Obama decides against protecting Grand Canyon through executive action
President Barack Obama is missing the opportunity to protect the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining and other potential future development.
Congressman Raul Grijalva announced last week that he'd been told that Obama would not use his executive authority under the Antiquities Ac to create a Grand Canyon National Monument to protect more than a million acres around the Grand Canyon from future uranium mining and other threats.
"I can only express my profound disappointment," Grijalva said in a statement to the press. "The Grand Canyon is one of the world's most iconic and popular natural places, not just for its beauty but for its importance to tribal culture and history. Instead of building on former Secretary Salazar's work, the Interior and Agriculture departments are apparently willing to leave the future of the Grand Canyon and the health of Arizona tribes up to Donald Trump. I am not."
Grijalva had sponsored legislation to expand protection to the federal lands surrounding the Grand Canyon, but it had gone nowhere in Congress. The push for monument status has been opposed by Arizona congressional Republicans as well as Gov. Doug Ducey and other state GOP officials.
The Southern Arizona congressman has already reintroduced legislation to expand the monument, but it's even less likely to find traction this year than it was last year.
"The need to protect the Grand Canyon is bigger than who's president or who sits in Congress," Grijalva said. "The American people demand that this important place be preserved. People from all walks of life have been fighting this fight for a long time, and we're going to keep working until we get it done."
Republicans want to ignore costs of federal land giveaways
In recent years, elected GOP officials at both the state and federal level have been calling for the federal government to hand over national forests and other land holdings to Western states.
Now that Republicans control the White House and Congress, that movement is sure to gain more momentum.
The GOP House took a step toward making that possible by passing a new rule last week requiring the Congressional Budget Office to ignore potential costs of transferring federal land to state or local jurisdictions.
Right now, some of those federal lands generate revenue revenues from leases that allow mining, timber and oil operations or from recreational fees.
But under the new House rule, the CBO is supposed to ignore any potential revenue loss from the sale or giveaway of those lands when calculating the impact of the transfer on the federal deficit.
Southern Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva blasted the plan last week.
"The House Republican plan to give away America's public lands for free is outrageous and absurd," Grijalva said in a prepared statement. "This proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people."
Republicans back away from gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics, at least for now
House Republicans reversed course last week one day after voting behind closed doors to gut the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics by eliminating its ability to investigate anonymous complaints and blocking it from releasing results of investigations to the public.
Public outrage forced the GOP to back away from the new rules, at least for now.
But some Republican lawmakers said they still wanted to bring reduce the powers of the ethics office later this year.
Congresswoman Martha McSally voted against the changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics, according to spokesman Patrick Ptak.
Ptak added that McSally "believes that any approach to reform the OCE should be bipartisan."
Newly elected U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who campaigned on pushing a better ethical culture in Washington, promised to introduce legislation strengthening the office later this year.
"I know there's not one place I went during the election cycle—and that's almost a year-and-a-half period—where I talked to people about ethics and they said we should make it easier for us to do unethical things in Washington. People want transparency and they want to know their congress people are acting in a responsible manner that takes into account honesty as part of that."
Four on the Floor
A quartet of Democrats are competing to replace Karin Uhlich on the Tucson City Council
The race for the seat now held by retiring Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich got more crowded last week when business owner Tom Tronsdal and attorney Paul Durham both announced bids for the north-central Ward 3 seat.
The two men join property manager Morgan Abraham and middle-school teacher Felicia Chew in August's Democratic primary to replace Uhlich, who is stepping down after 12 years on the council.
Tronsdal, a Salpointe grad who owns the Canyon Fence Company, said in a prepared statement that Tucson "has seen positive momentum under the leadership of the current City Council and outgoing Councilmember Karin Uhlich, but there is still much to do. We must continue to build on our economic growth, improve public safety, and ensure the concerns of our residents are heard, respected, and addressed."
Tronsdal has a law degree from the University of Kansas and the city's Small Business Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission.
Durham, a solar-energy advocate who spent a year as chief of staff for former Ward 6 Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, said he got into the race "because I care strongly about our quality of life, neighborhoods, jobs, transportation and sustainability. With President-elect Trump leading the federal government, we will need to solve our own problems here in Tucson. We need strong local leaders to continue moving our city forward. It is crucial that we continue to improve our infrastructure, public safety and quality of life for every Tucsonan."
Durham has a Stanford law degree and an MBA from the University of Colorado. He has served as treasurer of the Pima County Democratic Party.
Libertarian Julian Mazza has also filed to run in the November general election, but no Republican has yet stepped forward.
Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM.