall. (Cronkite News Service photo by Chad Garland)

By JACK FITZPATRICK Cronkite News Service 

WASHINGTON – Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter all cited voter suppression as a major challenge facing minorities 50 years after the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 

While none of the three mentioned Arizona by name, state Democrats and voting-rights advocates said the state was “absolutely” in the minds of Wednesday’s speakers.

“Especially when commemorating the March on Washington and the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and considering how important voting rights were to Dr. King, we should be making voting easier and more accessible to all Americans,” said DJ Quinlan, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party. “And Republicans have been working in the opposite direction.”

But a Republican Party official said that what Quinlan calls voter suppression is a demand for election integrity that has been pushed by state voters.

“I can’t address what Martin Luther King Jr. would have said or might have said about 21st-century Arizona,” said Tim Sifert, an Arizona Republican Party spokesman. “But what we’ve got in Arizona is, the voter-approved law simply says, when you register to vote, you’ve got to prove citizenship.”

The current and former presidents’ comments came at a daylong event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s historic speech.

All three mentioned barriers to minorities voting, and Carter specifically mentioned the June Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which applies federal oversight of election activities in states with a history of discrimination. Arizona was one of those states.

“I believe we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the new ID requirements to exclude certain voters, especially African Americans,” Carter said. “I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the Supreme Court striking down a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act just recently passed overwhelmingly by Congress.”

Arizona is also suing the federal government over a portion of Proposition 200, the state law that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote. The Supreme Court ruled this summer that the state law is trumped by federal law, which only requires an applicant to swear he is a citizen.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said in an Aug. 21 press release that his office is suing the Election Assistance Commission over the state’s right to determine what identification people need to show when registering to vote. Horne is arguing that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to stop the state from requiring proof of citizenship, regardless of which form voters use.

A spokeswoman for Horne said the office had no comment on Wednesday’s speeches.

Voter ID laws were one of several issues Obama, Clinton and Carter discussed, including gun control, inequality in the criminal justice system and unemployment among blacks.

“A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon,” Clinton said.

Obama referenced voter ID laws briefly, saying that racial equality in America required vigilance, including “challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote.”

Francisco Heredia, national field director for voting rights group Mi Familia Vota, said Arizona is still erecting such barriers, pointing to a bill passed this year. He said HB 2305 creates further barriers for Arizona voters by making it illegal for employees or volunteers of political committees – including groups like Mi Familia Vota, he said – to collect early ballots.

“Obviously you have to be an eligible citizen to vote, that’s a given, but there shouldn’t be any barriers placed to voting,” Heredia said. “We’re seeing this across the country, and Arizona has unfortunately been on the forefront of many of these voter-ID laws, starting in 2004.”

A coalition of groups, including the state Democratic Party and Mi Familia Vota, is pushing for a voter referendum to overturn HB 2305.

Pugel needs to resign from PSWID


Mr. Ray Pugel should resign as Chairman and Board Member of Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) due to the obvious conflict of interest with his Realty and Development Business in Pine Strawberry, Arizona.

Mr. Pugel has come under scrutiny from the community over his agenda on the PSWID Board pushing to add an additional 7.5 million dollar bond to the communities’ already high financed debt. The board’s aggressive budget has already caused a 30% increase in water rates and double the property taxes. The community should be feeling the full impact of the rate increase by now. The proposed aggressive repair plan is not what the community wants.

The community has spoken without being heard. The repairs do not have to be done as proposed – a slower pace and less expensive options can be chosen to spread out the expense to residents. From Mr. Pugel’s published articles, you would think there is no other choice in this matter which is simply not true. As well, there is still no transparency with bids and actions between the PSWID Board and Ch2MHill Management Company which manages the water company.

No matter how you slice it, Mr. Ray Pugel as a Realtor and Developer will directly benefit from all aspects of the proposals by the PSWID Board. No matter how you slice it, that’s a conflict of interest.

Deb Schwalm

Canine companions - the more the merrier

Phoebe (left) and Katie "doghandle" a tennis ball. The two dogs, a shelter mutt and a purebred golden retriever, have become best buddies.
[Gazette Blog Editor's note: I wrote the following story a lifetime ago, back when I worked for the Roundup.  The Consort found it in their archives and I'm reprinting it here.  They had taken my name off it, but that's OK.  I'll just put it back on.  And I'm not sure if they'll approve of me posting it here, but I don't much care.  You see, Donna Rokoff had to bury Katie and Phoebe today, and they were two very special dogs.]

By Jim Keyworth
Gazette Blog Editor 

Donna and Mike Rokoff are just about as close as their two dogs are, and together the foursome are darned near inseparable.

The Rokoffs went from a traditional one-dog family to a pair because Katie, their golden retriever, was fast becoming a lazy, pampered pooch.

I got Katie for my birthday six years ago," Donna said. "She became such a spoiled brat and a couch potato. She wouldn't move unless we made her move."

She'd rather sleep and eat than anything," added Mike.

"If she wanted to play, she wanted to play with us," Donna recalled.

"Very demanding," Mike emphasized.

The Rokoffs, artists who semi-retired to Payson nine years ago, decided Katie needed a friend, so the trio went to the Payson Humane Society. It would take three visits to find just the right dog -- a shelty, husky, maybe-some-shepherd mix they named Phoebe.

"To tell you the truth, she picked me," Donna said. "We took her out into that little area to play and I sat down on a stool. She came over and looked at me and then she put her little head against my knee and closed her eyes as if she had just made it into heaven."

"Kind of like what I did when I first met you," Mike said. The Rokoffs, who met when they both worked for Hallmark, the greeting card company, in Kansas City, Mo., have been married 29 years. 

When Phoebe joined the Rokoff clan, they became convinced that two-dog families are exponentially better than one-dog families. 

"We just went to get a dog for Katie, and she's turned out to be one of the sweetest animals in the whole world," Donna said.

Even though Katie is very much an alpha female, she and Phoebe are inseparable.

"They've been together three years now, but they took to each other right from the start," Donna said.

And Katie has regained her zest for life.

"Katie will grab something and then go limp," Donna laughed. "Then Phoebe will grab the other end and drag her around the floor. Phoebe is all muscle."

"Katie will let Phoebe do anything," Mike said. "They make up these games. All of a sudden they'll have this hide and seek game going."

"Or they'll be racing around the coffee table together," Donna added. "They chew on the same bone and eat out of the same dish."

But the Rokoffs have gained as much from the addition of Phoebe as Katie has.

"When we go out to eat or something, go to a movie, we can leave them for three or four hours at a time and they're perfectly fine because they have each other," Mike said. "And the same goes when we're out of town and we board them. They put them in the same kennel because they don't like being separated."

Before Phoebe came along, Katie had developed a real affinity for television, to the point where she'd jump up on the bed and bark at the television when the trio checked into a hotel.

Now, when the Rokoffs want a truly guilt-free evening on the town, they allow Katie and Phoebe to indulge.

"The two of them are really contented if we let them sit on the bed and watch TV -- especially if we turn on ‘Animal Planet,'" Donna explained. "It gives us such peace of mind when we go out to know that we're not leaving a lonely dog at home."

But Katie and Phoebe love to go on the road with the Rokoffs, and the foursome travel to the Valley together whenever the weather allows.

"I'm not a shopper, but Donna does, so I stay outside with the dogs," Mike said.  "Those dogs are babe magnets is what they are."

"Women will speak to a man with dogs," Donna laughed. "I come out of Ross or somewhere and he's surrounded by women and children and the dogs are on their backs getting their tummies rubbed."

"They just love it because they're the center of attention," Mike added. "They're, like, rolling on their backs going, ‘Next.'"

The bottom line for the Rokoffs is that Phoebe has been little short of a wondrous addition to their family, to the point that they want other people to know how much a second dog can add to a family.

"Dogs are pack animals and the family is their pack," Donna said. "When we had just Katie, we were her pack. Now she's got Phoebe, too. It's a more natural pack for them."

Too many people don't even think about a second dog because it just isn't part of our culture anymore.

"It's the Dick and Jane and Spot and Puff thing," Donna said. "Except for farmers and ranchers, people have that thing that two children and one dog make a good family."

The Rokoffs readily admit that it costs more to have two dogs, but the rewards easily outweigh the expense. And they firmly believe the humane society is a great place to get that second dog, or two dogs if you don't have one yet.

"We had purchased Katie, and we felt there were a lot of dogs that needed help and rescuing," Mike said.

"We didn't want another puppy," Donna added. "We wanted to know enough about the animal, about his personality, to make a choice. You have no idea what a puppy is going to turn out to be personality-wise.

"Besides, there is just something about a dog from the shelter," Donna said. "Phoebe had been at the shelter a long time, and I think she is everlastingly grateful. I don't think she ever forgets."

"That's because we remind her every evening," Mike added as Katie and Phoebe laid side-by-side at his feet. "We tell her the story about how we rescued her and what a lucky little dog she is, and it works. She falls for it every time."

Among the Rokoffs, Katie and Phoebe, it's hard to tell who's the luckiest.