Phoenix Community Team

The Phoenix Team is continuing their study of Making Democracy Work. LWVMP Phx Team at the Terraces invites speakers on a variety on interests. All members are welcome.

Upcoming Meeting Info

The Phoenix Community Team usually meets the second Wednesday of the month at The Terraces, 7550 N. 16th Street Phoenix, AZ.
Email Rivko Know for more info.

April Meeting:
April 11, 2018
9:30am - 11:30am

Topic: Speaker Susan Alzner, Senior Director of Programs, Grand Canyon Trust.

May Meeting:
May 9, 2018
9:30am - 11:30am

Topic: Gina Roberts, Voter Education Director for Clean Elections: “Clean Elections Funds Candidates & Much More - A Premier Voter Education Entity”

News & Events
Coming soon…

Previous Meeting Reports

  • January, 2018 Report
    Here is the report from the meeting held on January 10, 2018. Please read more here…

    Guest Speaker Jim Small
    Jim Small, the executive director and editor of the AZCIR (AZ Center for Investigative Reporting), which was founded in 2012, spoke to the January 10, 2018 meeting of the Phoenix (morning) Community Team. Small, who was a reporter & then editor of the AZ Capitol Times, the Yellow Sheet and the AZ Legislative Report, joined the AZCIR in December 2015. Small explained that the AZCIR is a nonprofit (501C3) entity, focuses on data, in depth investigative reporting, has no regular schedule of publication (reports get published when the investigation is completed!!) and shares its data/reports for free with other media, e.g., KJZZ, the AZ Republic, the AZ Daily Star, the HuffPost and with other non profit organizations, e.g., the ACLU of AZ.. Small said that AZCIR represents a new business model for the media called ‘accountable journalism,’ and is affiliated with the National Ethnics And Excellence in Journalism organization. There are a number of similar entities around the country with some focusing only one on community/city or one topic, e.g., the environment while AZCIR covers a wide range of public policy issues all over AZ.

    Small then focused on a somewhat recent report that AZCIR completed and published called “The Cost of Cuts” that was actually based on data published by the AZ Legislature’s own Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), which annually is supposed to put out a report titled “Tax Expenditure Report (for a specific year.)” Expenditures, Small explained, in this case means all the exemptions, deductions, allowances, exclusions and credits, i.e., all the funds that the state of AZ does NOT collect due to specific laws. The report focused on the FY 2016 JLBC Report showing $13.7 billion in such ‘expenditures,’ which represents 150% of the actual budget for that fiscal year or $9.8 billion, and with such ‘expenditures’ due to grow based on current laws that continue to expand such, e.g., tax credits to State Tuition Organizations (STOs) for vouchers!!!! The $9.8 amount, he said, was composed of 45% sales taxes, 45% income taxes, and 10% miscellaneous income. Of the 45% collected in income taxes, 42% came from individuals and only 3% from corporations. Because AZ has no statewide property tax, income and the budget fluctuate quite a bit from year to year. For FY 2016, Small stated, there were $12.6 billion in sales tax exemptions (NOTE: sales taxes are legally considered to be TPTs = transaction privilege taxes) of which there are 226!! AZ is a very high sales tax state with such taxes considered to be very regressive (as poorer people spend a larger portion of their income buying ‘stuff’ then wealthier people, who invest and save more....actions not taxed). Small also pointed out that sales taxes are very susceptible to special interest lobbying groups, which is why there are exemptions for items such as 4” pipe (but not larger or smaller pip), horse vitamins (but not vitamins for humans) and various kinds of small aircraft. Small also reported that House and Senate leaders are supposed to annual appoint a committee to review the status of all the ‘expenditures’ and make recommendations to the House/Senate regarding those to be ended or changed in some way. However, although the Legislature’s tax analysts collected all the data for the Committee, it did not meet as required; some thought that might be due to the fact that the last year they did meet, their recommendations re ending certain expenditures were largely ignored. However, after the publication of the AZCIR’s report, a Committee was appointed.

    A lively question/answer period followed regarding how how AZ ranks regarding taxes, what data there is to support the claim that companies move to AZ because of our low taxes, how competitive AZ is on the basis of taxes vs. an educated/skilled workforce and more.

    The website for the AZCIR is

  • September, 2017 Report
    Here is the report from the meeting held in September, 2017. Please read more here…

    Guest Speaker Alice Stambaugh
    The current Electoral College system, grounded in state laws which allocate electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, leads presidential candidates to concentrate their resources on voters in a handful of swing states, relegating the vast majority of the country to spectator status.
    The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would change this, guaranteeing the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
    Find out what NPV is, how it will work, how likely it is to take effect in the near future and why we should not try to eliminate the Electoral College at this time despite the LWV position statement to that effect.

  • July, 2017 Report
    Here is the report from the meeting held in July, 2017. Please read more here…

    Guest Speaker Luis Avila with Stand For Children on Demand2Learn Education Research
    On Wed., July 12, about 15 LWVMP members and guests listened to Luis Avila, advisor with 270 Strategies & national program director at Stand for Children, a nonprofit grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to improving public school education speak about the ACLU of AZ's new campaign, which is called "Demand2Learn."  This campaign focuses on ensuring educational equity in public schools to include charters by gathering and analyzing data about disparate treatment of students with disabilities and students of color, working with the AZ Charter School Board and training parents to be advocates for their students by ensuring they are aware of their rights.   
    Mr. Avila started by speaking about his own experiences both as an immigrant student in the US, having to translate for his mother who didn't speak English as well as one of his early a teacher in a charter school, who received NO training on how to be a teacher, how to engage students, how to deal with students with disabilities or behavior problems. He recounted a story that still haunts him about one of his students who dropped out because of his behavioral issues, which Avila did not know how to address largely because he had no training and no idea the student's father had just been deported and thus the student was angry, upset and frightened.     
    Avila said that his experience and research shows that so many students are pushed out of schools due to the focus on testing that results in how schools are graded!!  Many parents have no idea that their child has or should have an IEP (Individual Educational Program) if the child has a disability and thus have no capacity to even try to ensure that the school is following that IEP.  Further, when parents enroll their children in a high performing school especially a charter school, they often voluntarily withdraw the student because the child is falling behind and the school encourages the parents to withdraw the child and find someplace `more suitable.'     
    Avila than provided both statistics and stories to illustrate the `school to prison pipeline' in which the schools with higher percentages of minority and poor students, who often suffer from economic insecurity and trauma, have discipline problems.  Without well trained teachers, the schools too often rely on police in the schools, whether thru a formal program or as off duty security, who too often treat both students with disabilities and disciplinary problems from a `crime' perspective.  This leads to more suspensions during which students miss instruction, which further leads to expulsions.  Without a proper education and without a school to attend + as they are suspended or have dropped out - many young people get involved in some degree of illegal activities, or get picked up by police for truancy or violating curfew, which leads to an arrest, which leads to jail and thus the `school to prison' pipeline moves along. He also pointed out that there are more police in high poverty, high minority areas, who thus are more likely to `see' truant students vs. upscale malls in which students who are skipping school are free to roam around without any police to detain them!! (a self fulfilling prophecy).    
    Avila traced a lot of this approach to the `war on drugs' that started in the 1970's and is on going.  He pointed out that 68% of Black males without a high school diploma go to prison by age 34!!  Further from 1970-2010, the number of people in prison in the US increased by 430%. Other disturbing statistics that Avila reported were:  53% of people in prison have a substance abuse problem; 56% have a mental health issue; each year that someone spends in prison, results in a 1 year decrease in their life expectancy; in AZ children as young as 8 can be held in detention; that 20 years after someone is released from prison, they are more likely than others to be at the bottom of the income distribution; and their children are more likely to go to prison.   
    Currently Demand2Learn is gathering data from as much public schools/districts as possible regarding suspension/expulsions by race, disability etc. The federal government only collects such every 5 years and does not report it for another 3-4 years so there is no current reliable information.  Further, although the AZ Department of Education used to collect such data until about 5 years ago, it has since stopped and even when it got it, no one ever analyzed the data!!   In October, Demand2Learn will host a policy summit, which will result in a legislative platform that will be the focus for the 2018 Legislative session.

  • May, 2017 Report
    Here is the report from the meeting held in May, 2017. Please read more here…

    ”If an Originalist, a Textulist and a Pragmatist All Walked Into a Bar, What Would Happen to the Constitution?” Bob McWhirter, author, immigration and constitutional law specialist, and currently a defense attorney, started by talking about the right to vote, which is not mentioned in the original Constitution and didn't appear, though in a roundabout way even then, until the 15th amendment and later of course was expanded under the 19th amendment. That is why there are no national voting requirements or standards. And then, he asked, what about the right to privacy? This didn't appear until the Supreme Court's decision in Griswald v Connecticut that defined a 'penumbra' (Latin for 'almost' and 'shadow') of rights flowing from the original Constitution and Declaration of Independence and led to the right to contraception. Rights, McWhirter said, come from various sources such as the constitution itself, amendments to such, statutes, customs and case law. For example, the Magna Carta ensured the right to travel and due process, which carried over into the US Constitution. And what, McWhiter asked, was going on with all these people speaking out about 'freedom' and their 'rights' being taken by the government? What does "take back America mean?" For some this means that the we don't' need government giving us rights so we take them back to be free of government. However, he said: all rights require some form of government to protect and ensure their use.. Regarding the 10th amendment, he asked "My right, your right, whose right are we talking about?" There are definitely some enumerated rights in the Constitution but we continue to argue, throughout US history, about their application and extension. Somebody, said McWhiter, has to balance rights and interpret laws; and in the US it has been the judiciary. But what about the term 'activist judges?' He said that term almost always applies to the losing side in a court battle!!! Going back into history, which McWhirter is well known to do, using a very entertaining PPT with pictures and quotes from the Bible, Greece, Rome, Medieval history and sometimes motion pictures, he pointed out that the Declaration of Independence speaks to the indictment of King George's attack on judicial independence. And after the Constitution, the first instance of judicial review was in the case of Marbury vs. Madison, in which the Supreme court invalidated a legislative action, thus establishing judicial review, which, he said, is 'intended by the structure of our government.' Regarding judicial review, he pointed out that historically (and with all due respect to the current president), common law, the constitution and natural law all trumped acts of Parliament. The Constitution, he reminded those listening, is not an owners manual; it is just a framework for a government and must be interpreted. However, 'how different people READ the constitution is similar to arguments over how different people READ the Old and especially the New Testament. Is one right and the other wrong? And who decides?" Textualism he said, encompasses originalism and strict construction. It basically says that the law is not what the lawgivers intended; it is just what the statute says!! Any changes thus require Constitutional Amendments. Thus the Constitution is NOT a living document; it is dead, dead, dead as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said; it is not an organism. Until the Warren Court, he pointed out, many of the rights in the Bill of Rights did not really apply. The words themselves don't protect rights which is why courts are needed. In 1927 a very important book, in terms of constitutional interpretation was written, titled 'The Living Constitution." It focused on what is called 'loose construction,' pragmatism (society changes/evolves, which results in evolving interpretations of the Constitution); and the fact that the Framers' intended the Constitution to be read in a flexible manner. However, there are also problems with a 'living constitution,' i.e., what is it moored to? is a living constitution relativsim? One of the problems with Originalism, is how does a judge define what a word or law means? How do we decide what the Framers meant? For example, what does 'cruel and unusual' or 'excessive bail' mean? McWhiter pointed out that in the time of the Framers, there were no prisons. People were either punished, fined or let go!! When we ask what the Framers meant do we mean the Framers of the 1789 Constitution or the 1870 Constitution? Did the Framers want it to be a 'living constitution?' No one knows regardless of what scholars write or say. Keep in mind, said McWhiter, that every time the Constitution is amended, it changes the meaning of the document. The goal he said is balance because almost no one believes in totally unfettered capitalism, i.e., no Federal Aviation Administration or Food and Drug Administration. McWhirter said he considers himself to be a progressive originalist because he believes that there must be government/a structure to ensure rights, which goes back to what was written in the Declaration of Independence, i.e., "...that a government instituted among men..." April meeting speaker: "Impact of New Policies on Immigration in Arizona," a presentation by Ray Ybarra, distinguished immigration attorney, human rights activist, author and film maker.

LWV Metropolitan Phoenix Contact Information


Mailing Address
1155 S. Power Rd.
Suite 114-58
Mesa, AZ 85206