Planning committee re-envisions Hance Park

(Alexis Macklin/DD)
The new Hance Park Master Plan, discussed last week during a series of meetings, could make the park a destination for the downtown community and visitors.
(Alexis Macklin/DD)

Interactive water features, community gardens, food concession stands, improved bike paths and an amphitheater for outdoor concerts were among the ideas proposed by community members Sept. 25 for the redesign of Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park.

More than 60 Phoenix residents met at Cutler Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center to discuss priorities for a new Hance Park Master Plan, which could make the park a destination for the downtown community and visitors.

Wednesday’s workshop was the last of a weeklong series of meetings that brought community members and the park’s team of designers and architects together. Beginning next week, the design team will use the suggestions from these meetings to draft the master plan, which is set to be completed in March of 2014.

“This is the kind of foundational work that the team will take in, and hopefully when we see the master plan … we will see that they have listened,” said Louise Roman, marketing chair for Hance Park Conservancy, an advocacy group for the park.

Haley Ritter of Phoenix attended the workshop and said that bicycle access was one of her main requests. Ritter has epilepsy, which prohibits her from driving. Instead, she has been using her bicycle as her main method of transportation around the Valley for the past 18 years.

“I want to see safe, effective bicycle infrastructure,” Ritter said. She suggested improving bicycle access paths through the park and installing bike racks.

Members of the design team presented examples of things happening in parks across the world before breaking attendees into groups for three interactive brainstorming sessions. Jerry van Eyck, the lead designer of the project, said he was looking for the audience’s reaction to these images by watching their facial expressions and body language.

“Before we start the design process, we really want to charge ourselves with all the knowledge that is available,” van Eyck said. He added that community input is an important source of knowledge as the team begins to envision the design.

Attendees answered questions such as “I love Hance Park because…” and “the identity of Hance Park could be much stronger if…” by writing their responses on boards around the room. They also ranked visual elements and amenities of other parks around the world.

Many suggested adding things like community events and a more welcoming entrance to integrate the surrounding neighborhoods and draw people to the park.

Ritter said that interactive water features and activities such as yoga classes could drive people to the park.

“They should make it a very functional, inviting place and … a more active space,” Ritter said.

Roman added that Hance Park, located at Central Avenue and Arizona Interstate 10, offers a lot of opportunities for community engagement and innovative design because of its position downtown.

“Hance Park is a very unique piece of infrastructure in our city. It is centrally located. It is 32 acres in size. It has amazing assets around it. It has historic neighborhoods around it,” Roman said.

The design team tasked with creating the master plan includes local, national and international names. The team has a contract with the city of Phoenix and began their work in July 2013. Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative will fund the project.

The New York-based design company !melk‘s founder van Eyck is the lead designer. Scottsdale’s architecture studio Weddle Gilmore is acting as the prime consultant and Phoenix’s landscape architecture firm Floor Associates is the project’s landscape architect. These designers are joined by 12 other team members, ranging from local stakeholders to organizations from around the country.

“Our aim is to come up with something beautiful as well as uniquely Phoenix,” van Eyck said. “It’s very important to us that this is not our park, or that this is not a park belonging to the city of Phoenix … our intention really is to make it your park.”

Hance Park was first dedicated in 1992. In 2010, stakeholders and the city of Phoenix recognized that it was time to update the nearly 20-year-old design.

A committee was then tasked with re-envisioning the design of the park. After meeting for about a year and a half, the committee decided that design and architecture professionals should draft the master plan, Roman said.

After an extensive evaluation and interview process, the team led by !melk, Weddle Gilmore and Floor Associates was selected.

“They as professionals will evaluate what’s doable, what’s sustainable, best practices, and once the master plan comes forward it will take a lot of energy and really solid help with private partnerships to actually realize what their plan envisions,” Roman said.

The team will present its concept design at a community meeting on November 20 before finalizing the master plan.

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Why municipal government matters

Phoenix City Hall (Aubree Abril/DD)
Phoenix City Hall
(Aubree Abril/DD)

Last week, the City of Phoenix held its biennial City Council election to choose council members for council districts 2, 4, 6 and 8. Voter turnout was higher than normal this year, at about 22.6 percent of registered voters. At first glance, this seems really low. Compare it to 18.6 percent in September 2007, and this year was a marked improvement.

Why does it matter?

In school, from elementary school to high school to college, we all learn about the federal government and state government, what they do and how they work. It’s much more difficult to learn about municipal government because all cities work differently. Some, like Phoenix, are divided into districts, each with one representative on a city council. Others have city or town councils elected at large. Some, like Phoenix, hold elections in the fall of odd-numbered years, and some have elections in the spring of even-numbered years. Others align their elections with state and federal elections in the fall of even-numbered years.

These elections, which receive much less of our attention than their larger state and national counterparts, can have a much more immediate effect on our lives.

Cities collect waste. They make our transportation systems work. They manage our parks and other local facilities. They provide resources for public safety.

The City of Phoenix has an operating budget of $3.5 billion citywide. This budget funds our public safety systems, libraries, transit, parks and recreation, public works and more. The people we elect to the city council decide how that operating budget is used.

At least once every month, the Phoenix City Council has a formal meeting where individuals can comment. The City of Phoenix also has 62 boards and commissions that are made up of local residents and provide input to the mayor, City Council and various city departments.

We spend a lot of time learning about the people we elect to Congress and the presidency. Sometimes we forget about the people that make decisions that are much closer to home.

The City of Phoenix will be holding a runoff election Nov. 5 to elect the council members in council districts 4 and 8. The last day to register to vote in this election is Monday, Oct 7.

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Undocumented workers may soon gain a path to citizenship

A panel at ASU in April discussed the immigration proposal created by the “Gang of Eight.”
(Cydney McFarland/DD)

Ask anyone on the streets of Arizona, and you will find one of the top issues is immigration. There are countless undocumented workers out there who are desperately trying to find work. They want to be in the United States. And they want to be here legally. Now, after many years, they might actually have a decent shot.

During the past few months, a new bill titled the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, and co-sponsored by rest of the “Gang of Eight,” Sen. Michael Bennet, R-Colo., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

The new bill would give undocumented workers at path to citizenship as long as they were in the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011. Immigrants would need to pay back taxes during their time in the U.S., as well as processing fees.

For many immigration advocacy groups, the bill is a victory. The Executive Director of Promise Arizona, Petra Falcon, thinks the bill is the start of something bigger.

“I think the proposal as it is, is a very good start,” Falcon said. “What we care about — in terms of Promise Arizona — has been reuniting families and a pathway to earn citizenship.”

Falcon said the fees are in $500 increments and will end up costing around $2,000 total before someone can obtain a green card.

As for criticisms of the bill, Falcon said the bill lacked the tools necessary to properly integrate the approximately 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S.

“They will need adult education for the most part,” Falcon said. “People will have to learn English. How will they get their skills?”

Jeff Hauser, the political media outreach lead for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, shared a similar sentiment.

“Overall, we are very happy that the Senate is finally taking up the crisis of deportation that has been undermining the country for a couple decades now,” Hauser said. “We think that the elements of the bill that deal with protecting all workers are carefully crafted, and those protections are somewhat fragile, so we’re hoping they remain as they are in the bill going forward. We’re confident (the protections) will, but we have to be vigilant. “

Hauser described these protections as basic rights for immigrant workers, ensuring that employers can’t pay immigrants less than the minimum wage, or create a dangerous work environment.

Hauser said he was confident the bill would be passed, even though it was a long time coming.

“The Republican Party has finally come to terms with the implications of the census and demographic trends,” Hauser said. “They cannot keep an anti-Latino and anti-Asian-American political party and hope to ever retake the White House.

While the bill doesn’t contain all the provisions he would like, Hauser still felt the bill was a strong start to overhauling the United States’ immigration policies.

“Overall, we think that the bill is going in the right places, and we’re very, very encouraged,” he said.

While the bill has received a wide breadth of bipartisan support, it’s not without its opponents. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican Senator from Alabama, criticized the bill for placing the rights of immigrants above those who are already citizens.

“Our duty is to represent the people that are here, the people whose parents fought the wars and made America great first,” Session said according to the Los Angeles Times. “And even though we have sympathy for the people who want to come here — and even those who’ve been here a long time illegally, we have sympathy for them — we need to be sure that what we do does not place our workers, our people who need jobs, at an adverse advantage.”

But proponents of the bill argue that granting citizenship to the approximately 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S. would provide a boost in tax revenue, not to mention the money from fees and back taxes.

Daria Ovide, a spokeswoman for Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy, or CASE, said it’s imperative that undocumented workers gain the right to work legally and have a public voice, without fear of being deported.

Ovide said her father, who is originally from Mexico, found a stable well-paying job that allowed him to remain in the U.S. However, Ovide pointed out this situation is something of an outlier. She described most worker visa programs as a form of indentured servitude, where a company held all the power. If a worker didn’t agree with something, they could either live with it, or be deported.

Still, Ovide is optimistic about the future.

“The way we (talk about the immigration bill) in union circles, it’s sort of like our first contract,” Ovide said. “We start here, and then we negotiate. And for us, negotiating is voting.”

Lucia Aguirre, a cook working at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, hopes the bill will be passed quickly — for her brother’s sake.

“At this moment, I think anyone (who doesn’t have rights), right now they don’t care. They just want something so they can work,” she said. “That’s what my brother said.”

Lucia’s brother has been an undocumented worker in the U.S. for 20 years and collects scrap metal to make money.

Lucia gained citizenship through her mother, thanks to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which legalized approximately three million illegal immigrants under President Reagan. Lucia’s brother was not with them when this happened.
Currently, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the bill, where U.S. Senators are attaching various amendments to the 844-page bill.

Sen. Charles Schumer, urged his fellow members of the Senate Judiciary Committee not to add harmful amendments that would render the bill inert. But on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced an amendment that would deny a path to citizenship to immigrants.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., countered with an amendment that would allow gay Americans to sponsor foreign-born spouses so that they may acquire green cards.

However those amendments are only a drop in the 300-plus amendment-bucket this bill is floating in. Yet even with all the added provisions, proponents of the bill told The New York Times that they hope to pass the bill by early June.

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City Council candidate profile: Austin Head

Austin Head
Photo courtesy of Austin Head

A former bi-coastal entertainer with multi-media success in social media engineering, event production and live performances in venues from Los Angeles to New York has found a new way to make a difference in the community.

Austin Head is running for Phoenix City Council in District 4 with the aim of speaking for the voices that aren’t represented on the council.

Head said he was physically assaulted last November in a violent hate crime that fractured several of his facial bones.

“No citizen of Phoenix deserves to live in fear or to be subjected to discrimination,” he said.

The event encouraged him to run for city council to ensure affordable and accessible transportation, a strong platform for the creative arts and to maintain the safety of a diverse community.

“The reputation of the city is lacking,” Head said. “The light rail doesn’t service the people that actually need it.”

Mich Lyon, Arizona State University professor at the School of Politics and Global Studies, said there are 29 light rail stations in Phoenix, with nine in District 4.

Lyon, a Phoenix light rail user, said the city raised fares from $1.50 to $2.00 on March 1, 2013, with an all day pass at $4.00. The light rail has also decreased trips from six to five times per hour.

“The city is only increasing the tax and decreasing the service because we’re not represented in the council.” Lyon said.

Lyon said he has known Head for several years as a friend and volunteer, and that “he’s very responsible, experienced and intelligent, which are all the qualities we need in the city council.”

Head said he was a waiter 10 years ago and that “finding a way to get home was always an issue.” There are 44,000 riders a day, and 33 percent of them are ASU students, he said.

“Austin rides the light rail and is going to be the first person on the council to represent us,” Lyon said. “All the other councilmen drive cars.”

Lyon said that the success of a city lies within its redevelopment and the city’s youth inhabiting it. He said 40 percent of Phoenix’s land is vacant and that it’s important to incentivize downtown development.

He said the city needs someone like Head “to do the right thing for downtown Phoenix.”

“You have to have a vibrant urban core to get young people to live here,” Lyon said. “Austin is the voice for the new generation.”

The City Council election is scheduled for Tuesday, August 27. Find your council district.

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Free medical screenings fill insurance gap

(Jon Laflamme/DD)
Phoenicians with no insurance can receive medical care once per month at the Interfaith Cooperative Ministries Food and Clothing Bank, courtesy of the Cathedral Health Services on the second floor.
(Jon Laflamme/DD)

Phoenix residents living in the downtown area received free medical screening services Saturday.

Cathedral Health Services provides free medical screenings for the public once per month. The clinic is located on the second floor of Interfaith Cooperative Ministries Food and Clothing Bank, just south of downtown at 501 S. 9th Ave.

The mobile health services facility was started by members of Trinity Presbyterian Cathedral as a non-profit organization that provides low-cost screenings throughout the Southwest region. On the first Saturday of each month, the organization coordinates volunteer health workers to provide free medical screenings at ICM. Between 50 to 80 people take advantage of the services each month, volunteer coordinator Kristin Gourley said.

The free clinic is one of several no or low-cost clinics near downtown Phoenix that cater to residents who don’t have health insurance. These clinics fill a gap in the health care system, since not all the working poor are covered by Medicaid, a federally and state funded program that provides healthcare to the poor.

Forty percent of low-income Arizona residents between the ages of 19 and 64 did not have health insurance in 2010, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit focusing on medical issues facing the United States. The 460,000 uninsured adults in this category earn no more than 139 percent of the federal poverty line, which is $15,971 for a single adult and $32,734 for a family of four.

This same group is more than four times less likely to receive insurance benefits from employers than adults in a higher income group, according the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“You really are stuck if you don’t qualify for Medicaid,” said Dr. Doris Marie Provine, a retired Arizona State University professor with a background in law, criminal justice and political science.

Provine said it is unrealistic to think that low-income earners would be able to afford the high premiums associated with private health insurance.

Michelle Hoxie of downtown Phoenix doesn’t have health insurance.

Hoxie, a 28-year-old college graduate, has been looking for additional work to pay for nearly $50,000 in medical debt from a 2010 surgery. Hoxie works in the retail store of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and teaches private music lessons on the side.

“That was terrifying, knowing that I was going into surgery, and I was going to come out completely in debt,” she said. Hoxie has a chronic health condition, which requires ongoing medical attention.

Hoxie said she would have qualified for public health care, based on her income, but she was disqualified due to a July 2011 Medicaid enrollment freeze. The freeze has blocked low-income adults without children from being eligible for Medicaid coverage in Arizona, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

Hoxie said it didn’t seem fair to her that the decision to not have children disqualifies her for Medicaid. She tried to get private insurance, but insurers denied her because of her chronic health condition.

“I can’t just have a scheduled surgery with a specialist,” Hoxie said. “I have to wait until the point where my organs shut down.”

In an emergency situation, a hospital would be required by law to treat Hoxie, regardless of her ability to pay.

A new proposal by Gov. Jan Brewer, which is currently being considered by the Arizona legislature, could ease the burden on the uninsured poor, especially on childless adults. The proposal would extend Medicaid coverage up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line or $15,282 for single adults.

If the extension is approved by the legislature, Hoxie or some of the patients seeking care at the Neighborhood Christian Clinic could be eligible for medical coverage under Medicaid.

AHCCCS spokesperson Jennifer Carusetta said one of the main reasons the governor proposed the increase is that it would remedy the problem of growing uncompensated care costs borne by hospitals, which are required by law to provide care to patients in emergency rooms, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Uncompensated costs of hospitals have doubled over the past year, according to an AHCCCS report.

But if the Arizona legislature rejects the governor’s proposal, there will still be some relief for poor and low-income Arizona residents seeking health insurance.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010 and set to begin in January 2014, will require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance benefits to their employees or face fines.

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City Council candidate profile: Carolyn T. Lowery

Photo courtesy of Carolyn T. Lowery

Carolyn T. Lowery has made it her life’s mission to change the harsh environments where grew up and still resides. She finds passion in helping the Phoenix youth escape hostile environments and is determined in helping her community find the right path through its harsh conditions.

Lowery will run for the District 8 seat in the Phoenix City Council election on Aug. 27.

Her interest in politics lies mainly in wanting to empower the youth, she said.

“I’m just a real person who has to do what I have to do,” Lowery said. “When you find your mission in life you don’t want to waste anymore time.”

Lowery believes in treating everyone equally, and expressed the want for people to stop intimidating and fighting one another, saying, “somebody has to change the world around us.”

In 1989 she started Kid’s Place, a summer and after-school program where children who are in abusive or neglected environments can feel at peace.

“Kid’s Place is a place for a kid to be a kid,” she said. “Kids take on too much responsibility in these environments.”

The center is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday after school, Saturday from 10 to 2 p.m. and Kids Church on Sundays from 10 to 1 p.m. It offers counseling, tutoring, snacks and games for children to enjoy.

Lowery explained when parents are in jail or doing drugs in the home, their children become depressed and suffer from health risks such as asthma due to the bad air from drugs.

Kid’s Place is open to children between the ages of five and 15 to try for a day, and after only requiring a form to be filled out by a parent or guardian.

“My joy is working with our youth because old people don’t want to listen,” Lowery said.

Sylvia Scott, Kid’s Place assistant director, said she was initially fascinated with Lowery’s determination and motivation for children with her overall mission being to provide an open door 24 hours a day for at risk children to come to her.

“She lost two out of five children and one to suicide,” Scott said. “It’s deep in her and she’s spent her life committed to doing this.”

In 1985, Lowery was one of the Arizona Black United Fund founders, and received the Parents Magazine 1997 “As They Grow Award” at the White House from former first lady Hillary Clinton.

The ABUF is an organization that is determined in providing support to projects and programs that address critical needs of African American communities throughout the state of Arizona.

Scott said she has worked with Lowery for 15 years and doesn’t plan on leaving, adding that her goal in going for council “is to tell the truth.”

“I’m running for respect,” Lowery said. “I want to see prosperity on that city council when we have meetings.”

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City Council candidate profile: Laura Pastor

Laura Pastor
Photo courtesy of Laura Pastor

Laura Pastor, a former public school teacher and daughter of U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor, will be competing among many other candidates in this year’s election for Phoenix City Council on August 27.

Pastor has expressed her passion for district four and the people who live there. Growing up there herself has given her the benefit of finding the right solutions the city needs to overcome the challenges they are currently dealing with.

Her history with the community includes a list of organizations where she has been an active member to better the neighborhoods and education systems. Pastor has taught at local public schools with her main focus on at-risk youths who reside within the “tougher neighborhoods.” Pastor has also spent her time serving as a member of the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board since 2012. She is an active member of the Maricopa Transportation Advisory Board, as well as the O’Connor Speak Out and Mi Familia Vota advisory boards. Beforehand, she was a member of the Encanto Village and Phoenix Union Foundation Board.

A resident of district four since she was nine, Pastor believes if she was elected as a representative, she could use her passion to finding solutions that better the community.

“As a candidate, I have listened to hundreds of people as I’ve walked door to door … Nothing else matters if we don’t do everything we can to keep our children safe,” Pastor said. “My first priority has to be public safety. I will work hard to not just keep the police officers and programs that we have, but to add more officers and expand those programs.”

Pastor said she plans to focus on adding businesses and jobs if elected, as a way to expand the economy and pay the public safety bills.

If elected, one of the main issues Pastor plans on addressing immediately is the city budget. Pastor said without an immediate solution to the budget, the city will lose a list of necessities in regards to keeping families safe. This includes a ladder company, at least 99 police officers, after-school programs and domestic violence response teams.

Paul Lopez, Phoenix resident and long time friend of Pastor, said with Pastor’s knowledge and long history of community involvement, he feels confident that she will find solutions to the current issues.

“Jobs are a high priority for Laura, in which she has an ongoing focus toward the continued planning and development of midtown Phoenix,” Lopez said. “Laura will be leading and supportive every step of the way.”

“Laura has the mature leadership traits that will allow her to lead the district forward,” he said. “Laura believes we must judge our city not by its highest-performing areas, but by how we are doing in our most challenged areas.”

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Phoenix libraries offer tax-filing assistance

Burton Barr Central Library (Marianna Hauglie/DD)
Burton Barr Central Library is one of four Phoenix branch libraries that offered assistance to those looking to file their taxes at the last minute. (Marianna Hauglie/DD)

Four Phoenix libraries, including the Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix, provided free assistance last week to local residents in need of filing tax returns at the last minute, according to a library official.

For the first time, customers could electronically file their taxes on a computer or meet with an IRS-certified volunteer to prepare their returns from 6 p.m. to midnight, said Rita Marko, a management assistant for the public library.

Four libraries, including the Palo Verde, Yucca and Juniper branches, worked with the City of Phoenix Human Services Department to provide the assistance.

To e-file a return a person had to have a net income of $57,000, Marko said. To receive help from a volunteer, there was a $50,000 limit.

“We recognize that some of our customers might need a little help,” Marko said.

The library provided drinks and snacks for last-minute filers, and children had activities to occupy themselves until 9 p.m., according to the library’s website.

Heather Zilles, who volunteered to help people at the Burton Barr branch, took a course through the United Way to receive her certification.

“I’ve always done my family’s taxes,” she said, “and I’ve enjoyed doing my taxes. I thought this would be a natural extension of my interests.”

Zilles said she was a little shocked to see 30 people already in line when she arrived at the library at 5:45 p.m.

About two hours into the night, everything was going smoothly, she said, aside from some minor printing issues.

Luis Barrera came to the Burton Barr library for help in filing his taxes after finding a leaflet with Uncle Sam at the Ocotillo library. He had been completing his return at H&R Block since 1990, he said, but he went to a branch Sunday and could not pay their $80 charge.

Barrera said he has been living on social security and disability insurance since 2010 after having a heart attack.

“I would come back,” Barrera said about the library’s program. “I’m limited on money.”

Arlo Nuvayouma said he found the assistance very helpful. Nuvayouma, 20, has been working in sanitation for almost a year and was filing a tax return for only the second time.

He used Turbo Tax last year on his own, he said, but he made a mistake that cost him a refund. This year, he said he expects a $943 refund.

“It was two hours for the whole thing, but only 20 to 30 minutes to fill out my return,” he said, adding that he spent more time waiting in line than filing his return.

Preliminary reports show that 100 people used the computers to file their taxes electronically and another 75 filed their taxes with the assistance of volunteers at the four branches, Marko said in an email.

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City Council candidate profile: Lawrence Robinson

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Robinson
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Robinson

As a Phoenix native born in District 8, he got a good sense of the city early and as an emerging leader of Phoenix, Lawrence Robinson is looking forward to the future of the city he knows well and is running for the city council seat of District eight.

After being born and raised in District eight of Phoenix, Lawrence attended Claremont McKenna College in California, where he earned two degrees in religious studies and government. After his undergraduate studies, Lawrence attended New York University Law School where he received his Juris doctorate in constitutional law.

While in New York, Lawrence helped establish a public defense practice for families in family court. After living in New York and California, he returned to Phoenix. Upon his return, he began work as staff attorney for the Democratic Caucus of the Arizona House of Representatives. In 2011, Lawrence also worked as the community liaison for Mayor Greg Stanton’s campaign.

Joseph Larios, who met Lawrence while also working on Mayor Stanton’s campaign as a field director, appreciates the work ethic that Lawrence has. “I work hard, but Lawrence works really hard,” he said emphasizing his meaning.

In an effort to continue serving the under-served, Lawrence currently teaches first and second-year law students at the Phoenix School of Law.

It was the vision of a more vibrant Phoenix that brought him back to his hometown. “I’m the guy that has lived in L.A. and New York, but is from here. I want to make sure everyone has the resources and amenities to make it a more vibrant city,” he said.

Aside from working as a law professor, Lawrence is also a member on the Roosevelt School District Board. As a board member, he has drafted a resolution that bans Sheriff Joe Arpaio from performing sweeps within the Roosevelt School District.

Delivering on a key school board promise and  with local community support, Lawrence is drafting an anti-bullying policy that he hopes to pass at the local level and eventually the state level.

Lawrence has only been a member of the Roosevelt School District Board since 2012, but has been personally involved with the district since he was a child. His mother was a small-business owner and teacher in the Roosevelt School District and his father served on the administration for the first Mexican-American Governor of Arizona, Raul Castro.

Lawrence’s grandmother was the first African-American judge in Phoenix and one of the leaders in the effort to recognize Martin Luther King Day as an official holiday in Arizona.

In one of his early memories as a child, Lawrence remembers marching down Central Avenue and witnessing the Klu Klux Klan marching parallel. “It taught me as a child that, no matter what, you have to keep marching and standing up for what you believe in, he said. “You’ve got to march forth no matter what the circumstances.”

Lawrence credits his experience as a child with embedding in him a sense of leadership and ownership of the community, which has led him to join the race for councilman of District eight.

Sen. Katie Hobbs, AZ-D of district 24, has known Lawrence for four years. “Lawrence has a strong and compelling vision for the district he is running to represent, she said. “He is young, engaged, a great leader and truly represents the future of both the district and the city.”

The vision Lawrence Robinson has for the city is one that is based on an understanding of public policy and how to get things done creatively in a climate where progressive policies are moving forward.

“I want to create a city where people like me who are younger professionals are proud to live; where they can stay after graduating college; a city that is vibrant, accepting; an embracing place that is accepting of all ideas and all peoples; and to create an environment where the Googles, Intels, Apples, want to belong,” Robinson said.

Lawrence wants to beef up opportunities by bringing interesting jobs, training and more educational campuses to the core of the city in order to bring Phoenix to its full-potential as an emerging big city.

“We have to be a city that looks forward. It’s one thing to say what you’ve done, but it’s another to say what you’re going to do,” he said.

Lawrence hopes to bring his vision for Phoenix by thinking outside the box and providing a new generation of leadership.

“I believe people realize it’s not about having a seat at the table, but what you do with that seat,” he said.

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Medical marijuana access subject to debate under proposed bill

Photo courtesy of Chantelle Patel
(Chantelle Patel/DD)

A bill proposed early this year that would refer Arizona’s recent medical marijuana law back to the ballot in November 2014 is under consideration by state legislators.

In November 2010 voters approved Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, which allows individuals with debilitating health conditions to legally possess, use and sell the drug under certain restrictions.

But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he submitted a new resolution to allow Arizona voters to reconsider the legalization of this drug.

“The voters were led to believe that medical marijuana would serve people with a diverse array of ailments, many of them sympathy a gendering like cancer or Chrohn’s disease,” Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh also shed light on new information presented by The Arizona Department of Health Services which shows that 90 percent of the 34,000 cardholders claim chronic pain, which he said could be easily faked and nearly impossible to prove.

Kavanagh said the “last straw” was the results of a survey done by The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission that showed that of children who use marijuana illegally, 11 percent are getting it from cardholders.

Sunny Singh, the owner of WeGrow, a company that certifies patients and supplies marijuana cultivators, believes that giving voters more time will only strengthen support for medical marijuana.

“The approval for medical marijuana over all, over time, has become more accepted nationwide, even here in Arizona,” Singh said. “The medical marijuana communities here are making a big effort to make sure it doesn’t change.”

Kavanagh argues that there is no mainstream medical authority, including the FDA, that approves medical marijuana for any medical conditions.

Singh said that marijuana being a controlled substance for so many years is the reason why there is no medical proof of its benefits, and it is up to the government to do that testing to prove or disprove its medicinal benefits.

“There’s the perception or stigma behind it that people just like to get high and listen to reggae music … but we have customers who come in, who we see are really sick patients that really use it as a medicine,” he said.

Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, unlike Kavanagh, is opposed to sponsoring a bill that would repeal The Medical Marijuana law.

“We as policy makers have seen a number of loopholes … so in implementing these measures we’ve seen where we can close these loopholes,” Yee said.

Yee sponsored a bill in 2011 that would ensure that if someone comes onto a job having used medical marijuana, that individual would not be placed into a “safety-sensitive” situation that would cause any harm to consumers.

Yee sponsored a second bill in 2012 that would ensure doctors who are certifying cardholders were properly checking patient history to make sure they were not taking conflicting drugs.

“That bill would ensure public safety and making sure doctors are checking into what the patients existing medications were,” she said.

Yee said in 2013 she would be sponsoring four more bills aimed at the labeling of edible marijuana products to ensure consumer safety, the seizure and disposal of medical marijuana by law enforcement and allowing universities to move forward with medical marijuana research on their campuses with federal government and university institutional board approvals.

Kavanagh said that there is no way to reform away the fact that there is no proof of marijuana’s medical benefits and until it meets the standards of mainstream medical authority and is approved, nobody should have medical marijuana.

“I just can’t see them giving people access and the right to cultivate, and the right to possess and then taking it away,” Singh said. “There would be way too much backlash from it.”

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